Stay-at-Home Activities, Like Reading, Etc.!

During this time of CV-19 lock-downs and stay-at-home orders (such as here in Michigan), many websites and blogs are offering practical help regarding activities for families and individuals involving all ages. Let me add my own suggestions, while relying on some of these other ideas.

Of course, you will expect me to say that READING should be at the top of your list! By all means let this be a time when we as grandparents, parents, and children spend “extra” time diving into books and renewing our love for the soothing activity of reading. March is, after all, National Reading Month (Make sure to read some Dr. Seuss to your children – it’s in honor of his birthday)!


Many physical bookstores that had been open are now closed, but they are open online and offering curbside service and free shipping, including Baker Books, Barnes and Noble (in the Rivertown Mall, Woodland Mall and Holland), and Schuler Books here in Grand Rapids. While the Reformed Book Outlet is closed, their website is also available for orders. The RFPA is also taking online orders. Don’t forget Monergism’s website too for great book ideas and many free ebooks.


If you are looking for other books ideas online, especially for children, let me recommend Really Good Reads and Redeemed Reader.


There are a number of great Kindle deals right now, including many classics and free ebooks. One I purchased this week is a wonderful devotional on prayers in the Bible from the pen of pastor Gordon Keddie (his commentaries are ALL worth while!): Prayers of the Bible is available free through today.

I’ve been hearing that puzzles are making a comeback and puzzle makers are doing a booming business. Wonderful – a great personal or family activity! My own wife has her card table set up in front of our large living room window and is currently busy with a 1000-piece one.

Speaking of puzzles – word puzzles, that is – Another fun activity our grandchildren enjoy is the “Scrambled Scriptures” Bible word search from Creation Moments (other good things on their website too!). You can subscribe to receive the weekly edition, or print off any available at the link provided. Give it a try and see what the kids think.

Watching videos and documentaries also has its place. And there are many valuable educational and inspirational things out there.

Ligonier Ministries is offering all their teaching videos free during this time. This is a great way to feed your soul and expand your mind right now – Bible studies, church history, Christian doctrine are all open to you.

Christian History Institute is offering their “RedeemTV” beta version free right now. This includes videos on church history and documentaries on world history.

Other activities online may be found at the National Archives website (a wealth of history, etc. there!) and your local state history website. The Michigan Historical Society website has all kinds of ideas for children.


Of course, for those of us missing March madness basketball and the start of the MLB baseball season (Cubs!), there are plenty of classic games being broadcast right now. Yes, sports has its place – just keep it in its place (Indeed, I need that reminder too.).

Better yet, get outside and play your own games, take bike rides, and walk. Some of us West Michigan pickleball players got our first 2020 outdoor game in this week. It was only 50 degrees and breezy, but it sure felt great to be out playing! 🙂

Feel free to pass along your own suggestions in the comments section!

*Update: I forgot to share this bookplate I came across in some books I was sorting through this past week.



The Bookish Life by Joseph Epstein | First Things

This essay in the November issue of First Things is a romping good read about “the bookish life,” which, from this writer’s perspective, is really his personal take on the joys of book-choosing and reading. It is far from the standard fare, for not only does Epstein take you far and wide in describing his “bookish life,” but he also dismisses much of the “conventional wisdom” about what to read and how to read.

There is much that I appreciated and enjoyed – even laughed about – in this article. I saved it when I first read it earlier this month, and as November comes to a close, I share it with those interested. Here are some of the more serious parts from which I benefited. Find the full essay at the link below.

Only after I had departed high school did books begin to interest me, and then only in my second year of college, when I transferred from the ­University of Illinois to the University of Chicago. Among the most beneficial departures from standard college fare at the University of Chicago was the brilliant idea of eliminating textbooks from undergraduate study. This meant that instead of reading, in a thick­ textbook, “In his Politics Aristotle held . . . ,” or “In Civilization and Its Discontents Freud argued . . . ,” or “In On Liberty John Stuart Mill asserted . . . ,” students read the Politics, Civilization and Its Discontents, On Liberty, and a good deal else. Not only read them, but, if they were like me, became excited by them. Heady stuff, all this, for a nineteen-year-old semi-literate who, on first encountering their names, was uncertain how to pronounce Proust or Thucydides.

