Here's what Michigan Radio staffers are looking forward to reading this spring
For many of us, the pandemic brought back time for us to focus on things we love, like reading.
It should come as no surprise that writers and editors are also readers. Or at least they should be! Most of us are planning to read fiction this summer, to supplement all the news reading we do every day. But there are some non-fiction readers as well.
Michigan Radio has a new book club called Michigan Radio Reads where we’ll meet once a quarter to talk about books with Michigan connections.
In the meantime, we’ll be sharing what we’re reading, author interviews, and all of the book-related content we can come up with. If there aren’t any books on this list that call your name, check out this interactive reading guide from NPR called Books We Love.
Whether you’re looking for your next page-turning thriller or a collection of essays you won’t be able to stop thinking about, here are the books that have got Michigan Radio’s staffers excited.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Recommended by Digital Director Jodi Westrick
I've moved so many times that I now only keep a select number of books on my shelves because while I love books, they're such a hassle to move! Both of Celeste Ng's previous works, Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You, are two of the very few I've kept because both were so well crafted and stuck with me long after reading. Looking forward to reading Ng's latest and seeing if it makes it to my shelves too!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Recommended by Stateside host April Baer
Where has V.E. Schwab been all my life? This ridiculously prolific fantasy queen has more bangers than Taylor, and this one is probably the classiest and most completely realized of them all. Story concerns a young woman in 1700s rural France, discontentedly staring down a dreary life of marriage and childrearing who, um, kind of accidentally makes a deal with one of the old gods. She ends up ageless, unable to die, traversing through the history of Western Civilization, able to interact with others, who never remember her once she leaves their sight. Things start to come to a head once she meets a young bookseller in New York, who, miraculously, remembers her from one day to the next. Romantic? Yes! Historic? Yes! Emotionally lush and crackling with small wonders? You better believe it!
Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Recommended by Detroit reporter Briana Rice
I couldn’t stop reading Adjei-Brenyah’s first book Friday Black which was like several episodes of Black Mirror in twisted dystopian near futures. This collection of essays was his first book and I couldn’t put it down, I would highly recommend it to anyone with a short attention span who needs a page turner.
I’ve been waiting to read Chain Gang All Stars since it was announced and it’s finally out.
From the Penguin Random House description: “Two top women gladiators fight for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far-removed from America’s own in this explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel.”
Babel by RF Kuang
Everything I Need I Get from You by Kaitlin Tiffany
Recommended by data reporter Nisa Khan
Babel's been a big one for a sec, so I am a little behind, but I am so excited to dig in. It's about a Chinese boy raised in Britain realizing the costs of serving the old English academic world. Historical fiction. Fantasy. Critiquing capitalism.
And I wanted to sneak in a nonfiction one: a collection of essays about the internet world of fandom and stans. I was/am not a One Direction girl, but I was a very online child (from Livejournal to Tumblr), so getting to read another perspective of how fandom molded social media (and it did) will be fun and deeply stressful.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Recommended by host Tyler Scott
There's been a lot of literature and interviews (including on Fresh Air) about how plants and trees communicate in ways people don't have a great understanding of. The structure of the story mirrors that, in how characters with vividly different backgrounds become entwined in each other's lives. The plot is almost secondary to the depictions of different kinds of relationships, both personal and interspecies.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Recommended by Stateside producer April Van Buren
I love a good fantasy/sci-fi series, and N.K. Jemisin has been on my to-read list for a long time. I'm super excited to dig into the first book of her Great Cities trilogy — which is centered around a magical battle to save New York City from some lurking, ancient evil. Looking forward to some immersive world building and mythmaking!
Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese
Recommended by digital communications specialist Emma Winowiecki
I love to pair books and travel — make it historical fiction, and I'm fully sold. Which is why I am excited to read Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese this spring, because I'll be spending time in Salem, where the novel takes place. It's a "vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter." I find it fascinating when authors are able to develop stories about beloved characters, historical figures, or mythical tales (see also Geraldine Brooks' March, Maggie O'Farrel's Hamnet, and Madeline Miller's Circe, three of my favorites in this niche genre).
Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf
Recommended by All Things Considered host Rebecca Kruth
I love graphic novels, especially those that cover historical events and eras. This is an exhaustively researched piece of narrative journalism that reads like an elegy to those who lost their lives at Kent State in 1970. Derf Backderf puts you there. He puts you in the minds of the students and the minds of the soldiers but he doesn’t try to get you to take a side. He simply tells the story of what happened before, during and after this tragic event through the lives of those involved. Let’s not forget that this is a graphic novel. The artwork is as meticulous as the research, each panel a story within itself. Backderf’s style is both cartoonish and realistic – it reminds me of the work R. Crumb did on American Splendor – yet he manages to capture the events of May 4. 1970 with a poignancy and realism I’ve not seen anywhere else.
The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley
Recommended by editor Rebecca Williams
I love a good suspense/apocalypse novel (i.e. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam - SO good if you haven't read it!) and I've heard great things about this book (though maybe there won't be an actual apocalypse in it - looking forward to finding out).
High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth and the Unexpected by Chani Eve Karkowsky, MD
Recommended by health reporter Kate Wells
I initially grabbed this as part of background reading for health reporting, but it's RIVETING. Like, stay-up-too-late-to-keep-reading good. Karkowsky is so warm, funny, and wise. And as a maternal fetal medicine specialist, she lets us in on this "precious, beautiful, and hidden" world we so rarely see: reproductive medicine. It's about the power imbalances in this field, as well as the tragedies and victories that happen all the time, every day. And it's about the women and families whose entire worlds are shaped by what happens in those operation and delivery rooms.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman
Recommended by Stateside producer Mike Blank
The Hmong community was featured in Clint Eastwood's 2008 film Gran Torino filmed in Highland Park. The remnants of the Hmong settled in Detroit in the 1980s are mostly now in Warren (Michigan's 3rd largest city). The Hmong were recruited in Laos during the Vietnam War to fight a proxy war on our behalf. The vast majority never wanted to come to America, however after fighting for the U.S. they had nowhere to settle. It's a powerful, page-turning book.
Heat 2 by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner
Recommended by Morning Edition Host Doug Tribou
The 1995 high-stakes crime film Heat was the first time Robert De Niro and Al Pacino ever appeared in a scene together. (They were both in The Godfather Part II in 1974, but not in the same scenes.) Heat was not based on a book, but writer and director Michael Mann gave his characters backstories to help actors in the film. Mann teamed up with crime novelist Meg Gardiner to write Heat 2, which came out in 2022. It's both a prequel and a sequel to the events in the film. I've probably seen Heat five times at least, so yes, I'm excited for more!
The Trees by Percival Everett
Recommended by Amplify and Longform Director Sarah Hulett
A former Michigan Radio colleague recommended Everett to me. I tore through The Trees my first day of vacation, and then was mad at myself for not having more of his books on hand. Murder mysteries are definitely not my jam, and the book is a little gruesome - but also very sharp and funny. Two Black Mississippi state cops show up in a tiny rural town to investigate a series of murders with a weird twist: next to each victim is a second body that looks like Emmett Till.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
Recommended by Digital Operations Strategist Danielle Seering
I keep starting this book and putting it back down because ... oof. I'm not typically that into memoirs but this one is by turns funny AND so uncomfortable. A 6-year-old child as the primary financial support for her family and how that manifests as eating disorders, addiction and other behaviors and bad relationships in adulthood — what could BE more delightful?
An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
Recommended by Stateside producer Ronia Cabansag
For several months, I was on an Emily St. John Mandel kick, and I did not know what to do after reading all her books. I found An Ocean of Minutes on an old reading list that I'd long forgotten about, and borrowed it from my local library. Lo and behold, the inside flap of the book includes the words, "In the vein of Station Eleven..." The action is set in an imagined America in the late 1990's following a pandemic that significantly reduces the nation's population. Lim takes the reader back and forth between the pre- and post-pandemic eras. There's romance, mystery, and time travel. I'm a shameless book quitter, but I'm 33% done with this one and won't be putting it down anytime soon.
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