It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the holidays — office parties, family gatherings, etc. The things that settle us, calm us down, get us centered … they often get neglected.
For many, curling up with a good book is the very thing that centers them. No notifications pop up when you’re reading a book (unless you’re reading it on your phone, which is inadvisable). A book is patient. It invites you to spend quality time. It can challenge, inspire and excite you in ways nothing else can.
Like we do from time to time here in the Currents section, we’ve reached out to some local readers for book recommendations. We didn’t give them a lot of stipulations. Their recommendations didn’t have to be for books published in 2019, or have been written by local authors. We didn’t care if they wanted to recommend fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry, a book of maps or a picture book. We just wanted a recommendation that we could give you if you’re looking to get back in touch with your literary side.
We hope you find a few things you can curl up with this winter as you wait for warm temps to return.
Reviewer: Rachael Hanel
Book: “Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions”
Author: By Sheila O’Connor
Minnesotan Sheila O’Connor hits it out of the park with this inventive take on her grandmother’s story, of which little is known. “V” was 15 when she was impregnated in 1935 and sentenced to the Minnesota Home School for Girls in Sauk Centre until she was 21. The baby, O’Connor’s mother, was sent to live with relatives. O’Connor’s mix of historical research, fictive imaginings, poetry and memoir poignantly highlights the injustices done to girls like “V” and reminds us of the plight of incarcerated girls today.
Reviewer: Dustin Wilmes
Book: “Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984”
Author: Duane Tudahl
I chose a book I know my fellow Prince-fanatic Robb Murray will appreciate. “Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984” is a detailed diary of everything Prince was doing in ’83 and ’84. Author Duane Tudahl was granted access to the session logs at Los Angeles’ Sunset Sound studios, providing details on every recording during that prolific period in Prince’s life. Besides the albums “Purple Rain” and “Around the World in a Day,” Prince also recorded albums for The Time, Apollonia 6, The Family, Sheila E., and wrote songs for Stevie Nicks, Sheena Easton, The Bangles and more. Oh yeah, and he released the film “Purple Rain.” All the live shows, studio sessions, rehearsals — everything Prince did during that time — is detailed in this book. As an added bonus, several interviews I conducted on my radio show “The Five Count” were used to add some insight. It feels good to be part of a works cited page!
Reviewer: Jeni Kolstad
Book: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”
Author: Marie Kondo
I didn’t realize how much the stuff in my house impacted my life until I tried the KonMari method of decluttering and organizing. Marie has you go through your house by category of items and only keep what “sparks joy.” You then organize it all in a way so that every item has its place and looks aesthetically pleasing. I went through every item in my house and only kept the things that sparked joy and got rid of the rest. My home feels much less chaotic and I’m surrounded only by the items I truly love.
Reviewer: Nick Healy
Book: “Olive, Again”
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Read anything by Elizabeth Strout, and you will realize a big-hearted, smart and wry person is at the other end of the transaction. A decade has passed since her “Olive Kitteridge” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and after all this time, the book’s title character, a prickly stoic who isn’t as hard or humorless as she first seems, returns as the focal point of “Olive, Again.” Many critics and readers (and Oprah!) have said the new Olive book is at least as good as the first, and they are right.
Reviewer: TJ Palesotti
Book: “Born to Run”
Author: Christopher McDougall
I typically like to read biographies about my favorite musicians or other iconic figures, but right at the time I was training to run a marathon, I picked up this ethnography. Not only was I able to learn about the fascinating culture of a tribe that I had never even heard of before, but I was also able to learn more about the human body’s ability to endure and adapt both mentally and physically to extreme situations. Learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable has come in useful in many more of life’s situations besides running.
Reviewer: Tacie Schwartz
Book: “Love Medicine”
Author: Louise Erdrich
Years ago, in a college class, I was assigned “Love Medicine” by Louise Erdrich. It is a novel that has stuck with me like no other, and I have subsequently devoured everything else the Minnesota author has written. “Love Medicine” is a novel-in-stories about the interwoven lives of two Chippewa families gathered together to mourn the loss of a wild-spirited loved one. Spanning a half-century, it loops through the 1930s and into the 1980s, telling the stories of passion and love, family secrets, and cultural identity. Erdrich’s poetic way of storytelling is sometimes funny, sometimes bitterly tragic, and shows us how our families’ stories are woven into our own story, binding us together.
Reviewer: Richard Meyer
Book: “Of Mice and Men”
Author: John Steinbeck
Written in simple but beautiful language, John Steinbeck’s novella “Of Mice and Men” remains as fresh and significant today as when it was published in 1937. The book tells the story of George and Lennie, two migrant workers during the Great Depression. In just 118 pages, Steinbeck writes movingly about loneliness, companionship, racism, aging, the dispossessed, the mentally challenged and pursuit of the American Dream. An interesting footnote is that an early and only draft of the book was chewed up by Steinbeck’s dog, an Irish setter pup named Max, and Steinbeck had to begin the book over from scratch.
Reviewer: Gregory Wilkins
Book: “The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother”
Author: James McBride
This is the autobiography and memoir of James McBride. The chapters alternate between McBride’s descriptions of his early life and first-person accounts of his mother’s life. He depicts conflicting emotions he endured as he struggled to discover his true-self, as his mother narrates the hardships that she had to overcome as a white, Jewish woman who chose to marry a black man in 1942.
Reviewer: Esther Marcella Hoffmann
Author: Cheryl Strayed
One of my favorite books is Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” A young woman loses her mother and then thinks she’s lost herself as well. In desperate inspiration she makes a choice to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Strayed’s honesty is brutal and beautiful. Her true story reminds us that we don’t have to stay the same. In fact, we can’t. And, I always enjoy hiking stories!