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2016 Michigan Notable Books

Monday, January 04, 2016  
Posted by: Sandra York
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LANSING – From the iconic Detroit industry murals of Diego Rivera and courtside views of a former Fab Fiver to a rock retrospective by Patti Smith and a Lebanese-American family’s savory home-cooking, the 20 titles on the Library of Michigan’s (LM) 2016 Notable Book list are an eclectic mix.


“These wonderful books celebrate, in their own unique ways, Michigan’s people, places and events,” said State Superintendent Brian Whiston. “The Michigan Notable Books list is a great way to showcase each year a new crop of talented writers in a state steeped in history and natural beauty, and rich in stories and diversity.


“I’m encouraged by the ever-increasing popularity and influence of the Library of Michigan’s Notable Book list. Every new list seems to generate more and more interest among the reading public.”


Each year the Michigan’s Notable Book (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.


MNB is a statewide program that began as part of the 1991 Michigan Week celebration, designed to pay tribute and draw attention to the many people, places, and things that make Michigan life unique.


“The MNB selections clearly demonstrate the vast amount of talent found in writers focusing on Michigan and the Great Lakes region,” State Librarian Randy Riley said. “The list continues to offer something for everyone – fiction, short story collections, history, children’s books, politics, poetry and memoirs.”


This year's MNB selection committee includes representatives from the LM; The Library of Michigan Foundation; Wayne State University; the Archives of Michigan; Grand Rapids Public Library; Howell Carnegie District Library; Lansing City Pulse; Michigan Center for the Book; Michigan Humanities Council; and Schuler Books & Music.


LM’s 2016 MNB List:

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit, Mark Rosenthal, Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
From April 1932 through March 1933, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo spent time in Detroit while Rivera created his Detroit industry murals for the DIA. Kahlo, meanwhile, developed her own artistic identity. For this catalog, featuring more than 100 color illustrations, Mark Rosenthal and a team of scholars have written essays that examine the artists, the city of Detroit in this period, and the commissioning of the murals by Edsel Ford, and William Valentiner, then director of the DIA.

Garden for the Blind, Kelly Fordon, Wayne State University Press
Set in suburban Detroit between 1974 and 2012, Fordon’s intricately-woven stories follow Alice and Mike through high school, college, and into middle age, incorporating stories of their friends, family, and even strangers who are touched by the same themes of privilege, folly, neglect, and resilience. Garden for the Blind visits suburban and working-class homes, hidden sanctuaries and dangerous neighborhoods. All fiction readers will enjoy the nimble unfolding of Fordon’s narrative in this collection.

Got to Give the People What They Want: True Stories and Flagrant Opinions from Center Court, Jalen Rose, Crown/Archetype
In Got to Give the People What They Want, no topic is off limits for this Detroit native athlete and sports commentator.  Honest, unfiltered, unbiased, raw, refreshing, and real, this colorful collection of stories and opinions about basketball and life gives people the kind of insight and understanding they don’t get anywhere else in the sports world.

Great Girls in Michigan History, Patricia Majher, Wayne State University Press
Great Girls in Michigan History highlights 20 girls from Michigan’s past who did amazing things before they turned 20. Featured are aviator Nancy Harkness (Love), pioneer Anna Howard Shaw, escaped slave Dorothy Butler, professional baseball player Marilyn Jenkins, union leader Myra Komaroff (Wolfgang), and Native American writer Jane Johnston (Schoolcraft).

Haymaker, Adam Schuitema, Northern Illinois University Press/Switchgrass Books
Haymaker tells the story of an isolated Michigan town that becomes the flashpoint for some of the ideological debates of our day. It is a story about the failure of best intentions and the personal freedom of individuals to do good or harm. A witty and politically-charged novel.

M Train, Patti Smith, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
An odyssey of a legendary musical artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.”

From Greenwich Village to Mexico to Berlin to New York’s Far Rockaway, she reflects on the writer’s craft, art, and her personal life.

Making Waves: Michigan’s Boat-Building Industry, 1865-2000, Scott M. Peters, University of Michigan Press
The Great Lakes State boasts a rich heritage in the development of boat building in America. By the late 19th century, Michigan had emerged as the industry’s hub, producing some of the fastest and most innovative boats ever created. Michigan entrepreneurs like Christopher Columbus Smith, John L. Hacker, and Gar Wood established some of the top boat brands, and brought the prospect of boat ownership within reach for American consumers from all income levels. In Making Waves, Scott M. Peters explores this intriguing story of people, processes, and products of an industry that evolved in Michigan but would change boating across the world.

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories, Bonnie Jo Campbell, W.W. Norton & Company
A dazzling and suspenseful new collection of fearless and darkly funny tales about women and those they love. The strong but flawed women of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters must negotiate a sexually-charged atmosphere as they love, honor, and betray one another against the backdrop of all the men in their world.

My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!), Alison DeCamp, Crown Books for Young Reader
This is a story about a boy on a mission to find his long-lost father in the logging camps of Michigan. Armed with his trusty scrapbook, full of black-and-white 19th-century advertisements and photos, 11-year-old Stan’s attempt to locate his long-lost hero/cowboy/outlaw dad is a near-death adventure fraught with pesky relatives, killer lumberjacks, and poisonous pies.

Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story, David Maraniss, Simon and Schuster
It’s 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America.  It was the American auto makers’ best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther’s UAW had helped lift the middle class. The time was full of promise. Yet, Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world; yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen, Maureen Abood, Running Press Book Publishers
Maureen Abood's childhood, growing up as a Lebanese-American in Michigan, inspired her to launch her blog, Rose Water & Orange Blossoms. Here, she revisits the recipes she was reared on, exploring her heritage through its most-beloved foods and chronicling her riffs on traditional cuisine. Her colorful culinary guides come alive in her stories like the heady aromas of the dishes passed down to her by her family. Maureen presents more than 100 irresistible recipes that will delight readers with their evocative flavors. Weaved throughout are the stories of Maureen’s Lebanese-American upbringing, the path that led her to culinary school and to launch her blog, and life in lakeside Harbor Springs.

Russell Kirk: American Conservative, Bradley J. Birzer, University Press of Kentucky
Russell Kirk's 1953 masterpiece The Conservative Mind was very influential in its time. It was the intellectual touchstone for a reinvigorated movement and began a sea change in Americans' attitudes toward traditionalism.  In Russell Kirk, Bradley J. Birzer investigates the life and work of the man known as the founder of postwar conservatism in America and its intellectual roots

Scrapper, Matt Bell, Soho Press
Scrapper is a devastating reimagining of one of America’s greatest cities, its beautiful architecture, its lost houses, shuttered factories, boxing gyms, and storefront churches. Detroit has descended into ruin. A scrap metal thief finds a kidnapped boy, is celebrated as a hero and becomes his erstwhile avenger, forcing him into a confrontation with his own past and long-buried traumas.

Stone Circle Poems: The Collected Poems of Terry Wooten, Terry Wooten, Parkhurst Brothers Publishers
In 1980 Terry Wooten met poet Max Ellison.  Stone Circle Poems is the outcome of that chance encounter. It collects poems of a Midwest naturalist-bard, written and spoken from memory by Terry Wooten, poet and creator of Michigan’ Stone Circle poetry recitation venue in Michigan’s Antrim County. The Stone Circle is a triple ring of 88 large boulders where Wooten shared his poems with others and invited all to reciprocate the favor in traditional gatherings.

The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry, Robert St. Mary, Painted Turtle Book/Wayne State University Press
Local journal, Orbit was an instantly recognizable arbiter of 1990s Detroit culture. But its irreverent tone and unique editorial features could be traced to two earlier local publications from creator Jerry Peterson, a.k.a. Jerry Vile—White Noise (1978–1980) and Fun: The Magazine for Swinging Intellectuals (1986–1990). In The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry, author Rob St. Mary details the full run of White Noise, Fun, and Orbit, collecting two decades’ worth of Detroit’s alternative publishing history into an oversized, heavily illustrated, volume that situates the publications in the city’s pop culture and media history.

The People's Lawyer: The Life and Times of Frank J. Kelley, the Nation's Longest-Serving Attorney General, Frank J. Kelley, Jack Lessenberry, Wayne State University Press
Frank J. Kelley was unexpectedly appointed Michigan’s attorney general at the end of 1961. He never suspected that he would continue to serve until 1999, a national record.  He worked with everyone from John and Bobby Kennedy to Bill Clinton and jump-started the careers of dozens of politicians and public figures. In The People’s Lawyer: The Life and Times of Frank J. Kelley, the Nation’s Longest-Serving Attorney General, Kelley and co-author Jack Lessenberry chronicle Kelley’s early life as the son of second-generation Irish immigrants, and how he became a respected Democratic Party leader.

The Turner House, Angela Flournoy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Turner House brings us a colorful, complicated American brood full of love and pride, sacrifice and unlikely inheritances. It's a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled Detroit, and the inevitable exodus to the suburbs.

What Happens, John Herrmann, Sara A. Kosiba (Editor), Hastings College Press
What Happens was originally published in France in 1926 and seized by U.S. Customs for violating the 1922 Tariff Act, which banned the importing of obscene materials from foreign countries. The novel has never been published in the United States – until now. Friend of Ernest Hemingway and Lansing native John Herrmann tells the coming-of-age story of Winfield Payne, a young man from a wealthy Michigan family.

X: A Novel, Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon, Candlewick Press
Co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world. X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age 20, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

Yamasaki in Detroit: A Search for Serenity, John Gallagher, Painted Turtle Book/Wayne State University Press
Best-known for the World Trade Center in New York City, Japanese American architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) worked to create moments of surprise, serenity, and delight in distinctive buildings around the world. In his adopted home of Detroit, Yamasaki produced many important designs that range from public buildings to offices and private residences. In Yamasaki in Detroit: A Search for Serenity, author John Gallagher presents both a biography of Yamasaki and surveys select projects spanning from the late 1940s to the end of Yamasaki's life.

For more information about the MNB program, call the LM at 517-373-1300, visit, or email 

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