• All Books (56)
  • Critics' Choice (10)
  • Fiction (12)
  • Non-Fiction (12)
  • Picture Books (7)
  • Regional Books (5)
  • Young Adult (10)
  • List (56)
  • The Marriage PortraitBy Maggie O'Farrell (Knopf, $28)

  • The Last White ManBy Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books, $26)

  • NightcrawlingBy Leila Mottley (Knopf, $28)

  • FosterBy Claire Keegan (Grove Press, $20)

  • Best of FriendsBy Kamila Shamsie (Riverhead Books, $27)

  • Lucy by the SeaBy Elizabeth Strout (Random House, $28)

  • How High We Go in the DarkBy Sequoia Nagamatsu (William Morrow, $27.99)

  • GloryBy NoViolet Bulawayo (Viking, $27)

  • The Rabbit HutchBy Tess Gunty (Knopf, $28)

  • If I Survive YouBy Jonathan Escoffery (MCD, $27)

  • GroundskeepingBy Lee Cole (Knopf, $28)

  • A Tidy EndingBy Joanna Cannon (Scribner, $26.99)

  • Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan RickmanBy Edited by Alan Taylor (Henry Holt, $32)

  • Wonderlands: Essays on the Life of LiteratureBy Charles Baxter (Graywolf Press, $17)

  • We Don't Know OurselvesBy Fintan O'Toole (Liveright, $32)

  • Diary of a MisfitBy Casey Parks (Alfred A. Knopf, $29)

  • Also a PoetBy Ada Calhoun (Grove Press, $29)

  • The Light We CarryBy Michelle Obama (Crown, $32.50)

  • Bigger Than BraveryBy Edited by Valerie Boyd (Lookout Press, $18.95)

  • RoguesBy Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday, $30)

  • Coffee With HitlerBy Charles Spicer (Pegasus, $29.95)

  • Picasso's WarBy Hugh Eakin (Crown, $32.99)

  • The Bird Name BookBy Susan Myers (Princeton University Press, $39.95)

  • Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar HoweBy Edited by Kathleen Ash-Milby and Nill Anthes (University of Oklahoma Press, $50)

  • When Women Were DragonsBy Kelly Barnhill (Doubleday, $28)

  • Pig YearsBy Ellyn Gaydos (Alfred A. Knopf, $27)

  • Camera ManBy Dana Stevens (Atria Books, $29.99)

  • AfterlivesBy Abdulrazak Gurnah (Riverhead, $28)

  • Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John DonneBy Katherine Rundell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30)

  • The BirdcatcherBy Gayl Jones (Beacon Press, $24.95)

  • Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World: EssaysBy Barry Lopez (Random House, $28)

  • Shrines of GaietyBy Kate Atkinson (Doubleday, $29)

  • The PassengerBy Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf, $30)

  • Joan Didion: The Last InterviewIntroduction by Patricia Lockwood (Melville House, $17.99)

  • A Scatter of LightBy Malinda Lo (Dutton, $18.99)

  • The Rat QueenBy Pete Hautman (Candlewick, $18.99)

  • Meet Me HalfwayBy Anika Fajardo (Simon & Schuster, $17.99)

  • The Life and Crimes of Hoodie RosenBy Isaac Blum (Philomel, $18.99)

  • Tasting LightBy Edited by A.R. Capetta and Wade Roush (MiTeen Press/Candlewick, $19.99)

  • Man Made MonstersBy Andrea L. Rogers (Levine Querido, $19.99)

  • WindsweptBy Margi Preus (Amulet/Abrams, $17.99)

  • The Door of No ReturnBy Kwame Alexander (Little, Brown, $17.99)

  • Controlled BurnBy Erin Soderberg Downing (Scholastic Press, $18.99)

  • My Good ManBy Eric Gansworth (Levine Querido, $21.99)

  • The First and Only Book of Sack 2.0By Steve Sack (Star Tribune, $17.95)

  • Farewell TransmissionBy Will McGrath (Dzanc Books, $16.95)

  • Duluth's Grand Old Architecture: 1870-1940By Tony Dierckins and Maryanne C. Norton (Zenith City Press, $60)

  • This Contested Land: The Storied Past and Uncertain Future of America's National MonumentsBy McKenzie Long (University of Minnesota Press, $24.95)

  • Hudson's Bay Company Wife, Voyageurs' ArtistBy MaryEllen Weller-Smith (Jackpine Books, $33)

  • The Big Leaf LeapBy Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Meleck Davis (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17.95)

  • One Winter Up NorthBy John Owens (University of Minnesota Press, $17.95)

