This collection of essays by Great Lakes area booksellers and librarians answers that question in a myriad of ways, but it all comes down to the people who willingly, even joyfully embrace harsh winters and bug-filled summers, who have an uninhibited jones for Indiana basketball, or who admire a sprawling Illinois cornfield, a squeeky Wisconsin cheese curd, or a dive bar on the south side of Chicago.
I hope you come in and pick up this wonderful little book. First of all,the cover is gorgeous. That's reason alone.
Secondly, it's only $10.95, and a portion of the proceeds go to The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, (ABFFE) a not-for-profit organization that promotes, among other things, Banned Book Week. It is currently lobbying Congress in support of a bill that would better protect bookstore customer privacy. Wouldn't it be creepy if your favorite bookstore was served with a subpoena and we had to produce the titles of all of the books you've purchased? So the money goes to a great cause.
A lot of really nice book industry people (isn't that redundant?) donated their time and resources to make this book possible, which is even more impressive in these tough times for book publishing, so let's make it worth their while. Check out the Great Lakes Reader website for excerpts and the story behind the book.
Another reason you should buy this book is because yours truly (that's me, Margie) has an essay in the book about Wisconsin. When the call came out for booksellers to write an essay about their home state, I put together some of my thoughts and memories about growing up on Lake Winnebago, and sent it in. It's my authorial debut, unless you count the briefs I've written as a litigator, the cringe-worthy journals I kept in college, and all the love notes I used to sneak into my kids' lunch boxes.
But it's not all about me. There are other really wonderful stories in this book by other booksellers and librarians. The other author writing about Wisconsin (Kirk Farber, a librarian from Colorado) cracked me up by reminding me of the Mars Cheese Castle on I-94, or Hayward's enormous fiberglass musky sculpture -- Wisconsin's shrines to cheese and fish. Others write about Indiana dunes and knobs, Chicago's lakefront, Michigan's "U.P.," and Ohio's small towns. There are stories of Great Lakes women, "as steadfast as a barn beam," who snow-shoe to work with their dogs, detassle corn and grow up loving to read.
There's a wonderful theme running through many of these essays, and it's no wonder, because the writers are all in love with books. There are stories about a young girl who used to read Nancy Drew on family boat rides in Wisconsin (yes, that's me), a just-starting-out Cleveland bookseller whose savvy manager gave him a weekly must-read list, and a Michigan teen who discovered Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac (and himself) on the shelves of his local independent bookstore. If you like books, you'll like these stories.
One more final reason to buy this book: I talked Jane into buying a bunch of copies for our store, and I don't want her mad at me. So please come in and buy one or two. Heck, we'd really love it if you'd buy one for each of your Great Lakes friends and family members. And if the lobbying efforts of ABFFE are successful, we won't have to tell Homeland Security about it!
And because it doesn't make sense to walk into your favorite independent bookstore and walk out with just one book, I also recommend the books pictured below, for a Great Lakes trifecta!
State by State, A Panoramic Potrait of America ($16.99 paperback),
The Booklover's Guide to the Midwest, A Literary Tour by Greg Holden ($14.95 paperback)