History and Culture
History buffs, amateur sociologists, and curiosity seekers will find a varied selection of books about Michigan’s intriguing (and, at times, surprising) past—and the people that have made the state what it is today.
Alexander, Jeff. The Muskegon: The Majesty and Tragedy of Michigan’s Rarest River. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2006. An examination of the creation, history, uses, devastation, and restoration of Michigan’s second longest river.
Ashlee, Laura Rose, ed. Traveling Through Time: A Guide to Michigan’s Historical Markers. Revised ed. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005. The definitive, illustrated guide to nearly 1,500 of Michigan’s historic sites, along various highways and within assorted neighborhoods and city centers.
Bjorn, Lars, and Jim Gallert. Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920–1960. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2001. Written by a sociology professor and a veteran jazz broadcaster, this book explores the history of Detroit jazz, within its social, often racially charged context.
Bohnak, Karl. So Cold a Sky: Upper Michigan Weather Stories. 2nd ed. Negaunee, MI: Cold Sky Publishing, 2006. Using eyewitness accounts, this book chronicles weather-related events in the Upper Peninsula from the 1600s to the present.
Carson, David A. Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock ’n’ Roll. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005. A narrative history of the long-haired, hard-rocking musicians who helped to change the face of rock ’n’ roll.
Clifton, James, James McClurken, and George Cornell. People of the Three Fires. Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids Inner-Tribal Council, 1986. An excellent introduction to the Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibway cultures, with an emphasis on history and traditions, but also a good discussion of modern Native American issues.
Darden, Joe T., Curtis Stokes, and Richard W. Thomas. The State of Black Michigan, 1967–2007. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2007. An investigation of how Michigan’s black population and its interactions with the white community have changed since the terrible race riots that swept through Detroit during the summer of 1967.
Dodge, Roy L. Michigan Ghost Towns of the Lower Peninsula. Berkeley, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2002. A compilation of the settlements and communities that have since faded into Michigan’s history.
Dorson, Richard. Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers: Folk Traditions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 3rd ed. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2008. Recently revised by James Leary, this collection of folk tales sheds light on the loggers, miners, sailors, trappers, and villagers that founded and sustained the U.P.’s communities.
Dunbar, Willis F., and George S. May. Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State. 3rd revised ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995. First published in 1965, this widely praised, comprehensive work covers the rich history of Michigan, from the early days of the first Native American settlers to the political developments of the mid-1990s.
Gile, Marie A., and Marion T. Marzolf. Fascination with Fiber: Michigan’s Handweaving Heritage. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2006. Based on oral histories, interviews, and artifact research, this is surely the first comprehensive history of Michigan’s rich tradition of handweaving, from pioneer days to the contemporary era of computer-aided looms.
Gustin, Lawrence R. Billy Durant: Creator of General Motors. 2nd ed. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2008. A well-researched look at the man who initiated General Motors and made Flint one of America’s greatest industrial centers.
Lyons, Sandy Arno. Michigan’s Most Haunted: A Ghostly Guide to the Great Lakes State. SkateRight Publishing, 2007. Written by a Michigan resident, this book features more than 25 true ghost tales from several of the state’s hotels, restaurants, and other properties.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources. A Most Superior Land: Life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Lansing, MI: Two Peninsula Press, 1983. A wonderful series of short essays and anecdotal tales about the history of the Upper Peninsula. Loaded with great historical photos, too.
Rydholm, C. Fred. Superior Heartland: A Backwoods History. Marquette, MI: Superior Heartland, Inc., 1989. These two enormous volumes comprise hundreds of short chapters of U.P. history, the kind of thing you don’t have to read chronologically. Exhaustively researched, it’s filled with all manner of quirky stories, character studies, and historical photos you won’t find elsewhere.
Stonehouse, Frederick. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Revised ed. Gwinn, MI: Avery Color Studios, 2006. Though one of several related books about this famous shipwreck, this is considered by many historians to be the definitive work on the subject, scrutinizing the events leading up to the tragedy and offering various theories about the cause of its demise.
Taylor, Sprague. Tahquamenon Country. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2008. The history of the people who depended on Michigan’s mighty Tahquamenon River, as told by a lifelong resident of the eastern Upper Peninsula.
Thurner, Arthur W. Strangers and Sojourners: A History of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994. The socioeconomic history of the diverse immigrants who established and sustained the communities that comprise the U.P.’s Keweenaw, Houghton, Baraga, and Ontonagon counties.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel