Automotive Holiday Deals Books Gift Guide Books Gift Guide Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Prime Music Sweepstakes egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Subscribe & Save Gifts for Her May The Best Garden Be Yours Amazon Gift Card Offer cm15 cm15 cm15 $30 Off Amazon Echo $30 Off Fire HD 6 Kindle Cyber Monday Deals Cyber Monday Video Game Deals Outdoor Deals on HTL
Detroit: A Biography and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Detroit: A Biography Hardcover – April 1, 2012

78 customer reviews

See all 9 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$16.95 $7.25

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more | Shop now

Editorial Reviews


"Scott Martelle has the rare ability to bring alive a patch of history from several hundred years ago as skillfully as he does a present-day Detroiter in his living room. This is an extraordinary riches-to-rags story that raises big questions for national policy."  —Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

“The world can learn much from this bittersweet history of urban grit and strength that has now become a 21st-century symbol for industry, loss, and renewal.” —M. L. Liebler, award-winning Detroit poet and editor of Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams


“Detroit has played a crucial role in American urban, industrial, and ethnic history, today it is central to any discussion of the future of the nation's cities.  Scott Martelle has done a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Detroit from its early history on the Western Frontier to "Motor City" to today's urban crisis.” —Dominic A. Pacyga, author of Chicago: A Biography

"[Detroit] offers an informative albeit depressing glimpse of the workings of a once-great city that is now a shell of its former self."—Publishers Weekly

"[Martelle's] unsentimental assessment is rich with cold, hard facts about those responsible for what Detroit became and what it is today." —Booklist

"A valuable biography sure to appeal to readers seeking to come to grips with important problems facing not just a city, but a country." —Kirkus

"While the book focuses on Detroit, readers everywhere will find his analysis useful in understanding what many cities are experiencing."  —Solidarity

"[Detroit] offers an engaging, provocative introduction."  —Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Scott Martelle, the author of The Fear Within and Blood Passion, is a veteran journalist and former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit News, whose work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Sierra magazine, and other outlets.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156976526X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569765265
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Find details about author and journalist Scott Martelle, an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times, at his website,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Richard J. Gibson on March 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In one sitting, I enjoyed reading this little book. I think other Detroiters, and ex-Detroiters will too. Outsiders from far away might get it and see their future while nearby suburbanites could learn from it, but if history means anything, they probably won't and won't care. It's a four star effort and worth the read.
That said, I paid my dues in Detroit: born by the bridge, four generations back on my mother's side, family buried in Elmwood, WSU grad, spent half my adult life in the city living at 7 Mile and the Lodge, mostly, working in the schools and for DSS, watching the city disintegrate, leading the resistance to organized decay.
I have only encountered one "Detroit book" that I really hated but have been frustrated by some others; Detroit Dissembled for example, where the text sullies the photos. Detroit Bio could have inverted that by offering one hell of a lot more pictures. But that is a small quibble.
My bigger spat with the author is that he fails to capture the feel of the glory days of Detroit, and the affect of its wreckage. And, as an empire-thinker who doesn't notice the failures of US capitalism and imperialism, able to bribe sections of the mostly white working class for years, then betraying them as it always must, there is a bigger whole he does not witness.
Once, driving or riding a bike down Jefferson, or a walk on Washington Blvd, winter or summer, was to pass through the beauty of the connection of nature, immense trees or white white snow, with the industrial age-magnificent buildings to huddle, or cool off, inside. Then Jefferson became a hub for pre-teen crack whores selling themselves along an avenue of ruined hulks just blocks from the RenCen and Washington became and urban embarrassment with an idiot neon overlay.
Read more ›
13 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Sykes on May 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important book, and I encourage you to read the epilogue first. Ask yourself how a city could get so bad that an intelligent and thoughtful author would conclude that the future is essentially hopeless. If nothing else, the book demonstrates that greed, hate and discrimination are failing social strategies.

I was born and raised in Detroit. I suspect most of the readers of the book will have been, as well. In my case, I lived a significant part of this story without understanding any of the particulars. I just thought this was how life was supposed to be. It wasn't until I moved away that I fully comprehended how unchecked corporate greed and deeply embedded racism had turned the city into a decaying rat hole.

I was born during the post-war boon, experienced the riots in my teens, and left just before the Arab oil embargo slashed a gaping wound in the auto industry. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the author to move to Detroit in the 1980s. Surely, he expected a gentrified city with nice residential areas, some lively nightlife and at least a few good restaurants. But, by then Detroit had turned into a dark and angry place.

Scott Martelle correctly outlines the big picture. The fundamental structure of the auto industry created a two class system. There was no need for educated workers, because the work itself was mind-numbingly dumb. Initially, there was a blue collar/ white collar divide. Eventually, it became a black/white divide.

Henry Ford, the father of the assembly line, was no patron saint. He didn't want his workers educated, and the author notes that there is no Henry Ford University.
Read more ›
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DGreen on April 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am fascinated by the history of this underrated city to the south of me. I give this book 4 stars since I really enjoyed the factual account of the city's history and the extent to which the author went to cover as much of it as possible.

However, it was VERY distracting to listen to the narrator mispronounce street, city and county names over and over again. Some were so horribly butchered that it wasn't until I had heard the names mentioned in another context that I figured out what he was saying!! Shame on everyone involved in the production of the audio version of this book for not researching something so basic as the pronunciation of names.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steve on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book. So I kept reading and reading, finally I had to set it down.

Each chapter began with some statistics, antidote and an attempt at a story somehow relating to that chapter. Then another chapter would begin the same way not relating at all to the previous. This started the frustration to the point it was hard to understand any point the author was trying to convey. Good, then bad location for a metropolis, social inequality, racial tension and/or flight into and out of Detroit.

There was some good information about the beginning of Detroit and a clif note here and there about Detroit's changes, but there was never an engaging story. I felt like I was reading a bunch of complied news articles that had one thing in common, location; Detroit. If this was truly a "Biography" as the title suggests, the book fails. Detroit is so much more than this.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Want to discover more products? Check out this page to see more: maine books