Monday, December 13, 2010

Michigan Notable Books Reading Challenge

Update as of 1/1/11:  Between the folks who have signed up in the comments and the folks who have emailed me, we're getting quite close to my goal of 50 participants!  But we do need a few more to get there.  So go ahead and sign up, and/or spread the word.  You won't be sorry - there are lots of great books to read on the list!
Now back to the original post....
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I tend to prattle on in my blog entries (word count of each blog entry generally exceeding the word count of my three books combined), so let me give you the executive summary first:

As a small show of support for Michigan literature, I’m doing a “Michigan Notable Books Reading Challenge.” If you’re willing to commit to reading at least two of the books on the 2011 Michigan Notable Books list, you’ll have a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to a Michigan independent bookstoreDetails later in this blog post.  Note: You do not have to live in Michigan to participate.

Now, for the Prattling On part...

I always look forward to the release of the Michigan Notable Books list. The Michigan Notable Books list is the Library of Michigan’s annual selection of up to 20 Michigan-related books, each written by a Michigan author or about a Michigan topic.

Followers of this blog know that I believe we have more writing talent per capita than any other state of the union. Though my weekly “Michigander Monday” blog feature (profiling a different Michigan children’s book author or illustrator each Monday) went for a while on an unintentional hiatus (ah, Life, you do get in the way of blogging), I’m a firm believer in all things mittenliterary, for children and for adults.

This year’s Michigan Notable Books list is strong and diverse. I’ve read or gotten started on about half of the books on it already, and I’m looking forward to delving into most of the rest. The list has a wide array of writing genres, styles and topics; and taken as a whole it's a wonderful celebration of Michigan.

But the Notable Books program is more than just a list of books. Many of the Notable authors participate in the Michigan Notables spring tour, so if you live in Michigan there’s a good chance one or more of the authors will be coming to a town near you. If that’s the case, please take advantage of the opportunity! You can show support for your local library (which, coincidentally, is a great place to find these books!!), and for the writing talent of Michigan, by attending one or more of the tour events.

In addition, there’s usually a public reception for the Notable authors in the spring. I assume this will be the case again in 2011. I’ve attended this event in the past, and it's a very nice gathering. Many of the Notable authors are present for the reception, so if you attend, you can mingle with wonderful writers and get your books signed. Usually one of the authors delivers a talk. I heard Christopher Paul Curtis speak at the Night for Notables a couple years back, and more recently I heard David Small and Bonnie Jo Campbell. If you live in the Lansing area, I highly recommend attending this function – it’s definitely worth the ticket price.

Given what a great program Michigan Notable Books is, and given that I like to do what I can to encourage folks to read books by Michigan authors, I’d like to offer up a Michigan Notable Books Reading Challenge.

If you’re willing to commit to reading at least two of the Michigan Notable Books, I will enter you in a drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to the Michigan independent bookstore of your choice. (Winner names the bookstore.)

To be entered in the drawing:
  • Sign up by no later than January 31, 2011.  You sign up by commenting on this blog post; or, if you’re blog-shy, by emailing me:  deborah [at] deborahdiesen [dot] com
  • You do NOT have to read the books by January 31. You just need to indicate your intent by then.
  • Double Your Chances: If you’re willing to spread the word about this challenge, I’ll enter your name in the hat twice. Just indicate so in your comment below (e.g. “I’m in, and I’ll link to this; tweet about this; Facebook this; make a 'Read Michigan' sign for the snowman in my front yard; and/or get a 'Michigan Notable Books' tattoo.").  Note: it's a maximum of two entries in the hat, even if you get the tattoo. (Note 2: No, I don't want to know WHERE the tattoo is.)
  • You do NOT have to tell me which books you plan to read. Just pick two that you haven’t read yet.  You can change your mind about which ones at any time.
  • You do NOT have to live in Michigan to participate – in fact, I think it would be wonderful for more non-Michiganders to become aware of Michigan’s contribution to the national literary scene.
Other important details:
  • You do NOT have to tell me if you do not finish and/or if you don't love one or both of the books that you choose to read.
  • You DO have to thank me profusely if you do love one or both of the books that you read.  I get all the credit.  Not the talented author who wrote it, but ME.  Thanks.
  • As of Feb. 1, I’ll enter all names of challenge participants in a drawing, and I’ll announce the winner by no later than February 15, 2011. (OK, so it’ll probably be Feb. 2 when I announce; but I’m building in a time cushion in case I get carried away with Groundhog’s Day festivities. One never knows…)
  • One lucky winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to a Michigan independent bookstore.
  • Winner chooses the bookstore, but it needs to be here in Michigan and independently owned. (Those of you out of state, remember, most bookstores have online purchasing options and can mail order to you.)
Ideally, I’d like to have at least 50 participants in this challenge, so please spread the word. But given that my blog readership consists of pretty much, er, my Mom, if I were to get even just 5 or so committed participants, I’d be thrilled. So if you’re reading this, please thrill me. Sign up!!

