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A guide to city living and loving: ‘Belle Isle to 8 Mile’ is a must-have on every bookshelf in the land

Belle Isle to 8 Mile Books at City Bird

Not to sound too dense here, but did you know there is an area outside of downtown Detroit? It’s called, surprisingly, Detroit.

Did you also know there are three Caribbean restaurants in the city? Somewhere out there is a kick-ass Danish bakery as well. A couple of kids from Toronto are running a from-scratch diner in Corktown. And did you know you can get advice on life, love and politics from an antique-store guy on the Upper East side?

Apparently, you can blog about this city for YEARS and still not be an expert. (Please tell me you sense the sarcasm there.)

That is why, thankfully, we have the Linn family – and their dozens of well-connected friends and contributors. They have authored what I’d argue is the definitive guide to Detroit – “Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider’s Guide to Detroit.” Listed as editors, seventh-generation Detroiters Emily, Andy and Rob Linn have given us something extraordinary here…they have created a book with affection and intelligence for and about Detroit.

You knew this thing would be a hit last year when the trio created a Kickstarter to fund the book’s production. They needed $8,000 – they got nearly $20,000.

Some background: Andy and Emily own two shops in Detroit called City Bird and Nest. Rob is an economic development urban planner working as a GIS Analyst at Data Driven Detroit, an information powerhouse that provides information, insights and analysis about pretty much everything about this region.

According to the book’s website, it features “a carefully-curated selection of more than 800 favorite Detroit attractions, sites, institutions, events, restaurants, bars, and curiosities from the essential to the obscure.”

“As native Detroiters, we began researching the guide feeling that we had pretty broad knowledge of the city, but we quickly realized that the breadth of businesses, institutions and sites in Detroit is far greater than we initially thought.  It has been exciting to research them and explore the city in depth, and we have been blown away by the new places and experiences we’ve discovered – from basement museums to a go-kart track, to a fowling warehouse,” the siblings told me.

The best part of reading this book? You turn every page with wonder. You kinda chuckle here and there. (The Linns allowed their contributors to use exclamation points when a particular entry proved too awesome to contain itself; that’s so cool.) You sit back, amazed with the places that are so full of personalities, like Mike’s Antiques on Morang. Every chapter features restaurants, entertainment venues, retailers, bars and more. There are so many places to visit that it feels overwhelming…and great.

Besides the words, there are these drawings. Used in lieu of photographs, these sketches also are delightful in every sense of that word. They are sketches of things I see every day or live forever in my childhood memory. They make everything about these neighborhoods feel romanticized and dreamy. There is warmth to them that I find completely charming.

Not to get completely cheesy here (but I will), but do you remember the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” that was so popular way back? The best thing about loving that story was I could meet almost everyone in John Berendt’s amazing non-fiction story. Some are long dead, but most still hung out there and were accessible to some degree. Visit Savannah, and you immediately get that book better than you did before.

I’m hoping the Linns’ book gives people a similar reason to visit Detroit. You’ll want to meet the personalities described in each chapter. You’ll want the bartenders at Nancy Whisky to show you that infamous photo album with the horse riding through the bar. You will want to see everything they write about…and then some…because you know things will come and go but these classics will still be there.

That so many people took the time to create this tome is indicative of the JOY that Detroit brings to those who spend time there. There are nearly 140 square miles of sights, sounds and smells there. Sure, they’re not all good (the smells, I mean). Let’s claim them – every one of them – through exploration and observation.

Kudos, Linn family and friends. This book is a must-have. It is a tribute to the hours spent in dive bars, tiny diners, strange comic book shops, Asian-Jewish delis and everywhere in between.

Don’t just go to Nest and flip through the pages. Shell out the $22 and buy this thing. Challenge yourself and your friends to finish a chapter – see everything in it. Then go onto the next chapter. And the next.

People go on and on in television shows, movies and books about how much they looooooove New York City. It’s about time someone went around proclaiming how much they adore Detroit. Let’s throw around more exclamation points! See the sights! Go out tonight! Get some Detroit!

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One comment on “A guide to city living and loving: ‘Belle Isle to 8 Mile’ is a must-have on every bookshelf in the land

  1. Terrific review on "belle isle to 8 mile" really sounds like the Linns did a great job. It's been a while since I've been to Detroit but this makes me want to get in the car and drive out there and check out some of these places. To be honest I met my wife in Detroit and we have been a couple ever since I hope we can return soon.

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