Detroit is a city with a vibrant, intriguing story that spans centuries. From its humble beginnings to its time its recent resurgence, Detroit’s story has been traced in many books. Some books focus on the city’s rebirth. Others explore the dynamic sports teams that call Detroit home. Still others look at the city’s people and tell their everyday stories. A couple are fiction, but most in this list are not. Learn more about one of the most iconic American cities through these 10 books.
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
[Non-fiction] Written by Detroit native Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis offers a unique look at how Detroit has become the site of persistent poverty. Surgure challenges the long-held belief that urban decline is the result of the social programs and divisive beliefs of the 1960s.
He argues that Detroit’s decline started long before the 1967 race riot, and he uses his examination of the role that race, job discrimination, housing, and capital flight played in Detroit’s fall.
[Fiction] Them is one of Joyce Carol Oates’ best-known novels. It tells the story of Loretta Wendall, a young woman who is filled with regret at the age of sixteen, and her children.
Set in Detroit, the novel explores the lives of those who live on the edge of ruin in the Detroit slums from the 1930s to the 1967 race riots. Ultimately, Them is the story of surviving in a world of danger and violence.
Hidden History of Detroit
[Non-fiction] Native Detroiter Amy Elliott Bragg does her city proud with Hidden History of Detroit. The work tells the story of Detroit’s beginnings and the people who helped shape its history.
Bragg explores some of the lesser-known history of Detroit before it became an auto manufacturing hub. Throughout the book, she paints a vibrant picture of Detroit as a city discovering itself and the crucial role it has to play in American history.
Detroit: An American Autopsy
[Non-fiction] Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff holds nothing back in his scrutiny of Detroit. LeDuff looks at the city’s social, crime, economic, and political issues. Much of the book material comes from news stories that LeDuff covered for The Detroit News.
He details interviews with police officers, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and prominent political figures like Adolph Mongo and Monica Conyers. LeDuff blends his news stories with personal ones from his childhood spent in Metro Detroit.
[Fiction] D. E. Johnson blends meticulous research with a harrowing plot in Detroit Breakdown. Elizabeth Hume and Will Anderson are summoned to Eloise Insane Asylum in Wayne County. Elizabeth’s cousin Robbie a patient at the hospital. There’s one catch, though. Robbie is now a murder suspect, too.
Four patients in all were killed at Eloise, all with the “Punjab lasso,” the murder weapon of the Phantom of the Opera. Will has himself committed to the asylum to investigate the murders from the inside. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Detective Riordan start searching for clues. Will they be able to solve the murder and prove Robbie’s innocence? Can Will use his wits to survive the murderer’s next move?
[Non-fiction] Paul Vachon puts together a breathtaking visual walk through Detroit’s history in Forgotten Detroit. Readers familiar with Detroit will be able to spot familiar buildings and landmarks and marvel at how much Detroit has changed. The pictures offer a timeless look at how Detroit has grown, dwindled, and reemerged.
Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock ’n’ Roll in America’s Loudest City
[Non-fiction] Michigan-based journalist Steve Miller presents an incredible oral history of Detroit and its music in Detroit Rock City. Using stories from the musicians and the audience, Miller looks at the Detroit music scene from 1967 to 2013.
The book surveys the Detroit music landscape, moving from Bookies Club 870 to City Club to Gold Dollar. Prominent artists in the book include Andrew W.K., Ted Nugent, Dick Wagner, and Iggy Pop.
If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Tigers
[Non-fiction] Author Mario Impemba provides a behind-the-scenes look at the people and events that shaped the Detroit Tigers’ comeback. If These Walls Could Talk chronicles the three short years that it took for team president Dave Domrowski and manager Jim Leyland to turn the Tigers into an American League pennant-winning team.
Impemba takes readers into the Comerica Park broadcast booth, the clubhouse, the locker room, and the team plane to create a never-before-seen picture of the Detroit Tigers.
Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes: An Oral History of Detroit’s African American Community, 1918-1967
[Non-fiction] Elaine Latzman Moon shares the stories of more than 100 people who lived in Detroit between 1918 and 1967. The stories told reflect everyday life – community, neighborhoods, families, religion, work, and school.
Included in these stories are some of the incredible events the color Detroit’s history. There are tales that touch on the great migration from the South, World War II, the 1943 race riot, the 1967 riots, and the Vietnam War. Moon’s book and the people in it offer an extraordinary, everyday look at the history of Detroit’s African American community.
Detroit: City of Champions
[Non-fiction] Charles C. Avison delivers an exciting narrative about the greatest season in American sport history. In the middle of the Great Depression, Detroiters found hope in their sports teams. 1935 was the year that the Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings won their first championships.
The 1935 season gave rise to sports figures like Joe Louis, Gar Wood, and Dick Degener. Dive into the most incredible sports season in America, and enjoy some uplifting Detroit history, too.[td_smart_list_end]
Don’t Stop With 10 Books
There are so many great books about Detroit available today. Whether you check them out from your local library or buy them for your personal library, don’t stop reading books about Detroit. Reading is a great way to experience the city in an entirely new way.
Read #s 3 and 4 and both were terrific. Thanks for the list. Looking forward to more summer reading.