Regardless, though, of how many of you choose to participate, I hope that all of you will take a look at the Michigan Notables list and read several or even all of the books. In the words of the Guindon comic strip, “Michigan: Cold nose, Warm heart.” It may be the season of cold noses, but you can show your warmth by Reading Michigan!

Without further ado, the 2011 Michigan Notable books (click here for the official, annotated list, with descriptions of each book; and head over to Bill Castanier's wonderful mittenlit blog for more about many of these books and authors):
  • Apparition & Late Fiction: A Novella and Stories by Thomas Lynch (W. W. Norton)
  • Blues in Black and White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals by Michael Erlewine, photographer Stanley Livingston and designer Tom Erlewine (University of Michigan Press)
  • Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation by Steve Lehto (Chicago Review Press)
  • Detroit Disassembled by Andrew Moore (Damiani/Akron Art Museum)
  • The Detroit Electric Scheme: A Mystery by D.E. Johnson (Minotaur Books)
  • Eden Springs: A Novella by Laura Kasischke (Wayne State University Press)
  • Freshwater Boys: Stories by Adam Schuitema (Delphinium Books)
  • The Hanging Tree: A Starvation Lake Mystery by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster)
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (McPherson)
  • A Michigan Polar Bear Confronts the Bolsheviks: A War Memoir by Godfrey J. Anderson, Gordon Olson (editor) (William B. Eerdmans)
  • Mine Towns: Buildings for Workers in Michigan's Copper Country by Alison K. Hoagland (University of Minnesota Press)
  • Picturing Hemingway's Michigan by Michael R. Federspiel (Wayne State University Press)
  • Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City by John Gallagher (Wayne State University Press)
  • Sawdusted: Notes from a Post-boom Mill by Raymond Goodwin (University of Wisconsin Press)
  • Sixty to Zero: An Inside Look at the Collapse of General Motors and the Detroit Auto Industry by Alex Taylor III (Yale University Press)
  • The Sweetness of Freedom: Stories of Immigrants by Stephen Ostrander and Martha Bloomfield (Michigan State University Press)
  • To Account for Murder by William C. Whitbeck (Permanent Press)
  • Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams edited by M.L. Liebler (Coffee House Press)
  • Wounded Warrior: The Rise and Fall of Michigan Governor John Swainson by Lawrence M. Glazer (Michigan State University Press)
  • You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know: A True Story of Family, Face-Blindness and Forgiveness by Heather Sellers (Riverhead)
Congratulations to all of the winners!


Julie Hedlund said...

Ooo I get to be your first one - yay!

I live in Colorado now, but will always be a Michigander through and through (grew up in Gaylord, went to U of M), still come back at least once a year.

Gaylord now has a wonderful indie bookstore called Saturn books. I make it a point to buy some books whenever I'm back home. Great idea for a contest!!

Julie Hedlund said...

Here is my tweet about the contest:$50%20GC!):%20

Ann Finkelstein said...

The word count of blog posts v. manuscripts is hilarious. I try to keep my blog posts under 200 words, while my novel manuscripts hover around 50,000. This is part of the yin/yang that makes our critique group wonderful.

