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2015 Michigan Notable Books

The 2015 Michigan Notable Books

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War by A.J. Baime (HoughtonMifflinHarcourt)

Edsel Ford, who, when asked if they could deliver 50,000 airplanes, made an outrageous claim: Ford Motor Company would erect a plant that could yield a "bomber an hour." Bucking his father's resistance, Edsel charged ahead. Ford would apply assembly-line production to the American military's largest, fastest, most destructive bomber; they would build a plant vast in size and ambition on a plot of farmland and call it Willow Run; they would bring in tens of thousands of workers from across the country, transforming Detroit, almost overnight, from Motor City to the "great arsenal of democracy." And eventually they would help the Allies win the war.

The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan by Thomas R. Dilley (Wayne State University Press, Painted Turtle)

In The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Thomas R. Dilley details the history of Grand Rapids' park cemeteries, finding that their development mimicked national trends and changing cultural beliefs about honoring the dead. In introducing readers to the fifteen historic cemeteries, he outlines their origins, formats, and developments using more than two hundred photos. The author explores the artistic and architectural forms that appear in the cemeteries, including a thorough discussion of the religious and decorative symbols used on markers, the use of sometimes florid epitaphs, and variations in the form, structure, and materials of cemetery markers of the time.

Bernida: A Michigan Sailing Legend by Al Declercq and Tom Ervin with Gloria Whelan, illustrated by David Miles (Sleeping Bear Press)

In 1925 a sailboat named Bernida wins the very first Port Huron to Mackinac Island Race. She wins again in 1927 but when the race's rules change, she is no longer allowed to compete. Years go by while she is left neglected, moving from owner to owner spending years in a barn covered by dust. But in 2012, after a miraculous restoration and with new owners who believe in her, Bernida is once again entered in the Mackinac Race and wins. Al Declercq is a sail maker and competitive sailor who bought the Bernida with hopes to race the sailboat again in the Bayview Mackinac Race, and with success decided to write a children's book about the sailboat once thought non-competitive. Bernida is beautifully illustrated by David Miles of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (Ecco)

Bird Box is an incredibly original psychological suspense novel that reminds us that with all great horror, the unseen is so much more terrifying than the seen. Bird Box is a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat horror thriller, set in an apocalyptic near-future world. Something terrifying is out there that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person will be driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. The heroine of the story, Malorie, trained her babies "… to wake with their eyes closed. Standing above their chicken wire beds, flyswatter in hand, she'd wait. As each woke and opened their eyes, she would smack them hard on the arm. They would cry. Malorie would reach down and close their eyes with her fingers." Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman's breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

Bright Shards of Someplace Else Monica McFawn (University of Georgia Press)

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. A young boy reduces his nanny's phone bill with a call, then convinces her he can solve her other problems. A man who works at a butterfly-release business becomes dangerously obsessed with solving a famous mathematical proof. A poetry professor finds himself entangled in the investigation of a murdered student. In the final story, an aging lyricist reconnects with a renowned singer to write an album in the Appalachian Mountains, only to be interrupted by the appearance of his drug-addicted son and a mythical story of recovery.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn (Viking)

Kathleen Flinn takes us from stories of her grand-parents in the Depression to her own tween years in the 1970's. In this family history interwoven with recipes, Flinn returns readers to the mix of food and memoir. The book really speaks to the idea of food being a catalyst for storytelling. 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. Through these dishes, Flinn came to understand how meals can be memories, and how cooking can be a form of communication.

The Contract by Derek Jeter (Jeter Publishing)

Derek Jeter is a legend in professional sports and is of interest to many youth around the country. While leading the New York Yankees to five World Series Championships and achieving a myriad of milestones and accomplishments on and off the field, including thirteen All-Star nods and membership in baseball's exclusive 3,000-hit club, Jeter has established a reputation of unparalleled character, credibility, dedication, and excellence. When Jeter was a boy, he had the dream of becoming the shortstop for the New York Yankees. Inspired by his childhood, this start to a middle grade series is about a boy who sets high goals for himself and makes his dreams come true through hard work, teamwork, and determination.

A Detroit Anthology edited by Anna Clark (Rust Belt Chic Press)

Detroit Anthology offers from-the-heart and on-the-ground views of life in America's Motor City. Editor Anna Clark, a Detroit journalist, has gathered an eclectic assortment of essays, poems, and photographs. Detroit is a city of stories. Detroit Anthology is a collection of Detroit stories for Detroiters, a common undercurrent alights the work that is collected here. Featuring essays, photographs, poetry, and art by Terry Blackhawk, Grace Lee Boggs, John Carlisle, Desiree Cooper, dream hampton, francine j. harris, Steve Hughes, Jamaal May, Tracie McMillan, Ken Mikolowski, Marsha Music, Shaka Senghor, Thomas J. Sugrue, and many others.

Eight Mile High Jim Ray Daniels (Michigan State University Press)

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' characters wander Detroit, a world of concrete, where even a small strip of greenery becomes a hideout for mystery and mayhem. With a survival instinct that includes a healthy dose of humor, Daniels' characters navigate work and love, change and loss, the best they can. These stories seem to suggest that we are always coming of age, becoming, trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in this world, attempting to figure out a way to forgive ourselves for not measuring up to our own expectations of what it means to lead a successful, happy life.

