Michigan is dotted with a myriad of talented authors, known across the globe for their compelling novels, short stories, autobiographies and the like. And because we’re staying indoors for a while, it’s the perfect excuse to catch up on some reading!
We rounded up a few must-reads from Michigan authors and compiled them all in a list. There’s something on here for the romantic, the thrill-seeker, the true-crime addict and the open-minded. Wherever your adventures take you, these books are sure to enhance your experience!
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
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Born in Port Huron in 1951, Terry McMillian’s name probably sounds familiar from her many New York Times bestselling titles. But she wasn’t always a household name. Back in 1987 when she published her first book Mama, she struggled to get her publisher to actually promote her book. Instead, she took over promotion for her debut, writing to thousands of booksellers—specifically African-American bookstores—and asked them for help. As a result, Mama sold out of its initial first hardcover printing. She then went on to write Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, two iconic, bestselling novels that have been adapted to film and star the likes of Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and many more.
I Almost Forgot About You is one of McMillians’s more recent novels, published in 2016. Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life, which is full of great friends, family and career, just isn’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, including quitting her job as an optometrist and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love.
Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard
Born in New Orleans, Elmore Leonord officially moved to Michigan in 1934 when his family settled in Detroit for his father’s job at General Motors. After being rejected from the Marines for weak eyesight, Leonard served in the Navy for three years in the South Pacific. It wasn’t until 1946 when he started to seriously pursue writing, entering his work in short story contests and into magazines for publications. He went on to publish more than 40 novels and almost as many short stories throughout his life—many of them selling millions of copies. More than 20 of his novels and short stories have been adapted to film.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced novel to binge read over a weekend, Out of Sight is a great choice. It follows Jack Foley, a “gentleman bank robber” who arranges a break-out from a Florida jail. The plan is interrupted by Federal Marshal Karen Sisco and antics ensue. After you’ve finished reading, start on the rest of the series or pick up the 1998 movie starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez!
Terror in the City of Champions by Tom Stanton
Tom Stanton was born in Warren in 1960, pulling inspiration from the surrounding Detroit area and channeling it into his numerous nonfiction books. As a journalist, Stanton helped found The Voice Newspapers in Detroit, where he served as an editor for more than 16 years. His books usually focus on sports history, including his popular novel The Final Season, which details the last season the Detroit Tigers played at Tigers Stadium. Stanton attended every home game that season and provides a thoughtful look at the generations of families who bonded over baseball.
Terror in the City of Chapions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-era Detroit is Stanton’s most recent novel. It outlines Detroit in the mid-1930’s and tells the true story of the dangerous Black Legion, a racist group boasting tens of thousands of members across the midwest, and their years of spreading terror throughout the area.
Animorphs by K.A. Applegate
K.A. Applegate was born in Ann Arbor in 1956 and has since lived all over the world—from Texas to Pelago, Italy. She is most well known for her very popular young adult series, Animorphs, that she wrote with her husband. The series consists of over 50 books which have been adapted into a television series on Nickelodeon and a Gameboy Color video game in 2000.
Know any pre-teen children interested in science fiction and fantasy? Have them pick up Animorphs, which follows five humans—Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel and Tobias—and one alien, Aximili-Esgorrouth-Isthill, who obtain the ability to transform into any animal they touch.
Buyout by Alex Irvine
Originally from Ypsilanti, Alex Irvine is an American fantasy and science fiction writer who has won countless literary awards such as the Lotus Award, the Crawford Award and a New England Press Award for investigative journalism! In addition to writing incredible nonfiction and novels, he has worked on several comic books, including Iron Man, Dark Sun and Daredevil Noir.
Buyout, published in 2009, is a near-future thriller packed full of action and excitement. The story follows a man named Martin Kindred as he looks into the unsolved death of his brother that may have been a result of the dystopian government’s new “buyout program”.
Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Born in Detroit in 1923, Gloria Whelan is a nationally renowned author of children and young adult books, both historical and fictional. While she grew up with an immense love of reading, she decided to study social work at the University of Michigan and went on to become a full-time social worker after graduating. In 1972, Whelan and her husband were weary of the hustle and bustle of Detroit and moved their family to a small, peaceful cabin up in Mancelona, in Northern Michigan. Their peace was soon disturbed, however, by an oil company that intended to drill on their property. The experience inspired Whelan to write a children’s book about a young boy who worked on an oil rig. It was published as A Clearing in the Forest in 1978 and was her first novel.
While A Clearing in the Forest is a spectacular read, we recommend you start with Whelan’s National Book Award-winning novel, Homeless Bird which was published in 2000. The story follows a 13-year-old Indian girl named Koly, who, like many girls of her time, is getting ready to get married. After discovering she’s been misled about the family she’s marrying into, she sets out to forge her own exceptional future.
The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
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Born in Minneapolis, Charles Baxter made the trek to Michigan when he took a teaching job in Pinconning. He eventually moved his teaching career over to the University of Michigan, where, for many years, he directed the Creative Writing MFA program. He has released several novels, non-fiction books, poetry collections and editor works, many of which have been nominated for acclaimed literary awards.
One of our favorites is The Feast of Love—a Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling told through the eyes of several different people. Not only was this magical novel nominated for a National Book Award, it has also been adapted into a film version, starring Morgan Freeman, Fred Ward and Greg Kinnear.
Bootstrapper by Mardi Jo Link
Nonfiction writer Mardi Jo Link was born in Detroit and has written about pretty much everything. As an old police reporter and current journalist, Link is used to switching up her writing chops on every project. She currently writes for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, so you can catch her there!
As for book recommendations, while you can’t go wrong with any of her dark, mysterious true crime books, her memoir Bootstrapper is the funny tale we all need right now. In the book, Link recounts her decision to end a 19-year marriage and the precarious, adventure-filled times she shares with her three sons as a result. Follow her as she, determined to remain on her six-acre farm even as a single parent, solves problems like breaking freezers and spoiling the winter’s meat.
What books by local authors are on your bookshelf? Let us know in the comments below!