…Nor, I suspect, is the bookish soul likely to read chiefly on a Kindle or a tablet. I won’t go into the matter of the aesthetics of book design, the smell of books, the fine feel of a well-made book in one’s hands, lest I be taken for a hedonist, a reactionary, and a snob. More important, apart from the convenience of Kindles and tablets—in allowing for enlarged print, in portability if one wants to take more than one or two books along when traveling—I have come to believe that there is a mysterious but quite real difference between words on pixel and words in print. For reasons that perhaps one day brain ­science will reveal to us, print has more weight, a more substantial feel, makes a greater demand on one’s attention, than the pixel. One tends not to note a writer’s style as clearly in pixels as one does in print. Presented with a thirty- or forty-paragraph piece of writing in pixels, one wants to skim after fifteen or twenty paragraphs in a way that one doesn’t ordinarily wish to do in print. Pixels for information and convenience, then, print for knowledge and pleasure is my sense of the difference between the two.

…Reading may not be the same as conversation, but reading the right books, the best books, puts us in the company of men and women more intelligent than ourselves. Only by keeping company with those smarter than ourselves, in books or in persons, do we have a chance of becoming a bit smarter. My friend Edward Shils held that there were four modes, or means, of education: that in the classroom, that through superior newspapers and journals, that from the conversation of intelligent friends, and that obtained from bookstores and especially used bookstores. The so-called digital age, spearheaded by Amazon, is slowly putting this last-named mode out of business. With its ample stock, quick delivery, and slightly lower prices, Amazon is well on its way to killing the independent bookstore. But the owners of these stores are not the only losers. Readers, too, turn out to be ill-served by this bit of mixed progress that Amazon and other online booksellers have brought.

…Nietzsche said that life without music is a mistake. I would agree, adding that it is no less a mistake without books. Proust called books “the noblest of distractions,” and they are assuredly that, but also more, much more. “People say that life is the thing,” wrote Logan Pearsall Smith, “but I prefer reading.” In fact, with a bit of luck, the two reinforce each other. In The Guermantes Way volume of his great novel, Proust has his narrator note a time when he knew “more books than people and literature better than life.” The best arrangement, like that between the head and the heart, is one of balance between life and reading. One brings one’s experience of life to one’s reading, and one’s reading to one’s experience of life. You can get along without reading serious books—many extraordinary, large-hearted, highly intelligent people have—but why, given the chance, would you want to? Books make life so much richer, grander, more splendid. The bookish life is not for everyone, nor are its rewards immediately evident, but at a minimum, taking it up you are assured, like the man said, of never being out of work.

Source: The Bookish Life by Joseph Epstein | Articles | First Things

Published in: on November 27, 2018 at 10:46 PM  Leave a Comment  

Friday Fun in Images: Seminary, Gardens, and Books

This first Friday in October is rapidly coming to an end, so before it does let’s have a little “Friday Fun” through images. Some of these are personal photos I have taken at home or at seminary.


Among the regular visitors to seminary are wild turkeys who have a habit of pecking on the glass at the front door. We are a welcoming community, but we have our limits. Now, some will tell you that the turkeys at sem are not all outdoors, but we don’t need to get into that. 🙂


The deer around the area of seminary were very quiet for a few months in late summer. But of late they have returned to graze and play on our property.


We’ve had a funny looking mum plant by the sign at the sem driveway entrance. Mrs. Judi Doezema thinks that the light at night under which it sits is making half of the plant think it is daylight all the time (so flower away!), while half of it is blocked from the light and that makes the other half think it need not flower just yet.20180914_125417

Yes, indeed, ping-pong has returned to the “extra-curricular” activities at seminary. Some “rookies” are getting initiated (“schooled”?) by our Singaporean students, who play a fairly mean game (but with a gracious spirit!). That’s Matt Kortus and Elijah Roberts playing Marcus Wee and Josiah Tan (a little hidden).


And then there are the musically interested ones, who gather around the piano for a new song to play and/or sing (That’s Josiah Tan and Jacob Maatman).