  • Song in the CityBy Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Jenin Mohammed (Harper, $17.99)

  • So Much SnowBy Kristen Schroeder, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (Random House Studios, $18.99)

  • Still Dreaming / Seguimos SoñandoBy Claudia Guadalupe Martínez, illustrated by Magdalena Mora (Lee & Low Books, $20.95)

  • A Very Mercy ChristmasBy Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick, $18.99)

  • Mashkiki Road: The Seven Grandfather TeachingsBy Elizabeth S. Barrett, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17.95)

The Marriage Portrait

By Maggie O'Farrell

Following her award-winning "Hamnet," Maggie O'Farrell once again delves into 16th-century history, on this occasion taking her reader into Renaissance Italy to tell the tale of a young duchess. Lucrezia is taken to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso, the ruler of Ferrara. As she sits down to dinner with him, it dawns on her that he plans to kill her. Flitting backward and forward in time and articulating Lucrezia's thoughts, dreams and fears, the novel brilliantly and exquisitely maps the course of her life and her efforts to survive. (Knopf, $28)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

The Last White Man

By Mohsin Hamid

For his fifth novel, Mohsin Hamid attempts something bold and radically different. Part original allegory, part reinterpretation of Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," "The Last White Man" opens with Anders waking one morning to find that his skin has turned dark. As he waits for an "undoing," he notices everyone around him undergoing the same transformation — and civil unrest breaking out. A timely and provocative exploration of race, identity and belonging. (Riverhead Books, $26)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes


By Leila Mottley

Set in Leila Mottley's native Oakland, Calif., and inspired by a true crime and a shocking scandal, this gritty, devastating yet utterly compelling first novel is narrated by Kiara, a young Black woman who resorts to desperate measures to survive by taking to the streets after dark. "It's just a body," she keeps telling herself. Eventually she is given the opportunity to testify against corrupt police officers. But will her lone voice be heard? A tale of sexual exploitation and the pursuit of justice, once it takes hold it doesn't let go. (Knopf, $28)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes


By Claire Keegan

The unnamed narrator of Claire Keegan's tender and luminous novella is a young Irish girl who one summer is sent by her parents to stay with unknown relatives — "two old forgeries" — on their Wexford farm. Initially out of her comfort zone, she soon adapts to the rhythms of her new life, forms a tight bond with her guardians and gets her first real taste of care and affection. But in this idyll, pain is still keenly felt from a past tragedy. A slender book yet one filled with wisdom, insight and raw beauty. (Grove Press, $20)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

Best of Friends

By Kamila Shamsie

At the outset of Kamila Shamsie's seventh novel, Maryam and Zahra are 14-year-old girls navigating teenage life in Karachi in 1988. One night after a party, a fateful incident disrupts their carefree world. Thirty years later they are successful women in London who find that their friendship is tested by two blasts from the past. The author's sharply drawn characters with their marked differences and "shared subtexts" keep the reader fully absorbed. (Riverhead Books, $27)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

Lucy by the Sea

By Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout's beloved heroine Lucy Barton is off with her ex-husband William to Maine again, this time to take refuge in a beach house as the pandemic spreads. Weeks turn into months, during which she tries to make sense of the unreality and uncertainty of lockdown while sifting memories, reflecting on the state of her nation and acknowledging the "strange compatibility" taking shape between her and William. Lucy's fourth outing is a moving and enriching delight. (Random House, $28)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

How High We Go in the Dark

By Sequoia Nagamatsu

Composed of more than a dozen segments, each narrated by a different character, and straddling various genres, Sequoia Nagamatsu's fiercely intelligent debut charts the effects of a global pandemic — the Arctic Plague — on future generations. Despite the succession of brave new worlds and alternate realities with their funerary skyscrapers and euthanasia theme parks, robo-dogs and talking pigs, the book never loses sight of the human factor. Mind-bendingly speculative but at the same time frighteningly real. (William Morrow, $27.99)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes


By NoViolet Bulawayo

A spark of hope flickers in the animal kingdom of Jidada when its leader, the Old Horse, is ousted in a coup after 40 years of autocratic misrule. But optimism is tragically cut short, and when a goat called Destiny trots back from exile, she takes stock of the fresh waves of turmoil engulfing her land. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, NoViolet Bulawayo's second novel is a trenchant political satire on upheavals in her native Zimbabwe. (Viking, $27)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

