I had the good fortune last week to attend a book reading/signing at Leopold's Books for two Detroit bloggers who've recently had books published. I'd already purchased and read Amy Elliot Bragg's Hidden History of Detroit. Amy is the blogger behind a site I've championed in the past (Night Train Detroit), and she's published a great book of just the sort of anecdotes she's given us on her site (but with much more research and detail). Like Amy, I'm a big fan of early Detroit history books, but I have to say her book is infinitely more readable to a modern audience. It would be a great gift for anyone anywhere interested in Detroit's pre-automotive history.
I was also really excited to finally meet John Carlisle, the man behind the semi-anonymous Detroitblog for the last 5+ years. John's blog morphed into something truly spectacular a few years ago when it started focusing entirely on the personalities and achievements of what John calls "normal Detroiters" (who are mostly anything but normal). John's stories of people in Detroit collected in his new book 313: Life in the Motor City are the closest thing I've seen to a true antidote to all the ruin porn we've seen (and created). John's perspective is that of a classic optimist. As he noted at the reading, even if you hear that half the population left, that means half the population is still there. If 30% are unemployed, that means 70% are still gainfully employed. Even if thousands of Detroiters are criminals, there are hundreds of thousands who aren't. John's book is an effort to tell the stories of those who don't make the 6 o'clock news or the pages of the mainstream press. It also has tons of great photographs that John takes during his interviews. It would make a great gift for anyone who's interested in contemporary Detroit.
Both books are available at Leopold's in Detroit, as well as from the publisher here. And while you're at it, pick up Dan Austin and Sean Doerr's History Press bestseller Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the City’s Majestic Ruins.