Harry Wild Jones, American Architect

Harry Wild Jones was a contemporary of Cass Gilbert and Clarence Johnston; he designed the chapel at Lakewood Cemetery and other Minnesota landmarks. Elizabeth Vandam's book paints an intimate portrait of Jones as a devoted family man, world traveler and park advocate. The black-and-white photos, architectural sketches and catalog of designs add to the narrative, which traces his life from a New England upbringing to his 52-year career in Minneapolis. (Linda Mack)

Facing North: Portraits of Ely, Minnesota

You might know Ely as a woodsy, touristy town, the gateway to the BWCA and a great place to buy mukluks. But Ely also has a proud, rugged history of Finnish immigrants, American Indians, environmentalists and explorers. Summer residents Ann and Andrew Goldman set out to capture the spirit of the town in essays and black-and-white photos. Here is Sigurd Olson's cabin on Burntside Lake; here's Lynn Rogers, the bear guy, posing with a small bear; and -- how gutsy is this? -- here's a portrait of world-famous photographer Jim Brandenburg. Other photos (of students, lunch ladies, loggers) prove you don't have to be famous to be photogenic. (Laurie Hertzel)

Crossing the Canal

Possibly every Aerial Bridge fact and photograph in existence has been crammed into this busy book by Duluth writer and publisher Tony Dierckins. In 1870 a canal was dug across Park Point by steam dredge and by hand, creating an entrance for ships into St. Louis Bay -- and cutting off Park Point from the rest of Duluth. The bridge didn't happen for another 30 years, and originally it ferried people across in a dangling cage. Dierckins' book is rich with photographs, architectural sketches, maps and oddball factoids. Most fascinating is a series of photos showing construction; the bridge halves started on each side of the canal and met in the middle. (LH)

A Hard-Water World: Ice Fishing and Why We Do It

Excellent question: Why do they do it? This appealing book might not answer the question to your satisfaction, but you'll learn a lot about the history of ice fishing and its traditions through Greg Breining's readable essays. The real reason for the book, of course, is Layne Kennedy's gorgeous photos. They may not make ice fishing look fun, exactly, but (except for the dead-fish photos) they do make it look pretty. (LH)

The Great Minnesota Fish Book

Aa cross between a field guide and a coffee-table book, this work takes you, species by species, through the game fish, the rough fish and the lesser-known fish that ply our lakes and rivers. Joseph Tomelleri's illustrations are gorgeous. (LH)

The Face of Minnesota

This book captures in pictures and words the look and tone of Minnesota in the 1950s. It also probes into the fiber of the people, lays bare the bounty of the landscape, and articulates the stoic dreams that define us. John Szarkowski does all this with a keen eye and dry wit. His images are marked by a wonderful limpid clarity and silvery sheen, whether he's recording a storm gathering over a lake, a shimmering thicket of plum blossoms, ice skaters on a pond, a man swinging a mallet in a slaughterhouse, or prize cows and hogs proudly displayed at a county fair. (Mary Abbe)

Jim Gilbert's Minnesota Nature Notes

Day by day, naturalist Jim Gilbert takes us through a full year of Minnesota in the outdoors. Which month is the snowiest? When do mosquitoes get ferocious? What is the average ice-out date for Lake Waconia? Gilbert can't tell you precisely when the wood ducks will return or the sweet corn will ripen, but he gives you a good idea. And signs of spring he points out in January will give you hope on those frigid days. (LH)

Birds in Flight

Just how do birds fly? What combination of feather and bone and durability makes it possible for eagles to soar, for hummingbirds to hover, for warblers to migrate thousands of miles without tiring? Why do some have forked tails and sharp elbows, while others have straight wings? Through more than 150 photos of birds taking off, flying, hovering and landing, DNR wildlife biologist Carrol Henderson shows us the mechanics behind the graceful beauty. (LH)

The Oxford Project

Twenty-four years ago, Peter Feldstein set out to photograph all 676 residents of his home town of Oxford, Iowa. Twenty-one years later, he did it again. The result is a fascinating time-lapse glimpse into small-town Midwestern life: portraits of residents then and now, accompanied by poignant, revealing quotations -- secrets they haven't told anyone else. This, for example: "After 45 years of marriage, he left me for another woman. I didn't know who the woman was, but everyone else in town did." The pictures are remarkable; some people haven't changed a bit; others shrivel or blossom right before your eyes. But the text! Oh, the text. It'll break your heart. (LH)


We are fortunate to live in a part of the world that is rich in books, and writers. Here's a sampling of some of the more notable regional books published this year.