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2015 Michigan Notable Books

Andrew Norton

The library of Michigan's 2015 list of 20 books that "bring attention to Michigan authors and topics" has been released.

Each year the MNB list features 20 books, published the previous calendar year, which are about or set in Michigan or the Great Lakes region, or are written by a Michigan author. Selections include nonfiction and fiction books that appeal to a variety of audiences and cover various topics and issues close to the hearts of Michigan residents.

I think this is the first list in recent years where I look it over and do not see a single book from 2014 that I have already read. There is quite a range in topics and I know that I'll be reading at least a handful of these books. Take a look and see if any of the 20 books look like a good read to you.

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War

arsenal of democracy As the United States entered World War II, the military was in desperate need of tanks, jeeps, and, most important, airplanes. Germany had been amassing weaponry and airplanes for five years—the United States for only months. So President Roosevelt turned to the American auto industry, specifically the Ford Motor Company, where Edsel Ford made the outrageous claim that he would construct the largest airplane factory in the world, a plant that could build a “bomber an hour.” And so began one of the most fascinating and overlooked chapters in American history.

The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan

the art of memory In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the look and feel of cemeteries in the United States changed dramatically, from utilitarian burial grounds to the serene parklike spaces that we know today. The so-called park cemetery was innovative not only for its distinctive landscape architecture but also because its staff designed, ran, and maintained the cemetery, which led to a very consistent appearance.

Bernida: A Michigan Sailing Legend
Bernida Originally built in 1921 to race in the ocean, a sailboat named Bernida captures the attention and heart of a Michigan sailor. He buys the boat and brings her to the Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit. In 1925 the sailor enters Bernida in the very first Port Huron to Mackinac Island Race.
Bird Box: A Novel
bird box Something is out there . . .

Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Bright Shards of Someplace Else
bright shards of someplace else In the eleven kaleidoscopic stories that make up Bright Shards of Someplace Else, Monica McFawn traces the combustive, hilarious, and profound effects that occur when people misread the minds of others. The characters—an array of artists, scientists, songwriters, nannies, horse trainers, and poets—often try to pin down another’s point of view, only to find that their own worldview is far from fixed.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family
burnt toast In this family history interwoven with recipes, Kathleen Flinn returns readers to the mix of food and memoir beloved by readers of her bestselling The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good explores the very beginnings of her love affair with food and its connection to home. It is the story of her midwestern childhood, its memorable home cooks, and the delicious recipes she grew up with. Flinn shares tales of her parents’ pizza parlor in San Francisco, where they sold Uncle Clarence’s popular oven-fried chicken, as well as recipes for the vats of chili made by her former army cook Grandpa Charles, fluffy Swedish pancakes from Grandma Inez, and cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfasts. Through these dishes, Flinn came to understand how meals can be memories, and how cooking can be a form of communication.

The Contract
The Contract As a young boy, Derek Jeter dreams of being the shortstop for the New York Yankees. He even imagines himself in the World Series. So when Derek is chosen for the Little League Tigers, he hopes to play shortstop. But on the day of the assignments, Derek Starts at second base. Still, he tries his best while he wishes and dreams of that shortstop spot. And to help him stay focused on school, his parents make him a contract: keep up the grades or no baseball. Derek makes sure he always plays his best game—on and off the baseball field!

A Detroit Anthology
a detroit anthology Detroit is a city of stories. In this, we are rich. We begin with abundance. But while much is written about our city these hard days, it is typically meant to explain Detroit to those who live elsewhere. Much of this writing is brilliant, but our anthology, this anthology, is different: it is a collection of Detroit stories for Detroiters. Through essays, photographs, poetry, and art, this anthology collects the stories we tell each other over late nights at the pub and long afternoons on the porch.

Eight Mile High
eight mile high In these linked stories, the constants are the places—from Eight Mile High, the local high school, to Eight Miles High, the local bar; from The Clock, a restaurant that never closes, to Stan’s, a store that sells misfit clothes. Daniels’s characters wander Detroit, a world of concrete, where even a small strip of greenery becomes a hideout for mystery and mayhem. Even when they leave town—to Scout camp, or Washington, DC, or the mythical Up North, they take with them their hardscrabble working-class sensibilities and their determination to do what they must do to get by. With a survival instinct that includes a healthy dose of humor, Daniels’s characters navigate work and love, change and loss, the best they can.

The Fish and the Not Fish
Blank white book w/path The world of the child is a world where things aren't what they always seem to be. In The Fish and the Not Fish, Peter Markus brings us back inside that not-so-simple space and its slippery way of seeing and saying, a place that is primal and mythic in its re-making.

Making Callaloo in Detroit (Made in Michigan Writers Series)
making callaloo The daughter of parents from Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent, Lolita Hernandez gained a unique perspective on growing up in Detroit. In Making Callaloo in Detroit she weaves her memories of food, language, music, and family into twelve stories of outsiders looking at a strange world, wondering how to fit in, and making it through in their own way.

