Alumni Books

  1. Something that Feels Like Truth: Stories

    by Donald Lystra

    Named a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, the 16 stories in Something that Feels Like Truth take us on a page-turning journey from the American heartland to as far away as Paris. Reflecting the unique insights of an engineer who took up fiction writing late in life, Donald Lystra’s stories bring us ordinary people navigating life’s difficult boundaries—of age and love and family—and sometimes finding redemption at the risk of searing regret. The American Library Association’sBooklist called Something that Feels Like Truth “luminous …. a stellar collection of masterfully crafted gems,” and the Kansas City Star said: “Lystra draws the bleak, beautiful landscape of the Great Lakes region in quick, sharp strokes, and brings its inhabitants to life with compassion and tenderness.”

    Born in 1945, Lystra received degrees in electrical engineering (’68) and sociology (’75) from U-M. His first book, a 2009 novel set in northern Michigan in 1957 entitled Season of Water and Ice, captured both the Midwest Book Award and the Michigan Notable Book Award. Lystra has received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony, and his work received special mention in the Pushcart Prizes. He and his wife divide their time between Ann Arbor and a farm in northern Michigan. He has two grown children.

  2. Michigan Days 1957-1960: A Memoir in XXXVI Parts

    by John H. Wilde

    Michigan Days is a panoramic overview of author John H. Wilde’s time as a student at the University from January 1957 until October 1960. It covers everything from soup to nuts: academics, student life and demographics, University administration, sports. “You name it, it’s in there,” says Wilde, who earned his BA from the College of Literature, Science & the Arts in 1960. “I can’t claim to have been a ‘typical student,” he says. “I was a veteran who was older than his peers, I lived or boarded in a cooperative house, and I had full-time jobs. I’ll leave it to more more conventional students to write their memoirs.”

    Wilde says he is happy to give away copies of the memoir “as long as they last.” Just email him at In return he asks that recipients consider contributing to the scholarship fund he established in honor of his father, Edward E.H. Wilde, BEng ’25 (University of Michigan Endowment Account #570853), to benefit worthy engineering students from the Upper Peninsula.

  3. Legends of Michigan: Cliff Keen

    by Dave Taylor

    Clifford P. Keen came to Ann Arbor in 1925 to attend Law School and lead the upstart University of Michigan Wolverines Wrestling Program into Big Ten Conference prominence. In this compelling biography, former NCAA referee Dave Taylor captures Coach Keen’s story, even as he delivers the broader history of American collegiate wrestling. Keen holds the longest tenure of any head coach in Wolverine athletics history, which includes both wrestling and football. Included in this intriguing book are eloquent stories, summaries, features, and countless interviews of former wrestlers and football players who competed for Coach Keen. Read about interesting recruiting pipelines and learn about the “coaching tree” of legends with Keen being one of the true pioneers in American collegiate wrestling. Taylor chronicles the rise and fall of small college wrestling, the history of Olympic wrestling, the history of the Michigan high school wrestling tournaments, and much more.

  4. The Colored Car

    by Jean Alicia Elster

    In The Colored Car, Jean Alicia Elster, author of the award-winning Who’s Jim Hines?, follows another member of the Ford family coming of age in Depression-era Detroit. In the hot summer of 1937, after boarding the first-class train car at Michigan Central Station in Detroit and riding comfortably to Cincinnati, 12-year-old Patsy is shocked when her family is led from their seats to change cars. In the dirty, cramped “colored car,” Patsy finds that the life she has known in Detroit is very different from life down south, and she can hardly get the experience out of her mind when she returns home—like the soot stain on her finely made dress or the smear on the quilt squares her grandmother taught her to sew. As summer wears on, Patsy must find a way to understand her experience in the colored car and also deal with the more subtle injustices that her family faces in Detroit. By the end of the story, Patsy will never see things the same way she did before.