The Rabbit Hutch

By Tess Gunty

The title of Tess Gunty's accomplished debut — winner of the 2022 National Book Award — is the nickname of La Lapinière, a rundown, low-cost housing complex in rust-belt Indiana. The novel tracks the aspirations, frustrations and disappointments of a ragtag group of residents one hot summer. Some yearn to escape and start again, others merely to connect and belong. One character emerges as a forceful presence: the otherworldly Blandine, who finds herself granted an unexpected way out. (Knopf, $28)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

If I Survive You

By Jonathan Escoffery

Jonathan Escoffery's eight linked stories center upon the mixed fortunes of a Jamaican immigrant family living — or more typically surviving — in Miami. Trelawny hits rock bottom and has to clamber back up. His brother, Delano, pursues a madcap money-making scheme as a hurricane approaches. And their cousin Cukie tries to obtain money from the father who abandoned him. These witty, punchy tales highlight the struggle of fitting in and getting by. (MCD, $27)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes


By Lee Cole

Owen, an aspiring writer, returns to Kentucky in 2016. He takes a job as a groundskeeper at a private college and in exchange is able to attend a writing workshop. There he meets, and falls for, writer-in-residence Alma, a daughter of Bosnian immigrants. Lee Cole's stunning debut traces the blossoming romance of two people "standing outside of everything" while simultaneously offering a clear-eyed study of class differences in a divided America. (Knopf, $28)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

A Tidy Ending

By Joanna Cannon

Linda spends her days in a world of suburban drudgery, cleaning up after her wastrel husband and dancing to the tune of her controlling mother. Things get exciting when she befriends, and emulates, the glamorous Rebecca — and when it becomes clear that a serial killer is on the loose. Joanna Cannon's gloriously sinister and ingenious mystery boasts an unreliable narrator with a quirky outlook ("I'd overfed my mind with other people's lives and my head had developed indigestion"), blackly comic set-pieces and jaw-dropping twists. (Scribner, $26.99)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman

Edited by Alan Taylor

Clearly, Alan Rickman wrote these journals only for himself; the entries are terse, revealing little. (As the New York Times said, if Rickman had written "The Metamorphosis," it would have been one line: "Woke as bug.") Still, for fans of the late actor these entries are glimpses into his world, if not his soul: buying a blender, taking the Eurostar to Paris, getting the terrible news that Natasha Richardson had died in a ski accident. Of his own death sentence — a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer — he wrote only, "A different kind of diary now." Six months later, he was gone. (Henry Holt, $32)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Wonderlands: Essays on the Life of Literature

By Charles Baxter

Novelist, essayist, poet and teacher Charles Baxter is one of the literary treasures of Minnesota, and in "Wonderlands" he generously shares his vast knowledge and approach to reading, writing and teaching. These are not the usual writing tips; these are essays of insight and wisdom. Give your characters a request, not a command; inventory who they are and what they have — because what they have can be lost. He examines charisma, he gives generous nods to other writers (James McBride, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison), all in his distinct and clear voice. (Graywolf Press, $17)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

We Don't Know Ourselves

By Fintan O'Toole

Fintan O'Toole grew up during times of great change in Ireland, and here he gives a brilliant, clear-eyed picture of how as he grew, the country grew — from a backwater dominated by the Catholic Church to a more modern (but equally problematic) country. He is unflinching as he describes economic woes, the Magdalene Laundries for "fallen women," the sexual abuse of children by priests, and the corruption of greedy politicians. His writing is so clear and detailed that even though the book weighs in at (cough, cough) 615 pages, it is hard to put down. (Liveright, $32)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Diary of a Misfit

By Casey Parks

Casey Parks' stunning memoir is a family story, a mystery and a coming-of-age tale of a young gay woman, steeped in rural Louisiana. Parks, a reporter for the Washington Post, weaves these threads into an absolute page-turner. A misfit in her own town (her pastor decrees that she'd be better off dead than gay), she turns to her grandmother, who says: "I grew up across the street from a woman who lived as a man." Parks devotes years to uncovering that person's complicated story, peeling off layer after layer, finding herself as she finds them. (Alfred A. Knopf, $29)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Also a Poet

By Ada Calhoun

When journalist Ada Calhoun stumbled across a box of old cassette tapes of interviews her father had done years back, she was compelled to finish what he had started. Her father, art critic Peter Schjeldahl, had attempted a biography of poet Frank O'Hara but abandoned it after O'Hara's sister stopped cooperating. The result here is a revealing biography of O'Hara — but also a memoir of the complicated relationship between Calhoun and her father. A brilliant, evocative read. (Grove Press, $29)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

