First Monday Book Day: MN Book Awards Edition

The Minnesota Book Awards took place last Saturday evening. It was amazing to be part of a gathering of nearly one thousand writers and other book people—I was struck by what a strong literary community our state has. I thought it might be fun to highlight a few of the winning books. For the full list, see here

Children’s literature: Moo! by David LaRochelle with illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka. This book has a Minnesota author and illustrator. But more importantly, it’s a delight. It tells the story of a cow who gets her hands (hooves?) on a farmer’s car and takes it for a joyride. And the world desperately needs more celebrations of bovine larceny. Oh, wait. The more I describe it, the worse it sounds. Just trust me on this. The main character is remarkably expressive, despite her extremely limited vocabulary, and the illustrations do an excellent job of bringing the story to life.

Poetry: Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen. This book was also a finalist for the National Book Award. A friend with excellent taste tells me this book is very good and has promised to loan it to me. So look for more on this from me in another month or two. (Bonus: April is National Poetry Month.)


Minnesota: Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison by Kristin Makholm (Minnesotan) and W. Jackson Rushing III (non-Minnesotan). This book has a gorgeous cover and has me thoroughly intrigued about this Chippewa artist.

Hognander Minnesota History Award: Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White. This is a narrative history of the Dakota and the Dakota people’s long connection to the place that is now called Minnesota. It sounds incredible.

Young People’s Literature: Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian. I’ve confessed my love for this novel before, and it’s awesome to see it get accolades in the wider world.

So what have you been reading? Any Minnesota authors?

featured image: cc Livy Hoskins via

32 thoughts on “First Monday Book Day: MN Book Awards Edition”

  1. I finished up the third volume of Allan Nevins's giant Civil War Era set and will probably finish the fourth volume later this week (Lincoln is about to be elected President). They are remarkably researched and really shed a light on all the intraparty squabbling in the late 1850s. I'm not sure if I'll continue the series after the fourth volume because I've read plenty about the Civil War before.

  2. Went back to the beginning with Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander. What a great introduction to the geopolitics of the early 1800's, characters Capt. Jack Aubrey & Stephen Maturin and life aboard a small(ish) warship at a time when the British Navy challenged for rule of the oceans under sail. Given my own experiences at sea, I was surprised to find how much I'd missed about the actual sailing the first time I read this book. O'Brian seamlessly intersperses the art of sailing a man-of-war, the lives of her crew (and their roles, both while sailing and fighting the ship) all while developing the immediate plot and setting the stage for a long-running story arc.

    I also spent an afternoon going cover to cover through a Christmas gift my brother gave me: Vietnam: The Real War: A Photographic History by the Associated Press, Pete Hamill (Contributor). Arranged chronologically, it tells the history of the place and events as much with images as with words. They do a nice job of giving backstory and context to the photo, placing it in time and geography, but allowing the image to convey those things in a more intimate and nuanced way. Done in a coffee-table style, it's something I'll leave out to look at from time to time, but probably underneath something a little less sobering.

    1. I'd love to reread the O'Brian books again, but I'm not ready to invest the time. I should see about adding more of the hardcovers to my library though.

  3. I'm nearly finished with the second Dark Tower book, The Drawing of the Three and it is much better written and more engrossing than the first one. I'm certainly invested now in finishing the series up, so I'm glad its all been written... (get to work George!)

    1. I read 85% of The Gunslinger a long time ago and nearly fell asleep a half-dozen times. Everyone told me it gets much better.

      1. The version of The Gunslinger I read was the version King went back and edited heavily. It had an intro from him that basically admitted the writing wasn't great and that he learned a lot by the time he got back to work on it, so it put me in the right mind set to read it which, I think, helped a lot for getting through it.

        1. I don't remember which one I read. It's funny King said that, since some of his best work is from his early years. Some of his worst is too, though, I suppose.

        2. The Dark Tower series is on my short list, though I probably won't get to it for a while.
          I just picked up A Clash of Kings and my buddy gave me his unread copies of A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows, saying he preferred the television series to the books so far and knew he wouldn't read any more of the series.

          1. I've only been able to watch two seasons of the show so far, but I strongly disagree with your friend. Although the show is very good, don't get me wrong.

            But yeah, with a second kid coming, it'll definitely be a while before you get to the Dark Tower series.

            1. I have not seen one episode of the show to date, wanting to read the books first. I did really enjoy the first one and I'll probably work through Clash before checking out the show.

              1. Knowing my tendencies for requiring completeness in reading/watching/listening to series, there will be no stopping me reading all the way through the SOIAF series in no time flat once I get started. I decided to wait until the TV show has run its course and then go back and re-read all the books to fill in the bits that the show left out. I figured, for my preferences anyway, that I'd rather build on the TV show than look at the show and know they left out x, y or z.

                1. ...I'd rather build on the TV show than look at the show and know they left out x, y or z.

                  This is a concern of mine as well.

    2. The story of King writing (and eventually completing) the Dark Tower series should give all ASOIAF fans hope.

      I thought the middle part of the series was really good (specifically books 2-5).

