We are giving copies of “Stingray Afternoons” by Steve Rushin. While Minnesota-centric, I found the details on banana-seat bicycles, Pringles cans, Bic Cristal pens and more hilariously relatable. An absolute must for those born from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Long live Met Stadium, the North Stars and magnetic tape!
Holly Ulrich, Willmar, Minn.
For the adult on your list in need of some dark humor there is Jim Harrison’s “The Great Leader” or Tom Robbins’ “Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates.” The very young will enjoy anything by Dr. Seuss or P.D. Eastman and for someone a little bit older “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White can be their first chapter book.
John Atkinson, Fridley
“A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles. In a world that seems to be screaming through speeches and tweets, this book is an escape into civility. The main character faces the harsh reality of his world with dignity. A great reminder that we cannot change what goes on, but we can make the best of what we have.
Steve Schulz, Minneapolis
“The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” by Marta McDowell, was a wonderful book. I thought I knew everything about the Ingalls and Wilder families, but I found out a few new things. It’s not just a story, as it has gardening tips and stories about the land they traveled. This is a book you can cherish or pass on to a friend or relation.
Diane Marie Gordon, Minneapolis
A beautiful book I recommend to anyone who is sad or mad about the current state of affairs is “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible,” by Charles Eisenstein. It empowers the reader to imagine a kinder, more functional world and suggests ways to bring about change and improve our world for everyone. An inspiring read.
Karen Duncan, Minneapolis
I recommend “Little Victories,” by Jason Gay, a sports columnist with the Wall Street Journal. Every story has humor, even when he’s talking about serious things such as cancer. It’s the perfect gift for the sports lover in your life who doesn’t really like to read. It’s quick, funny, and extremely reassuring in this tumultuous time.
Nick Hansen, St. Louis Park
I just ordered several Robert Sabuda pop-up books. They come in many sizes/price ranges. I am 76 years old and am as fascinated by “pop-ups” as I was as a child. Robert wears his “paper engineer” hat so well and I love surprising folks (old and young) with his masterpieces.
Patty Schmidt, Northfield
For readers who enjoy interesting facts within fiction, I highly recommend putting “Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan on your list. Egan, who won a Pulitzer Prize for “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” couches a thriller inside a novel of family, strong ambition and scenes of New York after World War I, during the Great Depression and into World War II. You could give this great read to fans of everything from a good story to early scuba diving methods to our Navy after Pearl Harbor. Even the most well-read will find themselves looking up vocabulary in the dictionary once in a while — so you’ll receive plenty of thank-you notes.
Penelope Johnson, Hopkins
“Ordinary Grace,” by St. Paul author William Kent Krueger. Although Krueger is most widely known for his Cork O’Connor series of stories, I truly believe that his best work is “Ordinary Grace.” It’s a story that he readily admits that he carried around in his head for a long time.
The story is a backwards look to the early 1960s in small-town Minnesota, where a family made up of three kids, a mom and dad, and assorted townspeople who see themselves sort of torn asunder by the disappearance of a young lady. It’s a wonderful story of youth, mystery and a sort of redemption for many of the town’s citizenry.
I don’t often put a book at the very top of my “favorites” (the last was “Prince of Tides,” by Pat Conroy), but this book moved me. It is a wonderful story that should be read by everyone!
Jim Stromberg, Edina
Here are a few titles that I found quite worthwhile:
“Saturday” (quite a day for a London physician, and it’s not all about his occupation) by Ian McEwan; “The Innocent,” (hair-raising events in immediate post-World War II Berlin, not a war novel) also by Ian McEwan; “Minnesota Eats Out” (restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, resorts, etc., both lost and still here in our fair state) edited by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky; “The Lincoln Del Cookbook” (no explanation necessary — you get the Chocolate Pie recipe!); “The Silk Roads” (non-Western civilization-centered view of world history) by Peter Frankopan; “Women Crime Writers” (eight suspense novels of the 1940s and 1950s), edited by Sarah Weinman. I look forward to seeing others’ reading suggestions.
Signe Louise Kline, Bloomington
For holiday giving suggestions, I first recommend “The Dark Net,” by Benjamin Percy. I also recommend any of his other novels. “The Dark Net” is thrilling and terrifying at the same time, taking a real-life threat and spinning it into a fictional scenario. This book would be great for anyone who is looking for something a little out of the ordinary, combined with beautiful prose and profound characters.
I also always recommend J. Ryan’s Stradal’s novel “Kitchens of the Great Midwest.” Stradal’s writing entices readers and brings them brilliant characters with a bit of that good ol’ Midwestern charm. His book revolves around community and food, which makes it the perfect read for the holidays in Minnesota.
Lauren Nielsen, St. Paul
The best gift for the drinker in your life is “The Bloody Mary” by Brian Bartels (Ten Speed Press). It’s filled with wit, history and wonderful recipes; we’ve made the Green Bay Bloody many times. Full disclosure: My brother, a former Wisconsinite and current NYC bar director, wrote it.
Ann Quiring, Minneapolis
I recommend Benjamin Percy’s new book “The Dark Net.” I got it at a book signing by the author here in Northfield, where he lives, to send to my brother in Idaho who reads everything. Not having read a horror genre story before, I hadn’t planned to read it before sending it. But I did. And I got drawn into the dark world that Ben Percy creates with such aplomb. I saw him the other day and congratulated him on the New York Times Book Review of Oct. 24. Not bad, being compared favorably to Stephen King.
Susan Hvistendahl, Northfield
Hi, I will giving “Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver,” by Lorri Horn to all my older elementary reader friends. It’s original, smart, and fun.
Kathy Anderson, Blaine
Joel Sartore’s “Photo Ark” is the kind of book that I’ve given as a gift hoping that someone will give me a copy. It is such an incredibly rich collection of animal portraits that it’s almost too much. When I’ve borrowed it from the library I’ve routinely opened to any page and then just left the book open all day in order to fully enjoy those particular images. His project is such a worthwhile effort, and if one is able to see the PBS specials of what he goes through to capture these images it makes the book that much more special.
Morgan Clifford, Stillwater
This holiday season, I suggest as a gift “Miles of Memories: One Woman’s Journey to All 50 States” by local author Lori Spangler. I was charmed by this book! It’s a delightful narrative of Lori’s travel experiences — and you read her viewpoint from childhood all the way through to adulthood. It is light, yet meaningful reading, and I think this book would appeal to almost any reader.
Renee Jernander, Shakopee
I first heard about Jane Harper’s “The Dry” when my sister Alexa told me an Australian writer who lived near her had a mystery coming out. As I had spent nearly four years writing a mystery set in my sister’s hometown, I was terrified that someone else was writing about the same location. Turns out my fears were needless, and I was completely swept up in Harper’s brilliant story about murder, forbidden love and secrets in a small town plagued by a drought of biblical proportions. “The Dry” has rightly won both the CWA Dagger and the Ned Kelly awards this year. My favorite mystery from last year, by far.
Jessica Ellis Laine, Edina