The Light We Carry

By Michelle Obama

More self-help than memoir, Michelle Obama's inspirational "The Light We Carry" is filled with coping advice, from learning to knit to learning how to face fear. Laced with anecdotes from her girlhood, her marriage to Barack, and the COVID-19 lockdowns, this book is written in the warm voice of a trusted friend. Obama admits to feelings of despair, of looking in the mirror and hating what she sees, of feeling self-conscious about her height. After all this country has been through, does she still believe in going high? She does. Read this and you will, too. (Crown, $32.50)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Bigger Than Bravery

Edited by Valerie Boyd

Commissioned during the pandemic and after the murder of George Floyd, these 32 essays and poems by writers of color are fierce and moving. Valerie Boyd died in February, and this book adds to her impressive legacy. Kiese Laymon, Alice Walker and Jason Reynolds — as well as a host of emerging writers — write with grace and power. Tayari Jones writes about a Black woman who, toting her infant, delivers groceries for Uber Eats. Former Star Tribune reporter Rosalind Bentley writes about discovering a harrowing family story. There is pain in these pieces, but also beauty and strength. (Lookout Press, $18.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune


By Patrick Radden Keefe

One of the best journalists writing today, Patrick Radden Keefe is the author of the award-winning "Say Nothing," a history of the IRA, and "Empire of Pain," his biography of the Sackler family and their opioid empire. "Rogues" is a more modest venture but just as gripping — a collection of long, reported pieces about "grifters, killers, rebels and crooks" (as the subtitle explains). Most were originally published in the New Yorker, eloquent pieces about Mexican drug baron El Chapo, Anthony Bourdain and other compelling creatures. (Doubleday, $30)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Coffee With Hitler

By Charles Spicer

Could anyone have stopped the Nazis? In the mid-1930s, a group of British aristocrats thought they could. Long dismissed as "Nazi sympathizers," these men — founders of the Anglo-German Fellowship — get a fresh look in this history, which began as the author's dissertation. Not appeasers (like Neville Chamberlain), these men worked not to coddle, but to "civilize" the Nazis, believing that through personal connections they could make a difference. After Kristallnacht, however, that view began to change. This is a riveting book, well-researched and written, with a very different take. (Pegasus, $29.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Picasso's War

By Hugh Eakin

It actually was the war of John Quinn, an Irish American with incredible vision. At the turn of the 20th century, Americans were at the forefront of everything except the visual arts — we still loved the Old Masters and cared nothing for anything experimental. Quinn set about to change that but died before he could realize his dream — a museum dedicated to modern art. Enter Alfred Barr, who took up the cause. In clear prose and with great authority, author Hugh Eakin, who lives in St. Paul, has written a vibrant and surprising book about how two men changed the way America views art. (Crown, $32.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

The Bird Name Book

By Susan Myers

This exquisite book (heavy glossy pages, full-color plates, decorative page headers) is also a notable work of scholarship. It opens with a section on "the namers," the "privileged, white and male" people who gave birds their English names over the years, and then goes on to give us the birds — descriptions, status and origin of name. Usually they're named for their call, their appearance or the shape of their nests. But other times it's something odd — the booby, for instance, comes from the Spanish word for "stupid" (bobo). Spanish sailors named them thus because the birds would land on their ships, where they were then killed and eaten. (Princeton University Press, $39.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe

Edited by Kathleen Ash-Milby and Nill Anthes

This beautiful book is a companion to the exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, and it more than does it justice. Yanktonai Dakota artist Oscar Howe, who died in 1983, challenged notions of Native art, blending traditional Native themes with a modern approach. Not only are some of Howe's best-known paintings reproduced here, but also the text of his famous letter to the Philbrook Art Center in Tulsa, which had criticized his work as being "not Indian." "There is much more to Indian art than pretty, stylized paintings," he wrote, and this gorgeous book proves that true. 151 color plates. (University of Oklahoma Press, $50)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

When Women Were Dragons

By Kelly Barnhill

Dragons! Dragons! Dragons!

