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2009 Michigan Notable Books

This year's Michigan Notable Books selection committee included Nancy Robertson (chair), Kim Laird, Randy Riley, and Kris Rzepczynski from the Library of Michigan. Others included: Laura Ashlee, State Office of Historic Preservation; Robert Beasecker, Grand Valley State University; Elizabeth Buzzelli, Traverse City Record-Eagle; Pam Christensen, Michigan Center for the Book; Bill Castanier, Lansing City Pulse; Cathie Lashinsky, Borders Inc.; Barbara Martin, Detroit Public Library; Duane Strojny, Cooley Law School;, Rhoda Wolff, Schuler Books & Music; George Weeks, Detroit News, retired.

Asylum for the Insane: A History of the Kalamazoo State Hospital by William A. Decker, M.D. (Arbutus Press)-- The Michigan Asylum for the Insane opened in Kalamazoo in 1859 as Michigan's first state institution created solely for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. In this outstanding history, complete with dozens of images and schematic maps, Dr. Decker, a former medical superintendent of the hospital, places emphasis on the treatments themselves, including hydrotherapy, electro-convulsive therapy and psychoanalysis, the various instruments used, and the growth and development of the hospital's campus and buildings.

The English Major by Jim Harrison (Grove Press) --Harrison's 14th book of fiction is a humorous novel exploring a man's journey to self-discovery. After being dumped by his wife, Cliff, a 60-ish former English teacher turned farmer, hits the road in his old Ford Taurus with a plan of renaming all the birds and all the states. Told in a believable first-person voice, the story describes Cliff's attempt to shed his former life, by crossing the boundaries of as many states of the Union as he can reach in a year. The novel revisits many of Harrison's longtime interests: travel, literature, food and man's interaction in the natural world. This is Harrison's sixth time on the Michigan Notable Books list.

The Expeditions: A Novel by Karl Iagnemma (Dial Press)-- This debut novel by suburban Detroit native Karl Iagnemma is set in historic Michigan during the 1840s. Elisha Stone, a 16-year-old runaway, heads to Detroit to get away from trouble at home. He winds up working with a party of naturalists, embarking on a voyage to the Upper Peninsula to both discover treasure and prove theories about the origins of man. Iagnemma skillfully displays the interactions of the unstable research party, richly describes the historical attitudes and conditions of this frontier era, and reveals the interaction between father and son, as Elisha's father comes in search of his prodigal son.

Historic Cottages of Glen Lake by Barbara Siepker. Photography by Dietrich Floeter (Leelanau Press)-- More than 50 historic cottages' interiors and exteriors are documented in this beautiful publication detailing the resort community nestled in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Leelanau County. Like taking a trip back in time, the book's descriptive narratives and lavish photographs highlight each individual cottage's lore and memories, and will delight readers with interests in local history, architecture and family traditions.

"Jiffy" A Family Tradition: Mixing Business and Old-Fashioned Values by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds (Chelsea Milling Company, distributed by University of Michigan Press)-- In this well-crafted history of the Chelsea-based company that has become an icon of Americana, Reynolds perfectly blends the story of the company, the family that owned it and the charming Washtenaw County town that supported it. This is Reynolds' second time on the Michigan Notable Books list.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka (Viking) -- In this lively and entertaining story about growing up in Flint as the second of six brothers, Scieszka lived in a rambunctious household filled with pranks and typical boy adventures. The brief and humorous stories fit the wonderful illustrations perfectly, suiting Scieszka's mission of reaching the reluctant reader. The award-winning author of The Stinky Cheese Man, Scieszka is the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Looking for Hickories: The Forgotten Wildness of the Rural Midwest by Tom Springer (University of Michigan Press) -- Looking for Hickories is Springer's ode to the people and the natural world found in the heart of the Great Lakes region. Often beginning with amusement and ending with wisdom, his touching essays explore topics and issues unique to the upper Midwest, including building barns, land preservation, wild fruit, fossils and the death of the small town salesman.

Measure of the Heart: A Father's Alzheimer's, a Daughter's Return by Mary Ellen Geist (Springboard) -- In this tender memoir, Geist details her experiences as she gave up her job and returned home to Northern Michigan to take care of her ailing father stricken with Alzheimer's. Geist deftly describes the painful hardships of the disease and the factors that influenced her decision to return home, and shares the blessings of growing closer to both her parents.

The Model T: A Centennial History by Robert Casey (Johns Hopkins University Press) -- Debuting in 1908 as the first mass-produced and truly affordable car, the Ford Model T quickly revolutionized automotive design, engineering, manufacturing and sales, and American society as a whole. Complete with historic photographs and color advertisements, many from the Benson Ford Research Center in Dearborn, Casey details the story and technological innovations of this great American icon.

