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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Readers and Writers: MN Book Gift Ideas Help You Find a Book for the Reader

It is a commonplace truth that there is a book for everyone. When giving a gift, the trick is to match the book to the reader. Here’s a pine-scented potpourri from the Minnesota books for every taste. (Okay, we snuck into one Wisconsonite and a couple from other countries because animal books are always a good gift.)


Born Under the Sign of Odin: The Life and Times of Robert Bly’s Little Magazine & Small Press (Nodin Press, $ 19.95)

The death of Robert Bly last month has brought attention to the life and work of this Minnesota native, including the influential Fifties magazine, then the Sixties and Seventies. Mark Gustafson introduces us to this early effort by Bligh and William Duffy, who founded the magazine to promote their ideas of clarifying what they thought was old, stifling poetry that hadn’t changed in centuries and was still taught. Bly was particularly critical of poems written with the iambic pentameter. The book is fascinating not only because it shows the growth of the magazine, but also the development of Bligh’s ideas about poetry, written in letters to other poets and those whom he mentored.

Although Bligh faced criticism from the old guard, which he liked, he continued to scold, despise, and sometimes encourage poets who submitted their work to the magazine. Among those with whom he corresponded were his friends Donald Hall and James Wright, who often visited Bly’s farm in Madison, Minn. Wright wrote of Bligh: “I really think he is a great man. … The fact that he is an innovator is a fact – one in a generation, if he is fabulously lucky. I really believe that the duty of everyone who recognizes the original person is to believe in him, and this belief, as I finally understood, does not consist in discipleship, but in searching and serious issues, in criticism. “

Gustafson’s enlightening book is essential for anyone studying Bligh’s life and work on the magazine that helped revolutionize North American poetry. Of course, it should be in every public library. Caveat: The author assumes that the reader has some understanding of the poetry and poets of the mid-20th century.

“Serenity at 70, Gaiety at 80” Harrison Keylor (Prairie Home Productions, $ 17.99)

Readers and Writers: MN Book Gift Ideas Help You Find a Book for the Reader“My life at 79 is so good, I wonder why I waited so long to get here,” Keillor writes in this thin paperback cover, subtitled “Why You Should Keep Getting Older.”

Keylor’s perspective on aging is fun, especially if you’re from his generation. The book is a stripped-down version of his memoir, This Time of Year, with an emphasis on how happy he is to be free of his public radio show Prairie Neighbor to devote time to his wife and daughter and roam Manhattan. It’s a serene book, especially the part where he explains NMP – not my problem – as he reads about climate change, global disasters and other sad news. It implies that it is time for young people to take on this difficult burden. It’s also a look at his philosophy of life based on the idea that he can’t do anything, which is why he went to the radio. (Purchase information online: shop.garrisonkeillor.com)

Days Like Smoke: Adolescence from Minnesota John Hassler, edited and with a foreword by Will Weaver (Afton Press, $ 22.95)

Readers and Writers: MN Book Gift Ideas Help You Find a Book for the ReaderJohn Hassler was ten years older than Keylor, but some of their work evokes the same feelings for Minnesota and Minnesota. Hassler was a much-loved teacher at St John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and the author of equally beloved small-town Minnesota novels, including Staggerford and Dear James (the same territory that Keylor describes in her book Lake Wobegon novels and radio monologists).

When Hassler died in 2008 at the age of 74, he left an unfinished manuscript of his memoirs, which are published for the first time after minor editing by writer Will Weaver.

Hassler writes about the shelves in the Red Owl grocery store owned by his father, who served as a servant, and his excitement and horror when his friend tried to derail the train. What Hassler fans will love most is reading about the kind of people in his hometowns of Staples and Plainsview that have become characters in his novels.

Pat Coleman, a former purchasing librarian for the Historical Society of Minnesota, recently reflected that he was surprised at how quickly Hassler’s books fell out of favor. Maybe these tender memories will change this, and the new generation will look for his stories, which outwardly seem simple, but carry a deep meaning.


Survival Guide to the Midwest Charlie Behrens (Morrow, $ 26.99)

“You could be from Minnesota if …” Kirk Anderson (MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc., $ 19.95)

Readers and Writers: MN Book Gift Ideas Help You Find a Book for the ReaderThe specifics of life in the Midwest are always good for laughs, and both of these books fit. Anderson is a cartoonist whose work has been featured in the Twin Cities daily newspapers. Its colorful paperback is a great Santa Claus gift under $ 20 or stocking filler for anyone looking to find the wrong thing in a two-page cartoon about people camp in border waters. Or you can laugh at a cartoon couple carrying backpacks. The guy’s answer: “Do you want to come back to me and check if there are ticks?”

Charlie Behrens lives in Wisconsin, but heck we’re pretty much the same in both states. He is best known for his video “Minute Manitowoc”. It has a lot of text in its hardcover, which is probably why it has the subtitle “How We Talk, Love, Work, Drink, Eat … Everything The Ranch Has.” It has photos, maps, cartoons – everything that makes the pages shine. And if you have lived here for a long time, you will realize that both of these authors show us exactly who we are.


