Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Brilliant Books a throwback to British bookstores

Elizabeth Buzzelli - November 14th, 2011  

Jack Malkin is pleased with his new bookstore in downtown Traverse City.

London bookstores can be small and quirky.

Often they’re found down narrow backstreets, behind dusty plate glass windows, the fronts outlined with old, varnished woodwork.

Waiting inside—usually there’s a bell—the owner takes great pleasure in finding the reader just the perfect book: “Ah yes, of course we have that splendid novel . . .” he says, then stands—in Dickensian mode—rubbing his hands with satisfaction as the reader leaves the store, knowing she will be back to this place where books are special and literary, where service is personal, and where the ideas inside books outshine all the disposable hate books, pop-star rip-offs, and cynical tell-alls.


London has come to Traverse City in the form of a new downtown bookshop, Brilliant Books (an offshoot of the Sutton’s Bay Brilliant Books), at 118 E. Front Street, just east of the Opera House. It’s owned and run by Londoner, Peter Makin, and his band of book-loving employees.

In this day of huge bookstores closing across the country as the Internet cuts deeply into profits, Peter Makin thinks he’s hit upon the answer.

“I firmly believe the future of book stores is what we’re creating here in Traverse City, a small, deeply personal boutique bookstore,” he says.

“The future won’t be the Amazons or deep discounters—it will be stores catering to the customers’ tastes. Not just books,” Makin claims, “but a marketplace of ideas, if you will.”


Makin’s philosophy of bookstore ownership is to carry only the best the literary world has to offer while maintaining a fierce independence. “No publisher or salesman will ever decide for me what I carry on my shelves or what I display in my front windows,” he says. “Our choice of stock will be customer driven, literary. Not necessarily the most popular books, or the most heavily advertised. We carry the best—whether local writers, national, or international. Even if a book has been out a while, if it’s stood the test of time—you’ll find it here.”

In most bookstores, Makin explains, “You find a book by Wilbur Smith, who writes men’s adventure books, shelved right next to a book by Zady Smith, a young black literary writer, though their readers are very different groups. I’ll carry Zady’s book. That’s the difference in running a boutique book store, we shelve by interest, by importance. You won’t have to wade through miles of books to separate out those you want to read.”


With 3600 square feet of space, Makin and his crew are planning for much bigger events than he was able to host at his Sutton’s Bay store. “We won’t do just book signings. We will do events that celebrate the book and the people who write them; writers we endorse and care about.”

Though a man of strong ideas and tastes, Peter Makin is very much a realist. His online book sales now account for up to 25% of store business. In his attempt to customize the store to his reading clientele, Makin offers a Surprise Book of the Month Club, an Online book club whose members fill out a short questionnaire on their tastes and what they would like to receive each month. “This is far more labor intensive than simply choosing a single book for everyone, but also far more satisfying—for me and my customers.”


A native Londoner, Peter Makin came to the United States at the age of 21 and settled in Los Angeles for 10 years. Then he was back to London for another 10 years. Sydney, Australia, for a few more years, and then he met his now wife Colleen, an American from Sutton’s Bay and it was back to the U.S.

He eventually opened the first Brilliant Bookstore on St. Joseph’s Street in Sutton’s Bay, where he found he was able to sustain the business because of the year-long support he received from his customers. The idea of a customer driven and supported bookstore was driven home.

When asked why he thinks Traverse City has become such a big reading and bookstore city he says, “Because there’s so much here to draw people now. I’ve noticed, over the last few years, Traverse City is appealing to a whole new segment of the population: young families drawn to the intellectual atmosphere here and to the beauty of the area. You know, Traverse City has even been called the San Francisco of the north.”

According to Jack Hannert, the store manager, who once worked for Barnes and Noble, big plans are in the works for a large open house. “There will be a lot of surprises, lots of giveaways. We want people to come in and see what we’re about,” he said.

The open house, though still being planned, is slated for sometime in November.


“We love books and we love people,” Peter says. “Opening a new shop is like grating cheese. You grate and grate and don’t seem to be getting anywhere, until you lift the grater and there it is: an amazingly big pile of cheese.”

Maybe there’s no dust here, no narrow London street, but there is the huge plate-glass window displaying Peter’s eclectic tastes in literature, there is the varnished oak woodwork, and inside the shop, an obvious love of good writing and an owner who takes great satisfaction in finding readers just the book they’ve been looking for.

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11.14.2011 at 02:18 Reply

What about Horizon Books? They've been meeting Traverse City's needs for 50 YEARS! I've been to Brilliant Books, and despite what their owner claims about meeting the "specialized needs" of their clientele, they mainly just traffic in bestsellers. And are  not terribly friendly about it, at that.


11.14.2011 at 02:18 Reply

What about Horizon Books? They've been meeting Traverse City's needs for 50 YEARS! I've been to Brilliant Books, and despite what their owner claims about meeting the "specialized needs" of their clientele, they mainly just traffic in bestsellers. And are  not terribly friendly about it, at that.


11.15.2011 at 09:04 Reply

I do hope Case64 gives us another visit.  We'd love to show what we do have.  Yes, we have a section of Indie bookstores' bestsellers, but the other 99% of the store is as described.  We try to carry the best in all genres and strive to avoid hate books and fads.

If we were not friendly, my apologies, please do give us another try, relax on the sofa and have a complimentray coffee while you peruse our selection.  We'll be happy to give you a tour and help you find something you'll enjoy.