Ninety Years Crossing Lake Michigan: The History of the Ann Arbor Car Ferries by Grant Brown, Jr. (University of Michigan Press) -- In 1892, the Ann Arbor Car Ferries began the seemingly impossible task of carrying loaded railroad cars by ship across Lake Michigan from Frankfort, Mich., to Kewaunee, Wis. Brown has written a remarkably detailed and well-researched history of the Ann Arbor Car Ferries, how they started, and the men who ran the company, and the ferries' final days in 1982.

A Picturesque Situation: Mackinac Before Photography, 1615-1860 by Brian Leigh Dunnigan (Wayne State University Press) -- Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Mackinac Island and the people that have lived there, Dunnigan's impressive collection of pre-photographic images of the Mackinac region draws from decades of research. Rare maps, plans, drawings, sketches, engravings and paintings, all in full color, are enhanced by the highly readable text. This is Dunnigan's second time on the Michigan Notable Books list.

Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement by Carl Oglesby (Scribner) -- In this powerful first-person account of the Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S.) and the University of Michigan during the 1960s anti-war movement, Oglesby draws from more than 4,000 pages of government intelligence on himself and the organization he led. As a former employee in the defense industry with high security clearance, Oglesby became president of S.D.S. and a leading anti-war spokesman; his centrist stance on many issues made him unpopular with S.D.S.' more militant members.

Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer by Jamie Smith. Illustrated by Jef Mallett (Velo Press) -- With a keen sense of humor and a wealth of experience as a cyclist, Smith explains the wonderfully addicting but equally strange world of bicycle racing, including many of its charming habits and obsessive practices. Training, diet, several of the Michigan courses, cycle repairs, race strategies, and the puzzling question of why cyclists wear Lycra are all outlined in this unique book. Mallett's comic illustrations perfectly complement the narrative.

Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of Auto Show Models by Margery Krevsky (Momentum Books)-- A fascinating glimpse at the "real" auto show models, Sirens of Chrome illustrates the history of models and female imagery in sales advertisements and promotions, dating back to the origins of the auto industry. Many of the photographs are of Detroit's auto show over the years and come from the National Automotive History Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

Summer Dreams: The Story of Bob-Lo Island by Patrick Livingston (Wayne State University Press) -- Located nearly 20 miles south of Detroit, Bob-Lo Island served as the ultimate summer playground for many southeastern Michigan families for nearly 100 years. In this well-researched and nostalgic book, Livingston explores the island's history from its discovery by the French to its use by missionaries, the British military, escaped slaves, farmers, and finally the wealthy class that transformed it into a summer resort. This is Livingston's second time on the Michigan Notable Books list.

The Toledo War: The First Michigan-Ohio Rivalry by Don Faber (University of Michigan Press) -- Long before their legendary battles on the gridiron, Michigan and Ohio fought over a narrow slice of land in 1835 known as the Toledo Strip. Utilizing newspaper accounts from the era, Faber expertly explores the roots of the conflict, the politically charged environment contributing to Michigan's delayed admission to the Union, and the many fascinating personalities involved. Although Ohio technically "won" by maintaining possession of the strip, Michigan received a large portion of the Upper Peninsula as a consolation, thereby answering the popular trivia question, "Why is the U.P. part of Michigan?"

War as They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest by Michael Rosenberg (Grand Central Publishing) -- The greatest years of the storied football rivalry between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s amidst campus unrest, Vietnam War protests and great political and social upheaval. More than just a history of the rivalry, Rosenberg integrates the story of the two iconic head coaches with the unfolding national dramas of the era.

When the Church Becomes Your Party: Contemporary Gospel Music by Deborah Smith Pollard (Wayne State University Press) -- Pollard provides a detailed overview of the contemporary gospel music scene in Detroit. Often difficult to distinguish between R&B and hip-hop, contemporary gospel has become much more urban and commercial than the traditional sound of the past. Pollard expertly explains these changes and explores how the various changes are being received in the black church community.

Who's Jim Hines? by Jean Alicia Elster (Wayne State University Press) -- Based on real events about Douglas Ford, Jr., a 12-year-old African-American boy growing up in Detroit during the Great Depression, Elster's novel geared toward young readers touches on family, father-son relationships, racism and friendships. Doug's father owns a lumber company, and when Doug is forced to join his father in the physically demanding work of delivering lumber, he unravels the mystery of a man named Jim Hines, whom he always hears about but has never seen.

Wreck of the Carl D.: A True Story of Loss, Survival, and Rescue at Sea by Michael Schumacher (Bloomsbury USA) -- 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley. Caught in one of the most violent storms in history on Lake Michigan, the Bradley sank on Nov. 18, 1958. Intended as a tribute to the men who died aboard the ship, Schumacher's powerful narrative explores the circumstances of the shipwreck itself and the resulting devastating impact on the small community of Rogers City, where many crewmembers were from. This is Schumacher's second time on the Michigan Notable Books list.


Updated 07/01/2010