The Fish and the Not Fish by Peter Markus (Dzanc Books)

Peter Markus has developed a name for his poetic prose, reducing storytelling to its primitive core for a result that is both childish and dreamlike. His latest book, The Fish and the Not Fish tells stories from a strange, post-industrial town where a boy decides he is a bird and Death himself is just another neighbor, among other oddities. Markus is the author of the novel Bob, or Man on Boat as well as three books of short-short fiction, the most recent of which is The Singing Fish. In 2012 he was named a Kresge Arts in Detroit fellow in Literary Arts. He lives in Trenton, Michigan.

Making Callaloo in Detroit by Lolita Hernandez (Wayne State University Press)

Drawing on memories of growing up in Detroit with Caribbean roots, Lolita Hernandez reveals a hidden community that craves sun and saltwater, dances to calypso, makes callaloo, and bakes, buljol, sanchocho, and pelau in their kitchens. Making Callaloo in Detroit explores questions of how we assimilate and retain identity, how families evolve as generations pass, how memory guides the present, and how the spirit world stays close to the living. Creative Writing Lecturer, native Detroiter and amateur Trinidadian chef, the author tells real life stories about life in Detroit.

Michigan Agricultural College Campus Life 1900-1925: A Postcard Tour by Stephen Terry (Thunder Bay)

In this collection of historical postcards, Stephen Terry acts as tour guide, providing readers with a vibrant time-capsule documentary of the growth of MAC, Michigan Agricultural College. The work is an early 1900's postcard tour of the nation's first land-grant college. 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 students as they participated in athletics, class rivalries, and wartime on campus. Stop by the Dairy Store for some ice cream then take a stroll through the early Beal Gardens. Get a bird's eye view of Laboratory Row and witness the fire that ravaged the Engineering Building.

Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron (A Forge Books published by Tom Doherty Associates)

In Midnight Plan of the Repo Man a repo man in Kalkaska, Michigan, Ruddy McCann, has a bit of a problem: The voice of a murder victim has suddenly taken up residence in his head. At first, Ruddy thinks the chatter in his mind is the result of the dreaded malady "Repo Madness," the consequence of too many years pursuing deadbeats, a perilous occupation that requires "nerves of stupidity." Through all the twists and turns of the unlikely plot, Ruddy is surrounded by a vividly drawn cast of characters, including Becky, his ultraresponsible sister, who had "a tapeworm or something that was always drawing the fun out of her"; Becky's goofy new boyfriend, Kermit, a voluble Mr. Malaprop; Ruddy's stud-muffin younger pal, Jimmy, whose earlier acting career "was somewhat hampered by his inability to act"; and Ruddy's beloved dog, Jake, "fifty pounds of anyone's guess."

Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past by Sally Howell (Oxford University Press)

Old Islam in Detroit explores the rise of Detroit's earliest Muslim communities. It documents the culture wars and doctrinal debates that ensued as these populations confronted Muslim newcomers who did not understand their manner of worship or the American identities they had created. Looking closely at this historical encounter, Old Islam in Detroit provides a new interpretation of the possibilities and limits of Muslim incorporation in American life. It shows how Islam has become American in the past and how the anxieties many new Muslim Americans and non-Muslims feel about the place of Islam in American society today are not inevitable, but are part of a dynamic process of political and religious change that is still unfolding.

A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps: My Mother's Memories of Imprisonment, Immigration, and a Life Remade by Barbara Rylko-Bauer (University of Oklahoma Press)

Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko, known as Jadzia (Yah'-jah), was a young Polish Catholic physician in L ó d z 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. Jadzia's daughter, anthropologist Barbara Rylko-Bauer, constructs an intimate ethnography that weaves a personal family narrative against a twentieth-century historical backdrop.

Rivers of Sand: Fly Fishing Michigan and the Great Lakes Region by Josh Greenberg (Lyons Press)

Author Josh Greenberg is manager of the famous Gates Au Sable Lodge, and writes a popular, on-line fishing report that draws as many as 40,000 hits a month. He has contributed to several magazines, including Fly, Rod & Reel and Fly Fisherman. Written in what seems a conversational style, Rivers of Sand is a book of stories about Greenberg's fishing trips alone, with clients or with friends. Greenberg, a full-time conservationist as well, writes beautifully about what he sees and feels along our trout streams. "All this talk of rising fish, the endless varieties of gurgles, burping sounds, splashes, sips … These are all trout noises ... Then there is the sound of the river itself."

Songs Only You Know: A Memoir by Sean MadiganHoen (Soho Press)

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. Songs Only You Know begins in the '90s and spans a decade during which the author's family fights to hold itself together. Sean's crack addicted father cycles from rehab to binge, his heartsick sister spirals into depression, and his mother works to spare what can be spared. Meanwhile, Sean seeks salvation in a community of eccentrics and outsiders, making music held up by Spin magazine as unique and powerful. But the closer Sean comes to realizing his musical dream in hardcore punk, the further he drifts from his family and himself.

Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf Doubleday Publishing)

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. Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is beautifully written. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Strange Love by Lisa Lenzo (Wayne State University Press)

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. Ever-present is Annie's beloved Lake Michigan.

Strings Attached by Diane DeCillis (Wayne State University Press)

Poet 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.


Updated 01/28/2015