Some of you already know that I get far more books in the mail than I could ever review in the paper--far more. A thousand a month, more or less. (More as we approach the winter holidays, less in the quiet and still middle of summer.) I open them all myself, look at all of them, and am entranced and impressed every day by the variety and imagination and creativity.
And I am in despair, sometimes, that I cannot mention more of them. Sometimes afte sorting the day's haul I bring a couple of books up to my desk in the newsroom from the Book Dungeon, knowing I have no room for a review, knowing that I'm already overbooked, but still hoping that somehow I can squirm them into the paper. Sometimes, I can. Usually, I can't.
But there's always the Internet! So here goes.Here are two that captivated me today.
"The Bedtime Book for Dogs," by Bruce Littlefield (Grand Central, $15.99, pubs June 8) is adorable, cleverly incorporating into the story words that dogs actually know. (Not that I think any of you actually read to your dogs.) (Or do you?)
It begins: "Come. Sit. Stay. I want to tell you a story. I think you'll like it. It's about a TREAT."
My dog, I can assure you, would be all ears by now. The story is simple--about a dog who goes out to the park to play by himself when nobody else is around.
The second book is quite different. "Portraits of the Prairie: The Land That Inspired Willa Cather" (University of Nebraska Press, $45), with a foreword by Ted Kooser, is a stunning homage to Willa Cather and the corner of Nebraska where she grew up and which helped inspire her stories.
The watercolors of Richard Schilling -- himself a Nebraska native -- capture the sweeping prairie, the big sky, the winding country roads, the wildflowers, the snowy landscapes of a place known forever as "Catherland."
On June 13, at 7:30 p.m., you can go hear Bill Moyers at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, where he will be in conversation with Garrison Keillor. Your $20 fee entitles you to $10 off the price of the book, which you can buy at Keillor's store, Common Good Books.
On June 9, at 7 p.m., you can go hear Bill Moyers at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, where he will be introduced by Louise Erdrich. It's free, but the book is full-price, available from Erdrich's store, Birchbark Books.
The events should be entirely different--one a conversation, one more of a traditional lecture--and I think it would be fun to get to both. The Keillor conversation will highlight Moyers' new book, "Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues," a collection of interviews with nearly 50 notable people Moyers has talked with in the last five years.
Some of the names: biologist E. O. Wilson, historian Howard Zinn, economist Victor Greidel, writer Michael Pollan, Jane Goodall, Barbara Ehrenreich, Louise Erdrich ...
Aha. Louise Erdrich! Which brings us back to Minneapolis.
For tickets to the Fitzgerald event, click on the Ticketmaster site.
No tickets for the Plymouth Congregational Church event. Just try to get there early. (The church is on the corner of Nicollet and Franklin, and his talk is part of their Literary Witness Series, co-sponsored by the Loft Literary Center.)
We are in the thick of awards season now, and last night it was MIPA--the Midwest Independent Publishers Association, which handed out awards in 35 categories.
Nominees came from the whole Upper Midwest, 12 states. Winners included a fair number from Minnesota, including Michael Nordskog and Aaron Hautala, authors of "The Opposite of Cold," that book that is pretty much known by its unofficial title, "The Sauna Book."
Their book, published by the University of Minnesota Press, took first place in the category of Midwest Regional Interest.
Other local winners included Beaver's Pond Press, which won no fewer than 15 prizes (both first prize, and runner up), Tristan Publishing of Golden Valley, and Bethany House.
Self-published authors, take heart; even iUniverse won a prize. A complete list of winners follows:
Last summer's big book was Justin Cronin's "The Passage," an apocolyptic vampire thriller written by a literary guy who had graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop and had won a PEN Hemingway award and the Stephen Crane Prize.
Critics loved the lyrical writing and the luxurious length and the intelligence of the storyline. (Our own review, which you can read here, called it "an epic narrative that addresses philosophical questions.") Readers just loved the vampire thrillerness of it all.
The book is about a virus that nearly destroys the world, and a little girl who has the key to survival.
Cronin famously wrote the book after being challenged by his daughter to produce something that wasn't boring. She suggested he write about a girl who saves the world. Voila! He did.
Even though "The Passage" weighs in at nearly 800 pages, it's not the whole story ... the sequel, "The Twelve," comes out next year.
"The Passage" is now out in summer-readability-paperback, and Cronin is criss-crossing the country on tour. He'll be in Minneapolis at 7 p.m. May 25 at the Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Av. in Minneapolis.
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