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5 Must-Read Books By Detroit Authors

If you ask a member of Mensa or a university professor what are the greatest books ever written, you are likely to hear answers like Miguel De Cervantes' "Don Quixote," Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre," Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" or something by Hemingway or Orwell. Asking the same people what are the best books written by Detroit-area authors solicited interesting opinions, and remarkably, two books at the top of the list were written by the same author: Mitch Albom. His work is known nation-wide because his last four books were turned into ABC Sunday-night movies, and his story about Ernie Harwell is a stage-play which runs all summer at City Theatre in Detroit. The recurring motif of "life's lessons" runs throughout his oeuvres, as well as in these five best books by Detroiters.
Tuesdays with Morrie
(credit: Random House)

"Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson" by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom said he felt guilty when he learned Morrie Schwartz was dying from Lou Gehrig's Disease. Morrie was a sociology professor at Brandeis whom Albom admired and had never intended to drift apart from. But life got in the way and it was travelling 100 miles per hour for Albom. He decided to fly to Boston every Tuesday to reconnect with the professor, gleaning pearls of wisdom from the old sage. Albom emphasized the virtue of forging a culture of one's own as a methodology to transcend the tyranny of pop culture.  This memoir from those visits has sold over 20 million copies since it published in 1997.

Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom (middle) discusses "Ernie", playing this summer at the City Theatre. (credit: Anton Anderssen)

"The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom

Like Morrie, Albom's next book was inspired by someone he knew: his uncle Eddie Beitchman. It's a fiction novel that explains heaven as not a location, but rather a place where five people reveal how your life affected them and vice-versa. Albom explained in a private interview with CBS that we never really know how much even the little things can trigger great events in people's lives. Talking to Albom in a quiet room almost takes on a spiritual quality – his warmth and sincerity radiate charisma which penetrates the body and moves directly to the heart. Albom's next book, due out in the fall, is a fable involving the spirit of Father Time.

(credit: Picador)

"Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides 

Middlesex" is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel inspired by the diary of Herculine Barbin, a French convent schoolgirl who was intersex (hermaphrodite). In "Middlesex," Barbin's story is expanded and overlays the rough depiction of three generations of the Eugenides family. The Royal Oak International Book Club has chosen this book for its monthly discussion meetup (this is an excellent organization to join if you are a bibliophile). Detroit-born Francis Ford Coppola is The Cultural Beacon's first choice to adapt this book into a film.

Out of Sight
(credit: HarperCollins)

"Out of Sight" by Elmore Leonard

Out of Sight" is a novel by Elmore Leonard and also a film based on the novel. In this story, we learn the life lesson "Don't brag about how rich you think you are." The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, and stars George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez.  Entertainment Weekly voted it as the sexiest film ever on its "50 Sexiest Movies Ever" poll. Leonard is known as "The Charles Dickens of Detroit" because of his portrayals of Detroit characters. He has written more than forty novels, and lives in Bloomfield Village.

Related: Best Comic Book Stores In Detroit

Loren D. Estleman
(credit: Grand Central Publishing)

The Hours of the Virgin (The Amos Walker Series #14)" by Loren D. Estleman  

In the esteemed galleries of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the tempera on vellum manuscript "Apocalypse Miniatures: The Dragon Waging War and The Beast of the Sea" is a magnificent display of art circa 1295. In the High Middle Ages, books were usually commissioned by royalty and noblemen in English courts; they were ornately decorated in lapis lazuli, silver, gold and copper. In Estleman's fiction novel, the curator of the Detroit Institute of Arts asks detective Amos Walker to help him recover a medieval illuminated manuscript  from the 16th century. It finishes with solving the murder of his partner and mentor many years before. In this book, Amos learns the life lesson of finding closure and letting go. An author of over 65 books, Estleman recently received the Western Writers of America Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement.

Related: Best Budget Arts And Culture Options In Detroit

What are your favorite works by Detroit authors? Share them in the comments section below.

Romero Anton Montalban-Anderssen is the winner of the 2009 first prize in journalism from the Detroit Working Writers Organization. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University School of Law. He has seasonal residency in Detroit Michigan, The Italian Riviera, and Honolulu Hawaii. His work can be found at

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