“Love Story with Birds” Sue Leaf (University of Minnesota, $ 16.95)

While birdwatchers dream of the return of feathered friends in the spring, they can learn about Thomas Sadler Roberts, the father of birdwatching from Minnesota, from this first complete biography, published in 2013 and now available in paperback. Roberts was 9 years old when he came to Minnesota, when it was a lush place filled with birds. He was a professor of ornithology at the University of Minnesota, founder of the Bell Museum of Natural History and the author of Birds of Minnesota. Leaf was trained as a zoologist and is the president of the Wild River Audubon Society in east-central Minnesota.

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“Rockhounding & Prospecting: Upper Midwest” Jim Magnuson (Adventure Publications, $ 19.95)

In this getting started guide to collecting rocks, the author presents easy-to-understand processes to help you maximize your rock hunting adventure, from Upper Lake agates and geodes to gold and copper in the Upper Midwest. Magnuson, who has been a stone hunter since childhood, provides advice on what to look for, where to look and how to look, and provides important information about equipment, safety, the legality of collecting, polishing your finds, detecting metals and more. This information-packed paperback is filled with close-up photographs of rocks and minerals, as well as maps and diagrams.

“WINTER CHILDREN: skiing holiday” Ryan Rogers (University of Minnesota, $ 34.95)

Readers and Writers: MN Book Gift Ideas Help You Find a Book for the ReaderSkiing, which we know as cross-country skiing, has a long history. Ryan Rogers’ coffee table book opens with a woodcut of men on skis from the 16th century. The author, an avid skier whose work has been widely published, traces skiing in the Midwest, at the epicenter of the sport, from its inception in the late 1800s to its uncertain future in today’s sometimes snowless, changing climate. It examines the early ski teams and touring clubs, the evolution of cross-country skiing, equipment and fashion, and the efforts to maintain the vast network of trails in the Minnesota state parks system. Old photographs of ski clubs, ski manufacturers and Norwegians who influenced the sport make this book very interesting, even for those who have never fastened their skis and are unlikely to do so in the future.

“Viking for Life: Love for Football for Four Decades” Scott Studwell with Jim Bruton (Triumph Books, $ 28).

Scott Studwell played 14 seasons as a midfielder for the Minnesota Vikings and was twice selected to the Pro Bowl. After retirement, he joined Vikings’ front office as director of College Scouting from 2002 to 2019. In this dynamic memoir, he offers a glimpse of the game both on and off the pitch, telling stories about the Vikings of the 1970s and. ” 80s led by coaches Bud Grant and Jerry Burns.

“Light at the edge of the field” Bill Meisner (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, $ 20)

Readers and Writers: MN Book Gift Ideas Help You Find a Book for the ReaderA man dies quietly on the manicured grass of a football field, surrounded by childhood friends. A woman cannot understand why her partner continues to play ball if he has no hope of being called up to the Majors at the age of about 30. Two Mexican Mayan men want nothing more than play in the North American Major League.

Bill Meisner, who teaches the Creative Writing Program at Saint Cloud State University, gives us 27 stories about players that don’t make the headlines in sports news. These people, most of whom are outfielders, love the game. From the gardener who tenderly tends the grass on the field to the person who thinks about the photograph of the day he created Babe Ruth’s team as a child, these are stories of why this game is gaining the trust of longtime players. This collection has earned praise from VP Kinsella (“… these touching stories go beyond the game of baseball and touch on the main topics of human life”) and former Minnesota resident Jonis Agee, who writes that Meisner (“… towers over the field as the best the writer of stories about baseball living today. Artistic Ted Williams “). And Kirkus’s comments: “The stories are fully formed, haunting and beautiful.”


About Animals by Susan Orleans (Avid Reader Press, $ 27)

Susan Orleans, a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of seven previous bestsellers, including Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief, has collected 16 of her favorite animal essays in this book, from donkeys to lions to rabbits and more. . whales. One is about a woman from New Jersey with 23 domestic tigers. This is the story of Keiko, the whale of Free Willie, and her experience at the World Taxidermy Championships in Illinois. The author also enjoys keeping chickens in the backyard. Commentary on the relationship between man and animal. making reading easy and enjoyable.

“The speckled beauty: the dog and its people” Rick Bragg (Knopf, $ 26)

Readers and Writers: MN Book Gift Ideas Help You Find a Book for the ReaderThe speckled beauty known as Speck is the bad boy whom the author and his tender mother have learned to love. This homage to Speck is writing laughter out loud as Bragg talks about the dog’s behavior: “He’s inside as I write this, under my feet, because this is the most awkward place for him. He breaks the towel he pulled from the bathroom wall, pushes it to the floor with his paws and tears the dolls into rags. I tried to let him play with an old, worn towel, but he ignored it, ran to the bathroom and pulled another one off the wall. Then it is the theft that makes him better; there is simply no taste in the unstole towel. “

Speck, half herding dog, chases a large mule and little donkeys, disappears into the mountains near Bragg’s house in Alabama and eats anything in sight. The dog appeared at the author’s house bloody, beaten, hungry, probably kicked out of the pack of wild dogs that inhabit the area. He is a semi-savage creature, unable to stay indoors and fiercely defending his people. Bragg’s brother, not prone to exaggeration, says several times that he does not see how the dog survived. But he did, and Bragg’s unconditional love for Speck is funny and familiar to anyone who has loved a bad dog.

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