Great Lakes Read Books

Books for the “Great Lakes Reads” list were selected by each state, and province, that borders a Great Lake. The chosen works, all by authors either from or residing in each location, highlight the state’s relationship with its lake and the communities surrounding it.


The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin

Featuring three women living on its shores in three different centuries, Sosin’s debut novel illuminates the mysterious powers of the greatest of the Great Lakes.

The Long-Shining Waters begins in 1622. Grey Rabbit—an Ojibwe woman, a mother and wife—struggles to understand a dream-life that takes on fearful dimensions. Berit and Gunnar, a Norwegian couple, fish the North Shore in 1902. Though the lake anchors Berit’s isolated life, those same waters ultimately test her endurance and spirit. And then in 2000, Nora, a seasoned bar owner, finds her life unraveling and is drawn into a journey around the lake. As these narratives unfold with the mesmerizing rhythm of waves, a fourth mysterious voice slowly manifests. Haunting, rich in historical detail, and universal in its exploration of the human desire for meaning when faced with uncertainty and the indomitable power of place, this is an unforgettable work of fiction, by an author whose writing effortlessly “captures unexpected moments of beauty and clarity” (New York Times Book Review).


Maritime Chicago by Theodore J. Karamanski and Deane Tank, Sr.

Strategically placed on the southern shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago has always been an important transportation and trading hub. Early Native American settlers discovered Chicago’s rich resources, French missionaries and trappers found the Chicago River an excellent portage to the Des Plaines, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers, and merchants used it to ship lumber and grain to the rest of the world. Maritime Chicago tells the story of this city situated on a great “inland sea.” From the thrill of two lakefront World’s Fairs, to the unbelievable sorrow of the Eastland, which went down just a few feet from the banks of the Chicago River, taking with it 800 souls, Chicago’s maritime past bears witness to much triumph and tragedy, victory and defeat. Today, the 29 miles of lakefront, and the revived riverfront are vital parts of the economy and recreation of Chicago.


Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist by Edwin Way Teale

Dune Boy explores the childhood of a young boy growing up surrounded by Indiana’s scenic lakeshore dunes at Lone Oak Farm. In this nostalgic account, Teale gives us an authentic picture of the way we were, the way we would like to have been. A classic, Dune Boy was distributed to over 100,000 soldiers during WWII.  Edwin Way Teale went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1966 and the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing.


This book presents Michigan’s greatest resource through the lens of a camera. One cannot think of Michigan without the image of water. Water as vast as the Great Lakes, as serene as the inland lakes, and as long and lazy or sleek and fast as the numerous byways that run between and among them. The Waters of Michigan is a tribute to this treasured resource of Michigan. Combining the vision of internationally renowned photographer David Lubbers with the stewardship focus of environmentalist Dave Dempsey, this collection presents a truly unique view and understanding of the waters of Michigan. The Waters of Michigan is a call to all who know the state of Michigan to re-see this wonder that is ours and to realize how precious and fragile it is.

New York

City of Light by Lauren Belfer

The year is 1901. Buffalo, New York, is poised for glory. With its booming industry and newly electrified streets, Buffalo is a model for the century just beginning. Louisa Barrett has made this dazzling city her home. Headmistress of Buffalo’s most prestigious school, Louisa is at ease in a world of men, protected by the titans of her city. But nothing prepares her for a startling discovery: evidence of a murder tied to the city’s cathedral-like power plant at nearby Niagara Falls. This shocking crime–followed by another mysterious death–will ignite an explosive chain of events. For in this city of seething intrigue and dazzling progress, a battle rages among politicians, power brokers, and industrialists for control of Niagara. And one extraordinary woman in their midst must protect a dark secret that implicates them all…


The Lake Effect by Les Roberts
#5 in the Milan Jacovich mystery series

 Every Clevelander understands the lake effect, a weather condition that brings plenty of snow, especially in November when election time rolls around. Milan Jacovich (it’s pronounced MY-lan YOCK-ovich), the genial Cleveland private eye, has never been a political animal. But he owes a favor to mobster Victor Gaimari, and Milan always pays his debts. So he agrees to play watchdog over a mayoral election in suburban Lake Erie Shores in which dowdy housewife Barbara Corns is challenging incumbent Gayton True. Everything seems calm on the surface—until True’s wife, Princess, is run down in the street just outside downtown Cleveland’s Tower City. It becomes obvious that there is more at stake than the mayor’s chair in a quiet suburban city hall. And when he discovers that the True campaign has employed his old nemesis, disgraced ex-cop Al Drago, who carries a grudge a mile wide, Milan knows he’s in for a lot rougher time of it than simply poll-watching.


Reflections of Presque Isle: A Visual Journey by The Erie Times-News and Pennsylvania Sea Grant

 Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200 acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie. It offers a beautiful coastline and a variety of recreational activities including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, and in-line skating. Filled with a number of unique habitats, it features many migrating birds and contains many of the state’s endangered, threatened, and rare species. This book includes hundreds of photos of park-goers, annual events, education and outreach, and nature in action.


Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories by Jennifer Morales

When Johnquell, an African American teen, suffers a serious accident in the home of his white neighbor, Mrs. Czernicki, his community must find ways to bridge divisions between black and white, gay and straight, old and young. Set in one of the nation’s most highly segregated cities—Milwaukee, Wisconsin—Meet Me Halfway tells stories of connections in a community with a tumultuous and divided past. In nine stories told from diverse perspectives, Morales captures a Rust Belt city’s struggle to establish a common ground and a collective vision of the future. She gives life to multifaceted characters—white schoolteachers and senior citizens, Latino landlords, black and Puerto Rican teens, political activists, and Vietnam vets. As an activist mother in the thick of Milwaukee politics, Morales developed a keen ear and a tender heart for the kids who have inherited the city’s troubled racial legacy. With a critical eye on promises unfulfilled, Meet Me Halfway raises questions about the notion of a “postracial” society and, with humor and compassion, lifts up the day-to-day work needed to get there.


The Greatest Lake: Stories from Lake Superior’s North Shore by Conor Mihell

By exploring the connection between people and place on the rugged coastline of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, Mihell weaves first-hand experiences as an outdoor adventurer with compelling character studies of cottagers and entrepreneurs, personal essays, and investigative environmental reporting. These stories build on Lake Superior’s rich and varied history and support its critical place in Canadian culture. Since the beginning, Lake Superior has been revered for its godlike qualities of power, unpredictability, and a seemingly endless expanse of life-sustaining freshwater. The lake’s rugged yet fragile nature and hardscrabble characters and outpost communities define rural northwestern Canada. Experience it for yourself in this first collection of stories by one of the region’s most acclaimed journalists.

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