What could be bad about that? Well, as it turns out, plenty, when women in 1950s America and beyond spontaneously turn into them in Kelly Barnhill's "When Women Were Dragons." The novel deftly weaves multiple characters from multiple eras, fictitious redacted government documents, and rapturous dragonings into a powerful exploration of the feminine divine. For its sensibility, gorgeous writing and sublime storytelling, this was probably my favorite read of the year. (Doubleday, $28)

Reviewed by Shannon Gibney

Pig Years

By Ellyn Gaydos

You will never view pigs the same way after reading Ellyn Gaydos' remarkable memoir — nor farmhands, either. In this serious, beautiful book, Gaydos writes about working on farms in northern New York and Vermont. She thinks deeply about the land, the hardworking but often impoverished people who work it, and the animals — especially the pigs, which she raises each summer, admires and adores, and then slaughters. There is nothing romantic about this work, but in Gaydos' hands there is much beauty. (Alfred A. Knopf, $27)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Camera Man

By Dana Stevens

Buster Keaton, the best-ever physical comedian, forged an unusually varied showbiz career. As Dana Stevens demonstrates in "Camera Man," Keaton's distinctive professional path — he was a preteen vaudevillian, a silent-movie auteur, a prematurely obsolete ex-star and an unlikely TV pitchman — remains one of the great sagas in American life. With fascinating digressions about the post-World War I development of new filmmaking technologies and the rise of literate movie criticism, this is an affectionate, insightful portrait of a crucial figure in entertainment history. (Atria Books, $29.99)

Reviewed by Kevin Canfield


By Abdulrazak Gurnah

Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah's 10th novel begins in the early 20th century in what was German East Africa and moves through the world wars and British rule to independence in the 1960s. Europeans, though present, are bit players and this unaffected but brilliant novel's focus is on the lives of a handful of ordinary Africans. Rich in character and compassion, the novel, though distressing at times, is truly kindhearted. Everyone I know who has read it has loved it. (Riverhead, $28)

Reviewed by Katherine A. Powers

Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne

By Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell's richly absorbing biography illuminates the various incarnations of a unique Renaissance man. John Donne was a libertine, lawyer, pirate, politician and priest. He also wrote some of the finest and most original love poetry in the English language. "Super-Infinite" chronicles a difficult life and examines sublime poems which, according to Rundell, "if allowed under your skin, can offer joy so violent it kicks the metal out of your knees, and sorrow large enough to eat you." (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes

The Birdcatcher

By Gayl Jones

Catherine, a sculptor, and her husband Ernest, a writer, are both quite close to Amanda, a travel writer. The three artists mostly manage the challenges of their eccentric triangle and even its sensational complication — Catherine keeps trying to kill Ernest. After a 22-year hiatus, Gayl Jones returned last year with the acclaimed "Palmares," a Pulitzer Prize finalist. "The Birdcatcher" is outstanding, too — a structural masterpiece. It's brilliant, entertaining, and charged by Jones' wild imagination and distinctive voice. (Beacon Press, $24.95)

Reviewed by Michael Kleber-Diggs

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World: Essays

By Barry Lopez

Heart and mind combine in these posthumously published essays to redirect our focus on the natural world. Reporting from as far as the bow of a ship on a raging Antarctic sea to as near as the "familiar and ever new" woods in Oregon, award-winning writer Barry Lopez advances the argument that our redirection is long overdue. It must also involve rapt attention and unwavering dedication "to the physical Earth and to all its creatures, including ourselves." A timely, moving collection that cuts to the burning core of today's most pressing issues. (Random House, $28)

Reviewed by Angela Ajayi

Shrines of Gaiety

By Kate Atkinson

Wonderfully balanced between the literary bravura of novels like "Life After Life" and the more mundane but ample pleasures of her Jackson Brodie mysteries, Kate Atkinson's "Shrines of Gaiety" puts a cast of irresistible characters into an intriguingly convoluted plot set in post-WWI London, wafts a Shakespearean air of antic enchantment over the proceedings, and keeps you guessing till the end — even as something tells you everything will be all right. Mostly. (Doubleday, $29)

Reviewed by Ellen Akins

The Passenger

By Cormac McCarthy

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award floors it off the cliff, Thelma-and-Louise-style, with a mind-bending thriller set in the 1970s and '80s, broad as the cosmos and rendered in gorgeous, symphonic sentences. The Western siblings, Alicia (dead) and Bobby (alive), dance around their father's legacy as an architect of the Hiroshima bomb — and their illicit attraction to each other — amid a cast of petty criminals, red herrings, befuddled psychiatrists and vaudevillian hallucinations. American fiction at its muscular, searing finest. (Alfred A. Knopf, $30)

Reviewed by Hamilton Cain

Joan Didion: The Last Interview

Introduction by Patricia Lockwood

A new entry in the "last interview" series, this curated collection of interviews with Joan Didion is marked by her consistently brilliant way of thinking, but also by her shifts in tone over time. The interviews, presented in chronological order, offer Didion reflecting on "Play It as It Lays" and "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" in 1972; by 2021, she is responding to the global pandemic. Patricia Lockwood's introduction — strong, smart and convincing — is reason enough to read the collection. (Melville House, $17.99)

