Bibliophiles shop strategically at 17th annual Bookstock in Livonia

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Bookstock visitors have some 300,000 books, vinyl records and DVDs to choose from this year.

Livonia — It was just after noon Sunday, and online book sellers Scott and Sherri Mohr, of Quad Cities, Iowa, were loading up for the road, their carrying case filled to the brim with some 150 books, well toward the 200 they hoped to bring back home.

The couple has been selling books online for the last 12 years, Scott said. Sherri said the two drive about 30,000 miles a year in search of worthy material. Sunday they joined the sea of thousands of shoppers who trekked to Laurel Park Place in Livonia for Bookstock, now in its 17th season. The 150 books the Mohrs left with are but a fraction of a fraction of the 300,000 books, vinyl records, CDs and DVDs that will be offered for sale over the next week.

Some of their standards are common-sense — no books with broken spines, nothing too scuffed up. Some are more counter-intuitive, like their no-fiction policy.

Oh, and they don't want anything too popular. 

"We kind of just stay away from that," Scott said. "It’s a tougher sell. I know some dealers who deal in nothing but fiction. As far as author and title and what we’re looking for — if you’ve heard of the author or heard of the title, we pretty much skip it."


"If you’ve heard of the title and heard of the author, it’s a popular sell. Unfortunately, in the book business, popular sales are low," Scott said.

The thinking is that a prospective buyer would have many options for a widely-available book.

Derek Suckling, 32, drove in from Grand Rapids to make the sale, as he had last year, and as he plans to next week, in its final day of the season. As his girlfriend shopped, Suckling reviewed his small haul of yearbooks from the early 1940s, weeding out duplicates and those in ill condition.

"We just like looking at yearbooks," Suckling said. "We like looking at the names and the signatures and the history. It’s not something you see every day."

Pushing the stroller for 6-month-old baby boy Grand with one hand, and with a half-dozen books in the other, including "Dealing With People You Can't Stand," Anistia Thomas, 39, had her hands full.

A volunteer from Bookstock offered a timely assist, opening a blue bag that allowed Thomas to free at least one hand as the shopped. Thomas, ex-wife of former State Sen. Virgil Smith, said she hoped the book would help give her the tools to weed out negative voices. 

"I continue to elevate, and when your adversaries are doing the opposite, it's a problem," Thomas said. 

But it wasn't all about troubleshooting on Sunday. After learning of Bookstock in a parenting magazine, she thought it would be a good place to pick up a few children's books.

One of her books, Africa A to Z, she plans to use to learn more about the African side of her family.

"This will be a great resource on African History," Thomas said. "Because half my family is from there, so it helps to educate me more."

Another book, "Miss Manners," is one she had misplaced as a little girl and was eager to revisit now as a grown woman.

For cookbook collector Mary Beth Richard of Livonia, it's important to never judge books by their cover.

The recipes matter most. As shoppers buzzed between tables, Richard took a seat on a bench to review prospective books thoroughly before deciding which, if any, to bring home.

"I don’t just grab any cookbook," Richard explained. "I’ll grab a few that I think might be interesting, I sit down and I go through them, and if there aren’t a few recipes I’d try, I don’t purchase them."

Richard bragged on her recipe for cinnamon rolls, but declined to share it with The News. 

"I have my own recipe that I created. They’re pretty awesome, if I have to say," Richard said. "I cannot divulge details. It is a guarded secret; I shared it with my daughter-in-law when my son got married, and she knows not to share it with anyone else."

Over the years, Bookstock has raised some $2 million for Metro Detroit literacy and education projects, wrote The News' Neal Rubin, honorary co-chair for more than a decade.

This year he shares that honor with Alycia Meriweather, a deputy superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Bookstock runs through April 14.