Literary City Guide | Ann Arbor, Michigan

When I arrived in 1934, at the bottom of the Depression, I fell in love with the place, as groggy as I was from the bus ride, because I was out of the warehouse at last and at least formally part of a beautiful town, the college town of Ann Arbor.
— Arthur Miller

Tour Guide: Caroline Mitchell

Caroline Mitchell

Caroline is a writer, editor, and photographer who loves reading and cats.  She also enjoys shopping at farmers markets for locally grown produce, vegetarian entrees, and baked goods.


Relationship to Ann Arbor:  I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from the University of Michigan, lived in Washington, DC, for a number of years, then moved back to Ann Arbor.

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner:  Wayson Choy, author of The Jade Peony

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Rosa Lewis, made famous by the BBC television series The Duchess of Duke Street

Writing soundtrack: Silence

Pen or Pencil: Pencil

Coffee or Tea: Coffee

Paperback or Hardback: Hardback


Good Reads


Literati. Opened in 2013 by a young couple, Literati is a general bookstore offering everything from novels to nonfiction to children’s books.  Public events include a bi-monthly book club and author readings.  The store features a typewriter that garners a lot of attention and an outdoor sign that mimics typewriter keys.

Aunt Agatha’s. In business for over twenty years,  Aunt Agatha’s specializes in new and used mysteries, detection, and true crime books.  Also offers a full schedule of author readings.  

West Side Book Shop. Housed in a 19th century building, this store features used and rare books as well as original artwork. 


Hatcher Graduate Library.  Located on the central campus area known as the Diag, the Graduate Library houses hundreds of thousands of books, several exhibit areas, and a reading room that features old-fashioned wooden desks and chairs as well as stained glass windows.

University of Michigan Law Library.  The Law Library is part of a quadrangle donated by an alumnus that was modeled on the colleges at Cambridge and Oxford Universities, as well as the Inns of Court in London.  The library’s spectacular reading room has recently been refurbished and is open to the public.


Zell Visiting Writers Series.  This series of readings by contemporary authors is presented by the Helen Zell Writers’ Program (M.F.A. in creative writing) in partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Art.  All events are free and open to the public.

Ann Arbor Book Festival.  A three-day festival in June offering such activities as author  readings, a writer’s conference, and celebrations.

Hopwood Program.  This program sponsors the annual Hopwood Awards for excellence in undergraduate and graduate writing, bringing a famous author to campus to give a reading at the award ceremony once a year in the spring.  The Hopwood Room contains many volumes of contemporary literature in addition to housing winning manuscripts from past years of the contests.


Ann Arbor Farmers Market.  This year-round open air market has been in business for almost 100 years in the town’s historic Kerrytown neighborhood.  Only products produced by the sellers are sold in the market.  It is open on Saturday and Wednesday from May through December and Saturday only from January through April.  There is also an evening market on Wednesdays from June through October.

Kerrytown Concert House.  This music venue in a historic Victorian house adjacent to the Farmers Market features diverse programming, including chamber music, solo concerts, and jazz by nationally and internationally known artists.

Charles Baird Carillon.  Housed in the Burton Memorial Tower on campus, the Baird Carillon comprises 55 bells weighing 43 tons.  There are concerts on weekdays at noon and on most Saturday mornings.  The public can see the carillon and the view from the tower after recitals.  

Nickels Arcade.  This small but charming example of the glass-roofed shopping arcade popular in Europe but rare in the United States was finished in 1918.  The main entrance is on State Street on campus, and it continues to fulfill the purpose it was built for by housing numerous shops.

Michigan Theater.  The theater was constructed in 1927 to house shops, offices, and a lavish theater that features a red and gold Barton organ to accompany silent films.  It was built in a Lombard Romanesque style with 1800 seats in the theater.  It fell on hard times and was almost demolished, but the citizens of Ann Arbor came to its rescue and it is now a cultural and performing arts center, used by theater and other groups, and for showing an extensive schedule of movies.  The organ was restored in the early 1970s by the Motor City Theater Organ Society and is currently used to accompany silent movies. 

Nichols Arboretum. Framed by ornamental gates on Geddes Avenue close to campus, the Arb consists of extensive collections of native and exotic trees and shrubs in a naturalistic landscape designed by O.C. Simonds in 1907.  A lovely place for a walk in fine weather.

Hollander’s. A papergoods store that carries stationary, notecards, single sheets of wrapping paper, as well as supplies for calligraphy and bookbinding.  Located at the Kerrytown Market, it is heaven for anyone who enjoys high-quality paper.

Good Eats


Comet Coffee.  Located in the Arcade on campus, Comet offers espresso drinks, single origin coffee, and tea, as well as cookies and pastries. 

The (Espresso) Bar.  This coffee shop features espresso drinks and filter coffee made from beans roasted by Anthology in Detroit, as well as pastries and brunch on the weekends. 

Babo.  An upscale grocery market near campus, Babo also offers expresso drinks, coffee, tea, and an assortment of pastries.  The market sells sandwiches, as well as entrees and salads from hot and cold food bars.


Tea Haus.  A store close to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market that offers loose tea sold by weight and a tea room that features meals such as soup and sandwiches or scones and tea.  The baked goods are made by the owner from fruits and produce purchased at the farmers market.

Amadeus Restaurant.  Fashioned after Viennese cafes, this restaurant offers Central  European food in a charming setting a block from Ann Arbor’s Main Street downtown.

Cafe Zola.  Popular cafe with an extensive menu offering brunch and lunch selections, including waffles and crepes -- the buckwheat waffles are a town favorite.  Full dinner menu in the evening.

Zingerman’s.  World famous delicatessen near the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown.  In addition to sandwiches, the delicatessen sells cheese, cold cuts, bread, olive oil, jams, and other condiments.  The adjacent coffee house offers pastries, cakes, chocolate, and gelato.  The lines can be very long during graduation and football weekends.

Aventura.  Recent addition to the restaurant scene between campus and downtown featuring Spanish tapas and a full wine bar.  Good tapas in a high-decible environment.


Washtenaw Dairy.  Venerable Ann Arbor business a few blocks from downtown that features numerous ice cream flavors and the best donuts in Washtenaw County.  Donuts are made fresh every morning except Christmas.

Tea Room at Crazy Wisdom.  Tea, pastries, and fortune telling at a downtown store featuring alternative books, magazines, art, music, jewelry and scents.

Pastry Peddler.  Tiny coffee shop close to the Law School that offers croissants, scones, muffins and pastries, as well as sandwiches and pasties (a Northern Michigan specialty).  Serves Intelligentsia coffee from Chicago.

Caroline's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view:  Panoramic view of the town from the Burton Memorial Tower

2. Favorite place to write:  Home

3. Favorite museum: University of Michigan Art Museum

4. Favorite Coffee shop: The (Espresso) Bar

5. Favorite thing about Ann Arbor:  Ann Arbor Farmers Market