Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State by Willis F. Dunbar: The gold standard for Michigan history. Dunbar begins with the glaciers that formed the Great Lakes and runs straight through history. The book is heavy on politics, light on personality, but is a great foundation for anyone interested in Michigan.
Brewed in Detroit by Peter H. Blum: Michigan’s craft beer enthusiasts will enjoy this history of Detroit’s breweries. Blum profiles beer eras, styles, and brewing families. Brewed in Detroit has a lot of cool pictures, and it might just get you drinking Stroh’s again.
Michigan Breweries by Paul Ruschmann and Maryanne Nasiatka: This book helped me discover Michigan beer. The industry has changed a lot since I read it, but this encyclopedia of breweries and brewpubs is a great base for planning a beer tour of the state.
Weird Michigan: Your Travel Guide to Michigan's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Linda S. Godfrey: If you’re looking for an odd-ball adventure or a ghostly encounter, this is your guide to some of Michigan’s more bizarre attractions and legends.
From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries by Sharon Kegerreis and Lorri Hathaway: An introduction to Michigan’s wine industry, a nice starting point for a weekend on the Leelanau Peninsula, and helpful for putting together dinners using local wines.
In addition to the non-fiction, travel, and history books, there are plenty of works of fiction that showcase the state’s unique and varied cultures:
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: Start with “Up in Michigan” and keep right on reading.
True North by Jim Harrison: My favorite of all Harrison’s works, True North’s narrator, David Burkett, explores the Upper Penisula as he comes to terms with his families destructive logging past, among other things.
American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell: A 2009 finalist for the National Book Award, this short story collection is set near Kalamazoo and explores the extremes of poverty and desperation.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: Detroit is a central character in this epic tale of Greek immigrants in Michigan. If you’re looking for a history lesson on the motor city, this book is a great place to start — not to mention, a literary masterpiece.
Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos: Another book set in Detroit. Though more fantastical than Middlesex, Bakopoulos does capture a snapshot of southeast Michigan’s mood.
Now You Love Me by Liesel Litzenburger: A collection of interrelated short stories that explore a child's life in rural Northern Michigan.
Michigan has always been home to fantastic authors. They don’t always write about Michigan but we’re still happy to have them. I also recommend Theodore Roethke, Robert Traver, Elmore Leonard, Jaimy Gordon, Stuart Dybek, Laura Kasischke, Michael Zadoorian, Matt Bell, and Kristina Riggle.
I’m sure I missed more authors than I recommended. What other books belong on my list, and what else should Michigan be reading?