Summer reads

7 books for those long summer days.

Summer is a great time to pick up a page-turner and engross yourself in a story. We’ve got seven books with Michigan ties to keep you entertained while you relax by the water or in your backyard this season.

“How Beautiful We Were” Courtesy Kiriko Sano

“How Beautiful We Were” by Imbolo Mbue
Genre: Literary fiction
While this book is not set in a Michigan town nor is it written by a Michigan author, Imbolo Mbue took inspiration for her story from the Flint water crisis as she watched it unravel through news reports. Mbue’s book is about an African village whose environment is being exploited by an American oil company. The book is already being celebrated by critics and readers alike. It was named a most anticipated novel by over 30 media outlets.

“I Have Something to Tell You: A Memoir” by Chasten Buttigieg
Genres: Memoir, biography, autobiography
Chasten Buttigieg gets candid about growing up gay in a small rural Michigan town where he knew he was different. Buttigieg’s book reveals an emotional honesty about his life story, which includes growing up closeted, sexual assault, homelessness, estrangement from his Midwestern family of origin and bullying.

“Grama’s Hug” Courtesy Amy Nielander

“Grama’s Hug” written and illustrated by Amy Nielander
Genre: Children’s literature, fiction
Michigan author Amy Nielander beautifully shows through her words and well-detailed illustrations the love between a granddaughter and a grandmother. “Grama’s Hug” spreads joy, inspires and fuels the imagination — young and old alike — with this beautiful story. This book aches with a sweet sadness for growing up and spreading your wings, both metaphorically and physically.

“Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero” by Kelly J. Baptist
Genre: YA Fiction
This book is a coming-of-age tale about a boy who finds his late father’s journal and discovers his love for poetry. When things get tough for Isaiah, there’s Daddy’s journal, filled with stories about superheroes who get their powers from beans and rice. Isaiah’s optimism, drive and loyalty to friends and family make him a hero in this book.

“Black Bottom Saints” Courtesy Alice Randall

“Black Bottom Saints” by Alice Randall
Genre: Historical fiction
“Black Bottom Saints” centers on the Black arts and culture scene in Detroit from the Great Depression through the post-World War II years through its main character, Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson, a celebrated gossip columnist for the city’s African American newspaper, the Michigan Chronicle. This book is a brilliant, brave swirl of fiction, history and stories that pay tribute to Detroit’s legendary Black Bottom neighborhood, a mecca for jazz, sports and politics.

“Long Time Coming: Reckoning with race in America” by Michael Eric Dyson
Genre: Nonfiction
Eric Dyson is a Detroit native and ordained Baptist minister who creates a book that is rich with feeling and insight. “Long Time Coming: Reckoning with race in America” is filled with heartfelt letters to victims of racial injustice in America and is a passionate call to America to finally reckon with race and start the journey to redemption. Dyson provides a valuable historical and sociopolitical context with chapters devoted to Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Hadiya Pendleton, Sandra Bland and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, all Black victims of systemic racism and police brutality.

“The Mason House” Courtesy Lanternfish Press

“The Mason House” by T. Marie Bertineau
Genres: Biography, autobiography
“The Mason House” takes place in a copper mining town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and tells a tale of growing up amid hardship and hope and exploring how time and the support of a community can, at last, begin to heal even the deepest wounds.

Other great reads

  • “You’re in the Wrong Place” by Joseph Harris
  • “Half” by Sharon Harrigan
  • “Grief’s Country: A Memoir in Pieces” by Gail Griffin
    Biography, autobiography
  • “Lakewood” by Megan Giddings
    Fantasy fiction
  • “Boulders: The Life and Creations of Earl A. Young in Charlevoix Michigan” text by David L. Miles
  • “City of Champions: A History of Triumph and Defeat in Detroit” by Stefan Szymanski and Silke-Maria Weineck
    Sports, history

This story can be found in the July/August 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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