19 Must-Read Books for Every Michigander

When the weather outside turns frightful, settle in with a book that counts our great state as a main character. We list some amazing books published within the last few years and break them down by your interests. Any of the books on this list could also make a page-turning last-minute gift idea for the Michigan enthusiast in your life.

If you’re into baseball:

The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych by Doug Wilson—A biography of 70s Detroit Tigers pitcher, known for his eccentricities at the plate. He was the first athlete to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown—The story of Flint native Jim Abbott, born without a right hand, who became an ace pitcher for the University of Michigan and went on to play for the New York Yankees.

Summer of ’68: The Season That Changed Baseball – and America – Forever by Tim Wendel—As the country boiled over with racial tension, Wendel delves into how baseball was a welcome distraction and recounts the Tigers’ bid for a World Series title.

If you like post-apocalyptic novels:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel—This book moves back and forth in time, pre- and post-pandemic outbreak. The 2014 National Book Award Finalist follows a nomadic group of actors traveling the Great Lakes region.

If you want to feel hopeful about the rebirth of Michigan cities:

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff—A Pulitzer prize-winning journalist digs into the rise and fall of Michigan’s most storied city.

Detroit City is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli—Detroit-area native explores the rebirth and sense of possibility of Detroit following the city’s bankruptcy.

Tear-Down: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young—Originally from Flint, Young returns to his hometown to tell the story of locals working to rebuild the once prosperous city.

If you’re more comfortable in the country:

Bootstrapper: From Broke to Bad*** on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link—A post-divorce memoir, Link recounts her decision to stay in her family’s century old farmhouse and work the land with her three boys as a single mother.

If you love poetry:

Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry edited by William Olsen and Jack Ridl—An anthology of voices all focused on unique aspects of life in Michigan.

If you’re a history buff:

Michigan and the Civil War: A Great and Bloody Sacrifice by Jack Dempsey—A vivid look at Michigan’s contributions to Civil War efforts and battles.

Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike: From Sand Trails to US-31 by M. Christine Byron—The history of Michigan’s most prominent early highway. The story of what is now US-31 is illustrated by vintage postcards, photographs, and maps.

Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors by Jack Dempsey and Dave Dempsey—The secrets, legends, and myths surrounding some of Michigan’s literary luminaries are explored.

If you really love pies:

Sweetie-licious Pies: Eat Pie, Love Life by Linda Hundt—Growing up in Lansing, Hundt loved playing with her Easybake Oven. It paid off for the entrepreneur, who is an award-winning pie maker and operates three Sweetie-licious Bakery Café locations in DeWitt, East Grand Rapids, and at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. This book is part story, part recipe book, giving you the stories behind her favorite pies and directions to make them yourself!       

If you’re tired of the Lower Peninsula getting all the love because of its cute mitten shape:

The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works – edited by Ron Riekki—In poems and short stories, the distinct geography, culture, and climate of the U.P. is beautifully captured in this collection.

If you consider yourself a fashionista:

Jacobson’s, I Miss It So: The Story of a Michigan Fashion Institution by Bruce Allen—A department store historian helps readers experience the elegance of beloved Michigan fashion hub, Jacobson’s and its history.

If you just want a gritty, good read:

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell—This book by Kalamazoo resident Campbell has been described as a “rough-hewn sister of The Leatherstocking Tales, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Walden.”

If you have a young reader:

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis—This children’s novel follows a Depression-era family from Gary, Indiana to a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan, and centers on young Deza, “the smartest girl in her class.”

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan—Set in Muskegon in 1908, this children’s book written and illustrated by Phelan follows young Henry and his encounters with a young vaudeville performer named Buster Keaton.

Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art by J.H. Shapiro—This illustrated children’s book is an accessible biography of Tyree Guyton and Detroit’s Heidelberg Project, a radical neighborhood art project.

What’s on your 2015 reading list? Find out why reading is good for your mind and health. If you want to read up on health and wellness, we’ve got a list of books for that too!

Photo credit: Sam Greenhalgh

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  1. All of Amanda M Lee’s books are set in northern lower Michigan. They are funny, easy reading for the beach and you can get them on Kindle!

  2. If you’re familiar with metro Detroit history, and have an interest in the old Eloise psychiatric hospital: “Annie’s Ghosts.”

  3. You omitted a wonderful book that is an oral history of the Polar Bears who were sent to North Russia to fight Bolsheviks in 1918-1919.

    “A Well-Kept Secret: The Allied Invasion of North Russia, 1918-1919” by William Ward

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