Look! A Hole in the Wall!: Bay Leaf Books, Newaygo, Michigan

by K.M. Zahrt

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Several weeks ago, the wife and I were driving westbound across Our Fair Lady of the Mitten, and the wife was bored. She wanted to take a different way to our destination to (1) see the fall leaves, but also to (2) see new places. I obliged, and we found ourselves driving through Newaygo–another one of Michigan’s fine cities planted near water with a quaint little downtown strip.

If you start driving around Michigan enough, you’re going to find there’s tons of them, but they all have something interesting or unique to offer–if you can find what it is. It’s not a bad idea, in these towns, to ask a local, “What’s the pride of this town? A restaurant? A cafe? A gift shop? A bookstore?”

We were driving through, when the wife says, “Hey, a bookstore!” Naturally, I says, “You wanna stop?” And I’m glad we did. Otherwise, we may never have discovered Bay Leaf Books–an independent bookstore of the highest order. I’d been through Newaygo countless times, but I had no idea. Apparently it was new to the area.

At Bay Leaf Books, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, yet quiet and studious. The staff is attentive and knowledgeable, but not invasive nor “hovering,” as the wife puts it. And the selection! The selection has a breadth and depth that should make your nearest Barnes & Noble jealous. I was combing through the stacks so long the wife had to take a seat.

Finally, I had to make my selection. I purchased two books by Nelson Algren–A Walk on the Wild Side and The Man with the Golden Arm. Algren is a lesser-known writer of whom Hemingway was a big fan, but it’s not an easy thing to find good copies of Algren’s books in stock on bookstore shelves, so I tip my hat to you, Bay Leaf Books. I also picked up a copy of Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh to fill out my Rushdie collection.

All this to say, if you’re driving through anywhere near Newaygo and you appreciate a good independent bookstore, swing by Bay Leaf Books. You won’t be disappointed. And, if you know of a hole-in-the-wall in your town or in your favorite Michigan destination that would be well worth a side trip, please share it with us below. We want to know!

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