Indie Bookstore Tour: Fair Isle Books

Year opened: 2015
Location: 1885 Detroit Harbor Road, Washington Island
Owner: Deb Wayman

I’m always impressed by the number of books that owner Deb Wayman manages to fit into her store, considering its small size. It reminds me of someone’s personal library – maybe a little tight and full, but with a really cozy feel. There is something there for all types of readers.

Although the space is small, Wayman makes use of all possible spaces – inside and outside – so take your time to explore all the nooks and crannies because you might find something you didn’t notice at first. The natural flow of the space encourages browsing in a clockwise direction, which is what I would stick to so that you and other shoppers can enjoy the space without trying to travel in opposite directions and bottlenecking in some of the tighter spaces.

Two of my favorite features at Fair Isle are the literary-festival shelf and the book-inspiration bar. Since 2012, prominent authors have traveled to Washington Island for its annual literary festival, and this shelf is dedicated to the authors who have previously attended. The book bar, as the accompanying note explains, is essentially Fair Isle’s version of a fortune cookie, but it’s chocolate (which makes it better, in my opinion).

The Beginning

Before it was Fair Isle Books, the store operated for 11 years under a different owner and name, Island Time Books. After that owner expressed interest in closing the shop, Wayman came in, wanting to preserve the little Island store. Now in her seventh year, Wayman operates the storefront during the busy season and switches to online shopping only come mid-October.

Store Specialities

Normally I would pick a book-related specialty, but instead, I’m putting the spotlight on Fair Isles’ other focus: fair-trade goods. Displayed among the books are jewelry, clothes, décor and more that all support artisans around the world with a fair living wage – which is also where the store got its name. If books aren’t your thing, I still recommend stopping in to check out all of the other goods the store has to offer.

Photo by Grace Johnson

Bookstores and the Community

“In addition to bringing perspectives from outside the community to consider, the physical spaces of bookshops allow for gathering and exploring ideas,” Wayman said. “Discussions are lively as folks share differing ideas, and they are respectful spots where people from all backgrounds are welcome.”

Show Some Love

You can support Fair Isle through in-store purchases engaging on social media, recommending the store to others, buying from its online store year-round at, and getting your audiobooks at

What I Bought

My selections were The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

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