Reviewed by Jackie Thomas-Kennedy

A Scatter of Light

By Malinda Lo

National Book Award winner Malinda Lo returns to San Francisco's blue-collar queer community in a present-day sequel to "Last Night at the Telegraph Club." After she's the target of a sexting incident, Aria is sent to California to spend the summer with her grandmother, an artist. While there, she's drawn to Steph, a genderqueer gardener. As she spends time with Steph and the rough-around-the-edges queer music community, and helps her grandmother excavate her grandfather's work as an astronomer, Aria slowly learns how to trust her own voice. (Dutton, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

The Rat Queen

By Pete Hautman

"I will only need to take your conscience and the remorse will go away," the Rat Queen tells a boy in a tale within this middle-grade tale. That dark bargain lies at the heart of Twin Cities writer Pete Hautman's twisty fantasy. At age 10, Annie is introduced to a family legacy, a nuodeema burna, or "eater of sins," that swallows her remorse, leaving her with no regrets. But as she begins to uncover her family's secrets, she discovers that power also brings the responsibility for making hard decisions. (Candlewick, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Meet Me Halfway

By Anika Fajardo

Matilde "Mattie" Gomez is an awkward Minnesota transplant at a new middle school in California. Adding to her troubles, one of the popular girls, Mercedes Miller, looks uncannily like her. When the two are forced to work together on a school project, they discover they're both the daughters of a Colombian anthropologist — and that he's teaching at a nearby college. The reluctant co-conspirators set off on a mission to find the father they've never met. Minneapolis author Anika Fajardo's madcap and heartwarming novel is an update of "The Parent Trap." (Simon & Schuster, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen

By Isaac Blum

Hoodie Rosen is "a walking bar mitzvah." His life is bound by rituals: daily arguments over Torah at school, weekly Shabbos with his family, the merciless teasing of his friends, until he breaks the one rule that will make him an outcast — falling in love with the daughter of the mayor, who is trying to block his Orthodox Jewish community from settling in their town. Isaac Blum writes laugh-out-loud funny exchanges between teen boys debating scripture with their rabbi, even as he plumbs the heartbreak of first love and the challenges of friendships that reach across yawning cultural divides. (Philomel, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Tasting Light

Edited by A.R. Capetta and Wade Roush

Ten writers — including two with regional ties — tackle "hard science fiction" stories with young people at the center in this inventive anthology. When white children began turning brown as a result of a high-end birth supplement taken by their mothers, it upends the racial status quo in Junauda Petrus-Nasah's "Melanitis." And William Alexander imagines adaptive technology that allows a mechanic-in-training to see his floating lunar colony with his tongue. Taken together, these stories aim to "knock readers off-kilter" enough to alter our sense of what's possible, the editors write. (MiTeen Press/Candlewick, $19.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Man Made Monsters

By Andrea L. Rogers

Sometimes the only way to grapple with a monstrous past is through horror. Andrea L. Rogers offers up more than a dozen linked stories, tracing an extended Cherokee family from the Trail of Tears to the present. Along the way, we meet a German vampire hiding his bloodlust along a violent frontier, a mixed-race student of science trying to bring a young boy back to life, and werewolves, ghosts, zombies and the Deer Woman. The book's rich illustrations incorporate the Cherokee syllabary, hinting at the layers of history beneath each tale. (Levine Querido, $19.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune


By Margi Preus

Duluth writer Margi Preus tackles greed, climate change and the price of inertia in this reweaving of Nordic fairy tales. A cruel wind is sweeping away the children in Tag's world, leaving a shower of silver leaves in their wake. When she receives an invitation through a keyhole, she escapes her home, setting off on a journey with three companions to discover where they are taken. It's a journey that will test their resolve, ingenuity and "ability to think in the realm of the impossible." (Amulet/Abrams, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

The Door of No Return

By Kwame Alexander

In the Asante kingdom of West Africa, Kofi grows up sparring and joking with other boys and slowly falling in love with a village girl. Centuries-old songs, stories and rituals guide his life and keep his community in balance. But when a contest of strength goes wrong, Kofi and his brother are both snatched by neighbors and the pale-skinned "Wonderfuls" who profit from slavery. In this powerful novel in verse, Newbery winner Kwame Alexander captures the rich lives of those forced to make the Middle Passage. (Little, Brown, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Controlled Burn