And, with the flower and vegetable gardens winding down, we share a few images of their rapidly fading glory (but still amazing glory!).


And, finally, from time to time, people will send me images of things related to books and reading, which I always appreciate. Sometimes they are humorous, sometimes serious, and sometimes just really creative (the above ones are from the 2018 Home Show in Grand Rapids;

A Boston bookstore in an alley, seen on vacation this summer by a friend

but they always carry a good message about the place books and reading (and libraries!) have (and should have!) in our lives.


Thanks to all who have sent me these things over the last months! Have a wonderful weekend!

Published in: on October 5, 2018 at 10:19 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Bookstore of a Million Books! John K. King in Detroit, MI

Our “Friday Fun” item this week takes us to the other side of the great state of Michigan and a fabulous bookstore waiting to be explored. The massive store is King Books in Detroit, a treasure trove of tomes rare and regular waiting to be browsed, purchased, and read.

I am ashamed to admit I have never been there. Baseball has drawn me to Tiger stadium in the Motor City but books have not drawn me to King. Yet, that is, for it is truly on my agenda, maybe even this summer. After all, a trip farther east is planned, and that could easily be on the route. Time (and wife) will determine whether I am successful or not. 🙂

Here’s the introduction to a brief video on the bookstore with the owner, John K. King. Ah, what a visionary bibliophile! If I wasn’t a librarian, I think I would have a bookstore. Enjoy! And visit it yourself sometime. Along with a baseball game. Now, THAT’S a dream trip – baseball and books!

Detroit – Inside a formerly abandoned factory on Lafayette Boulevard is a treasure-trove of stories waiting to be discovered. Those driving by John K. King Used and Rare Books might have thought there is probably about a million books inside. They would be correct. This bookstore has around million books in over 900 categories.

For the owner, John K. King, books are a fine piece of art. “You enjoy it, you read it, you appreciate it, you can touch it, you can smell it, I mean it’s just a wonderful thing to have in your hand.” In this age of digital books, the paper version still plays a significant role. King mentions that traditional books need no battery or won’t break when dropped. He continues “it’s just a tactile part of it […] to do that electronically just seems so different from what people have been doing for hundreds of years.”

One of the key features of the bookstore is the rare book section. Located in a different building, this section has rare first editions of Tolkien and Hemingway, signed Matisse books, and even a page out of the Gutenberg Bible, which was the first book printed using movable type around 1455. Patrons that are financially frugal might be surprised by the price tag for these rare editions.

Published in: on June 1, 2018 at 10:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

Book Towns Are Made for Book Lovers – Atlas Obscura

Around the world, tiny towns have made bookstores their speciality.

For our “Friday Fun” post this week, let’s do a little traveling around the world and visit some small towns that cater to bibliophiles – book lovers like you and me.

It may be cold and snowy in West Michigan (yes, it really has been that here this first week of April!), but warm and quaint spots all over the globe beckon us to quench our thirst for all things bookish.

How about that lovely little bookshop in Bredevoort, Netherlands pictured above?

Or this unique one in St.-Pierre-de-Clages, Switzerland?

Or this collection of book sellers in Kolkata, India?

Below is a part of the article by Atlas Obscura describing these culturally rich book towns. To read the full article and tour some more towns focusing on books, visit the link below.

What makes a book town?

It can’t be too big—not a city, but a genuine town, usually in a rural setting. It has to have bookshops—not one or two, but a real concentration, where a bibliophile might spend hours, even days, browsing. Usually a book town begins with a couple of secondhand bookstores and later grows to offer new books, too.

But mostly, they have a lot of books for sale.

At this point in the article, “AO” asked questions of author Alex Johnson whose book Book Towns is just out (March, 2018).

What surprises people about book towns?

I think people are surprised that there are so many around the world. When I tell people here that there are 30 or 40 around the world, they’re taken aback. It’s one of those slightly hidden things. When people pick up [my] book, they’ll be amazed at how widespread it is.

So many of your books have to do with books. It seems like you love them! Why do you keep coming back to writing books about books?

