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Holiday season brings good tidings of new Detroit bookstores

Silva Rerum


The days following Thanksgiving mark the start of the holiday shopping season. Though this time of year is now associated with the madness of Black Friday deal hunting, it's still a great time to shop for simpler, old-fashioned gifts. For booklovers who get to browse local bookstore shelves in search of great reads for friends and loved ones, this can be a magical time of year.
 
In this spirit, Model D is offering our Detroit readers some good holiday tidings. Despite the loss of Marwill Book Store, which closed in December 2013, the local bookstore scene is expanding with a new pop-up shop in Hamtramck and two more Detroit bookstores in the works.
 
Silva Rerum
 
Local poetry lovers may want to familiarize themselves with the Latin phrase "Silva Rerum," which means "forest of things." It is also the name of Hamtramck's newest bookshop, currently located inside Klinger Street Studios.
 
"Silva Rerum is used as a term for commonplace books where people collect quotations and anecdotes -- pulling from other people's things," says Kate Abbey-Lambertz, who launched the shop earlier this year with friend Frances Barber. "I love the idea of pulling in the best of all the writing you like."
 
Open Saturdays and Sundays, Silva Rerum specializes in poetry, though the shop also offers fiction, theatrical works, and art books. Inventory now numbers around 100 titles, leaning sharply towards independent publishers and handmade and self-published works. Visitors will find a strong assortment of books by women and people of color. A solid helping of children's books is planned for the near future.

Photo by David Sands


The shop's proprietors are both well-steeped in literary life. Before relocating to Detroit, Abbey-Lambertz interned at New Directions in New York and handled publicity for Mark Batty Publishing. She currently makes her living as a local journalist. Barber, a poet herself, has lent her talents to White Print Inc., a local poetry press, and serves as the archivist for Detroit's Woodward Line poetry series.
 
Silva Rerum is the result of a happy accident. Earlier this year, New York poet Matvei Yankelevich, a co-founder of the Ugly Duckling Presse publishing collective, spent several months in Detroit running the Salt & Cedar letterpress studio in Eastern Market. During his stay, he set up a small bookshop called Ugly Duckling Presse Detroit, which sponsored its own reading series. Abbey-Lambertz and Barber, who both knew Yankelevich (but not each other), helped pitch in on the endeavor. When Yankelevich left, they kept things going, absorbing part of his collection and transmuting his store into their own enterprise.
"He formed this really great literary community, a place for people who loved poetry," says Abbey-Lambertz. "Neither of us had been planning to open a bookstore right away, but it seemed too great of a thing to not keep it going."
 
Abbey-Lambertz and Barber hope to have a permanent shop in Detroit or Hamtramck by early 2016. Stay tuned to their website for possible changes to their pop-up location.
 
Pages on Livernois
 
Photo by Susan Murphy

Until recently, the Pages on Livernois bookstore operated out of a temporary space at the Livernois Community Storefront on Detroit's Avenue of Fashion. Owner Susan Murphy, an avid reader with a master's degree in library and information science from Wayne State University, offered a healthy selection of fiction and Detroit-themed books, was gearing up to open a permanent shop elsewhere on the avenue.
 
Sadly, those plans fell through after a promising September opening. Murphy couldn't reach an agreeable arrangement with her temporary landlord, and the owners of the space where she'd wanted to set up a permanent shop decided to take their building in a different direction, leaving the budding shop owner without a base of operations.
 
Nevertheless, Murphy remains committed to her vision and is currently searching for a new spot -- preferably on Livernois, which has won her over with its walkable street and high density of families and engaged homeowners. Once Murphy finds permanent digs, she plans to carry an expansive collection of sci-fi, mystery, and other genre fiction, as well as kids and young adult books.
 
"Detroit has a few bookstores, but there aren't any selling general fiction or focusing on children," says Murphy. "With a bookstore, I can promote the literary arts and provide a way for people to actively interact with them. As Detroit continues to grow, I'd love to be part of it by creating a gathering place to read, learn, and share ideas with neighbors and friends."
 
Before getting knocked off course, business at her temporary space was growing, attracting lots of folks from local neighborhoods. Murphy hopes to hold on to these customers by offering online sales on her website in the near future.
 
Bookspace Detroit
 
Detroiter Tara Forman envisions Bookspace Detroit as a boutique independent bookstore that offers a curated assortment of best sellers, new releases, and fiction and nonfiction classics.
 
"It will be the kind of place where you can walk in and find exactly the title you are looking for, while also providing room and opportunity to explore and find things you never knew about, but suddenly desperately need," she says. "Bookspace gets its name because our focus is so much on the actual space itself -- we want to encourage people to spend time at the store, to explore and read and interact with each other."
 
In addition to books, she wants to sell jewelry from area designers and showcase local artists.
 
Tara Forman, photo by John HardwickForman grew up in suburban Detroit and returned to the region from New York three years ago. She has a master's degree in social enterprise and administration from Columbia University and majored in English literature as an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis.
 
"The idea of being at the helm of something that I truly believe in -- of creating a space that I think will serve the city, adding something to the commercial tapestry and literary balance and artistic value, as well as providing a basic human need for interaction, relationships, and learning, inspires me every single day to keep on moving forward," she says.
 
She's currently scouting around for a 1,200 to 3,000-square-foot storefront, and hopes to settle on a location by the end of this year, so she can launch her business by next summer.
 
Detroit's book scene
 
Silva Rerum, Pages on Livernois and Bookspace Detroit are sprouting up in a landscape that already includes Source Booksellers in the Cass Corridor, Wayne State's campus bookstore, John K. King Used & Rare Books, and Corktown's DittoDitto.
 
The arrival of more book outlets is joyous news for Literary Detroit, an organization dedicated to nurturing the literary life in the Motor City.
 
"Independent bookstores are a wonderful place for readers to not only get their hands on great titles, but also to connect with like-minded people, interact with authors, support local culture, learn something new, be inspired, and simply have a great time," says Literary Detroit co-founder Anna Clark. "As passionate readers ourselves, we're rooting for a diverse and dynamic bookselling scene to continue its growth in Detroit."

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David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.
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