Art and Architecture

Detroit: The Dream Is Now by photographer Michel Arnaud, co-author of Design Brooklyn. Photographer Michel Arnaud aims his lens at the emergent creative enterprises and new developments taking hold in the still-vibrant city. The book explores Detroit’s rich industrial and artistic past while giving voice to the dynamic communities that will make up its future. The first section provides a visual tour of the city’s architecture and neighborhoods, while the remaining chapters focus on the developing design, art, and food scenes through interviews and portraits of the city’s entrepreneurs, artists, and makers. Detroit is the story of an American city in flux, documented in Arnaud’s thought-provoking photographs.


Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit by Michael H. Hodges. Hodges tells the story of the German-Jewish immigrant who rose from poverty to become one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. Kahn's buildings not only define downtown Detroit, but his early car factories for Packard Motor and Ford revolutionized the course of industry and architecture alike.

Hodges paints the most complete picture yet of Kahn's remarkable rise. Special emphasis is devoted to his influence on architectural modernists, his relationship with Henry Ford, his intervention to save the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts (unreported until now), and his work laying down the industrial backbone for the Soviet Union in 1929-31 as consulting architect for the first Five Year Plan.

Pewabic Pottery: A History Handcrafted in Detroit Hardcover – July 10, 2017 by Cara Catallo 

At the height of America's Arts and Crafts movement, Detroit neighbors Horace J. Caulkins and Mary Chase Perry pooled their talents together to found Pewabic Pottery. With modest beginnings in 1903, Pewabic transformed from a rented stable in Brush Park to an English Tudor building on East Jefferson Avenue, where it has operated since 1907. Today, the iconic enterprise continues Perry's dedication to handcrafted ceramics and remains known for its iridescent glaze on everything from vessels and architectural tiles to ecclesiastical installations in churches across the country, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.


History and People of Detroit


Detroit: The Black Bottom Community by Jeremy Williams

Between 1914 and 1951, Black Bottom's black community emerged out of the need for black migrants to find a place for themselves. Because of the stringent racism and discrimination in housing, blacks migrating from the South seeking employment in Detroit's burgeoning industrial metropolis were forced to live in this former European immigrant community. During World War I through World War II, Black Bottom became a social, cultural, and economic center of struggle and triumph, as well as a testament to the tradition of black self-help and community-building strategies that have been the benchmark of black struggle. Black Bottom also had its troubles and woes. However, it would be these types of challenges confronting Black Bottom residents that would become part of the cohesive element that turned Black Bottom into a strong and viable community.


Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle

An electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided a city and ignited the civil rights struggle

In 1925, Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies, assembly lines and fistfights. The advent of automobiles had brought workers from around the globe to compete for manufacturing jobs, and tensions often flared with the KKK in ascendance and violence rising. Ossian Sweet, a proud Negro doctor-grandson of a slave-had made the long climb from the ghetto to a home of his own in a previously all-white neighborhood. Yet just after his arrival, a mob gathered outside his house; suddenly, shots rang out: Sweet, or one of his defenders, had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homes.

And so it began-a chain of events that brought America's greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, into the fray and transformed Sweet into a controversial symbol of equality.



Arsenal of Democracy – A.J. Baime


In 1941, as Hitler’s threat loomed ever larger, President Roosevelt realized he needed weaponry to fight the Nazis—most important, airplanes—and he needed them fast. So he turned to Detroit and the auto industry for help.

The Arsenal of Democracy tells the incredible story of how Detroit answered the call, centering on Henry Ford and his tortured son Edsel, who, when asked if they could deliver 50,000 airplanes, made an outrageous claim: Ford Motor Company would erect a plant that could yield a “bomber an hour.” Ford would apply assembly-line production to the American military’s largest, fastest, most destructive bomber; they would build a plant vast in size and ambition on a plot of farmland and call it Willow Run; they would bring in tens of thousands of workers from across the country, transforming Detroit, almost overnight, from Motor City to the “great arsenal of democracy.”


Iacocca – William Novak

He’s an American legend, a straight-shooting businessman who brought Chrysler back from the brink and in the process became a media celebrity, newsmaker, and a man many had urged to run for president.