Michigan Agricultural College Campus Life 1900-1925: A Postcard Tour
michigan agricultural college Join author Stephen Terry on this early 1900's postcard tour of the nation's first land-grant college, now Michigan State University. With increasing enrollment and expanding curriculum, see how the campus was transformed through this major period of growth. Step back through time and read first-hand postcard accounts of the student as they participated in athletics, class rivalries, and wartime on campus.

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man
midnight plan repo man Ruddy McCann, former college football star, has experienced a seismic drop in popularity; he is now Kalkaska, Michigan’s full-time repo man and part-time bar bouncer. His best friend is his low-energy Basset hound Jake, with whom he shares a simple life of stealing cars.

Simple, that is, until Ruddy starts hearing a voice in his head.

Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past
old islam Across North America, Islam is portrayed as a religion of immigrants, converts, and cultural outsiders. Yet Muslims have been part of American society for much longer than most people realize. This book documents the history of Islam in Detroit, a city that is home to several of the nation's oldest, most diverse Muslim communities. In the early 1900s, there were thousands of Muslims in Detroit. Most came from Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, and British India. In 1921, they built the nation's first mosque in Highland Park.

A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps: My Mother's Memories of Imprisonment, Immigration, and a Life Remade
polish doctor Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko, known as Jadzia (Yah′-jah), was a young Polish Catholic physician in Łódź at the start of World War II. Suspected of resistance activities, she was arrested in January 1944. For the next fifteen months, she endured three Nazi concentration camps and a forty-two-day death march, spending part of this time working as a prisoner-doctor to Jewish slave laborers. A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps follows Jadzia from her childhood and medical training, through her wartime experiences, to her struggles to create a new life in the postwar world.

Rivers of Sand: Fly Fishing Michigan And The Great Lakes Region
rivers of sand Rivers of Sand is an exploration of the unique techniques needed to fish the waters of Michigan and the Great Lakes region, and a discussion of (and paean to) the region itself.

Songs Only You Know: A Memoir
songs only you know
By turns heartbreaking and mordantly funny, Songs Only You Know is a fierce, compassionate rendering of the chaos and misadventure of a young man’s life.

By Emily St. John Mandel Station Eleven: A novel
station eleven An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Strange Love (Made in Michigan Writers Series)
LM_2015_MNB_Strange-Love_re_478733_7 The nine stories of Strange Love center on Annie Zito, a smart-but-not-always-wise divorced mother, and Marly, her strong yet vulnerable daughter, as they seek and stumble upon an odd cast of boys and men. All the stories are linked and alternate between mother and daughter; and while each tale stands alone, together they make up a larger whole. The first story begins when Annie is thirty-one years old and Marly is eight and they live in a tiny apartment overlooking a marsh near Lake Michigan, and the last story ends a decade and a half later with both women on the cusp of new adventures.

Strings Attached (Made in Michigan Writers Series)
LM_2015_MNB_Strings In Strings Attached, poet Diane DeCillis takes inspiration from the story of the elephant calf with a thin rope tied to its leg. Even when it grows into a massive animal, the elephant thinks the same string still restrains it and never attempts to break free. This powerful, funny, and sometimes self-deprecating collection considers all the ways that strings bind us in relationships and explores their constant tightening and loosening. Although we may never sever the strings attached to our wounds, DeCillis shows that when given enough slack we can create the illusion of having been set free.

2014 Michigan Notable Books

Andrew Norton

Better late than never, I guess. This list came out at the beginning of January, but since that comes right at the tail-end of our busiest time of the year in the gift basket business, I forgot about it. Actually, looking back - I have forgotten about it for a few years now. I haven't highlighted the Michigan Notable books since 2011.

The notable books are selected by a committee. Books on the list are either written by a Michigan author and/or are about Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

It's always nice to look at the list and see that I have already read a couple of the books.

List of the 2011 Michigan Notable Books

Andrew Norton

The 2011 list of Michigan Notable Books is the 10th year that this list has been compiled. Each year the Library of Michigan sponsors a list of the 20 books that "highlights exceptional 'Michigan books' published in 2010 that bring attention to Michigan authors and topics. Books that showcase the range of experiences of Michigan's citizens and life in the Great Lakes by well-established and first-time authors can be found."

2010 Michigan Notable Books

Andrew Norton

Once again, the Library of Michigan has come up with an eclectic list of books for the annual Michigan Notable Books list. I have already read a couple of the books on this list and they were quite good - Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing and Stitches: A Memoir. Do yourself a favor and pick at least a couple of these books to add to your reading list this year. You won't be disappointed. From the Library of Michigan -

Michigan Notable Books is a statewide program that began as part of the 1991 Michigan Week celebration, geared to pay tribute and draw attention to the many people, places and things that make Michigan life unique. In that regard, MNB successfully highlights Michigan books and writers focusing on the Great Lakes State. Each title on the 2010 list gives readers insight into what it means to make your home in Michigan and proves some of the greatest stories are indeed found in the Great Lakes region.

