Every year, the Library of Michigan reviews some 300 books — all with a connection to the state or the Great Lakes — published in the previous 12 months. The top 20 are named to the year’s Michigan Notable Books list. For 2013, the chosen titles range from poetry and novels to photography and historical nonfiction. Many have been featured in the pages of Hour Detroit.
[Note: ‘F’ and ‘NF’ denote fiction and nonfiction, respectively.]
1. American Poet: A Novel by Jeff Vande Zande (Bottom Dog Press, $18) (F)
This short coming-of-age novel set in Saginaw follows new college graduate and poet Denver Hoptner as he makes discoveries about relationships, life, and finding his voice.
2. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan by J. Alan Holman (Wayne State University Press, $50) (NF)
Holman documents all 54 of the amphibian species native to Michigan. His detailed collection is designed to appeal to anyone, from biologists to everyday animal lovers.
3. Balthazar Korab Architect of Photography by John Comazzi (Princeton Architectural Press, $40) (NF)
With the use of almost 300 images captured by architect-turned-photographer Balthazar Korab, John Comazzi showcases the life and career of the late Michigan-based shutterbug.
4. Bear Has a Story to Tell by Phillip C. Stead (Roaring Brook Press, $16.99) (F)
Children learn about friendship and patience from Bear and his friends, Toad, Mole, Duck, and Mouse. The characters and lessons are depicted through charming watercolor illustrations by Erin E. Stead.
5. The Boy Governor: Stevens T. Mason and the Birth of Michigan Politics by Don Faber (University of Michigan Press, $26.95, $70) (NF)
Faber tells the story of Stevens T. Mason, Michigan’s first governor and a key player in the birth and development of Michigan politics.
6. Canada by Richard Ford (Ecco, $15.99) (F)
After his parents are imprisoned and his twin sister runs away, 15-year-old Dell Parson is taken in by a charismatic American living in Saskatchewan. The story follows Parson’s struggle to rebuild his life.
7. Death Dance of a Butterfly by Melba Joyce Boyd (Past Tents Press, $15) (F)
Through a collection of poems, Boyd conveys life’s ups, downs, complexities, and joys while exploring personal relationships with family and friends.
8. Detroit City Is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli (Metropolitan Books, $28) (NF)
During recent years, Detroit has attracted countless urban planners and their like to join the once thriving city’s revitalization efforts. Novelist and journalist Binelli examines the city’s current crises, and the pride and hope exhibited by resilient Detroiters.
9. Detroit’s Historic Places of Worship compiled and edited by Marla O. Collum, Barbara E. Krueger, and Dorothy Kostuch; photographs by Dirk Bakker (Wayne State University Press, $39.95) (NF)
From the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the original Temple Beth-El, Detroit has a wide range of historic places of worship dating back to the mid-19th century. This book highlights 37 houses of worship and examines the founding of each congregation.
10. Dust to Dust: A Memoir by Benjamin Busch (Ecco, $26.99) (NF)
Former Marine Corps officer Busch recounts his days growing up in 1970s rural New York, and explores life, love, and death through stories from tours of Iraq.
11. Fishtown: Leland, Michigan’s Historic Fishery by Laurie Sommers (Arbutus Press, $19.95) (NF)
Sommers tells harrowing and emotional stories of Lake Michigan and Leland’s historic Fishtown district.
12. Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown (Ballantine Books, $26) (NF)
In this story of triumph and determination, Abbott, born without a right hand, tells of overcoming his insecurities during his journey toward becoming a wildly successful Major League Baseball pitcher.
13. Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors by Jack and Dave Dempsey (Michigan State University Press, $19.95) (NF)
Jack and Dave Dempsey explore the history, secrets, and myths of some of Michigan’s greatest literary minds.
14. Kirtland’s Warbler by William Rapai (University of Michigan Press, $24.95) (NF)
Rapai takes an in-depth look at the Kirtland’s Warbler, a tiny species of bird that, with the help of human protectors, recovered from near extinction. The book covers the songbird’s history beginning with its discovery.
15. Michigan’s Historic Railroad Stations by Michael Hodges (Wayne State University Press, $39.95) (NF)
When railroad travel was first introduced in the 19th century, it brought railroad stations along with it. Many in Michigan still stand today. Author and photographer Hodges compiles images and information on these historic landmarks from Saginaw to Detroit.
16. The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (Wendy Lamb Books, $15.99) (F)
In 1930s Michigan, Deza Malone and her hardworking family are put to the test when they’re hit by a tragic accident in the midst of the Great Depression. Mighty Miss Malone explores Depression-era Michigan through its speakeasies and Hoovervilles.
17. Skeleton Box by Bryan Gruley (Touchstone Books, $25) (F)
The third novel in Gruley’s “Starvation Lake” mystery series, chronicles a series of break-ins targeting the elderly in a small town in Michigan. A local newspaper editor teams up with a former Detroit Free Press reporter to investigate the crimes.
18. Summer of ’68 by Tim Wendel (Da Capo Press, $25) (NF)
Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Summer of ’68 recounts the enormous impact the Detroit Tigers had on the city a year after the worst riots in American history.
19. A Woman Like Me by Bettye LaVette (Blue Rider Press, $26.95) (NF)
Singer LaVette chronicles her rollercoaster ride to success and offers an inside look at some of Motown’s biggest stars.
20. The World of a Few Minutes Ago by Jack Driscoll (Wayne State University Press, $18.95) (F)
Ten emotional stories set in northern Michigan from characters ages 14 to 77.
More info: Michigan.gov/notablebooks.