Detroit has a rich history filled with stories of challenge and triumph. There are so many brilliant individuals that have worked hard to make our city what it is today. In part 4 of our Detroit blog series, we’re highlighting some of our favorite narratives on Detroit and its history. These novels encompass firsthand experiences, historical reviews and some outspoken opinions from writers we love.
9 Books About Detroit That We Love
Edited by Matt Lee with photography from Jenny Risher, recommended by Jennifer Cline ($37)
The book highlights 50 of the most influential Detroiters, with brilliant interviews and stories that are accompanied by beautiful photography by Jenny Risher. Highlighted individuals include Eminem, Barry Sanders, Jack White, Mitch Albom, Martha Reeves and many more.
I think the book is a beautiful representation of the diversity Detroit holds and the stories that come from our community. When I graduated from Wayne State University, my fiance bought the book for me. We got to meet Jenny and she signed my copy. I love that you can easily read the book front to back or you can simply pick it up and read a single story; either way, you walk away feeling inspired.
by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre, recommended by Tricia Haslinger ($92.01)
It’s an amazing picture book. I first saw this book at Shinola in Midtown while waiting to get my new planner engraved. It’s amazing to see the evolution of some of the most prominent buildings in the city. This book was published in 2010 and already so many of these desolate buildings are revived and thriving. It even has a photograph with the view from our very own Broderick Tower!
by Bill Morris, recommended by Ian Washington ($12.38)
A review of the history of the 1967 race riots and how the city and the growing rage within the city led to one of the most destructive and lasting events in American history. The book’s focus is on Willie Bledsoe, a former civil rights worker, and Frank Doyle, a homicide detective investigating the city’s riots. Originally from Alabama, Bledsoe becomes the focus of Doyle’s investigations. The novel explores historic events in a fresh, personalized way, highlighting the iconic 1967 riots alongside the Tigers’ 1968 World Series championship.
Edited by siblings Andy, Emily and Rob Linn ($22)
Curated by City Bird and Nest shop owners, the Insider’s Guide to Detroit was created with funding from a Kickstarter campaign. (The campaign raised nearly $20,000!) This book is perfect for folks new to the city, those looking for new exploration or for those who think Detroit has nothing to offer. With more than 1,000 attractions, events, sites, restaurants and shops, this is a great go-to guide on the city. More than 30 Detroit-based writers and researchers worked to put the guide together.
by Charlie LeDuff, recommended by Celena Mancina ($9.87)
Pulitzer Prize-winner and highly controversial Charlie LeDuff penned this novel in his journey to uncover clues about his family’s troubled past. LeDuff grew up just outside of Detroit and later became a New York Times journalist. He has since returned to Detroit, working for The Detroit News and Detroit Fox.
This book talks about Detroit being the capital of unemployment, why it’s happening and what went wrong. LeDuff sets out to discover what really destroyed the city of Detroit, exploring illiteracy, dropouts and foreclosures. Interviews with Detroit’s homeless, business leaders, struggling homeowners and others help mold this story. Detroit: An American Autopsy highlights important stories from the individuals that call this city their home and explores where the problems began.
by Cheri Gay, recommended by Ian Washington ($17.05)
Detroit’s history has been challenged with the loss of many beloved venues, schools, churches, stores, hotels, theaters and beyond. Lost: Detroit features 68 losses that have disappointed the city. The book encompasses both photos and essays of the city’s history and its past structures. It explores the history of why the structures were built, by whom and ultimately their decay. Told in chronological order, the book discusses the loss of beloved institutes such as the Central Market, Hotel Cadillac, Union Station, Grace Hospital and many more. It’s a great photogenic history of Detroit’s past.
by Mark Binelli, recommended by Jennifer Cline ($15.33)
This book follows stories of individuals living in Detroit and the challenges they face. The writer, Mark Binelli, grew up just outside of Detroit and has written for The New York Times, Rolling Stones and more. His journalistic approach to this book explores how Detroit’s challenges are impacting the lives of its residents. Nationwide journalists visited the city in 2009, as Detroit was faced with the automotive bankruptcies. Binelli joined the journalist movement in the city and explored more personalized accounts of the city’s story. Included stories cover the circumstances at a Highland Park firehouse, challenges of such a wide-spread city, artists joining the Detroit revitalization and beyond.
by Aaron Foley ($15.27)
Publicity on Detroit’s “comeback” has drawn many newcomers to the city. Starving artists, tech entrepreneurs, community advocates and others have moved to Detroit to “help” with its rebirth. How has this impacted the lives of native Detroiters? How do new residents become part of the community, rather than simply starting their own initiatives? Foley’s How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass discusses important considerations for new Detroit residents. He highlights the importance of working together, realities of purchasing a home within the city, how to make peace with the suburbs and many other important topics. The book debunks common Detroit myths, such as the presumption that everyone owns a gun, and guides newcomers to remain open minded about Detroit’s unique history and future. Check out Aaron Foley’s interview about the book in Vanity Fair.
by Peter Gavrilovich and Bill McGraw ($24.95)
Last updated in 2006, the Detroit Almanac provides an in-depth review of Detroit’s first 300 years. The 650-page book was published by the Detroit Free Press and includes pictures, tables, charts, maps and stories about the city’s history. Important people, events, buildings, products and more are all touched on in this reference book.
Are there any books about Detroit that you would recommend? Tell us in the comments!