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2005 Michigan Notable Books

The 2005 Michigan Notable Books features The Library of Michigan's annual selection of up to 20 recommended books reflecting Michigan's rich cultural heritage, featuring high-quality titles with wide public appeal that are either written by a Michigan resident or about a Michigan-related topic.

Committee members were Randy Riley, Kris Rzepczynski, Kim Laird, Karren Reish, all from the Library of Michigan; George Weeks, Detroit News; Roger Rosentreter, Editor of Michigan History Magazine; Randy Glumm, Way Station Bookstore; Michael Rodriguez, Michigan State University; Mary Ellen Olsen, Schuler Books; Sue Thoms, Grand Rapids Press; and Ray Walsh, Archives & Curious Bookstore.

The 2005 Michigan Notable Books (listed alphabetically by title) are:

"American Vanguard: The United Auto Workers During the Reuther Years, 1935-1970" by John Barnard (Wayne State University Press).  This survey of the UAW explores the early years and formative struggles of the union, its' defeats and victories, and the UAW's place within the fabric of the U.S. automobile industry, the national political scene, and American society at large.  Much of the research and many of the photographs are from the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit.

"Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age" by Kevin Boyle (Henry Holt).  The 2004 National Book Award winner for nonfiction details the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet, who moves his African-American family into an all-white neighborhood in 1920s Detroit.  After violence erupts at the Sweet home and a white man is killed, the gripping story shifts to the courtroom as Dr. Sweet and his family and friends are all on trial for murder in this landmark event in the development of the civil rights movement.

Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis (Wendy Lamb Books). 

In this young adult story set in Flint and full of witty dialogue and interesting characters, Luther Farrell wants out from under the watchful eye of his mother ("the Sarge"), a cutthroat urban landlord.  The science fair offers Luther that chance on the fast track to college, but first he has to defeat his true love.

A Different Image: The Legacy of Broadside Press, an Anthology edited by Gloria House, Rosemary Weatherston and Albert M. Ward (University of Detroit Mercy Press & Broadside Press). 

A collection of poetry from the Detroit-based publishing company that both emerged as a creative and literary center for African-American writers and explored the complex political and cultural issues collectively facing African-Americans.  The book comes with a CD of recitations of the poets whose work is included in this anthology.

A Distant Thunder: Michigan in the Civil War by Richard Bak (Huron River Press). 

Together with dozens of newly published historic photographs, this book offers a fresh look at Michigan's role in the Civil War and the experiences of its citizens both on the home front and the battlefield, complete with stories of Sarah Emma Edmonds, a woman who enlisted and fought as a man, General George Custer, and the 102nd U.S. Colored Infantry.

Eight Steamboats: Sailing Through the Sixties by Patrick Livingston (Wayne State University Press). 

Chronicling the author's voyages on eight Great Lakes vessels, this memoir offers revealing insight into life as a crewman on the Great Lakes, the shipping industry and the turbulent 1960s.

The Indians of Hungry Hollow by Bill Dunlop and Marcia Fountain-Blacklidge (University of Michigan Press). 

An inspiring story of family struggle and survival in the early 20th century, this memoir recounts Dunlop's experiences as an Ottawa youth growing up in a Native American community in Petoskey.

Mary Schafer, American Quilt Maker by Gwen Marston (University of Michigan Press). 

Beautifully accompanied by color illustrations and photographs, this book details the life and work of the famous Michigan quilter Mary Schafer, whose passion and dedication to her craft helped spark a revival in American quilting.  A large collection of Schafer's quilts is housed at the Michigan State University Museum.

Mr. Paradise: A Novel by Elmore Leonard (Morrow). 

Detroit detective Frank Delsa investigates the contract murder of Tony Paradiso (Mr. Paradise), involving a case of switched identity, hit men, and a potential payoff from Mr. Paradise's estate.  This book marks Leonard's first Detroit-based novel in more than 20 years.

On the Brink: The Great Lakes in the 21st Century by Dave Dempsey (Michigan State University Press). 

This book explores the environmental history of the Great Lakes, the public policies and laws crafted to protect them, the threats such as climate change and population growth that continue to endanger them, and a glimpse into what the future may hold.

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books). 

In this charming children's story about Christmas spirit and the joys of giving, Frankie anxiously awaits the return of his father and the annual holiday tradition of oranges on the fireplace mantel, one for each of the family's children.

Pulling Down the Barn: Memories of a Rural Childhood by Anne-Marie Oomen (Wayne State University Press). 

Written as a series of short, interconnected reflections, this memoir vividly portrays stories of the author's childhood in rural Oceana County, and her powerful sense of identity with the family farm.

The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein (Random House). 

The remarkable story of David Hahn, an aspiring Eagle Scout who developed a nuclear reactor in the potting shed in his mother's backyard in suburban Detroit's Commerce Township, and how he both obtained the radioactive materials and went undetected by the authorities for so long.

Remember the Distance That Divides Us: The Family Letters of Philadelphia Quaker Abolitionist and Michigan Pioneer Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, 1830-1842 edited by Marcia J. Heringa Mason (Michigan State University Press). 

This book documents the letters of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, who moved with her brother and aunt to Lenawee County in the Michigan Territory wilderness in 1830.  Prior to her death in 1834, Chandler's letters to and from her family still in Philadelphia provide remarkable insight into the pioneer settling of the Michigan frontier, as well as the early development of both the women's movement and Abolitionism.

River Rouge: Ford's Industrial Colossus by Joseph P. Cabadas (Motorbooks International). 

The Rouge Plant in Dearborn comes to life in this photographic history of the world's most famous automobile factory, beginning with Henry Ford's theory of  "vertical integration," to the design by architect Albert Kahn, the plant's technological and manufacturing innovations, unionization and wartime heroics and, finally, its recent transformation into an auto plant for the next century.

The Story of Reo Joe: Work, Kin, and Community in Autotown U.S.A. by Lisa M. Fine (Temple University Press). 

Told from the perspective of the workers of the Reo Motor Car Company in Lansing, this labor history details how the workers became part of a factory family, based on the company's strong belief in developing and maintaining a powerful sense of community for its workers, reinforced through the company's social activities and reflected in the low turnover rates.

The Tarnished Eye: A Novel of Suspense by Judith Guest (Scribner). 

Set in the fictional northern Michigan town of Blessed, Sheriff Hugh DeWitt, still grieving over the death of his infant son, becomes engrossed in the brutal murder of the Norbois family, with links to a serial killer at the University of Michigan.  The novel is based on a still-unsolved 1960s murder in Michigan.

True North: A Novel by Jim Harrison (Grove Press). 

Set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this poignant novel details David Burkett's struggles with his father and his family's legacy of timberland destruction in the Upper Peninsula.

Ursula, Under: A Novel by Ingrid Hill (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). 

Past and present come together in this debut novel after 2-year-old Ursula Wong falls down an Upper Peninsula mineshaft.  Hill artfully recreates Ursula's history and the story of her ancestors, including a Chinese alchemist and her great-grandfather, a Michigan miner killed in a cave-in.

Wire to Wire: Inside the 1984 Detroit Tigers Championship Season by George Cantor (Triumph Books). 

Covering all the bases, including the magical 35-5 start, Jack Morris' no-hitter, and Kirk Gibson's World Series-clinching home run, this book charts the triumphant season of one of the all-time great Michigan sports teams, the 1984 Detroit Tigers.  Cantor covered the team in 1984 as a Detroit sports columnist.


Updated 07/01/2010