Detroit Bookfest

I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Ryan Place, vice president of the Book Club of Detroit, and creator of the Detroit BookFest, who generously took some time to share with me details on what we can look forward to at the first ever Detroit BookFest. Fun fact: Ryan is the creator of the corner library at Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery, which he’s been tending since he was a student at EMU in 2006. Now you know where all those fun board games come from!

Rachel Pastiva: The Detroit BookFest is organized by the Book Club of Detroit. What exactly is the Book Club of Detroit, and how long have you been a member?

Ryan Place: The Book Club of Detroit is a non-profit group of 150+ bibliophiles, primarily rare book collectors, whom enjoy converging monthly for drinks and discussions at various book-related events in the Metro Detroit area. We have been around since 1957. John King is a lifetime member of our club, along with a good cross-section of antiquarian booksellers. I joined the BCD in 2014. At 32 years old, I’m the youngest member of the BCD. Millennials are not joining clubs or collecting things the way previous generations used to. Plus, our membership is literally dying off, so we are worried about the viable future of the club.

RP: Does the Book Club of Detroit sponsor other events throughout the year?

Ryan: The Book Club of Detroit does try to host book-related talks at various venues when we can. We just had a lovely tour of the Clements Library in Ann Arbor and beheld a collection of books with an approximate valuation of $1 billion dollars! Probably one of the greatest gifts the University of Michigan has ever received, since it will only continue growing and appreciating in value. Other talks, for example, later this year we will hear Dr. Catherine Cangany discuss “Reading in Detroit”. We will be touring the DIA’s Research Library. We will tour the Detroit News Production Facility in Sterling Heights. And for our 60th annual dinner meeting, Jim Melikian will be showing us rare books and manuscripts of global religious significance while we listen to a live gypsy jazz band and eat dinner and drink wine.

RP: What inspired you, Ryan Place, to create the Detroit BookFest and what is your hope for it’s role in the Detroit community?

Ryan: Aside from a lifelong love of collecting books and reading and writing, my main inspiration was a deep love for Detroit and Michigan and all of the amazing people here who continually astound and impress me with their creativity, resilience, endurance, and uniqueness. In my travels, I’ve found that Detroit is often perceived as an ignorant wasteland of non-readers, which just isn’t true. So, the Detroit Bookfest is an effort to help counteract that enormous misperception and encourage a greater love of books in the community.

RP: The website describes the festival as Detroit’s “first used and rare book festival,” but the vendor information mentions that vendors can sell a variety of items, including vinyl LP records, rare musical instruments, and vintage board games. What are some of the most unusual items attendees will see at the festival?

RyanAttendees should expect the unexpected! (laughs). We will have books of all sorts, vinyl records and other various trinkets and unusual items. Since we have not done this festival before, the truth is that no one really knows what to expect. An event of this scale will not be perfect the first time around. Please be patient with us and just know that it’s all about the Love. Love of books, love of community, love of Detroit, of Michigan, the USA, love, love, love!

RP: The role of the festival seems to be beyond connecting with book lovers, as in addition to the variety of vendors, there will be food trucks, beer from Black Lotus Brewing Co., and a DJ spinning music all day. Who else do you hope will be drawn to attend the bookfest?

Ryan: In addition to drawing the obvious book enthusiasts, we are hoping to attract non-readers, occasional readers, vacation readers, people who want to experience a joyous day of listening to funk music and eating great food, and people who are open to stepping out of their comfort zone into a new experience, even if you think you have zero interest in the printed word. Maybe you’ll come to this festival, buy a book, read it and it will change your life. Nothing quite like this festival has ever been done that I know of, not the way I’ve structured it. So we’re really hoping people just come out and have a great time. We’re also hoping the local, national and international media notices that Michigan is a dynamic area with great people and fun events.

RP: Thank you for your time Ryan. Is there anything else you would like to share about the festival?

Ryan: Organizing this event is an enormous undertaking. I feel like my life has become as zany as “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” complete with the sense of being whirled through hyperspace and tumbling down wormholes into alternate dimensions of epicycles of busyness rotating within counter-clockwise turning loops of busyness. But it’s all good. 50 years ago this July we had the Detroit Riots. Now, 50 years later, we’ll have the Detroit Festival of Books. Detroit is on the verge of revitalization and it’s exciting that you and I and all of us are a part of its transformation. In the Bardo Thodol it is written that “Things can be transformed to limitlessly positive configurations” and that is one of the guiding principles of this super-effort. Everyone has been so great, the entire community, there’s been nothing but love and support and I just want everyone to know that we love all of you! Thank you!