Michigan Notable Book Awards graphic with A Cold, Hard Prayer book Cover and Great Women of Mackinac Cover

Two MSU Press Titles Named to 2024 Michigan Notable Books List

by Nicole Utter and The Library of Michigan

Two MSU Press Titles Named to 2024 Michigan Notable Books List

January 16, 2024

by Nicole Utter and The Library of Michigan

The Library of Michigan announced the 2024 Michigan Notable Book list in January of 2024. This year’s list of 20 titles reflects the rich stories and culture of our state, with two winners from MSU Press.

The celebrated books encompass the entire Great Lakes basin, to take readers from Sugar Island near the Soo to the cherry orchards of Traverse City, and across the vibrant communities of Metro Detroit.

The two winning titles from MSU Press are:

A Cold, Hard Prayer by John Smolens
In 1924, an orphan train passes through the Midwest, and Mercy, a teenage girl of mixed race, and a boy nicknamed Rope, who lost fingers in a factory accident, become virtual prisoners of Harlan and Estelle Nau. After facing abuse, Mercy and Rope flee, making an arduous journey into sparsely populated northern Michigan, where Mercy believes she will find her aunt. Resolute and intrepid, Mercy and Rope develop a bond of mutual trust that helps them navigate a stark American landscape shaped by prejudice, hypocrisy, and fear.

Great Women of Mackinac, 1800-1950 by Melissa Croghan
Great Women of Mackinac, 1800–1950 tells the dramatic history of 13 women leaders on Mackinac Island in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their linked visions of family and community define this beautiful island in the western Great Lakes. In this collective biography, author and Mackinac Island resident Melissa Croghan reveals how central they were to the history and literature of Mackinac.

MSU Press Director Elizabeth Demers shared her enthusiasm for the win. “We are proud of our authors and their commitment to representing the diverse subject matter that Michigan has to offer. The support that comes from the Library of Michigan with this award is invaluable for our press, our authors, and the literary ecosystem of Michigan.”

Each year, the Michigan Notable Books (MNB) list features 20 books, published during the previous calendar year, which are about the Great Lakes, set in Michigan or the Great Lakes, or written by a Michigan author. Selections include a variety of genres, both fiction and nonfiction, that appeal to many audiences and explore topics and issues close to the hearts of Michigan residents. This latest list continues that tradition by exploring the fascinating lives of historic women leaders on Mackinac Island; examining the struggle for self-identity and acceptance; celebrating the creativity of Michigan artists across diverse mediums; and more.

MNB began as part of the 1991 Michigan Week celebration, designed to pay tribute and draw attention to the many people, places, and things that identify Michigan life as unique and vibrant.

“Michigan truly is a mosaic of inspiration for writers,” said State Librarian Randy Riley. “Each MNB selection offers a unique touchpoint into the rich stories and beautiful landscape of our great state. Everyone will find something of interest that speaks to the voices and experiences of what it means to be a Michigander.”

Michigan’s State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said: “We grow in our lives when we open our eyes and minds to the rich experiences of others through fiction and nonfiction. This year’s Michigan Notable Books provide opportunity for young and old alike to bring knowledge and perspective into their lives about what others have seen and lived. Books should be mirrors that reflect our own lives, as well as windows for us to see others.”

This year’s MNB selection committee includes representatives from the Library of Michigan; Bath Township Public Library; Clinton-Macomb District Library; Capital Area District Libraries; Detroit Public Library; Lansing City Pulse newspaper; Library of Michigan Foundation; Michigan Center for the Book; Michigan Department of Education; Michigan Humanities; University of Michigan Library; and Wayne State University.

The 2024 MNB books and authors will be honored at the annual Night for Notables reception on Saturday, April 20, 2024, at the Library of Michigan, with two-time Michigan Notable Books honoree Stephen Mack Jones presenting as the keynote speaker. Participating authors will travel to libraries across the state on the Michigan Notable Books authors tour, to share their experiences and engage with local communities. Many also engage in the Authors Conversations video series, in which viewers can explore the backgrounds of the authors, uncover authors’ creative processes, and hear readings from book selections.

The Michigan Notable Books program is sponsored in part by the Library of Michigan Foundation and Michigan Humanities.

For more information or questions about the Michigan Notable Books program, contact the Library of Michigan at 517-335-1477, visitwww.Michigan.gov/NotableBooks, or email Michigan-Notable-Books@michigan.gov.