Book people are a picky lot. Every year, gift-givers sort through massive, if not mainstream, bestseller lists from Oprahs Book Club to The New York Times and then sink into despair as they watch the inevitable disappointment wash over the recipients face. For our fellow bibliophiles (and their desperate loved ones), weve organized the ultimate list of book recommendations: the most trusted local booksellers we could find tell us their quirky, obscure and just plain worthy picks.
Karl Pohrts Top Five
Owner of Shaman Drum Books,
311 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-7407
Best Poetry This Year
Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera by Anne Carson (Knopf, $24.95, hardcover)
She teaches at the University of Michigan, and critic Harold Bloom has described her as one of the genius writers of America. Shes very experimental and difficult, but worth the effort.
Best art book
The Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics by Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic, with an introduction by Tony Kushner (Rockport, $50, hardcover)
Its a book of poster art with political and social messages. Its a celebration of political art, and its a beautifully designed coffee-table book.
My favorite memoir
Made in Detroit: A South of 8 Mile Memoir by Paul Clemens (Doubleday, $23.95, hardcover)
I characterize him as a really smart guy from a blue-collar background in Detroit. He has had op-ed pieces in The New York Times recently about Detroit. He did an analysis of Kwames victory. He has impeccable credentials when it comes to writing about Detroit, and his book is insightful, interesting and honest.
A spiritual must-read
What the Stones Remember: A Life Rediscovered by Patrick Lane (Trumpeter, $22.95, hardcover)
This guy was an (active) alcoholic for 45 years, and then he comes out of detox. For the first time in 45 years hes not addicted to something. Hes seeing the world in kind of a hallucinatory visit, and its an amazing and beautiful book. It should be a contemporary spiritual classic.
Best book I read all year
I, Wabenzi: A Souvenir by Rafi Zabor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26, hardcover)
Its a memoir about a jazz musician. Hes a drummer whos also a jazz critic. He writes about being part of a Sufi religious community in Great Britain, as well as his family. Like a jazz musician, he goes off on riffs its like hes playing riffs when he writes. Funny and beautifully written, its a profound meditation on youth written by someone whos 60. Im trying to tell everyone about this book. Its amazing.
John Kings Top Five
Owner of John R. King Books,
901 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-0622
Most collectible holiday set
Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens, ($9,500, 1840s first edition)
Charles Dickens five-volume set is called Christmas Stories. The main one that everyone is familiar with is A Christmas Carol. The others are The Cricket on the Earth, The Chimes, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man. They follow in the same vein as A Christmas Carol, with ghosts and romance and little English kids the typical Charles Dickens characters. Baby boomers will probably remember being forced to read Dickens when they were in grade school I do. Its a classic title, so there are reprints, but we have a first-edition set. These are all in the original bindings, exactly how they were issued originally, written in the 1840s just a little worn from age.
Most overlooked Detroit book
Frontier Metropolis: Picturing Early Detroit: 1701-1838 by Brian Leigh Dunnigan (Great Lakes Books, $125, hardcover)
Its a really nice book on Detroit that people seem to overlook. It weighs 9 pounds and has 250 pages of reprinted old maps, portraits of the founders of the city and stunning historical writing. Its an organic, wonderful picture book bigger than most and nicer than most art books. The reproductions are really nice and crisp, and it has material that youre never going to see again.
Best book for hockey worshippers
And...Howe! An Authorized Autobiography by Gordie and Colleen Howe (Power Play, $32.95)
Its their life story. She talks about her family and what it was like to be the wife of one of the most major stars in the NHL. They put together a really great book that has stories dating all the way back to the Olympia Stadium days. There are a lot of signed copies out there too. Hes a hometown hero; hes nationally known and respected. Hes like the Babe Ruth of hockey. We have signed copies. It would make a great stocking-stuffer for anyone who likes hockey. And now, since hockeys back after a year and a half, its a really good item.
Best collection of African-American works
The Heritage Series (Candace Press, $125, hardcover)
A 12-volume set bound in leather, its a set of facsimile reprints of rare original first editions of some of the greatest African-American writers of all time. Includes works like The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington, and Johnsons Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Its a great black history set and has 200 years of struggles and triumphs inside. And its down from a $400 issue price.
Best childrens book for adults
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney, $10, hardcover)
It came out for $30 in 1979. Its not a Christmas classic, but its a classic nonetheless. Its a really wonderful binding with reproductions of color stills from the movie, plus preliminary sketches, drawings and story-board illustrations from the Walt Disney studio all their artists contributed to this. We usually sell two copies at a time one for the kids and one for the parents.
Cary Lorens Top Five
Owner of Bookbeat,
26010 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park; 248-968-1190
Favorite book of local TV weirdness
From Soupy To Nuts! The History of Detroit Television by Tim Kiska (Momentum, $24.95)
A baby boomers guide to all the horror-show hosts, cartoon comedy kings, Bozos and weathermen paraded before Detroit TV audiences from the 50s-70s. Lots of insider scoops dish the dirt and trivia that kept our local video gods ablaze. Read about the sad underworld dealings of Poop Deck Paul, who was turned in to the authorities by Captain Jolly. Morgus the Magnificant, Sir Graves Ghastly, Rita Bell and Bill Kennedy all live again inside this densely illustrated history.
Best illustrated history of a subculture
Puppetry: A World History by Eileen Blumenthal (Harry N. Abrams, $65, hardcover)
A lavish, oversized book on the world of puppets from all cultures, and their role in art and society. Theres a special focus on the eccentric lives of their creators. From ancient shadow plays to the avant-garde, the uncanny and alluring world of the puppet is brought to life.
Strangest art book
Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is by Lisa Wagner, Trinie Dalton, Eli Horowitz et al. (McSweeneys, $20)
Here we have a group show of top-notch young underground artists gathered together in the name of high school ephemeral illustration. A funny and outrageous trip to the margins of nowhere. Another McSweeneys production thats beautiful and over-the-top.
Most colossal jazz book ever
Jazzlife by William Claxton (Taschen, $200)
A jumbo-sized gumbo portion of stunning jazz photographs taken from a lifetime of commitment by a master photographer. From New Orleans, Kansas City, New York to Los Angeles, the golden years are well covered. Theres even a section on Detroit, but you will need weight training to browse through this gigantic tome. A worthy gift for the jazz devotee; highly recommended.
Best encyclopedia of strange creatures
The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges (Viking, $25.95)
Hes a very famous South American writer. Hes a Nobel laureate, and hes influenced a lot of Latin American writing and is known for his magic realism. Hes one of my favorite writers. This is a new, whimsical illustrated edition of a compendium of more than 100 strange creatures conceived down through the history of human imagination. Its an Alice-through-the-looking-glass menagerie, which should appeal to fantasy fans of all types and ages. And its illustrated by Peter Sis, a famous childrens book illustrator.
Meghan McEwen is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]