Schuler takes Top of the Town prize for Best Bookstore


Schuler Books isn’t doing it by the numbers.

The store’s success comes from “using our brains instead of algorithms,” said Amanda Strong, who manages Schuler’s store at the Meridian Mall in Okemos.

It must be working: Schuler captured first place for Best Bookstore in the annual Top of the Town contest, after finishing second a year ago. It came in third in the Best Hangout Solo category, behind Horrocks and Constellation Cat Café.

All three bookstore winners from last year repeated — just in a different order. Last year’s first-place winner, Deadtime Stories: True Crime and Other Books, finished second. Hooked rounded out the Top Three in both years.

Strong also attributed Schuler’s success to providing a place for people to meet.

“Indie bookstores are an important resource that the community counts on,” she said.

As an example, Strong said Schuler is working with the Okemos school district to help run a book fair. The district recently canceled its annual Scholastic Book Fair after Scholastic, the nation’s biggest children’s book publisher, sequestered controversial titles into a special category that had to be requested.

Strong sees reasons to be optimistic about the future of bookstores.

“Fifteen years ago, there were reports that all book sales would be digital and the printed book would be dead,” she said. Instead, five bookstores have opened in Greater Lansing in the last couple of years, she pointed out.

She also said people are buying.

She cited three recent “laydowns,” or book releases, that illustrate the vitality of the book publishing industry: “The Woman in Me,” by Britney Spears; “My Name Is Barbra,” by Barbra Streisand, and a fantasy novel, “Iron Flame,” by Rebecca Yarros. Strong said 100 copies of Yarros’ book were sold the first day.

In other book-related ToTT categories, Jenn Carpenter, owner of Deadtime Stories in Lansing’s REO Town neighborhood, came in first for Best Local Author. She has written two nonfiction works, “Haunted Lansing” and “The Cereal Killer Chronicles of Battle Creek,” and is working on a third, in the true-crime genre. She also published a fiction novel, “Hardwood Floors,” in 2013.

“I’ve always been writing. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and worked on the LCC newspaper,” Carpenter said. “I discovered one of the best ways to sell books is to open a bookstore.” She added that a lot of the store’s sales are driven by her true-crime podcast, “Violent Ends,” formerly known as “So Dead.”

What’s selling best at Deadtime Stories?

“A lot of ‘Girls and Their Monsters,’ by Audrey Farley, based on Lansing’s Morlok quads, and books by Rod Sadler, a true-crime writer from Williamston. I can’t keep their books in stock,” she said.

Jennifer Davis, an area poet, came in second in the Best Author category. John K. Addis, a designer and marketing professional who penned the horror novel “The Eaton,” finished third.

Summit Comics and Games, 216 S. Washington Square, was selected as the Best Comic Shop, followed by Grave Danger, 1236 Turner St. in Lansing’s Old Town, and Capital City Collectables, 1723 E. Michigan Ave.

In the Best Library category, the downtown branch of Capital Area District Libraries won first, followed by the Delta Township District Library and the East Lansing Public Library.

Speaking of libraries, there was another big winner — though not in the ToTT contest.

Ottawa County’s Patmos Library won taxpayer support to reinstate the funding it had lost due to a free-speech issue involving LGBTQ+ books on its shelves.

It wasn’t a squeaker, either, with 63% of the voters standing up against the nasty culture war precipitated by a tiny but vocal organization, Moms for Liberty, that sought to control what people read.

The group had led a successful defeat of the millage supporting the Patmos Library in 2022. Since then, the library had been limping along with donations from a GoFundMe effort and a generous donation from mega-author Nora Roberts.

Ultimately, what helped flip the vote was a compromise in which the library agreed to attach descriptions about a book’s content to the inside cover. What kids read once again relies on a family’s decision.

I hope Capital Area District Libraries’ Board of Trustees asks the five perspective candidates for the vacant head librarian position what they would do in similar circumstances.

The interviews are 5 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 16) and 6:45 p.m. Monday (Nov. 20) in the board room on the third floor of the Downtown Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing.


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