The son of Italian immigrants, Lee Iacocca rose spectacularly through the ranks of Ford Motor Company to become its president, only to be toppled eight years later in a power play that should have shattered him. But Lee Iacocca didn’t get mad, he got even. He led a battle for Chrysler’s survival that made his name a symbol of integrity, know-how, and guts for millions of Americans.

Cadillac and the Dawn of Detroit by Annick Hivert-Carthew

Antoine Laumet, better known under his fake name Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, was a con artist, criminal, manipulator, liar, alcohol kingpin and thief who had a really huge nose. He showed up in the New World telling people he was a member of the French nobility, and the locals fell for it. He was appointed “founder” of Detroit and ran the colony with an iron fist, cheating and stealing in every way imaginable, until Francois de Clairambault d’Aigremont exposed him. Tossed in jail twice for corruption, Cadillac’s name went down in history as the venerated father of Detroit.

The Ford Century: Ford Motor Company and the Innovations that Shaped the World by Russ Banham

In 1903, Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. He was a prohibitionist who hired detectives to spy on his employees to catch them drinking alcohol at home. Then he fired any worker found consuming alcohol. Meanwhile, he kept a mistress named Evangeline Cote and ran his German subsidiary, Ford-Werke, using slave labor. Awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle by Nazi Germany, Ford blamed the Jewish people for economic distress. He ran Ford Motor Company until his family had him tossed out after a complete mental collapse. This book shows how his innovations changed the course of civilization as we know it.

Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes: An Oral History of Detroit’s African American Community, 1918-1967 by Elaine Latzman Moon

Elaine Latzman Moon shares the stories of more than 100 people who lived in Detroit between 1918 and 1967. The stories told reflect everyday life – community, neighborhoods, families, religion, work, and school.

Included in these stories are some of the incredible events the color Detroit’s history. There are tales that touch on the great migration from the South, World War II, the 1943 race riot, the 1967 riots, and the Vietnam War. Moon’s book and the people in it offer an extraordinary, everyday look at the history of Detroit’s African American community.


Hidden History of Detroit by Amy Elliott Bragg

The work tells the story of Detroit’s beginnings and the people who helped shape its history. Bragg explores some of the lesser-known history of Detroit before it became an auto manufacturing hub. Throughout the book, she paints a vibrant picture of Detroit as a city discovering itself and the crucial role it has to play in American history.


Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

LeDuff looks at the city’s social, crime, economic, and political issues. Much of the book material comes from news stories that LeDuff covered for The Detroit News. He details interviews with police officers, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and prominent political figures like Adolph Mongo and Monica Conyers. LeDuff blends his news stories with personal ones from his childhood spent in Metro Detroit.

BBC 2019 News article of Detroit history



Motor City Shakedown by D.E. Johnson

Detroit, 1911. Seven months have passed since Will Anderson's friend Wesley McRae was brutally murdered and Will and the woman he loves, Elizabeth Hume, barely escaped with their lives. He lives for nothing except revenge against the people who contributed to Wesley's murder―first among them crime boss Vito Adamo. He sets out to find the killer, and the trail leads him to a vast conspiracy in an underworld populated by gangsters, union organizers, crooked cops, and lawyers. Worse, it places him directly in the middle of Detroit's first mob war.


Detroit Electric Scheme: D. E. Johnson

Will Anderson is a drunk, heartbroken over the breakup with his fiancée, Elizabeth. He’s barely kept his job at his father’s company---Detroit Electric, 1910’s leading electric automobile manufacturer. What follows is a fast-paced, detail-filled ride through early-1900s Detroit, involving murder, blackmail, organized crime, the development of a wonderful friendship, and the inside story on early electric automobiles.

The Detroit Electric Scheme is populated with fascinating characters, both real and fictional, from a then-flourishing Detroit: The Dodge brothers and Edsel Ford come to life, interacting with denizens of the sordid underbelly of the Motor City, such as Vito Adamo, Detroit’s first Mob boss, and Big Boy, the bouncer at a saloon so notorious the newspapers called it “The Bucket of Blood.”


For more books on Detroit, and Michigan, visit the Michigan Notable Book List.