Dec. 2 2015 12:21 AM

Books by local authors offer something for everyone

If you’re looking for a holiday present for your favorite bookworm, this year’s slate of literary releases offers a wide variety of gift options. This list of recent releases, most by local or Michigan authors, ranges from inspirational fare and regional history to gritty novels and punk rock memoirs.

Mitch Albom’s new book, “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto,” continues his quest to bring hopeful, uplifting reading to the masses. Previous Albom best-sellers took us to a deathbed and to heaven. His latest book takes us to the funeral of the fictional Frankie Presto, a legendary guitarist and Forrest Gump-esque character. Mourners tell tales of the guitarist and his impact on their lives. The hook in this fabulist tale is that everyone has a role to play in life — a place in a band, metaphorically speaking. Albom himself will make at an appearance at Schuler Books & Music's Okemos location at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Local author Lori Nelson Spielman can give Albom a run for his money — in both sales and style. Her evolving talents are on full display in her second book, “Sweet Forgiveness,” in which the protagonist deals with a decades-old falling out with her mother. German readers seem to seem to have found something in her books that hasn’t quite caught on here. The German translation of Spielman’s debut novel, “The Life List,” recently passed the 1 million mark in sales.

Maybe not as uplifting — but more explosive — is MSU English Professor Ann Larabee’s “The Wrong Hands: Popular Weapons Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to Democratic Society.” The author, who has become an expert on radicalism in the U.S., presents a concise and cogent look at bomb-making manuals and the role they play in contemporary society. Many people are aware of "The Anarchist Cookbook," a popular underground manual, but locals may also remember Loompanics, Lansing’s own anarchist publishing company.

A. Brad Schwartz, an East Lansing resident and recent graduate of the University of Michigan, used the university’s little known Orson Welles archive as the basis for his book on Welles’ classic radio production, “The War of the Worlds.” In “Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News,” Schwartz uses forgotten letters and other documents to debunk many of the myths surrounding the 1938 radio production.

Bonnie Jo Campbell, a Portage resident and Western Michigan University instructor, is right in her wheelhouse in a new collection of short stories, “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.” The book explores issues of women’s sexuality and abuse in Campbell’s signature rural noir style. At a recent event at Lansing’s Everybody Reads, Campbell handed out wristbands with the word “tell” on them — a call to action for mothers to talk to their daughters about abuse.

The punk rock pioneer Patti Smith continues to cogitate on her unusual life in her newest memoir, “M Train.” The book includes several stories about her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, the high-energy guitarist of Detroit punk rock stalwarts MC5. As she writes about their atypical and bucolic life in St. Clair Shores, you can almost imagine a sitcom emerging.

Not many authors get a second chance at literary stardom, but the late John Herrmann may finally get his due. And it only took 89 years. The Lansing-based author’s book, “What Happens,” was banned in 1926 for its sexual content. It was finally released earlier this year thanks to Troy University Professor Sara Kosiba, who found the lost book and worked diligently to get it into print for the first time. The haunting coming of age story rivals “The Catcher in the Rye” in its angst and honesty. Herrmann, a contemporary and pal of Ernest Hemingway, was on his way to becoming a literary star when his career was derailed by the censorship controversy.

Another late writer, Theodore Weesner, is also worth another look. Weesner, a Flint native and MSU graduate, showed tremendous promise with his coming of age book, “The Car Thief,” but faded into relative obscurity. Weesner died earlier this year at 79.

MSU graduate and former Spartan football player Jim Proebstle’s book, ”Unintended Impact,” is a personal and poignant exploration of the life and death of his brother, Dick Proebstle, who was an MSU back-up quarterback in the 1960s. Dick Proebstle suffered from what is now known as CTE, a form of dementia linked to brain trauma. Jim Proebstle takes a complicated and timely issue and puts it on a level we can all understand.

On a lighter note, Scott M. Peters’ “Making Waves” looks at the sea crafts navigating the water wonderland of Michigan. Peters records the fascinating history of Michigan’s boat building industry, ranging from early hunting and fishing boats to the classic Chris-Craft.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter