Reading Around The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes have inspired generations of authors. With wide-open spaces and endless landscapes to explore the region offers the perfect setting for reflection and creativity. For some, the wilds of The Great Lakes provide the setting for their characters and stories. In The Tale of Halcyon Crane, Wendy Webb (who is from Minneapolis, MN) has her protagonist Hallie return to a remote Great Lakes island to dig deeper into family secrets. There are countless more books about Great Lakes, making the bodies of water into a genre of their own.
Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, and its famous shipwreck diving spots, serves as the setting for A Superior Death. Nevada Barr's novel places park ranger Anna Pigeon, who literally dives into a mystery far under the surface of Lake Superior. Moving a bit West across Lake Superior, we find Duluth, Minnesota as the setting for Brian Freeman's The Cold Nowhere. Moving back up to the US/Canada boundary waters, Terri Reed's Danger at the Border, features Dr. Tessa Cleary solving environmental mysteries.
The Made in Michigan Writers Series produced a story quite grounded in the Great Lakes. The Lake Michigan Mermaid: A Tale in Poems tracks a young woman's search for guidance, while exploring themes of redemption, friendship, and the mythical. Accompanied by wonderful illustrations, this book shares the life-giving power of water. Award-winning author Gloria Whelan penned Once on This Island to take place on Mackinac Island during the war of 1812. The book earned Whelan a Great Lakes Book Award in 1996.
Another winner of the Great Lakes Book Award, and a New York Times Notable Book, Rich Cohen's Lake Effect paints the coming of age story of Jamie Drew (AKA Drew-licious) who grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. With a wink and a nod, The Chocolate Pirate Plot, follows a chocolate homage to pirates onto the waves of Lake Michigan, only to see JoAnna Carl's whimsical buccaneers take a darker turn.
Finally, Lake St. Claire, which lies between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, provides the setting for Jeffrey Eugenides hit novel, Middlesex. At an all-girls' school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Calliope Stephanides follows her passion for a chain-smoking classmate.
More Ways to Read
Great Lakes E-Books and E-Readers
Nowadays, one of the easiest ways to get your hands on one of our Great Lakes stories is with an e-book. Accessible anywhere -- from your phone or computer to an e-reader -- these make reading more convenient than ever. While supporting independent bookstores like Great Lakes Book Supply is important, our mission to introduce The Great Lakes to everyone would be incomplete without e-books.
Check out some of our favorite Great Lakes e-books:
The Great Lakes Water Wars by Peter Annin
Available on Kindle
Amazon's Description: The Great Lakes―Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior―hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work, and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize-winning reporter Dan Egan’s compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.
The Living Great Lakes by Jerry Dennis
Available on Kindle
Amazon's Description: The story of the Great Lakes unfolds during an epic journey on The Malabar, a two-masted schooner the author helped sail from Lake Michigan to Bar Harbor, Maine. Battling storms and internal strife, the crew of five navigate the lakes and their connecting waterways, traverse the Erie Canal and a flooding Hudson River, and make their way around Manhattan to Long Island Sound and up the Atlantic coast to Maine. Awards include the 2004 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Best Book of the Year from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the Stuart D. and Vernice Gross Award for Excellence in Literature, and the Great Lakes Culture Award. The book was also a finalist for the Great Lakes Booksellers Association’s Book of the Year and was selected as a 2004 Michigan Notable Book by the Michigan Library Association.
The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin
Available on Kindle
Amazon's Description: Grey Rabbit, an Ojibwe woman living by Lake Superior in 1622, is a mother and wife whose dream-life has taken on fearful dimensions. As she struggles to understand “what she is shown at night,” her psyche and her world edge toward irreversible change. In 1902, Berit and Gunnar, a Norwegian fishing couple, also live on the lake. Berit is unable to conceive, and the lake anchors her isolated life and tests the limits of her endurance and spirit. And in 2000, when Nora, a seasoned bar owner, loses her job and is faced with an open-ended future, she is drawn reluctantly into a road trip around the great lake.
Lake Michigan (Pitt Poetry Series) by Daniel Borzutzky
Available on Kindle
Amazon's Description: Lake Michigan, a series of 19 lyric poems, imagines a prison camp located on the beaches of a Chicago that is privatized, racially segregated, and overrun by a brutal police force. Thinking about the ways in which economic policy, racism, and militarized policing combine to shape the city, Lake Michigan's poems continue exploring the themes from Borzutzky's Performance of Becoming Human, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. But while the influences in this book (Césaire, Vallejo, Neruda) are international, the focus here is local as the book takes a hard look at neoliberal urbanism in the historic city of Chicago. Named a 2018 Best Book of the Year by the New York Public Library.
Find Even More Great Lakes Books With Summer Sales
Whether you're preparing for a Great Lakes cruise or just wanting to learn about the region, summer sales are one of the easiest ways to get books at a fraction of their usual price. Once a hallmark of Great Lakes Book and Supply, summer sales (and book sales in general) offer easy access to incredible literary works. We can't recommend taking advantage of these sales enough, as they only make Great Lakes cruising even more immersive.
Growing Great Lakes Literature
Award-winning book editor and indie publisher, Philip Martin, is based in Milwaukee, WI and helps aspiring authors tell their stories. His experience includes three years as acquisitions editor for The Writer Books (affiliated with The Writer magazine), producing books for professional writers on craft and career advice. In this capacity, he edited essays and book-length works by prominent and successful authors.
He has also edited and produced nonfiction and fiction titles for adults and young readers. His first book produced, Threshing Days, won the 1989 Banta Award, a top literary prize from the Wisconsin Library Association. Subsequent titles have won various indie-press awards, including the national Benjamin Franklin Award (two times for nonfiction) and the Small Press Book Award (for fiction); other projects were finalists for Minnesota Book Award, Great Lakes Book Award, and other honors.
A Place for Inspiration
The Great Lakes region offers us myriad opportunities for peace and reflection. The Northwoods of Wisconsin, the spectacular Straits of Mackinac, the Thousand Islands Archipelago on the St. Lawrence all give us the space and the environment needed for true idleness. In order to become an observer of the world, one must come out of the world for a time, only to return and see it with fresh eyes. This is the secret of sacred idleness, one that has and continues to inspire books about The Great Lakes.