By Erin Soderberg Downing

After a fire burns down her family home in Chicago, Maia, 12, is shipped off to her grandparents on Minnesota's Iron Range while her younger sister recovers in a burn unit. With her life upended, she struggles with survivor's guilt, while also feeling paralyzed by unfamiliar situations and new challenges. With the help of a local neighbor on a quest for Boy Scout badges, and her gruff grandpa, who keeps daily watch from the local fire tower, Maia discovers the answer to big challenges is one step at a time. (Scholastic Press, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

My Good Man

By Eric Gansworth

Eric Gansworth's new novel is a sprawling work, part commentary and chorus, part excavation of generational trauma, circling back and starting over as his protagonist stumbles toward adulthood. Brian is a cub reporter at an upstate New York newspaper, hired to cover the Tuscarora reservation and the poverty he's barely escaped. But he's constantly tugged home by acts of violence and rare moments of honesty as he tries to walk the "Two Rows" between Indigenous and white worlds. Gansworth drops gems of sharp dialogue as his story lurches toward big truths. (Levine Querido, $21.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

The First and Only Book of Sack 2.0

By Steve Sack

Steve Sack, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Star Tribune, published his first collection for the newspaper's 150th anniversary in 2017. When he announced his retirement last spring, readers suggested that he update that collection (which won a Minnesota Book Award in 2018). This volume, like the first, is a real gem. Sack has an unfailing ability to capture the foibles and failures of politics and politicians in a single frame, and in this book he has selected his best from more than four decades of cartooning. The last 27 pages, titled "Since Last We Spoke," includes a stellar bunch of cartoons created since the book's first edition. (Star Tribune, $17.95)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb

Farewell Transmission

By Will McGrath

Minneapolis author Will McGrath's first book was the captivating "Everything Lost Is Found Again," memoiristic essays from the years he and his wife spent living and working in Lesotho, a tiny country surrounded by South Africa. In his new collection, he rambles from Canada to Namibia and points in between. With curiosity, a keen eye and a refreshing lack of judgment, he writes about people and places, sometimes with humor, sometimes with enormous empathy. His piece on a homeless Black man dying of cancer is worth the cost of the book all by itself. If you can't travel, in this time of fraught airlines and ongoing pandemic, you can read about it. McGrath is a fine start. (Dzanc Books, $16.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel

Duluth's Grand Old Architecture: 1870-1940

By Tony Dierckins and Maryanne C. Norton

In this sizable volume, Duluth author Tony Dierckins and architectural historian Maryanne Norton have compiled an impressive annotated photo collection of both existing and lost structures of their city — bridges, civic buildings, churches, schools, private homes, and more. Ranging in size from the sprawling Glensheen mansion (once home to the Congdon mining family) to the tiny, ornate Northwestern Oil Co. gas station (now serving as a malt shop), the structures contained in this volume paint a vivid portrait of a vital Gilded Era city that experienced a dramatic cycle of boom and bust — and is now happily booming once again. (Zenith City Press, $60)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb

This Contested Land: The Storied Past and Uncertain Future of America's National Monuments

By McKenzie Long

U.S. national parks are famous and beloved — sometimes too beloved, judging by the summertime crowds at parks such as Yosemite. America's national monuments, on the other hand, are far less known and visited. In Utah, for instance, Zion National Park juggles 4 million visitors a year, whereas Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument sees less than a fourth that many. The two differ primarily in how they were created: national parks by congressional vote; national monuments by the nimbler but less secure method of presidential decree. Author/outdoorswoman Long climbs, hikes and paddles her way through these national treasures, leading to a thoughtful series of essays describing the monuments and discussing their histories and significance, as well as the threats to their futures. (University of Minnesota Press, $24.95)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb

Hudson's Bay Company Wife, Voyageurs' Artist

By MaryEllen Weller-Smith

The lost world of the voyageurs was a man's world — French, British and Native American men canoeing into what was then (to Europeans) — the untamed wilderness of the Great Lakes. But that storied chapter of our history was brought to visual life not by a man but by a woman — Frances Anne Beechey Hopkins, a talented painter married to Hudson's Bay Company officer Edward Hopkins. Although limited by repeated pregnancies and the rigid Victorian constraints of her time, Hopkins nevertheless managed to take part in several canoe adventures in the 1860s that resulted in such watercolors (and later prints) as "Canoes in a Fog," "Lake Superior" and "Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall." Until now, not much was known of the woman behind these significant artworks. Weller-Smith's exhaustively researched book has rectified that mystery. (Jackpine Books, $33)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb

