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On Books

Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996.

Authors, bookstores -- and shoppers? -- to mark 3rd Indies First Day

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed

When you're out and about, shopping, the weekend after Thanksgiving, local bookstores hope you remember that Saturday, Nov. 28, is not just Small Business Saturday--it's Indies First Day. The genesis of Indies First came three years ago, when writer Sherman Alexie called for authors and illustrators to stop by a neighborhood independent bookstore on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and do a little hand-selling: run the till, make recommendations, chat up the customers

The idea was not so much that the authors would be promoting their own books, but they would be promoting books in general, and books sold at independent bookstores in specific.

The idea caught fire, with more than 1,100 writers and artists taking part across the country.

This year's spokesperson for Indies First is Cheryl Strayed, formerly of Minnesota, currently wildly famous, thanks to her best-selling memoir, "Wild," the subsequent movie, and her fun gig as the advice columnist Dear Sugar.

In an open letter, Strayed writes: "There are so many ways that a rich and vibrant network of independent booksellers contribute to the betterment of book culture in America, but perhaps the most important one is the support they give to authors and illustrators by hand-selling their books. I love that term, 'hand-selling.' It reminds us that humans are involved, humans with a passion for language and stories and pictures."

On Nov. 28, Strayed will be selling books at Broadway Books, the Indie in her Portland, Ore., neighborhood.

Benjamin Percy

Benjamin Percy

Here in Minnesota, there will be plenty going on. Benjamin Percy will be at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis' Uptown. (Ask him to sing. Or even just speak. The man has a Voice.)

At the Red Balloon Bookshop on St. Paul's Grand Avenue Brian Farrey, Eleanor Glewwe, Michael Hall, Joseph Kuefler, Diane McMullen, Pat Schmatz, Jane St. Anthony, and Stephanie Watson will be in the store.

Aimee Bissonette will be at Excelsior Bay Bookstore; Richie Swanson, Geoff Herbach, and Faith Sullivan will be at the Bookshelf in Winona; Kristi Belcamino and Sue Leaf will be at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater; and what the hey, Duluth Mayor Don Ness will be at the Bookstore at Fitger's up in Duluth. Other bookstores such as Chapter 2 in Hudson, Wis., are still making plans.

You can check out the (growing) list of participating bookstores at the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association site.

Or you can just make sure to include a bookstore in your shopping plans. Which seems a given, doesn't it? 

Adam Johnson, Ta-Nehisi Coates win National Book Awards


Adam Johnson.

Adam Johnson.


Adam Johnson's novel, "The Orphan Master's Son," won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013. And now, two years later, he has won the National Book Award for Fiction with his collection of short stories, "Fortune Smiles." The six stories are dark but sometimes humorous and emphathetic, ranging from to Louisiana to Germany to North Korea.

Johnson's book, while critically acclaimed (the New York Times review said it should be savored "like very good and very bitter chocolate"), was arguably a surprise winner, with Lauren Groff's "Fates and Furies"  and Hanya Yanagihara's "A Little Life" the books that had all of the season's buzz.

This is the second year in a row that a collection of short stories has won the National Book Award. Last year, debut author Phil Klay won for "Redeployment."


Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates


The nonfiction winner was Ta-Nehisi Coates for  "Between the World and Me," a timely and powerful letter to his teenage son about the dangers and rage of being black in America.

The poetry award went to Robin Coste Lewis for her debut collection, "Voyage of the Sable Venus," and the award for young people's literature went to Neal Shusterman for "Challenger Deep," his book that was inspird by his own son's struggles with mental illness.

Winners of the National Book Award receive $10,000.

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