Northern Michigan has long been a haven for writers and authors. Certainly most notable is Hemingway, whose early writings were shaped and inspired by his time spent in the Petoskey and Walloon Lake areas as well as the Upper Peninsula. Then there is Jim Harrison (happy birthday to Jim, who last week joined his good friend Jack Nicholson in reaching the 70-year-olds club), who spent most of his adult writing life living on the Leelanau Peninsula. Harrison has a new book out as well (from last winter), titled Returning To Earth.
Going back several years, there were James Hendryx and Harold Titus, both successful writers with national best-selling outdoor themed novels written 90-plus years ago. Titus lived in Traverse City and co-founded the National Cherry Festival; he also laid much of the groundwork for the preservation and conservation of public lands in Michigan. His good friend Hendryx lived on Lee Point near Suttons Bay (Hendryx moved here after being invited to the area by Titus for a fishing trip) and both writers works were favorites of Hemingway as well.
Most recently, Doug Stanton reached the Times best-sellers list with In Harms Way. Stantons much-anticipated second book, Horse Soldiers, is expected out in early 2009. Stanton grew up in Traverse City, attended Interlochen Arts Academy and co-founded the Traverse City Film Festival. Another Festival co-founder, Michael Moore, is also a New York Times best-selling author on several counts, and his book, tentatively titled Thanks For Voting For Bush, I Love You, is due out next fall. Moore is now a fulltime resident of Northern Michigan.
Pursing works from any of the above-mentioned writers would make great gifts. Or consider a book from Larry Wakefield, who wrote numerous historical books on the region. Wakefield wrote a weekly column on the history of the region that appeared in the Traverse City Record Eagle, and this past October at the age of 93, he passed away.
The list of authors from our region goes on and on, and there are many others equally noteworthy. A great place to start your search for authors from Northern Michigan is at your favorite bookstore. For now, though, here is a synopsis of books recently released that I enjoyed reading this past year. All of the authors either live in or are connected to Northern Michigan.
Knifeboy by Tod Harrison Williams
If you attended the Traverse City Film Festival this past summer, you might have met Tod Williams; no, not the one married to actress Gretchen Mol, the other one. The one who directed Mol in the film Trainwreck: My Life as an Idiot, which he also wrote the screenplay for. The two Tod Williams are cousins, and both spend a great deal of time on Torch Lake at their longtime family summer home.
In addition to his work as a film director and screenwriter, Williams has now entered the world of being a published novelist. His debut, Knifeboy, hit bookstores earlier this fall. This coming of age tale from the narrative perspective of Dartmouth freshman Jay Hauser weaves through everything from frat boy antics to taking on a summer job as a knife salesman to impress - who else? - a young co-ed by the name of Isabelle, who has suggested to Hauser that he isnt charming enough to date her.
Williams takes the reader through the murky world of knife selling, an unlikely summer job for a college student, to a pretty realistic observation of college campus life for students today. From the language to the high-strung emotions of dealing with various relationships, whether it be with lovers, fellow students or parents, Knifeboy is intriguing, humorous and a great read. It starts out slow, but stay with it, as it finishes fast and furious.
Chicken Soup for the Wine Lovers Soul - contribution from Cari Noga
Everyone is familiar with the Chicken Soup series, made popular by Jack Canfield. One of the latest in the series is ... for the Wine Lovers Soul, and it includes a contribution by Traverse City writer Cari Noga. A regular contributor to the Traverse City Business News on the wine industry in Northern Michigan, Noga also has a blog that tracks the latest in the local wine community.
Nogas contribution falls under the Tickling the Tastebuds section, and her composition is titled All The Comforts Of Home. She shares a backpacking and wine drinking experience with her husband on Isle Royale. The story is humorous, and Noga is a talented writer. While it was great plugging Michigans Upper Peninsula in the book, it would have been as equally nice to incorporate the wine region she writes about regularly in her contribution as well.
In addition to the local contribution, Chicken Soup for the Wine Lovers Soul is a thirst-quenching read for anyone passionate about wine.
The Rustic Gourmet: Earthy Elegance from the Woods of Northern Michigan
by Marie Lapointe Hanis
For several years, Marie Lapointe Hanis served as the cook at Beaverdam, a prestigious hunting and fishing club deep in the Pigeon River State Forest near Gaylord. She wrote guest columns for the Gaylord Herald Times, and contributed essays on food to several publications. Everywhere Harris turned, people kept telling her she should write a cookbook.
Earlier this spring Hanis published The Rustic Gourmet, drawing much inspiration and encouragement from the members of the club she once prepared meals for. In addition to a great collection of recipes that celebrate the rustic ingredients, this cookbook has several essays from Hanis that are entertaining anecdotes that anyone who spends time in the kitchen will appreciate.
This is a great cookbook for that person who likes earthy ingredients and is interested in celebrating them, not diffusing them. Hanis from time to time will host a book signing or cooking class, too, so check out her site ,
Tough Little Beauties by Stephanie Mills
During the days of protest, Stephanie Mills made a name for herself by standing in front of her graduation class at Mills College in Oakland, California and simply speaking to the Vietnam War. As valedictorian in 1969, she was charged with that we now must go out and change the world motivational commencement speech that each top student labors over. Mills decided to speak of overpopulation and overuse of natural resources, and vowed never to have children.
The New York Times referred to her speech as perhaps the most anguished statement of the years crop of valedictory speeches. Making national headlines, Mills was thrust into the national spotlight; she found herself giving numerous speeches on overpopulation, and eventually becoming the editor-in-chief of Earth Times. In 1984, she decided to simplify her life and move to Maple City and begin writing books.
Mills has taken an active role in the local, involving herself with Bay Bucks (the local currency) and other community issues. Her book Tough Little Beauties was released last month, and I must admit I have not read it as of yet (simply skimmed over it), but it is at the top of the pile for Christmas break. But based on reviews from others and having read her previous works, it is a safe bet this is a must-read.
Tough Little Beauties is a collection of essays written by Mills over the past 10 years, and serves as the State of the Union Address, for our cultural perspective on overpopulation and ecological issues. Mills is currently working on her next book, a biography on Robert Swann, who was one of the local currency pioneers, and she continues to do her part by living modestly and keeping her vow of not having children.
The One, The Only Magnificent Me!
by Dan Haseltine
Speaking of kids, here is a great book for those between three and nine years of age. Dan Haseltine grew up in Ludington and now lives near Nashville. Part of the Northern Michigan connection for The One, The Only Magnificent Me! is that it was published by The Mackinac Island Press from Traverse City.
The Mackinac Island Press is home to several childrens books, many of those penned by Anne Margaret Lewis who founded the publishing company. Last year she wrote and published Has Anyone Seen Christmas, which instantly became a national best seller. Currently, Mackinac Island Press is offering an online special of donating a copy of the book to Toys For Tots each time the book is ordered.
As for Haseltine, well, if the name sounds familiar, its because he is the lead lyricist and singer for the multi-platinum and multi-Grammy winning band Jars of Clay. The book offers a teachable lesson on the importance of self-esteem. The One, The Only Magnificent Me! was illustrated by Holland, Michigan artist Joel Schoon Tanis. For additional information on this and all the books offered by Mackinac Island Press, check out