The Big Leaf Leap

By Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Meleck Davis

A girl wants to jump in a pile of leaves, but the leaves she rakes up don't amount to much. So yard by yard, kids band together to create "the most enormously enormous leaf mountain EVER." Minneapolis writer Molly Beth Griffin is a master at writing books with both warmth and depth; this is a story of cooperation and community (look at all the different kinds of leaves!). Minneapolis artist Meleck Davis makes his book debut with joyous pictures full of movement and verve. He notes that his digitally produced illustrations "are loosely modeled after my own two children as well as the kids in their classes and in our neighborhood." Ages 3-7 (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

One Winter Up North

By John Owens

In this wordless companion to "One Summer Up North," a family camps and snowshoes in the Boundary Waters during deep winter. Artist and University of Minnesota teacher John Owens takes a drone-eye's view of the family as they snowshoe through the forest, hauling their gear behind them on a toboggan, and a more intimate angle inside the tent as they eat breakfast in their sleeping bags. The beauty of the winter wilderness is depicted with lots of white space, blues and greens. The gold of tamaracks and the orange-red of a child's jacket are lovely punctuations. Ages 3-10 (University of Minnesota Press, $17.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Song in the City

By Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Jenin Mohammed

Emmalene takes in the city through her ears — to her, the cacophony of noises are all part of a wonderful song. The BOOM of the bus! The CLICKITY-CLOMP of shoes. The rattle of dry tree branches, the drumming of a backhoe. But her grandmother hears it as noise; the music she loves is her church choir. So Emmalene covers up her grandmother's eyes and has her experience the world as she does — with sound, but without sight. Worthington, Minn., writer Daniel Bernstrom tells a lovely story of the ebullience of a blind child who navigates the world in her own way, and her loving grandmother, who takes the time to understand her. Bright Photoshop illustrations by Florida artist Jenin Mohammed are filled with joy. Ages 4-8 (Harper, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

So Much Snow

By Kristen Schroeder, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

Seasons pass with dizzying speed in this charming book by Maple Grove writer Kristen Schroeder. Little mouse looks up when the first snowflakes fall. Over the next few days they fall faster and faster, covering up first mouse, then rabbit, then fox, all the way to Mr. Moose. And then the sun comes out. We all know spring in Minnesota — it's fickle. So of course it begins to snow again. Sarah Jacoby's watercolor, chalky pastel and Photoshop illustrations depict the animals as soft and cuddly and the snow as wet, windblown and overwhelming — just as we all know snow to be. Ages 3-7 (Random House Studios, $18.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Still Dreaming / Seguimos Soñando

By Claudia Guadalupe Martínez, illustrated by Magdalena Mora

"Still Dreaming / Seguimos Soñando" is a story of Mexican Repatriation, told through the eyes of a young boy and written in both English and Spanish. Fearing deportation, the boy's family packs up, leaving behind the pecan tree his great-grandfather planted, the boy's aunts, everything he's ever known and loved. Their loaded car drives south through the night, heading from Texas to Mexico. Claudia Guadalupe Martínez tells a moving story of loss and hope, and an endnote explains the history behind the American law that forces long-established families to emigrate. Twin Cities artist Magdalena Mora conveys the boy's fear, anxiety and hope in her color-saturated illustrations of ink, gouache and digital media. Ages 7-8 (Lee & Low Books, $20.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

A Very Mercy Christmas

By Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Kate DiCamillo is not afraid to use big words in books for small children. And so in the latest adventure from Deckawoo Drive, Stella Endicott thinks something "miraculous" might happen, but her brother Frank is no good at "spontaneity." A cat appears out of the "gloaming." Oh, lucky children to sit by an adult's side and sound out these wonderful words. The story is simple — It's Christmas, and Stella wants to go caroling. Nobody wants to go with her. So off she goes, joined by Mercy Watson (the pig), a cat and a horse. Friends are friends, and even a pig's squeal can be part of a carol. (It was "melodious.") Chris Van Dusen's bright gouache illustrations are both funny and beautiful, as the sky deepens into starry night. Ages 3-7 (Candlewick, $18.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

Mashkiki Road: The Seven Grandfather Teachings

By Elizabeth S. Barrett, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder

Three children set off into the forest to gather cedar and sage for their Grandma Mindy. Along the way, they meet the animals that represent the seven grandfather teachings — including Makwa, the black bear that represents courage; Amik, the beaver that represents wisdom, and Migizi, the bald eagle that represents love. Elizabeth S. Barrett and Jonathan Thunder, both Red Lake Ojibwe, have teamed up to tell a simple story of tradition, morals and respect. Ages 3-7 (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune