Writer’s Pick 2020: Best Books

Books
Stock photo courtesy of Ksenia Chernaya

As the year comes to a close, we wanted to recognize the works of a few local authors. However, due to the pandemic, many smaller presses haven’t printed many or any books this year. Instead, we focused on local work and authors that our community should read and check out. All of these books are available through the Ann Arbor District Library. For more books by Michigan authors check out this Goodreads list as well as this list of Michigan publishers

All That We Encounter
All That We Encounter by Bethany Gray. Image courtesy of Fifth Avenue Press.

All That We Encounter by Bethany Gray

All That We Encounter centers on a mystical jewelry box that takes the owner to settings from their past. The owner of the relic, 88-year-old Olivia, explores parts of her own life and also peers into the lives of her niece and her niece’s ex-husband as they explore aspects of modern family life. Gray’s detail-based style of writing makes the reader feel as if they are experiencing the memories for themselves. Additionally, Gray demonstrates a battle between harmony and discontent when exploring the lives and relationship between June and her former husband Anthony. Gray includes hints of humor with intriguing and somewhat eccentric characters. Overall, the book facilitates a discussion about human nature as well as cultural views on death which further this great read. 

Almost Lost by Pauline Loewenhardt. Image courtesy of paulineloewenhardt.com.

Almost Lost by Pauline Loewenhardt

Written in a memoir style, Almost Lost focuses on author Pauline Lowenhardt’s life and the lives of her family, specifically her parents. Lowenhardt’s parents both moved from Germany to the United States after World War I in an attempt to escape personal traumas. They met in Detroit and raised four children together. The book goes through Lowenhardt’s life but places a focus around Lowenhardt’s experience growing up in Detroit as World War II raises tensions in her hometown. Loewenhardt dives into feelings surrounding her father’s Jewish relatives living in Germany and how they express their German heritage in a time of fear. Almost Lost is the culmination of Loewenhardt’s effort to learn about her family’s heritage and represents an inspiring love for her culture. 

Corked
Corked: Tales of Advantage in Competitive Sports by Brian J. Love and Michael Burns. Image courtesy of Amazon.com.

Corked: Tales of Advantage in Competitive Sports by Brian J. Love and Michael Burns

For many, just seeing a book centered around sports might be an immediate turn off. However, Corked is very unique in that this isn’t a book only for sports lovers. Many of the stories cater to people interested in statistics, agriculture, and business. Even with little knowledge of sports, the book is easy to understand and honestly compelling. Comprising of 26 miniature stories, the book includes a variety of sports including the American pastimes of baseball and football but also cricket, cycling, skating, and more. The authors include many factors that even the most avid sports fans might not catch, such as the impact of having a certain type of turf for MLB and NFL stadiums, or why Rafael Nadal is just so good on clay courts when the majority of top tennis players struggle. Corked gives an insider look into how sports strategists work to optimize athlete performance and is set in the point of view of an analyst. 

Elements
Elements: a Love Letter to all Things Everywhere by Hannah Burr. Image courtesy of Hannah Burr.

Elements: a Love Letter to all Things Everywhere by Hannah Burr

Personally, chemistry was not my favorite subject. However, Elements does what typical chemistry classes fail to do. The book is a work of art that focuses on how elements are present in the world around us. Even though we know that the elements have “practical” uses, without reading Elements, you might not realize that Boron is present in eye wash, tank armor, and cherries. While this fact seems somewhat insignificant, it demonstrates one of the ways that the book shows the elements in action. Elements uses images of paper and ink to demonstrate properties of each element. By presenting the elements and their properties in an unorthodox manner, Burr creates new ways of interpreting and presenting chemistry. Additionally, the images can be colored in, creating a coloring-book effect if so desired. Elements will no doubt cater to a variety of people, chemistry lovers and haters alike. 

Shape Notes
Shape Notes by Judy Wenzel. Image courtesy of Fifth Avenue Press.

Shape Notes by Judy Wenzel

Shape Notes is a book of poems about social justice, the world, family, and community. The poems are categorized by these four themes and while the poems in each section represent the relative theme, every poem is a mixture of the four topics. Wenzel takes the reader through a journey of her experiences and interpretations of historical events. While reading the poems, the reader will be transported to Kentucky, Brussels, Ho Chi Minh City, Robben Island, and more where Wenzel discusses the lasting repercussions of war and injustice on the modern environment. The poems also nod to certain collective aspects in the United States community including the impact of Mister Rogers and the pride placed in favorite baseball and football teams. Shape Notes is a beautiful collection of poems and will leave the reader intrigued.