By Julie Buckles (Raven Productions Inc., $17.95)
In May 1999, Wisconsin writer Julie Buckles and her husband, Charly, set out in their canoe to paddle 1,700 miles from Lake Superior to northern Saskatchewan. They arrived in time for winter (and stayed until spring).
Buckles had not intended to write about the trip, but after Sept. 11, 2001, she was feeling unmoored. “The Trip became my lifeline. … I wanted to remember the woman — now terrified to get on an airplane — who had paddled so far through the North American wilderness.” The book is action-packed and lively, and the journey is incredible.
By Katherine A. Powers (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35)
J.F. Powers was a reluctant family man, frustrated by society’s expectations of a traditional life and job which, he felt, took away from his writing time. The big Powers family (he and his wife had five children) moved frequently, living for a while in Ireland and then relocating to Collegeville, Minn., so J.F. could teach at St. John’s University. He wrote novels and short stories and won the National Book Award in 1963. This collection of letters, gathered by his oldest daughter, Katherine, provides a fascinating look at the life of a witty, frustrated and extremely talented man.
“The 2014 Saint Paul Almanac”
(Arcata Press, $14.95)
This appealingly fat paperback is a work of genius — many geniuses, actually. Yes, it’s a monthly guide to activities in St. Paul over the next year, but that’s just for starters; the book is packed full of poems, short essays, photographs and paintings, all with a St. Paul theme.
Contributors include ordinary folk, emerging writers and some of the state’s most important authors — Connie Wanek, Carol Connolly, Joyce Sutphen and oh, here’s a little poem about spring by Garrison Keillor. Also included is a hand-drawn poster-sized map showing neighborhoods, parks and indie businesses (such as Grumpy Steve’s, Polly’s Coffee Cove and Big Daddy’s BBQ). A charming, egalitarian and useful book. Minneapolis should take note.
Accepting submissions for the 2015 Almanac through Dec. 15. Go to saintpaulalmanac.org.
“Airmail: The Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Tranströmer”
Edited by Thomas R. Smith (Graywolf Press, $35)
What a delight these letters are: lively and newsy and filled with mutual admiration and occasional requests for advice and rants about politics and homey details of everyday life.
Not scary at all, nor intimidating, despite the fact that the correspondence is between two of the most significant poets of the 20th century — Minnesotan Robert Bly, and Swede Tomas Tranströmer. The book begins in the 1960s and ends in 2000, but the correspondence, and the friendship, continues.