I announced your contest on my blog ( and yes, I’ll read at least two of the books – maybe more.

Buffy Silverman said...

I'll take the challenge..I was planning on reading Jaimy Gordon's book (she's been getting a lot of press in the K'zoo Gazette after winning the National Book Award) and there are others that look interesting, too. I do not tweet. I am facebook-less. I am without a blog. But I'll send an email about your contest to a few Michiganders. Does that count?

Debbie Diesen said...

Julie, Ann, and Buffy, thanks for signing up! And Buffy, yes, that counts. Any kind of encouraging of others to give a try to some books on the list (or, shhh, even Michigan-written books not on the list) works for me.

I hope everyone enjoys the Reading Challenge. I meant to do it with last year’s list, and never quite got around to it. I figure it’s a nice opportunity to show the state of Michigan a little love. We can’t brag about our weather, or our economy; but we’ve got darn good books. And bookstores!

I was going to give away some of my books as the prize, but then I decided I’ve done enough Diesen-giveaways this past year that contest participants are all probably ready for an opportunity to pick their own darn books.

btw, I intend for the Michigander Monday feature (my weekly feature about Michigan children’s book authors and illustrators) to get rolling again in the new year. Till then, though, it’s fun to spend a little time on this blog promoting “grown-up” authors, till I can get back to the "kids."

Enjoy your reading, everyone!

Tom C. said...

Hi Debbie! What a great idea. I am expressing my intent to enter the contest. Like Buffy, I am not a tweeter. And, although I do have Facebook, I'm not sure how effective it would be in endorsing your contest. However, I will send emails to some potential contestants.

Rosalie Sanara Petrouske said...


Thanks for telling me about the Reading Challenge. I plan to participate. As a matter of fact, I already have a signed copy of the Thomas Lynch book from last year's Rally, so this one will be my first read. I am also linking your site to our Writing at the Ledges site,

Jacqui said...

This is a great idea. I'm in.

If I had the energy, I would write "Michigan Notable Books Rock!" on my arm and take a picture to pretend I got the tattoo...

charlie b. said...

I hereby promise to read at least two of the Michigan Notable Books. I thought at first one of Ruth's books was on the list (in which case, I'd have already read one). However, she's nominated for the Great Lakes Great Books, so maybe I'll have to have a contest, too.
In any case, never visited your blog before and didn't know what I was missing. Now you are one of my Favorites.
And if Ruth'll only show me how to re-post on Facebook, I'll do that, too.

Rick Myers said...


Deb Pilutti said...

ooh, I'm in. Thanks for the enticement.

Sarah Fillius said...

Good idea! Count me in and note that I forwarded your email on to others who I think would be interested.

Debbie Diesen said...

Tom, Rosalie, Jacqui, Charlie, Rick, Deb, and Sarah -- thank you for signing on! There are some really great books to choose from - I hope you'll enjoy the reading.

Names are flying into the hat - in addition to all of you in the comments, I've had a good chunk of folks via email - so we've got some nice momentum going for Michigan books. I'll post periodically as more names get added. I think we can actually reach the wild goal of 50 participants.

Happy Reading!

(Oh, and Jacqui, there's still plenty of time for the tattoo...)

Dan Fillius said...

Count me in too! It'll give me some more good reading material for the slower winter farming season.

TimInMich said...

I'm in, Debbie. Thanks for the opportunity. I was sorta thinking of reading two in particular, but now I will commit to it.

Debbie Diesen said...

Dan and Tim, I've entered your names in the hat, too. Thanks for participating! Happy Reading.

Kaylyn VanHarn said...

Count me in Debbie. I'm planning on a lot of snow days here in Grand Rapids! (Who says teachers can't pray for those days, too)

beth said...

OK, I'm in. I like the idea of a Michigan challenge, even though I've never even been to your state, having wondering around the outer perimeter of the country.

beth said...

I even blogged about the challenge:

Debbie Diesen said...

Kaylyn and Beth, thanks for joining the challenge!