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Aug
22

Two new Michigan related books explore the state’s history

The following review by Ray Walsh, proprietor of Curious Book Shop in East Lansing Michigan, first appeared in the Lansing State Journal.

Two recent books are likely to intrigue readers who enjoy Michigan history. One offers a variety of interesting facts while the other, aimed at younger readers, provides a thought provoking stepping stone for creativity.
“Michigan’s County Courthouses” by John Fedynsky, (University of Michigan Press, $40), is a tall, well- designed book that’s subtitled “An Encyclopedic Tour of Michigan Courthouses”.
It explores the fascinating history of all of the courthouses in each of the state’s 83 counties as well as the Michigan Supreme Court.
The oversized book is illustrated with many detailed black and white photographs, includes maps and is arranged alphabetically for ease of reference. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman has written an excellent foreword that delves into the content and intent of the volume, noting the challenges that Fedynsky faced in compiling this work.
This isn’t just a boring reference work that merely lists facts and figures; instead, it’s a wonderful effort that captures much of the essence of Michigan history, from its wilderness beginnings through contemporary times.
There are many intriguing insights into the state’s history, including land squabbles, architectural priorities, financing efforts, political dickering, unusual cases and famous trials. Fedynsky, who is an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan, also includes a selected bibliography for historians seeking more information.
This is ideal for any local library and is an exceptionally useful updated addition to Maurice Cole’s 1974 book on the same subject.
“Diary of a Michigan Kid”, illustrated by Cyd Moore (Sleeping Bear Press, $9.95) is an unusual oversized paperback that should offer hours of creativity for kids. It’s much more that just a simple diary, providing lined space for children to write as well as blank pages for drawing.
Interspersed with the colorful drawings by Collins are questions (and answers!) relating to Michigan history that many adults may even have trouble answering. Simple recipes for tasty pizza, s’mores, fudge and snow candy also appear.
Additionally, there are games for children who are on vacation or travelling, activity ideas and space for poetry or creative insights. A completed book would be fun to examine ten or twenty years from now or even later, when fond memories of childhood may slowly start to fade.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987. Visit the store’s redesigned website.

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