I think there’s so much to do with books, apart from reading them and enjoying them. Book lore and book history and everything around them, to do with libraries or culture, I think it centers so much of civilization. It’s the physical nature of them. It’s the smell of them. That feeling of ownership, once you’ve read it and you own it. I think books are very comforting.

Source: Book Towns Are Made for Book Lovers – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on April 6, 2018 at 9:56 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Man Who Invented Bookselling As We Know It | Literary Hub

When did the modern, massive bookstore idea begin and first become reality? Would you believe back in the 18th century, in London, England?

Literary Hub (Oct.11, 2016) tells the story of the first mega-bookstore and the man behind it. I give you the opening paragraphs here and encourage you to read the rest at the link below.

Happy Friday! Will you be “booking” this weekend? Don’t forget those local indie bookstores (like Schuler, here in Grand Rapids)!

Today, few people are likely to remember James Lackington (1746-1815) and his once-famous London bookshop, The Temple of the Muses, but if, as a customer, you’ve ever bought a remaindered book at deep discount, or wandered thoughtfully through the over-stocked shelves of a cavernous bookstore, or spent an afternoon lounging in the reading area of a bookshop (without buying anything!) then you’ve already experienced some of the ways that Lackington revolutionized bookselling in the late 18th century. And if you’re a bookseller, then the chances are that you’ve encountered marketing strategies and competitive pressures that trace their origins to Lackington’s shop. In the 21st-century marketplace, there is sometimes a longing for an earlier, simpler age, but the uneasy tension between giant and small retailers seems to have been a constant since the beginning. The Temple of the Muses, which was one of the first modern bookstores, was a mammoth enterprise, by far the largest bookstore in England, boasting an inventory of over 500,000 volumes, annual sales of 100,000 books, and yearly revenues of £5,000 (roughly $700,000 today). All of this made Lackington a very wealthy man—admired by some and despised by others—but London’s greatest bookseller began his career inauspiciously as an illiterate shoemaker.

Source: The Man Who Invented Bookselling As We Know It | Literary Hub

Published in: on November 11, 2016 at 6:29 AM  Leave a Comment  

Why Bookstores Matter – Stories from Around the World

Books about bookstores are always a treat, especially large coffee-table books with loads of pictures. But this one set to be released this month is an extra special treat.


Publisher’s Weekly recently noted this forthcoming book produced by New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein, who illustrated and gathered stories from bookshops around the world.

Below is his description of the book, plus a few of his illustrations. Looks to be a good read and browse book! 🙂

For my forthcoming book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores (Clarkson Potter, Oct.), I spent two years lovingly illustrating shops across the globe, working from a list based on recommendations, research, and personal experience. During this time I also collected stories about each store from owners, employees, customers, and my favorite people—a list comprising today’s greatest artists and thinkers. Some inspired me growing up, and some, like David Bowie and Robin Williams, recently left us.

In the end, I had 150 shops and more than 300 stories to choose from: tales of romance, stories of scandal, hilarious anecdotes—too much to fit in my book. Cutting the list in half to 75 bookstores was heartbreaking and difficult, so here I share a couple of great bookstores that wound up on the cutting-room floor, along with one that made it in.

Source: Why Bookstores Matter

Published in: on October 14, 2016 at 6:42 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Furry Faces of Bookselling: Bookstore Pets

chickens-at-wild-rumpusFor our first “Friday Fun” item today, we feature an article on pets in bookstores. These are obviously not your bland, boring bigonomous bookstores, but your local, friendly, personal, indie ones – the ones who, because they are owned by your neighbor, may have their pets in their stores. 🙂

So enjoy this list of bookstores with pets of all kinds – yes, chickens and pigs too! Below is the introduction that goes with the article. Be sure to click on the critter pictures on the right and see what you may find in your local bookstore!

With bookstore companions ranging from cuddly cats and friendly dogs to guinea pigs, birds, and potbellied pigs, indie booksellers around the country foster a sense of warmth and community in their stores while also setting themselves apart. Bookstore pets — like the collection of chickens, ferrets, chinchillas, and more at Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis or the litters of kittens looking for “furrever” homes at Horton’s Books & Gifts in Carrollton, Georgia — inspire an extra smile from customers browsing the stacks for their next great read.

