As we head into the season of gift-giving, I'm here to urge you to buy books as gifts, buy local books as gifts, buy local books from local bookstores as gifts.
Books make great presents. Unlike a box of assorted cheeses or a fruitcake, they don't spoil. (Assuming fruitcakes spoil.) You can give a book this year and the recipient can read it now or 10 years from now. Try that with a cheese log.
Books are super-easy to wrap, all straight lines and neat corners. And if you don't feel like wrapping them yourself, most local bookstores are happy to wrap them for you. My first holiday gift of the season is already on my table, ready to go, beautifully wrapped with a big red bow tied by a bookseller named Sarah.
And gift cards are even easier, slipping nicely into a holiday letter.
And speaking of local bookstores … let's keep them alive. It's not that hard, and it's important. We are fortunate here in the Twin Cities to still have dozens of independent bookstores — chances are there is a bookstore not all that far away from you no matter where you live.
Bookstores are beacons of decency and love. They offer warmth and friendship and comfortable chairs, they pay taxes, they employ our neighbors.
You can call them up and someone nice will answer the phone. If you're shy, you can e-mail them, and someone will attend to your order. With some stores, you can reserve private browsing time. You can pick up your purchase curbside. They can mail it to you.
Or, if you're lucky, like me, a bookseller might live a couple of blocks away and will drop off the book at your house, from his bicycle.
And one more thing: Let's pack those author Zoom events.
Writing a book is a solitary act, but launching a book shouldn't be. Launching a book should be a celebration, a party! A chance for the author to read a little, maybe brag a little, bask in the congratulations of friends and fans.
During this time of COVID-19, thousands of writers — including many debut authors who haven't yet built an audience — are launching their books alone in their living rooms, by Zoom. You know Zoom. You've probably attended far too many work meetings on Zoom, or some similar online videoconference platform.
I know that when evening comes the last thing you want to do is fire up the computer again and stare at another grid of faces on a screen.
But I hope that you do. The events are easy to find and easy to register for — just check the websites of the Loft Literary Center or any local bookstore. Between now and Christmas, there will be plenty.
Many, many Minnesotans have published books this year. World-famous writers, such as Louise Erdrich, Curtis Sittenfeld and Charles Baxter. First-time authors, such as Jonathan Slaght, whose book "Owls of the Eastern Ice" was longlisted for the National Book Award, and Su Hwang, whose poetry collection, "Bodega," won a Minnesota Book Award. And lots of them are holding Zoom events.
In September, tiny Nodin Press published a collection by St. Paul poet Margaret Hasse called "Shelter," illustrated with beautiful watercolors by Minnesota artist Sharon DeMark.
The book was inspired by the isolation of COVID, and it explores sanctuaries — bird nests, bus shelters, turtle shells, book-reading, wilderness walks.
Hasse will read from the book at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 with poets Mary Moore Easter, Emilio De Grazia and Norita Dittberner-Jax, hosted by Next Chapter Bookseller.
Local publisher. Local writers. Local bookstore. It's the trifecta. Happy gift-giving.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Facebook: www.facebook.com/startribunebooks