1. Michigan Legends
By Sheryl James
Michigan Legends: Folktales and Lore from the Great Lakes State (University of Michigan Press, $18.95)
> Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sheryl James tackles legends, events, and places from Michigan’s distant and not-so-distant past. Some of the legends are better known: the Nain Rouge (Demon of Detroit) and Paul Bunyan. Others are more obscure and quirky: the Bloodstoppers of the Upper Peninsula and werewolves in Detroit. The book is divided into sections on early Detroit, the Thumb, Great Lakes ships, the Upper Peninsula, and western Michigan. Read about ghost ships, a flood to rival the biblical tale of Noah, and more. You’ll even discover one version of why Michigan’s weather changes so much.
— Steve Wilke
2. Harley Loco
By Rayya Elias
Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side (Viking, $27.95).
> For more than 40 years, musician, filmmaker, hairdresser, and author Rayya Elias lived moment to moment. From her Syrian culture to her immigration to Detroit, Elias recounts her powerful roller coaster of a story in an unapologetically gritty book. Attracted by Detroit’s Arab community, 7-year-old Rayya Elias’ family left their prestigious lifestyle in Syria and immigrated to Royal Oak in 1967, fleeing political tension in their home country. Language barriers set the family back, while bullying and culture shock eventually caused Elias to rebel against her Syrian culture, opting for the punk lifestyle of the ’80s. After tackling the Detroit music scene, Elias moved to New York with her sights set on a career in music and fashion. However, her life soon went into a downward spiral that included homelessness, heroin addiction, and even a stint in prison. Elias elicits an honest and humorous voice to account for her journey to a now peaceful life.
— Alana Walker
3. Revolution Detroit
By John Gallagher
Revolution Detroit: Strategies for Urban Reinvention (Painted Turtle, from Wayne State University Press, $24.95)
> Detroit Free Press reporter John Gallagher takes an in-depth look at the city of Detroit and its shrinking population. Using domestic and international examples — from Cleveland, Flint, and Richmond, Va., to Manchester, England, and Leipzig, Germany — Gallagher tackles the issue of repurposing urban land and discusses challenges in education, crime, governance, and the outcomes of sometimes-conflicting economic models. Along the way, he interviews a handful of Detroiters trying to face the city’s myriad challenges, including Brightmoor’s Riet Schumack; Motor City Blight Busters founder John George; the “Mayor of Midtown,” Sue Mosey; and former Detroit City Council member Sheila Cockrel. What emerges is a cautionary, yet hopeful tale of a city trying to reinvent its manufacturing-dominated economy to one that’s smaller, nimbler, and knowledge-based.
— Steve Wilke
4. Lyin’ Cheatin’ Bastards
Edited by Angus Carroll
Lyin’ Cheatin’ Bastards: The Most Wickedly Entertaining Scandals from America’s Elected Officials Since 2000 (Assassin Bug Press, $24.95)
> The title seems crass. It spells out an ugly truth, sparing little, if any, mercy. But when it comes to the perpetual stupidity of those we’ve elected to hold our public offices (past, present, and future — the rate of which is calculated in this work), we, the American public, are not spared. In fact, we’ve come to expect “nothing less than complete and total dishonesty.” A generic search for, well, “lyin’ cheatin’ bastards,” by authors Allison Adler, Jennifer A. Freeman, Claire Young, and Vicki Zwart, evolved into a comprehensive compendium of only the top 77 bastards, exposing the fact that regardless of political party, age, or level of office, officials are “destined to lie, cheat, and steal.” And, yes — Detroit’s ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is one of them. In fact, he’s No. 6 on the list — and that was before his most recent conviction.
— Rachelle Hadley