  4. I'm slowly working my way through Robert Dallek's An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963. JFK just became president and is close to Wilt Chamberlain's numbers. At the rate I'm going, I will probably finish in June.

    For the young 'uns we just finished Mouse on the Motorcycle and started Runaway Ralph. So far not as funny as I remembered from my childhood.

  5. David LaRochelle! I love that dude! He was a sixth grade teacher at my elementary school, and he was a delight to have around. Dude is tall, too. Had to duck under every single door in the place.

    1. He was actually nominated for a second book this year--How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans. He seems like a really nice guy!

  6. I finished Eats, Shoots, and Leaves the other day. It was a quick, mostly entertaining read. It's in the Book Exchangf if you want it.

  7. A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan. I read a short story excerpt from this novel last year and finally read the full thing. It tells about the lives of an interconnected group of characters from various points during their lives and does not unfold in chronological order. There’s a lot about the music industry and how it has changed since the 70s. I found many of the characters hard to relate to or difficult to like, but the book was strong enough to keep me reading. I thought some chapters were stronger than others; there is one absolutely amazing chapter near the end that’s basically in the form of a PowerPoint Presentation. Crazy!

    This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Patchett might be best known as the novelist who is also co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville. I requested this from the library after reading a very positive review of the book and read it in spite of the title, which doesn’t at all capture what the book is about. It’s an essay collection that covers many parts of her career. She’s a good writer, to be sure, but I found some topics (writing, books, bookselling) of more interest than others (a week in an RV). I have been meaning to read one of her novels for a while now, and reading this did reinforce that desire.

    Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth. Do not be deceived by the title! This is actually a children’s picture book. It’s extremely unconventional as it is in the form of a catalog for building your own mechanical bird. The book’s tagline is, “Renewing the World’s Bird Supply Since 2031.” It brings together facts about birds and their bodies in an odd and wonderful presentation. AMR, I really hope you check this one out. I would love to know what you make of it.

    1. I was amazed at how good the Powerpoint chapter in Good Squad was. From hearing about it I expected it to be a lightly fun gimmick, but that chapter may have been the most poignant of all. I thought the whole book was really phenomenal (with the possible exception of the very last chapter).

      1. Actual Spoiler SelectShow
  8. Oh man, I was doing great. I finally hit my stride on Gravity's Rainbow and I read about 250 pages in a week. Then I just hit a wall. I haven't picked it up in a couple weeks so I'm still on page 530.

    I don't know what it is. I was enjoying it more as I got further into it, but I think it might have defeated me just by sheer size. Anyway. I'm going to dive back in here and finish it off so that I can send it to Mags (Exchangef activity!). Hopefully knowing that someone is waiting for it will keep me motivated.

    I have read a couple other books while GR sits on the nightstand.

    Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson - Superhero fantasy. It's a good story and an interesting world (although a world that is clearly set up to be part of a series - plenty of noticeable staging for future entries). Some humans have developed superpowers, but their absolute power has corrupted absolutely, so now it's up to a bunch of non-superpowered vigilantes to try and release the city (formerly Chicago) from the titular supervillain. My one complaint is that I got a bit gun-weary by the time I got to the end, lots of guns described in lots of (unnecessary?) detail. I also read the related short story Mitosis, which takes place shortly after Steelheart. Meh.

    Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee - I love these short stories. They're dense and intricate and fantastical in just the right way.

    1. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

      I'd just picked it up and started it when I saw you were reading it as well(Goodreads is an interesting website). It's actually the first thing I've read by Sanderson, and I was not exactly blown away. I wouldn't call it formulaic, but there wasn't much that happened that I didn't see coming from early on. The action sequences were pretty well written, and most of the characters were filled out decently, but nothing that made me think I really want to read more about this universe.

      1. I wouldn't call it formulaic, but there wasn't much that happened that I didn't see coming from early on.

        Yeah, nothing groundbreaking certainly. Not the best thing I've read by Sanderson, not sure if he was shooting for a YA audience and that had an effect? Anyway, it was a welcome break from the density of Pynchon.

        1. Re: G.R. Same here - my reading had a parabolic lift once I got past page 100 or so, have been flying at a remarkable rate. Wonder when Brennschluss sets in...

    2. I flatlined at a little over 300 on GR, so you're crushing me. I was going great and then hit the part where he shifted away from France/Switzerland to Germany, and something about that... erased my momentum. I've been slowly picking it back up again this week, a couple pages at a time.

  9. I literally JUST finished House of Leaves. I'm fairly stunned. Linds asked me for a synopisis, and I had a hard time boiling it down, but between the Tense mystery of the Navidson Record, the frustrated intellectualism of the Zampanó files, and the horrifying creeping madness of Truant's notes, I've been replaying bits and pieces for the past week or so.

    I will have to read this book again someday.

    1. I still find it hard to believe that Danielewski ever wrote another book after that one. It just seemed like such an exhausting endeavor to put that together.

Comments are closed.