A couple years ago, I counted down a list of the 10 best Michigan authors — or at least a list of talented authors with ties to the Great Lakes State. It is, after all, my home state, and as an avid reader and writer I am proud of the talent connected to Michigan.
As we approach National Novel Writing Month, it seemed like an appropriate time to repost this list. It’s also worth mentioning that coming up with a list like this is very entertaining. If nothing else, you learn a ton about the talented authors that have ties to your home state.
Some of these Michigan authors have penned wildly popular books that have captured the nation and world, and others have churned out timeless classics time and time again. My list of the 10 best Michigan authors takes both historically famous writers and those with fairly newfound fame. Let’s get started.
Here are the 10 Best Michigan Authors
10. Richelle Mead
I thought I’d start out with a fun one. Any teenage fantasy fans out there? After earning degrees from both the University of Michigan and Western Michigan University, Mead authored many great fantasy novels — most famously the Vampire Academy series, which appeared in theaters as a feature film a few years ago.
9. Christopher Wright
There may not be a more ‘Michigan’ author out there. Wright, who writes under the pseudonym Christopher Knight for his adult novels and Johnathan Rand for his best-selling children’s books (Michigan Chillers, anyone?) — many of which are based in Michigan — was born and raised right here in the Mitten. Wright has self-published his wildly popular book series and runs his own store outside of Indian River called Chillermania.
8. Chris Van Allsburg
My second Chris on the list, Van Allsburg has surely won over the hearts of Michiganders and fans everywhere. Though he may not carry the same name recognition as some of the other writers in this countdown, Van Allsburg has written some of the best children’s books you’ve read — including The Polar Express and Jumanji. Originally from East Grand Rapids, he is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
7. Jeffrey Eugenides
Coming in at number seven, Eugenides is a Detroit native. Two of his novels have received national award recognition in The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, the latter of which won a Pulitzer Prize and was named to Oprah’s Book Club.
6. Judith Guest
Born in Detroit and graduating from Dondero High School in Royal Oak before embarking on her college studies in Ann Arbor, Guest is the sixth-best author with Michigan ties. Though her recent novels haven’t reached the popularity of her first work, Ordinary People was powerful enough the land the author on the list. The movie, which won Best Picture in 1981, wasn’t too bad either.
5. Arthur Miller
We can’t all have a theater named after us and marry Marilyn Monroe, but Arthur Miller sure can. The University of Michigan graduate wrote some of the most famous plays of his day, including All My Sons, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible.
4. Jim Harrison
For those of you who haven’t read any works by Harrison, I suggest doing so promptly. Hailing from Grayling and earning two degrees from Michigan State University, Harrison is one of the great literary minds of our time. His works include the famous Legends of the Fall, but he has frequently featured Michigan throughout his writing career. Looking for a great Michigan novel? Pick up True North.
3. Mitch Albom
Here is the name Southeast Michigan knows so well. He writes a column for the Detroit Free Press. He hosts his own radio show on WJR. And he’s written seven novels that have endeared readers worldwide. One of his most recent books, 2013’s The First Phone Call From Heaven, is also set in a fictional town in northern Michigan.
2. Elmore Leonard
Passing away a few years ago in his hometown of Bloomfield Hills, Leonard is thought of as one of the greatest mystery thriller writers of all time. Growing up in Detroit, Leonard eventually began working for General Motors before making the permanent switch to writing novels — a wise choice!
1. Ernest Hemingway
I know, I know. How cliché to have Hemingway at the top of the list. But really, who is going to argue? The debate isn’t whether he is the best, but how much of a ‘Michigan author’ he is. But his tie to Michigan is undeniable — each summer during his childhood, he would escape to his family’s cottage on Walloon Lake, near Petoskey, and spend the hot months isolated in the north woods. Many people believe those days are what shaped so much of his voice and inspiration in his later novels. In fact, the family cottage, called Windemere, is still standing today.
9 thoughts on “The 10 Best Authors from Michigan”
Thanks! Very aspirational for this long-time journalist and debut novelist from Houghton, Michigan. I’m at Michigan Technological University, where Pank literary magazine co-founder M. Bartley Siegel teaches and his cohort Roxane Gay (Tech grad) has set some of her work.
I didn’t know she went to Tech! Another author that could easily make this list. Love discovering new authors with Michigan ties!