Literary Tourism: Michigan’s Lower Peninsula

Michigan has the type of raw, unfettered landscape that has inspired generations of writers to praise its countless lakes and verdant forests. It is no surprise then that a strong, colloquial literary culture has arisen from the untouched surroundings. Even Michigan’s urban centers seem to focus more so on the nature around them, and fill their insides with bookstores (and thereby books) that perpetuate that call to the wild. You’ll find much of the poetry and prose from this state has a lyrical quality that calls longingly to the Great Lakes and overwhelming sand dunes, to the farmlands ripe with apples and cherries, and to the general arboreal composition of the signature mitten.


Hemingway’s family cottage, known as Windmere, rests on Walloon Lake outside of Petoskey. The infamous writer camped and fished around the area regularly and spent months at a time there with his family. Many of his short stories are written about this region, notably several of The Nick Adams Stories. It is still owned by Hemingway’s relatives.

Photo originally from MiSeasons.

Windmere Estate, photo originally from MiSeasons.

McLean & Eakin Booksellers resides in downtown Petoskey, and this year they are one of five finalists for PW‘s Bookstore of the Year Award. They have a full section dedicated to the works of and about Papa Hem and an eclectic array of local literature, along with every other genre of book you could ever need. Oh yeah, and Lake Michigan is only half a block away. (They also neighbor a wonderful coffeehouse, Roast & Toast, which you can read my thoughts on here.)

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John K King Used & Rare Books was just named one of the best bookstores in the world in an article by Business Insider. The transformed glove factory turned literary paradise houses over one million books. This is the type of place that thrives on your tough and obscure requests.

Furthermore, the Detroit landscape and its suburbs serve as the setting for Jeffrey Eugenides first two novels, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex.


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Idlewild Public Library was dedicated as a literary landmark in 2008, based on the town’s rich historical residency of African-American writers, musicians, and performers. Idlewild was considered a safe haven from segregation and its list of vacationing writers included Charles Waddell Chestnutt, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Ann Arbor

I would dare say Ann Arbor can easily be deemed one of the bookstore capitals of the United States, claiming home to (by my count) twelve bookstores, excluding both chains and student bookstores.

6 indie bookstores: Nicola’s Books, Literati Bookstore, BookBound Bookstore, Crazy Wisdom Tea & Books, Motte & Bailey Booksellers, and Common Language Bookstore.

3 used bookstores: Dawn Treader Book Shop, West Side Book Shop, Kaleidoscope Books & Collectibles.

1 Comic Book Store: Vault of Midnight.

1 Mystery Bookstore: Aunt Agatha’s.

1 Robot Supply & Repair Shop: AKA 826 Ann Arbor.

Picture from Huffington Post

Literati Bookstore

Importantly, Literati Bookstore is celebrating their one year anniversary this month. (Congrats!) They incessantly take great pictures on their Instagram account.


Bonnie Jo Campbell, Matt Bell, Diane Seuss, Carolyn Forche, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ernest Hemingway, Jim Harrison, Richard Ford, among innumerable others call Michigan home. A full list can be found here.

Some picks from my library.

Some picks from my library.


The Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show takes place twice a year and is a book nerd’s Shangri-La. There’s a little bit of everything, but there is an especially great selection of rare books and collectibles. My personal favorite was seeing a signed first edition of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. (Valued at $7500)

If you want to learn more about the wonderful books that come out of Michigan, check out my column, The Michigan Books Project, at

Enjoy more Literary Tourism.


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