View previous lists of Michigan Notable Books

  1. American Salvage: Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell
  2. Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg
  3. The Art Student’s War: A Novel by Brad Leithauser
  4. Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing by Arnie Bernstein
  5. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
  6. Have a Little Faith: A True Story of a Last Request by Mitch Albom
  7. Isadore’s Secret: Sin, Murder and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town by Mardi Link
  8. January’s Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
  9. The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit: Stories by Michael Zadoorian
  10. Michigan’s Columbus: The Life of Douglass Houghton by Steve Lehto
  11. Nothing But a Smile: A Novel by Steve Amick
  12. Orlando M. Poe: Civil War General and Great Lakes Engineer by Paul Taylor
  13. Our People, Our Journey: The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians by James M. McClurken
  14. Pandora’s Locks: The Opening of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway by Jeff Alexander
  15. Roses and Revolutions: The Selected Writings of Dudley Randall edited by Melba Joyce Boyd
  16. Season of Water and Ice by Donald Lystra
  17. Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
  18. Travelin’ Man: On the Road and Behind the Scenes with Bob Seger by Tom Weschler and Gary Graff
  19. Up the Rouge!: Paddling Detroit’s Hidden River by Joel Thurtell. Photographs by Patricia Beck
  20. When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball by Seth Davis

Feel free to discuss any of these books in the comments section for this post. I would love to hear what others have to say about the Michigan Notable Books.

Dave Dempsey - 2009 Michigan Author Award Winner

Andrew Norton

Dave Dempsey is known as an "environmental" writer. His books include such topics as the Great Lakes, conservation in Michigan, and a biography of Michigan's environmentally friendly governor - William G. Milliken. Dempsey has long been a champion of preserving and protecting Michigan's environment and also had his book, On the Brink: the Great Lakes in the 21st Century, awarded by placement on the 2005 Michigan Notable Book list. Said Dempsey of the 2009 Michigan Author Award -

“It’s both humbling and exciting to receive this award, since Michigan is my home and the source of my writing inspiration. Its land, water, wildlife and people are an amazing tableau,” said Dempsey. “In both the writing I’ve done and the writing I hope to do, I want to tell stories about people who made a difference and the places that shaped them. The Library of Michigan is a remarkable public asset that has made such research possible.”

Other books authored by Dempsey:

Great Lakes for Sale: From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps William G. Milliken: Michigan's Passionate Moderate Ruin and Recovery: Michigan's Rise as a Conservation Leader

The 2009 Michigan Notable Books

Andrew Norton

The list of the 2009 Michigan Notable Books is already out and I didn't even get to all of the ones I wanted to read from the 2008 list. My how time flies. The titles in bold are the ones that I have added to my "to read" list which (as hard as I try) never seems to shrink. Also, I've created an online bookstore featuring the 2009 Michigan Notable Books as well as some other non-fiction Michigan books. Check it out at 2009 Michigan Notable Books.

It was on the 2000 list (back when it was merely called Read Michigan Selections) that I found one of my favorite Michigan authors, Steve Hamilton. If you love mysteries and have not read any of his - do yourself a favor and start with his first, "A Cold Day in Paradise." It won the prestigious Edgar Award (top award for a mystery novel) and introduces us to Alex McKnight and the mysteries that await in Michigan's picturesque Upper Peninsula.

  • Asylum for the Insane: A History of the Kalamazoo State Hospital
  • The English Major
  • The Expeditions: A Novel
  • "Jiffy" A Family Tradition: Mixing Business and Old-Fashioned Values
  • Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka
  • Looking for Hickories: The Forgotten Wildness of the Midwest
  • Measure of the Heart: A Father's Alzheimer's, a Daughter's Return
  • The Model T: A Centennial History
  • Ninety Years Crossing Lake Michigan: The History of the Ann Arbor Car Ferries
  • A Picturesque Situation: Mackinac Before Photography, 1615-1860
  • Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement
  • Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer
  • Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of the Auto Show Model
  • Summer Dreams: The Story of Bob-Lo Island
  • The Toledo War: The First Michigan-Ohio Rivalry
  • War as They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest
  • When the Church Becomes Your Party: Contemporary Gospel Music
  • Who's Jim Hines?
  • Wreck of the Carl D.: A True Story of Loss, Survival, and Rescue at Sea
  • Historic Cottages of Glen Lake

There is a plethora of great items from Michigan history in the 2009 list and as you can see, that's the bulk of what I have added to my "to read" list.

Have a Great Friday!