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Michigan Notable Books 2019

Every year, the Michigan Department of Education and the Library of Michigan selects 20 books either set in Michigan or the Great Lakes region or are written by a Michigan author. The Michigan Notable Books program started in 1991 as part of Michigan Week celebrations designed to raise awareness of local Michigan authors who write about what makes Michigan life so unique. Selections include non-fiction, fiction, adult and children's titles that have a wide appeal to audiences of all ages and covers a variety of topics of interest to Michigan readers. My favorite is Notes from a Public Typewriter

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed

While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city's elite. In the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy. Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed (Star Wars: Canto Bight, Black Bolt) and artist Sami Kivelä (Beautiful Canvas) present one woman's search for the truth that destroyed her family amidst an exploration of the systemic societal constructs that haunt our country to this day.

Across the great lake by Lee Zacharias

As his wife lies dying in the brutally cold winter of 1936, Henrik Halvorsen takes his daughter Fern away with him. He captains a great coal-fired vessel, the Manitou, transporting railroad cars across the icy lake. The five-year-old girl revels in the freedom of the ferry, making friends with a stowaway cat and a gentle young deckhand. The sighting of a ghost ship, though, presages danger for all aboard.

Beautiful music by Michael Zadoorian

It's 1970s Detroit, and 15-year-old Danny is head over heels in love with rock 'n' roll; it's a panacea, a sovereign remedy. When his father muses about music, Danny's comment is simple: It just makes me happy. Music will need all its power when the father dies suddenly and the boy is left alone with his mother, who begins drinking heavily, sitting, drink in one hand and cigarette in the other, doing nothing but staring glassily at the TV. Danny must take over the family chores, becoming in effect his mother's father. And then there's school, where Danny is classic bully bait until two things happen: he acquires a friend who loves music as much as he does, and he is selected to be on-air talent and music director for the school's radio station. True to its time, there are occasional mini-race riots at school, but they seldom touch him until they do, with dire consequences.

Betty Ford: First Lady, Women's Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer is the inspiring story of an ordinary Midwestern girl thrust onto the world stage and into the White House under extraordinary circumstances. Setting a precedent as First Lady, Betty Ford refused to be silenced by her critics as she publicly championed equal rights for women, and spoke out about issues that had previously been taboo--breast cancer, depression, abortion, and sexuality. Privately, there were signs something was wrong. After a painful intervention by her family, she admitted to an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. Her courageous decision to speak out publicly sparked a national dialogue, and in 1982, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center, which revolutionized treatment for alcoholism and inspired the modern concept of recovery. Lisa McCubbin also brings to light Gerald and Betty Ford's sweeping love story: from Michigan to the White House, until their dying days, their relationship was that of a man and woman utterly devoted to one another other--a relationship built on trust, respect, and an unquantifiable chemistry.

Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit by Michael H. Hodges tells the story of the German-Jewish immigrant who rose from poverty to become one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. Kahn's buildings not only define downtown Detroit, but his early car factories for Packard Motor and Ford revolutionized the course of industry and architecture alike. Employing archival sources unavailable to previous biographers, Building the Modern World follows Kahn from his apprenticeship at age thirteen with a prominent Detroit architecture firm to his death. With material gleaned from two significant Kahn archives--the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library and the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution--Hodges paints the most complete picture yet of Kahn's remarkable rise. Special emphasis is devoted to his influence on architectural modernists, his relationship with Henry Ford, his intervention to save the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts (unreported until now), and his work laying down the industrial backbone for the Soviet Union in 1929-31 as consulting architect for the first Five Year Plan. Kahn's ascent from poverty, his outsized influence on both industry and architecture, and his proximity to epochal world events make his life story a tableau of America's rise to power. Historic photographs as well as striking contemporary shots of Kahn buildings enliven and inform the text. Anyone interested in architecture, architectural history, or the history of Detroit will relish this stunning work.

Drum roll, please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse. Now she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods. But this summer brings a lot of big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself unexpectedly falling for another girl at camp. To top it all off, Melly’s not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock n’ roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

The Faygo book by Joe Grimm

The Faygo Book is the social history of a company that has forged a bond with a city and its residents for more than a century. The story of Faygo, Detroit's beloved soda pop, begins over a hundred years ago with two Russian immigrant brothers who were looking to get out of the baking business. Starting with little more than pots, pails, hoses, and a one-horse wagon, Ben and Perry Feigenson reformulated cake frosting recipes into carbonated beverage recipes and launched their business in the middle of the 1907 global financial meltdown. It was an improbable idea. Through recessions and the Great Depression, wartime politics, the rise and fall of Detroit's population, and the neverending challenges to the industry, the Feigensons persisted. Out of more than forty bottlers in Detroit's "pop alley," Faygo remained the last one standing. Within the pages of The Faygo Book, author Joe Grimm carefully measures out the ingredients of a successful beverage company in spite of dicey economic times in a boom-and-bust town. Take a large cup of family-when the second generation of Feigensons gambled with the chance at national distribution while the odds were stacked against them-and add a pinch of innovation-not just with their rambunctious rainbow of flavors but with packaging and television advertising that infused Faygo with nostalgia. Mix in a quality product-award-winning classics (and some flops) that they insisted on calling "pop," despite the industry's plea for a more grown-up name. Stir in a splash of loyalty to its locally hired employees, many of whom would stay with Faygo for decades. These are the values on which Faygo has hung its hat for generations, making it an integral part of communities across the country. The Faygo Book is the story of a pop, a people, and a place. These stories and facts will tickle the taste buds and memories of Detroiters and Faygo lovers everywhere.

In January 1969, before the world heard a note of their music, The MC5 was on the cover of Rolling Stone. The missing link between free jazz and punk rock, they were raw, primal, and, when things were clicking, absolutely unstoppable. Led by legendary guitarist Wayne Kramer, The MC5 was a reflection of the times: exciting, sexy, violent, chaotic, and out of control, all but assuring their time in the spotlight would be short-lived. They toured the country, played with music legends, and had a rabid following, their music acting as the soundtrack to the blue collar youth movement springing up across the nation. Kramer wanted to redefine what a rock 'n' roll group was capable of, and there was power in reaching for that, but it was also a recipe for disaster, both personally and professionally. The band recorded three major label albums but, by 1972, it was all over. Kramer's story is (literally) a revolutionary one, but it's also the deeply personal struggle of an addict and an artist, a rebel with a great tale to tell. The '60s were not all peace and love, but Kramer shows that peace and love can be born out of turbulence and unrest. From the glory days of Detroit to the junk-sick streets of the East Village, from Key West to Nashville and sunny L.A., in and out of prison and on and off of drugs, his is the classic journeyman narrative, but with a twist: he's here to remind us that revolution is always an option.

The Lake Michigan Mermaid is a new tale that feels familiar. The breeze off the lake, the sand underfoot, the supreme sadness of being young and not in control--these sensations come rushing back page by page, bringing to life an ancient myth of coming of age in a troubled world. Freed from the minds of Linda Nemec Foster and Anne-Marie Oomen, the Lake Michigan mermaid serves as a voice of reason for when we're caught in the riptide. This is a gripping tale in poems of a young girl's desperate search for guidance in a world turned upside down by family and economic upheaval. Raised in a ramshackle cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan, Lykretia takes refuge in her beloved lake in the face of her grandmother's illness and her mother's eager attempts to sell their home following her recent divorce. One day Lykretia spots a creature in the water, something beautiful and inexplicable. Is it the mythical Lake Michigan mermaid, or an embodiment of the stories her grandmother told as dementia ravaged her mind? Thus begins a telepathic conversation between a lost young girl and Phyliadellacia, the mermaid who saves her in more ways than one. Accompanied by haunting illustrations, The Lake Michigan Mermaid offers a tender tale of friendship, redemption, and the life-giving power of water. As it explores family relationships and generational bonds, this book is an unforgettable experience that aims to connect readers of all ages.

The art and writing of Gwen Frostic are well known in her home state of Michigan and around the world, but this picture book biography tells the story behind Gwen's famous work. After a debilitating illness as a child, Gwen sought solace in art and nature. She learned to be persistent and independent--never taking no for an answer or letting her disabilities define her. After creating artwork for famous Detroiters and for display at the World's Fair and helping to build WWII bombers, Gwen moved her printmaking business to northern Michigan. She dedicated her work and her life to reminding people of the wonder and beauty in nature.

When Michael Gustafson and his wife Hilary opened Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they put out a typewriter for anyone to use. They had no idea what to expect. Would people ask metaphysical questions? Write mean things? Pour their souls onto the page? Yes, no, and did they ever.

Every day, people of all ages sit down at the public typewriter. Children perch atop grandparents' knees, both sets of hands hovering above the metal keys: I LOVE YOU. Others walk in alone on Friday nights and confess their hopes: I will find someone someday. And some leave funny asides for the next person who sits down: I dislike people, misanthropes, irony, and ellipses ... and lists too. 
In Notes from a Public Typewriter, Michael and designer Oliver Uberti have combined their favorite notes with essays and photos to create an ode to community and the written word that will surprise, delight, and inspire.

Through a series of disastrous decisions, the state government had switched the city's water supply to a source that corroded Flint's aging lead pipes. Complaints about the foul-smelling water were dismissed: the residents of Flint, mostly poor and African American, were not seen as credible, even in matters of their own lives. It took eighteen months of activism by city residents and a band of dogged outsiders to force the state to admit that the water was poisonous. By that time, twelve people had died and Flint's children had suffered irreparable harm. The long battle for accountability and a humane response to this man-made disaster has only just begun. In the first full account of this American tragedy, Anna Clark's The Poisoned City recounts the gripping story of Flint's poisoned water through the people who caused it, suffered from it, and exposed it. It is a chronicle of one town, but could also be about any American city, all made precarious by the neglect of infrastructure and the erosion of democratic decision making. Places like Flint are set up to fail--and for the people who live and work in them, the consequences can be fatal. 

When the Detroit Red Wings were rebooting their franchise after more than two decades of relative futility, they knew the best place to find world-class players who could help turn things around more quickly were conscripted servants behind the Iron Curtain. All they had to do then was make history by drafting them, then figure out how to get them out. That's when the Wings turned to Keith Gave, the newsman whose clandestine mission to Helsinki, Finland, was the first phase of a of a years-long series of secret meetings from posh hotel rooms to remote forests around Europe to orchestrate their unlawful departures from the Soviet Union. One defection created an international incident and made global headlines. Another player faked cancer, thanks to the Wings' extravagant bribes to Russian doctors, including a big American car. Another player who wasn't quite ready to leave yet felt like he was being kidnapped by an unscrupulous agent. Two others were outcast when they stood up publicly against the Soviet regime, winning their freedom to play in the NHL only after years of struggle. They are the Russian Five: Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Igor Larionov. Their individual stories read like pulse-pounding spy novels. The story that unfolded after they were brought together in Detroit by the masterful coach Scotty Bowman is unforgettable. This story includes details never before revealed, and by the man who was there every step of the way - from the day Detroit drafted its first two Soviets in 1989 until they raised the Stanley Cup in 1997, then took it to Moscow for a victory lap around Red Square and the Kremlin. The Russian Five did more to bridge Russian and American relations than decades of diplomacy and détente between the White House and the Kremlin. This is their story.

At Sister Pie, Lisa Ludwinski and her band of sister bakers are helping make Detroit sweeter one slice at a time from a little corner pie shop in a former beauty salon on the city's east side. The granddaughter of two Detroit natives, Ludwinski spends her days singing, dancing, and serving up a brand of pie love that has charmed critics and drawn the curious from far and wide. No one leaves without a slice--those who don't have money in their pockets can simply cash in a prepaid slice from the "pie it forward" clothesline strung across the window. With 75 of her most-loved recipes for sweet and savory pies--such as Toasted Marshmallow-Butterscotch Pie and Sour Cherry-Bourbon Pie--and other bakeshop favorites, the Sister Pie cookbook pays homage to Motor City ingenuity and all-American spirit. Illustrated throughout with 75 drool-worthy photos and Ludwinski's charming line illustrations, and infused with her plucky, punny style, bakers and bakery lovers won't be able to resist this book.

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery but possessed a mind and a vision that knew no bounds. So Tall Within traces her life from her painful childhood through her remarkable emancipation to her incredible leadership in the movement for rights for both women and African Americans. Her story is told with lyricism and pathos by Gary D. Schmidt, one of the most celebrated writers for children in the twenty-first century, and brought to life by award winning and fine artist Daniel Minter. This combination of talent is just right for introducing this legendary figure to a new generation of children. 

The truth lies here by Lindsey Klingele

In small town Michigan, Penny Hardjoy, an aspiring journalist, teams up with the nerdy boy next door and the town's star quarterback to find her conspiracy theorist father after he goes missing and several other people turn up dead in the woods. The deeper she digs, the weirder things start to get. Townspeople repeat the same phrases--verbatim. Men in black suits stroll around Main Street. Chunks of Penny's memory go missing. Pretty soon, her research leads her to the long-ago meteorite crash in Bone Lake's woods, and she's going to have to reconsider her definition of "real" if she wants answers.

Here is the inspiring story of how Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, alongside a team of researchers, parents, friends, and community leaders, discovered that the children of Flint, Michigan, were being exposed to lead in their tap water--and then battled her own government and a brutal backlash to expose that truth to the world. Paced like a scientific thriller, What the Eyes Don't See reveals how misguided austerity policies, broken democracy, and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk. And at the center of the story is Dr. Mona herself--an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family's activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice. What the Eyes Don't See is a riveting account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope, the story of a city on the ropes that came together to fight for justice, self-determination, and the right to build a better world for their--and all of our--children.