Louise Erdrich

This year saw two new books by Erdrich -- "The Round House," a novel for adults, and "Chickadee," a chapter book for children -- and re-publication of an earlier book, "The Antelope Wife," which she reworked.

Two earlier books ("Shadow Tag" and "The Red Convertible") were released in Europe, and she and a daughter headed off to France for the occasion. A short story excerpted from "The Round House" was published in the New Yorker and in "Best American Nonrequired Reading."

For a while, it felt like Louise Erdrich was everywhere.

The author, who was the Star Tribune's Artist of the Year in 2001, continued running her Minneapolis bookstore, Birchbark Books, which she opened that year. She beat breast cancer, diagnosed in 2010. And after being a finalist twice before, this year she won a National Book Award. "The Round House" won against stiff competition, including books by Junot Diaz and Dave Eggers.

The award is displayed at the bookstore, "so anybody who wants to knock on it for good luck, or whatever, can do so," she said.


Trampled by Turtles

We saw them start off the year performing beside the frozen harbor of Duluth, where they first played in 2003 -- except this time, instead of 40 friends, their audience was 4 million listeners on "A Prairie Home Companion." Five months later, they would return to Duluth after their hometown was ravaged by floods to raise more than $25,000 in relief.

We caught them kicking off the release of their best and biggest album, "Stars and Satellites," in April on "Late Night With David Letterman," where they sang the quietly windswept single "Alone" to the obvious delight of the show's host. "Am I right, Paul?" Dave gushed. Three months later, they opened with the same tune for 11,000 local fans at Rock the Garden, one of many big outdoor gigs that included Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and the Newport Folk Festival.

We heard their style of rootsy, acoustic, new-era folk music all over the radio and TV this year, too, by the likes of Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers and Lumineers. No wonder Atlantic Records wanted to sign them to a recording contract last year. TBT opted to stay indie, though, and by year's end their record snagged a No. 1 slot on Billboard's bluegrass chart and sold about 60,000 copies -- an impressive feat for a DIY band.