Source: The Furry Faces of Bookselling: Bookstore Pets | American Booksellers Association

Published in: on September 9, 2016 at 6:44 AM  Leave a Comment  

Japanese bookshop stocks only one book at a time

Tokyo-bookstoreHere’s a unique bookstore concept – stock and sell one book at a time! You have to go to Tokyo, Japan to experience it, but then, it may be worth your time. Then again, you can experience it and shop from here. Have a great Friday!

Owner of Morioka Shoten in Tokyo says the strategy adds up to a dedicated exhibition for each volume it sells

With hundreds of thousands of books published every year, the choice of what to stock can prove bewildering for booksellers. The owner of one small bookshop in Tokyo has taken an unusual approach to the problem: Morioka Shoten, located in the luxury shopping district of Ginza, offers just one title to its customers.

Owned by experienced bookseller Yoshiyuki Morioka, the store opened in May, stocking multiple copies of just one title, which changes weekly. Books to have featured in the shop include Finnish author Tove Jansson’s novel The True Deceiver, in which a young woman fakes a burglary of an elderly artist’s house to persuade her she cannot live alone, and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales.

Source: Japanese bookshop stocks only one book at a time | Books | The Guardian

Published in: on January 8, 2016 at 6:34 AM  Leave a Comment  

Reformed Book Outlet – January 2016 Newsletter

The Reformed Book Outlet, a real physical bookstore store in the Hudsonville (MI) Plaza (far west end), operated by the Bible societies of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church, is a non-profit ministry devoted to putting sound Reformed and Christian books and music in the hands and homes of people in the West Michigan area – and beyond.

They have published their January 2016 Newsletter with the latest specials and highlighted items noted. I post it here below so that you may remember to stop in there sometime and pick out some good reads during these winter months.

Let them help you build your religious library!


Reformed Book Outlet Newsletter – January, 2016
Web site:
Just in: We now have in stock the 75th Anniversary recording of the Zeeland Chorus singing Handel’s Messiah. $10.00
Coming soon:

  • Come Unto Me Children’s CD 12 songs for children produced by Eric Gritters and some CCHS Choir alumni.
  • And three CDs by the women’s Jubilee Quartet
    •  Spiritual Freedom With some patriotic songs
    • Lift Thine Eyes Hymns and Psalms
    • Come Let Us Adore Him Christmas songs

RBO carries the following three books and one Bible reviewed in the past issues of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal:

  • The Reformation Heritage Study Bible (KJV) reviewed by Prof. Ron Cammenga
  • What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an byJames R. White – reviewed by Rev. Doug Kuiper
  • The Message of Daniel by Dale Ralph Davis reviewed by Rev. Martyn McGeown
  • Galatians: A Mentor Commentary by David B. McWilliams reviewed by Prof David Engelsma

** For those who have difficulty reading, we have a hard cover book containing the Psalms in very giant print. We can also order a set of five hard cover books in that very, very giant print containing the whole Bible (KJV). Trinitarian Bible Society publishes these wonderful Bibles.

RBO has a large selection of books which are helpful to the office-bearers in our churches:

  • With a Shepherd’s Heart – Reclaiming the Pastoral Office of the Elder
  • Called to Serve: Essays for Elders and Deacons
  • Ministry of Mercy for Today
  • Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling
  • Taking Heed to the Flock

New Fiction:

Tricia Mingerink has written a series classified as fantasy literature, but don’t let that keep you from reading the book – this is not what you think of as fantasy. You’ll find no mysticism, no magical powers or talking animals. You will find manors and prairies; blizzards, lords and ladies, peasant farmers, an evil king and heroes. The series of three books is entitled The Blades of Acktar. (A ‘blade’ is sort of like a knight.)

The first two books are available now at RBO: #1 Dare and #2 Deny. Dare opens with two sisters finding an injured man and trying to help him. They soon find out he is a ‘blade’. Blades had killed their father! Should they try to save this one – their enemy? They had Bibles in the house, for which they could be killed! What should they do? Dare is “a story of forgiveness, persecution, grace, and redemption.” Tricia is a member of our Byron Center Church.

Let us help build your religious library!