The Michigan Books Project - The Awesome Mitten

Michigan Books Project–December

7 Michigan Books To Add To Your Holiday Gift List

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1.Poetry In Michigan Michigan In Poetry, edited by William Olsen and Jack Ridl: This is collection of poems by a variety of Michigan poets complemented by original Michigan artwork. The images are stunning. I was lucky enough to see a select group of included poets read from this book at Literati Bookstore. What I found most remarkable was that these Michigan residents had tremendous stories behind their work. These aren’t merely poems describing Michigan, but instead insightful glimpses into Michigan life that could only come from having a deep, complex relationship with the state. This collection doesn’t bring to light Michigan as a simple location, but creates a diverse, colloquial analysis of what it means to live here. The poetry is brilliant for any reader and the art makes it a great book to display.

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2.Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan, by Michael R. Federspiel: If you check out October’s Michigan Books Project you’ll see some of my reasoning for why Hemingway is an inherent Michigander. Although, if there was any question, this picture evidence certainly puts it to rest. Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan provides a fantastic array of nostalgic photographs exhibiting the Hemingway family’s vacations to Michigan, as well as giving us a look at what Michigan towns looked like in the early twentieth century. Federspiel traces Hemingway’s connections to Michigan deftly, both on the physical and literary level. I’m usually not a huge coffee table book person, (although I wouldn’t necessarily deem this a coffee table book) but this one seems essential for any Michigander.

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Photo by Aram Mrjoian

3.Bootstrapper: From Broke To Badass On A Northern Michigan Farm, by Mardi Jo Link: This is the featured Michigan book for December, but I haven’t had a chance to finish reading it quite yet. What I can say is that the prose is clean and unabashed. Moreover, this is a great read to glean some tips about farming, gardening, and the natural bounty Michigan provides. There’s also a far amount of talk about Zen, and I think Mardi Jo Link does a fantastic job of capturing what Northern Michigan Zen would look like.

4.The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, by Jim Harrison: I had this book recommended to me by a close friend and Michigan native. He described it as, “foodie, funny, full of life, and so true to the place we all share as home.” I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but anything by Jim Harrison is automatically worthwhile. He is a brilliant culinary writer with a distinct perspective that is articulate, honest, and universal. No one else manages to expand food from the simple act of eating to the macrocosm of human existence as Jim Harrison does. This one is undoubtedly going on my Christmas list.

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Photo by Aram Mrjoian

5.Once Upon A River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell: I made a huge mistake last weekend when I missed Bonnie Jo Campbell read at Literati Bookstore. It was snowing out heavily, and I decided to stay in to watch Spartan basketball. Campbell is assuredly one of Michigan’s most important contemporary writers. This is her newest work. I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet either, but her collection of short stories, American Salvage, is one of my favorite Michigan reads.

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Photo by Aram Mrjoian

6.Backpacking In Michigan, by Jim DuFresne: I chose this title over some other camping books for a couple of reasons. The main reason being that whereas other guides tend to focus on hiking or camping, this book manages to encompass both, and dig into the specifics of backpacking as well. DuFresne provides information on trip durations, recommended mileages per day, and serves beginner and advanced hikers alike. While this might not be the ideal book for someone looking to plan a pseudo-camping family trip, it captures the natural Michigan spirit for those that are ready to delve into the wilderness.

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Photo by Aram Mrjoian

7.The Best Cookbook Ever, by Eli and Max Sussman: I had the privilege of cooking from this cookbook with my girlfriend last weekend. We made mussels in beer sauce (That’s the moniker I’m giving it, because she has the book and I can’t think of the actual recipe name) and roasted, seasoned chickpeas. Both were delicious and the recipes were easy to follow. The recipes are diverse and creative and make use of a hodgepodge of unique and readily available ingredients. While some stuff (mostly spices) might be a bit harder to find—we had to hunt down cheap saffron for the mussels—it feels like most of the recipes provide room for flexibility. We probably didn’t need saffron, but we wanted it.

Furthermore, The Best Cookbook Ever is definitely aesthetically pleasing. The layout is fun and colorful, and the pictures of food are beautiful, plentiful, and precise. There are a ton of practical food ideas, from hangover cures to original snack ideas, to brilliant ways to make cooking and eating a social experience.

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