Ten best reads for 2019: From ancestory to housing insecurity


I reviewed and read some fantastic books this past year which I condensed into a list to help you be the star of this season’s gift giving. This list is ideal for the family historian who is eager to dive into ancestory at the dinner table, or is looking to brush up on their mitten facts.

“Guardians of Detroit: Architectural Sculpture in the Motor City”

By Jeff Morrison

Jeff Morrison’s “Guardians” is a beautiful and exhausting tour of Detroit’s classic buildings, as well as the gargoyles, griffins and various creatures which adorn them. The 350-page book has more than 750 photographs which are accompanied by a crisp history of the building and the men who built them.

“Where Today Meets Tomorrow: Eero Saarinen and the General Motors Technical Center”

By Susan Skarsgard

Susan Skarsgard takes us inside the seldom seen world of the General Motors Technical Center in Warren. Skarsgard worked as designer for General Motors and analyzes the architecture of her former stomping grounds with the careful eye of an engineer. Her book is illustrated with photography and art preserved by the company and the two generations of Saarinens who were primarily responsible for the design of the Tech Center.

“Herman Miller: A Way of Living”

By Herman Miller, Inc.

Herman Miller is considered one of the movers and shakers of the international Modernism movement. Locally, George Nelson, the company’s former design director of four decades, befriended the owners of Liebermann’s gift store, located at 113 S. Washington Square, redesigned the retail storefront and interior. The downtown Lansing building used to also be the home of the Lansing Art Gallery and is for sale.

“The Queen Next Door:  Aretha Franklin, an Intimate Portrait”

By Linda Solomon

As a 29-year-old journalist and photographer, Linda Solomon was in the right place at the right time. A visit to document a speaking engagement with Aretha Franklin for the Detroit Metro Times enabled her to gain the life-long trust of the shutter shy star. The result is a sparkling photographic journey of Aretha Franklin in some of her private moments. This book is a must for Franklin’s loyal fans, but it will also win over those with affections for lavish costuming.

“We Hope for Better Things”

By Erin Bartels

Lansing author Erin Bartels may have struck gold with her debut work of historical fiction. The plot revolves around race, long-held family secrets and a cache of photographs, and ultimately ties race relations in Detroit together with the Civil War and nearby rural communities. Bartels follows three generations of a family as they learn more about their past while navigating perilous waters.

“The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers”

By Bridgett M. Davis

Bridgett M. Davis’ memoir is a fast-paced gallop through a world couched in secrecy that we seldom get to see. Her mother, Fannie Davis, supported the family by running numbers, a game very similar to the modern lottery where betters pick lucky numbers and hope for a big payout. The numbers game in Detroit, unlike other areas in the country, was run by moms and pops rather than organized crime syndicates.

“The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down”

By Abigail Pesta

Abigail Pesta has applied a journalist’s measured factual approach in her book “The Girls,” which takes an in-depth look at 25 survivors of the horrors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. Pesta’s compassionate in-depth reporting is startling in its candor and should be read by coaches, counselors, therapists, parents and athletes.

The vivid detail in the words of the victims makes this book a tough read. Pesta said the editors thought the story would soon grow cold. She said, “They couldn’t have been more wrong.”


“Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip”

By Jeff Guinn

One of America’s most famous road trips is documented in Jeff Guinn’s book “Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip.” Ford, Edison and Harvey Firestone took to the road in the ’20s camping as they crisscrossed the United States shilling for Ford’s Model T and Edison’s inventions. The book is a heck of a look at America and small towns with a major focus on the troupe’s stops in rural Michigan.


By Robert A. Caro

This book is for writers and would-be writers. Robert Caro is a man on a mission to finish his last book in a series of five on President Lyndon B. Johnson. He’s working on the fifth volume of LBJ chronicles, but took time to publish a memoir, “Working,” of his 50-year-plus career as a writer. His insight into research, interviewing and writing provides a fascinating look at one of the 21st century’s greatest writers.

“Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises”

By Jodie Adams Kirshner

If you want to know more about what the impact of the Detroit bankruptcy had on everyday citizens, look no further. In her book, she follows seven residents as they struggle holding onto their homes. She also contrasts the city’s revival with the average citizen’s inability to connect with the turn around.


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