There’s something to be said for a bookstore whose theme of inclusivity extends to other species (I’m looking at you, scratch-hound Duke). There’s a lot to be said for a bookstore that’s managed to survive the tribulations of Amazon and an economy that has led many of us to cut back on luxuries (although it pains me to call a book a luxury). But what I would most like to say about Ann Arbor’s Common Language Bookstore is a heartfelt thank you for creating a space that so thoroughly reflects its values and products.
The store itself is much like the materials it holds - textured, visually rich, unapologetically colorful. Occupying a coveted ground floor spot on lively Braun Court, and extending a bit into it via the large bay window, walking into Common Language is less like entering a bookstore and more like walking into a beloved friend’s library. The warm, saturated colors permeate the store, from the wood-planked floors to the hanging fabrics and juicy red chandelier. The owners’ multiple goals - bookstore, community center, safe space - are deftly woven throughout the store; the signage is clear and plentiful, evidence of community participation is everywhere, and the bold lamps and thoughtfully scattered books speak to a silent desire on the part of the books to be picked up, leafed through, and hopefully, like children too long at an orphanage, taken home.
Another bookstore, the Literati, has just opened its doors at a high-traffic downtown location. When asked by a customer when they would be expanding their queer lit section, they respectfully deferred to Common Language, saying that that is a need already being met in the community, and that they would be focusing on other genres. It’s impossible to talk about bookstores here without a nod to Borders, the Ann Arbor-based giant that so recently had to close its doors; but perhaps we are discovering that not-so-big is better. I, for one, am glad to live in a town where I can claim bookstores as my neighbors, and I look forward to visiting this neighbor again soon.
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