    Formerly an attorney, Jean Alicia (Fuqua) Elster, BA ’74, is a professional writer of fiction for children and young adults. She is the granddaughter of Douglas and Maber (May) Jackson Ford, whose family story is the basis of The Colored Car. Her book Who’s Jim Hines? was selected as a Michigan Notable Book and a ForeWord Book of the Year finalist. Additional titles include I’ll Do the Right ThingI’ll Fly My Own PlaneI Have a Dream, Too!, and Just Call Me Joe Joe. Learn more about her work at

  5. Go Blue! Michigan’s Greatest Football Stories

    by Steve Kornacki (with forward by Lloyd Carr)

    The Michigan Wolverines have the most all-time wins and the highest winning percentage in college football history. Fans flock to Michigan Stadium in record-breaking numbers, and coaches and players are frequently honored with inductions into the College Football Hall of Fame. But that’s just what happens on the field.

    Offering a complete picture of Wolverines football, Go Blue! Michigan’s Greatest Football Stories is an emotional and inspiring collection of anecdotes and stories that transcend typical sports journalism. Get an inside look at legendary upsets and triumphant victories—Ohio State in 1969, South Carolina in 1985, and Michigan State in 2004 en route to the Big Ten co-championship, among others. Read reflections from former players about beloved coach Bo Schembechler, spend 24 hours before kick-off with Mark Messner, and shadow Lloyd Carr during recruitment season.

  6. The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese

    by Michael Paterniti

    In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets—usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine. It was here, in the summer of 2000, that former Zingerman’s employee Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong…

    Hooked, Paterniti is soon fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale-like place where the villagers converse with farm animals, live by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and make their wine and food by hand. But what he ultimately discovers is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.

  7. Fannie + Freddie: The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography

    by Amy Sara Carroll

    Materialist, feminist, queer, hybrid—channeling the sensibilities of Gloria Anzaldua, Rosario Castellanos, Mary Kelly, Teresa Hak Kyung Cha, Cecilia Vicuna, Patssi Valdez, and Bernadette Mayer—Amy Sara Carroll’s second collection of prose poems and “wordimages” contemplates the cost of living in an era of “cruel optimism.” Procedurally formalizing self-editing and indecision, Carroll undocuments the quotidian’s shades of gray/grey, the contingencies of post-Fordist relationality in the pre-Occupy window of time between Sept. 11, 2001, and the 2008 recession. Claudia Rankine, who chose the volume for Fordham University’s 2011-12 Poets Out Loud prize, sings its praises: “The intelligence, compassion, and dimensionality of this collection place it in a category all its own—it belongs to and is crafted out of the psychic anxieties of the 21st century. I, for one, was both exhilarated and humbled by Fannie + Freddie.” Carroll is assistant professor of American Culture, Latina/o Studies, and English at U-M, and the author of Secession.

  8. Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance

    by Charles Novacek

    This award-winning memoir of U-M alumnus Charles Novacek tells his little-known story as a member of the Czech Resistance during World War II and the Cold War. Along with his father, uncle, and sister, Novacek helped the Resistance fight first the Nazis, then the Communists who moved into Czechoslovakia after the war ended. Novacek was responsible for many notable acts of heroism. He risked his life to hide Czech paratroopers who were on secret nighttime missions involving cargo drops of weapons and intelligence. He also stole a rifle and ammunition from a Nazi vehicle, then used the weapon to shoot a soldier who was intending to blow up an important railroad bridge. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes the book as “the well-told and dramatic story of a young man whose comfortable life is abruptly transformed by the savagery of World War II.”

  9. A Squirrel’s Story—A True Tale

    by Jana Bommersbach

    So how does a U-M alumnus and journalist who regularly tears apart politicians and investigates true crime write a heartwarming children’s picture book about a mother squirrel living in her parents’ North Dakota backyard? Arizona commentator Jana Bommersbach has a simple answer: “My mother told me to write it, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years, it is to do what my mother tells me!”

    Bommersbach’s first book, The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd, was a national bestseller and was named Arizona’s One Book AZ selection in 2010. The author mines far gentler territory with A Squirrel’s Story—A True Tale. The children’s book provides a spunky, tender glimpse into the lives of Shirlee Squirrel and her children, Sammy and Sally. Retold in Bommersbach’s best “squirrel speak,” Shirlee’s story speaks to the heart as young readers learn about instinct, survival, and most importantly, a mother’s love. The book includes curriculum and activity guides which are perfect for home and classroom use.

    A Squirrel’s Story—A True Tale won the 2013 USA Book News “Best Book Award” in the category of children’s picture book, softcover non-fiction.The book is illustrated by Jeff Yesh.