When we stumbled across Good Old Books online not that long ago, we instantly knew that we’d have to make time to stop by their little shop in Leland, Michigan. I love bookstores of all shapes and sizes, but this store captured my heart by carrying a couple key treasures that I’d never before seen in all my adventures to other used book shops.
We compiled a list of characteristics that summarize just what makes this bookstore so special.
Top 10 Reasons to Visit Good Old Books:
1. This cozy shop is someone’s home.
Unlike most bookstores, Good Old Books doesn’t reside inside a business complex or commercial space. Owners George and Merry Ball run the shop from the inside of their own home. It offers a cozy and charming feel that’s just not possible to replicate inside a retail setting. Stronger than the wood and brick that shapes its walls, this little shop sits on a foundation built from tender love, care, and humble pride.
2. That Old Book Smell
When you first walk inside the door of Good Old Books, you are greeted by the view below. And by the aroma that can only come from books loved for many years and after many reads. It immediately hits you in the face the same way the scent of a lady wearing too much perfume assaults your nostrils without your consent as she walks on by. Except this is a welcome scent any book lover delights in experiencing. That old book smell that’s present only in old libraries and used book shops still remains one of my favorites to this day.
3. Conversations with the owners are especially delightful.
I love being around other people who love books, so I felt an instant connection and appreciation to George Ball and his store. He not only was not bothered by our inquiries or requests to take pictures, but he also spent a lot of time looking for things that would delight us and even educate us. He reminded me a bit of my own grandfather and the stories he would tell. Conversing with him also triggered recollections of the wise old book shop owner in 1984’s The Neverending Story — my favorite childhood film that first taught me to believe in the magic of books before I was even old enough to read them. Like the man in that film, Mr. Ball’s eyes seemed to hold the secrets of a person who’s spent more years on this Earth than I have and whose wisdom is freely given to anyone who dares to ask the right questions.
4. Well loved Collections and Authors
Good Old Books holds many cherished series…like this Charles Dickens collection.
And there’s even an entire section of “Books about Books” for the most hardcore book lovers.
5. Fore Edge Painting
“Do you know what the part of the book opposite the spine is called?” Mr. Ball picks up a book gilded in gold and holds it out to us, the corner of his lip curling into a smile as he waits for our answer. We didn’t have one.
As someone who has been in love with books since childhood, I instantly felt embarrassed that I had never before learned the proper term. The “edge” of the book is just what I’d always called it, and I never once contemplated the possibility that there might be any other name.
Standing in the shop entry of Good Old Books that day, I learned the phrase fore edge. And then I learned about the existence of fore edge paintings, and my whole world changed just a little.
A fore edge painting can best be described as hidden artwork painted on the edge of a book. In order to view the painting, the leaves of the book must be fanned in order to expose the edges of the pages. That’s where the painting hides. If the book remains closed, the painting cannot be seen. Mr. Ball carefully opens the book of Poems of E.A. Poe and then bends the pages until a detailed painting of Boston appears. He waits while we squeal with glee before firmly pressing the pages back together, and just as quickly the picture disappears. He lets us see a couple of times, and each is just as exciting as the time before. I’m amazed at how beautiful something so tiny can be, and two months after visiting his little shop, this is still the one thing I think of the most.
6. Signed First Edition Books
We encountered lots of signed books while perusing the shelves at Good Old Books. Many of them were first editions as well as Pulitzer Prize winners.
7. Rare Books
Good Old Books also carries an impressive quantity of rare books. Some are rarer than others– like this beloved first printing from 1912 of Robin Hood selling for $87.50.
8. Incredibly Old Books
But there are rare books even older than the copy of Robin Hood from the previous entry. Many of the books in Good Old Books are well over a century old. The oldest books in the store date back to the early 1800s. This well worn copy of Wilkins’ Astronomy, published in 1823, awaits a buyer willing to pay $80 for the book.
And 1844’s The Wandering Jew three volume set will cost you even more to own at $250 for the First UK Edition of the work by Eugene Sue.
9. Most Expensive Book
Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the rarest of them all?
Curious just how high the price can reach, I ask Mr. Ball what’s the most expensive book in the store. He chuckles and then points to a case housing books for collectors.
“I’ve been asked that twice already today!” he says.
The book he directs me to has been loved over generations and even spawned several films and television shows: The Hound of the Baskervilles. This Sherlock Holmes title costs $675.00. As a First U.S. Edition published in 1902, it just may be the rarest book in the store. It’s certainly the most expensive.
10. Good Old Books is right down the road from Fishtown.
We wouldn’t even have known about this book shop if we hadn’t already been planning a trip to Fishtown and thought to check the internet for other top attractions nearby. We saw Good Old Books listed in a TripAdvisor article and just knew we had to stop by. So we walked there from Fishtown. Which means that you can just as easily walk (or drive) to Fishtown from the bookstore.
And you should.
The shop is only two blocks from the commercial fishing district, and it’s truly one of the most enchanting places my eyes have ever beheld. I promise you don’t want to miss it. You can check out our detailed article about Fishtown here.
EXPERIENCE THIS ADVENTURE: Good Old Books is open year-round in Leland, Michigan and is located at the following address –
305 River St
Leland, MI 49654-5041
Tell them Adventure Dragon sent you, and we say hello!
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