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Three Things: Bookworm Edition + A Contest!

2012 June 25

Boy oh boy, have we got some major treats for you! This week, we’re teaming up with Patrick Coleman, Acquisitions Librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society, and curator of “The 150 Best Minnesota Books” list. So far, he has over 60 books on the list, and this week, we’re taking suggestions for the remaining spots!

Know a book that abso-positively must be on the list? To start with, head over to The 150 Best Minnesota Books List… So Far to make sure your book isn’t already on the list. Then leave the title, author, and a brief reason why you think it belongs on the list either on the Hazel & Wren Facebook page, or here in the comment section of this blog post.

Everyone who posts a suggestion will be added to the hat, from which we’ll pull the winner on Friday at noon. Have more than one book to suggest? We’ll throw your name in for each “Best Minnesota” book you suggest. That means the more suggestions, the greater your chances to win! The winner will receive a free letterpress print of their choice, plus (for those of you in the Twin Cities area) FREE ADMISSION to the Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair this weekend! Wowee!

We’ll also be compiling all of the suggestions for Patrick to take into consideration for future books. So if you’re persuasive enough, you just might see your book(s) on the list in the near future!

So, bookworms: Ready, set, go!


Winslow Homer, The New Novel, 1877. Watercolor. Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA.


Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Librarian, c. 1562. Oil on canvas. Skokloster Castle, Sweden


Géza Vörös, Reading Woman, undated (Ecole de Paris movement). Oil on canvas. Private collection.


Psst: Stay tuned this week for more book fun, including an interview with Patrick Coleman, and more information on this weekend’s Book Fair!


9 Responses
  1. June 27, 2012

    What a great idea! Here’s my list (at least off the top of my head):
    Through No Fault of My Own by Peg Meier – in her diggings through archives, Peg unearths some of the most wonderful stories, and this is without a doubt one of the best. A great look at the high life on 1920s Summit Ave through the eyes of a 13 yr old girl.

    Vestments by John Reimringer – a novel with such a crashing crescendo ending, it will leave you breathless, plus gives a completely true look at the inside family dynamics of old-school St. Paul.

    Once There Were Castles by Larry Millet – this is a fantastic historical look behind the closed doors of some of the Twin Cities’ most prominent families. Closed doors that are no longer there. A really engrossing read, impeccably researched.

    The Music of Failure by Bill Holm – classic. Can’t believe it is not on the list. A treasure. The first book of essays by one of the state’s most wonderful literary figures. Also, Boxelder Bug Variations, his first book of poems.

    These are all books that have stayed with me, that remind me of home, that make me want to drive around St. Paul to find where they are talking about. These are all great stories, true or not, and wonderfully written.

    • Hazel permalink
      June 27, 2012

      FANTASTIC list! Thanks, Linda!

  2. Abby Travis permalink
    June 27, 2012

    Oh this is such a distraction! If only I could sit here and shuffle through the shelves all day long. This is a brilliant idea.

    I absolutely second The Music of Failure by Bill Holm. That collection is my most treasured possession, and I visit it often. Bill–Minnesota’s modern Walt Whitman, a treasure, recipient of awards from all kinds of state and local organizations–call him what you will–he is no short of the best. If only we all had the eye to see as he sees.

    And then there’s our current poet laureate, Joyce Sutphen. She didn’t make it there only because she is one of the most kind, supportive, encouraging, and humble writers out there (though she is all those things). Perhaps the trouble is that it’s so difficult to choose which collection to nominate. To paraphrase what others have praised: Coming Back to the Body was a finalist for the MN Book Award for poetry, and Naming the Stars won the MN Book Award for poetry. Or there’s her most recent collection, First Words, which Connie Wanek describes so much better than I could: “Sutphen’s latest book, First Words (Red Dragonfly Press, 2010) describes her family’s farm and her early years; it reads like a memoir in poems. And like all good memoir, it describes more than personal experience, evoking a more universal experience, too, of rural and small town life in the 1950s. The collection is a warm, generous meditation, perhaps her most intimate book: we see her ‘at the top of the stairs’ waving goodnight in ‘pajamas that had feet.’ We see her hanging wash, and sitting on the top bale ‘bringing in the hay.’ She writes poems praising the harrow and the oat binder and her favorite tractor, the ‘H.'” (from: The collection is stunning, and fills me with the strongest nostalgia for back home, the place just outside of the Twin Cities, where the city falls away to the woods and to the prairie.

    • Hazel permalink
      June 27, 2012

      Now if that description of Sutphen’s ‘First Words’ doesn’t make everyone who doesn’t yet own it run out and buy it, I don’t know what will!

      Thanks for the great suggestions, Abby!

  3. Neele Dellschaft permalink
    June 28, 2012

    Just one as I don’t know many Minnesota authors and now have lots to read up on:
    Music For Landing Planes By by Eireann Lorsung — meaty poetry touching on family, nature, migration, working with hands.

    • Hazel permalink
      June 28, 2012

      Yes, yes! Thanks, Neele!

  4. June 28, 2012

    Oh, I have so many favorites!

    Certainly “North Star Country,” by Meridel Le Seueur (although “The Girl” would be a close second). Le Seuer’s mosaic-like, almost dreamlike recounting of the state’s early history through the experiences of its common people is one the most poetic books about Minnesota ever written.

    “American City” by Charles Rumford Walker is an excellent account of the 1934 truckers’ strike from only a few years later, and the factors that . On the other side of the river, Mary Lethert Wingerd’s “Claiming the CIty” begins with the trucker’s strike and explains why nothing of the sort ever happened in St. Paul. It’s the definitive account of that city’s civic character.

    Mary McCarthy’s “Memories of a Catholic Girlhood” is a wrenching look at an unhappy childhood in the Catholic slums of Whittier before World War I.

    I’d include a few photos books. Definitely Brad Zellar’s “Suburban World” is an amazing look at the fast-growing suburbs of the south metro in the postwar era, as seen through the eyes (and camera lens) of an amateur photographer in Bloomington in the ’50s and ’60s. Alec Soth’s “From Here to There” is a summation of an incredible body of work.

    As far as work by other artists, portraitist and columnist Frances Cranmer Greenman’s autobiography, “Higher Than the Sky” (1954) is a witty look at both high and low society in Minneapolis in the middle of the 20th century. It’s a shame painter, gallerist and columnist Robert Kilbride never wrote a full-length book of essays, but his long out-of-print “The Potboiler Quiz: How to Draw Stuff or How I Made $1786.00 in the Fine Arts in Only 16 Years” (1970) is a bizarre, hilarious glimpse into the mind of a true Minneapolis original.

    And of course Dylan Hicks’ “Boarded Windows” is a future classic.

    • Hazel permalink
      June 28, 2012

      MAN, I really want to read “The Potboiler Quiz” now!
      Really stellar list, Andy, thanks!

  5. June 28, 2012

    gotta second VESTMENTS. also, THE LONG SHINING WATERS by Danielle Sosin. the LITTLE HOUSE books, by laura ingalls wilder. Fitzgerald is not on the list—do the books have to be set in Minnesota? or just be by Minnesotans? COLD COMFORT by Barton Sutter. COMING HOME CRAZY by Bill Holm. i could keep going, but I probably should end here….

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