Dec. 14 2017 09:57 AM

A face-up display of the top gift books of 2017


A face-up display of the top gift books of 2017

When holiday shoppers visit area bookstores this month, they will find that a new front has quietly opened up in the culture wars: up side- down books. To coin a phrase, what happened?

Schuler’s books in the Eastwood Towne Center displays best sellers on a table just inside the door. Manager Rhoda Wolfe said patrons are turning books to which they object, flipping inflammatory mugs like those of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton so they face downward, or hiding the books in other piles.

Schuler’s recently posted a note on the display, asking patrons to respect others and to not move books or turn them over.

Let’s turn a few top choices of 2017 right side up, so Santa can spot them easier and slip them in his bag. First is “The Vietnam War,” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, a companion piece to their 10-part, highly acclaimed PBS film. Although I’ve previously written that the book is a bit textbook-ish, it is still one of the best histories of this war overall, with smart writing and incredible photographs, some of them published for the first time.

“Summer of Love: Art, Fashion and Rock and Roll,” by Jill D’Allesandro and Colleen Terry, shows and tells the history of an incredible era in the 1960s counterculture. The photography is stunning and the accompanying essays are insightful. Flower power rules, and this book will take you on a spacey trip to 1967 and San Francisco.

And why is this monster turned on its back like a sea turtle?

“Obama” is a leviathan you can’t ignore, a loving and hefty tribute to President Barack Obama by White House photographer Pete Sousa. Some 300 photographs detail the personal and professional day-to-day life of the 44th president.

The 2017 holiday season has plenty of books with a political bent that some people will lovingly flip through and others will hatingly flip over: “Bobby Kennedy,” by MSNBC host Chris Matthews; “Sisters First,” by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, the twin daughters of George W. Bush; “Hacks,” by Donna Brazile, a Democratic operative in the 2016 political campaign; “What Unites Us,” by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner; “We Were Eight Years in Power,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a look at the Obama presidency; “What Happened,” by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and “You Can’t Spell America Without Me,” by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen, a satirical look at President’s Trump’s first year in office.

Several historical tomes are also in the mix, including “Grant,” by historian Ron Chernow, a biography of the post-Civil War president, and “Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans,” by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager.

Two books that will have you clapping and toe tapping are the new Joni Mitchell biography, “Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell,” by David Yaffe, and a reissue of “Women of Motown,” by the former rock writer at the Detroit News, Susan Whitall. The Motown book was out of print for more than 15 years when Whitall secured rights and was able to have it reprinted.

There has to be a cookbook in Santa’s bag, and is “Zingerman’s Bakehouse,” by Am y Emberling and Frank Carollo, will get your yeast rising.

Speaking of yeast, craft beer aficionados will love to spend time with a new guide book to craft beer pubs in Michigan, “Brewed in Michigan,” by William Rapai.

Detroit boosters will appreciate two new books on the art and architecture of Detroit. “Designing Detroit, ” by Michael Smith, examines a little-known designer of Detroit’s skyscrapers, Wirt Rowland. In the Guardian Building and other Detroit gems, the work of Rowland and Pewabic Pottery were married into one building. MSU’s role in saving Pewabic Pottery is told in detail in “Pewabic Pottery,” by Cara Catallo.

Finally, two recently published books will help readers increase a sense their social consciousness. “Dawn of Detroit,” by Tiya Miles, recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, examines how the legacy of slavery has had a negative impact on the city’s history up to contemporary times.

Heather Ann Thompson’s “Blood in the Water” shines light on the 1971 Attica prison riot. Thompson’s book, now in paperback, won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for history and was the City Pulse selection for its December book club.

Miles and Thompson have something in common: They are both on the faculty of the University of Michigan. Some are predicting “Dawn of Detroit” will win a major literary award this year.