What Northlanders were reading in 2010Find out which local books dominated fellow readers’ lists, and see what our area’s Publishers Weekly correspondent and established authors — like Anthony Bukoski — curled up with this past year.
No matter where you look these days, e-book readers are everywhere. Not only are there the big names (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.), but — as was the case when the iPod was the biggest thing on the planet — there are also already dozens of knockoffs that may or may not be better than the “real thing.” (Not only that but just about every “smart phone” on the market has access to free versions of the most popular e-readers.)
Indeed, when Anita Zager of Northern Lights Books & Gifts announced that she wouldn’t be renewing her Canal Park bookstore’s lease, she referred to the publishing world as being in a “Gutenberg moment.”
Nevertheless, no matter how you get your books, there will always be a common thread among bookworms: a love of the written word, of course.
With that in mind, the Budgeteer contacted a number of Twin Ports personalities and asked the following: What was your favorite local and non-local book released in 2010 — and why?
We also asked the same questions of our followers on Facebook. (Have an opinion on this matter? Simply e-mail your selections to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will update this article as submissions come in.)
Sharon Biskey, Budgeteer reader
Local: Sarah J. Gibson’s “The Zoom Guide to Generations: A Quick Overview and Practical Application Guide to Generational Communication.” I’m not sure if it came out this year,* but I just heard about it a short time ago. [She is a] former local author; I went to school with her. It takes almost as long to say it as to read it. Good info though.
Anthony Bukoski, author and UWS English professor
My two favorite local books: Linda LeGarde Grover’s splendid “The Dance Boots” (University of Georgia Press), which won this year’s Flannery O’Connor Prize and has received sterling reviews in Publishers Weekly, Booklist and elsewhere; and the Holy Cow! Press anthology “When Last on the Mountain: The View from Writers Over 50,” which offers exemplary poetry and prose, including a touching and humorous poem by Duluth’s Mara Hart.
My favorite non-local book: Eddie Chuculate’s short-story collection “Cheyenne Madonna” (Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine) impressed me. Its Native American central character struggles with various demons as he travels the country. In a review for the Star Tribune, I described the book as “a moving debut … rich, thoughtful, eloquent and honest.”
Rose Hoene, Budgeteer reader
Local: “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist” by Laurie Hertzel.
Claire Kirch, Midwest (and beyond) correspondent for Publishers Weekly
Favorite local book (because the author is a Duluth native and the subject matter is local history): “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist” by Laurie Hertzel (University of Minnesota Press).
Hertzel, a Duluth native who worked for the Duluth News Tribune between 1976 and 1994, writes a poignant and compelling memoir of those years. It’s a fascinating read on so many levels: as the narrative of a woman’s rite of passage into adulthood during a tumultuous time in American society; as the story of a small-town newspaper during a time of great changes in the industry; and as an account of a colorful era in Duluth’s history, when the city struggled to redefine itself after losing much of its manufacturing base in the 1980s.
This book should be required reading for all Duluthians.
Best non-local book (though it has a local connection): “Heart of a Samurai” by Margi Preus (Amulet). I am a big fan of well-written historical fiction, and Duluth resident Margi Preus’ young-adult novel is among the best I’ve read this year.
Preus has fleshed out the real-life story of a Japanese teenager in the mid-19th century who became one of the first Japanese to ever come to America. It’s historical fiction, but it’s also an adventure tale, as Manjiro survives shipwrecks, imprisonment and other calamities during his life, before being elevated to the rank of samurai.
It’s a great read — not just for teen readers but for anyone interested in learning more about an interesting time in both Japan’s and our country’s history. Anyone who knows Preus’ work as a writer of Colder by the Lake shows will get that they are in for a treat, as she branches out into fiction writing.
I also liked “Revolution” by Jennifer Donnelly (Delacorte), which is another young-adult historical “thriller” inspired by the sad tale of the “Lost Dauphin,” Louis XVII, son of Marie Antoinette. The modern-day teenage protagonist of “Revolution” finds a diary written by a girl her own age who lived during the French Revolution and discovers that, even though the two girls might have lived two centuries apart, they have a lot in common.
“Revolution” is a lot more intense of a read than “The Last Samurai,” and I hesitate to call it “young adult,” but it will be a page-turner for anyone interested in the French Revolution.
Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune A&E reporter
Local: Wendy Webb’s novel “The Tale of Halcyon Crane” [is a] ghost story set on Manitou Island. It is like those first books that kidnapped your attention when you were reading with a flashlight under the covers. It’s the kind of story where the bookmark is still warm when you reopen it.
The story starts with Hallie James learning the circumstances of her life have been a lie: her mother didn’t die in a fire, and her name isn’t even Hallie James. She receives a packet with two letters: one from a famous photographer named Madlyn Crane, claiming to be her long-lost mother, and one from a lawyer telling her that Madlyn Crane has recently died. She has barely enough time to get to her father’s deathbed to fact-check, and, in a rare lucid reprieve from Alzheimer’s, he says enough to confirm that there is more to the story than what he has told her. He dies and Hallie takes off for Manitou Island to meet with her mother’s lawyer. Then things get creepy....
Non-local: I’m going to buck the Jonathan Franzen “Freedom”-frenzy and say that the best book of 2010 is Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” This is a novel full of short stories, a collection of pulse points in the lives of a full squad of players in the rock-and-roll scene. Each stars a character that is connected to another in a way that ranges from meaningful to fleeting.
Then Egan upped the difficulty level: Each story can stand alone as a short story — and, in some cases, has actually been published elsewhere. And it isn’t told in chronological order. And it is delicious, clever and unlike anything else I’ve read.
That said, this has been an amazing year for fiction: “Freedom,” of course, is epic; Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” is this (barely) futuristic story that is really funny and unique; and Hilary Thayer Hamann has a fun success story with her super-gripping coming-of-age story, “Anthropology of an American Girl.”
Peter Bognanni, a Minnesota writer, wrote this really cool novel, “The House of Tomorrow,” about a sheltered orphan kid who lives with his wacky grandma in a geodesic dome. Then he encounters rock and roll, and it changes his life. And let’s not forget the final book in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” series (“Finest Hour”). This graphic novel, starring a 20-something Canadian slacker who must fight off that sassy Ramona Flowers’ seven evil exes, is a riot whether you dig graphic novels or are a newbie to the genre.
Sammy Maida, Budgeteer reader
Local: “Morgan Park” by Arnold Alanen.* It’s a fantastic, comprehensive and exhaustive look at what once was one of the most critical influences in all of Duluth’s history — and a must-read for all who live in western Duluth fascinated with history.
Bud McClure, author and UMD professor
Best fiction: This was one of the best years for the number of good books published; thus choosing one is difficult. My pick this year is Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and, by extension, the rest of the “Millennium” trilogy: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” These books are page-turners, engaging, skillfully crafted, cerebral and, most of all, entertaining. Best of all is the books’ unlikely heroine, Lisbeth Salander, who captivates, conquers and kicks ass.
Fiction honorable mention: “Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War.” Thirty years in the making, Karl Marlantes’ first novel is magnificent.
Non-fiction: Two political books rise to the top for me: John Heilemann’s “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the Ride of a Lifetime.” The book takes you behind the scenes of one of the most intriguing campaigns in history and reveals the smallness and pettiness of presidential aspirants. Of particular note are the relationships between the candidates and their spouses, of which only the Obamas had any kind of convivial relationship. The other was Andrew Young’s “The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’ Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal that Brought Him Down.” The public persona of the Edwards family is cracked open to expose the underbelly of politics. A modern-day version of the myth of Narcissus, John and Elizabeth conspire at all costs to capture the nomination, even after his affair is uncovered.
Non-fiction honorable mention: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.” Laura Hillenbrand (author of the brilliant “Seabiscuit”) has crafted another well-written and researched story that makes reading it a pleasure.
(Bonus content alert: Here are McClure's favorite DVDs of the year!)
Best movie DVD: “Departures” (a Japanese movie). A lovely, sweet movie that deals beautifully with the sacredness of death (and life). The movie is deeply moving, elegant and immensely satisfying — such that I never wanted it to end. Moreover, the haunting soundtrack creates a transpersonal space in which this movie unfolds
Best television DVD: Season two of HBO’s “In Treatment.” Gabriel Byrne shines in this illuminating look into the therapeutic relationship. Each week in this series we follow four sessions with his clients and a fifth session with his own therapist in (mostly) real-time. The series is literate, intelligent and brilliantly acted and captures the human drama of what’s possible in the therapeutic encounter. It is the perfect series to get you through these long winter nights. If you have not seen this series begin with the first season (which is also on DVD).
Bernie Nordman, Budgeteer columnist
My book tastes are all over the map. I will read most anything. This is a list of books I really enjoyed in 2010. I love my Kindle and find it a great way to “sample” a book without having to buy a whole book.
“Great House” by Nicole Krauss
very odd story that centers on a desk. It’s broken up into four different stories all centering on the same desk. Yet, in one way or another, they all are connected. The story goes back and forth into history and across the world. The ending is one I didn’t see coming.
“Room” by Emma Donoghue
For the most part Jack is your average 5-year-old boy who lives with his “Ma.” The difference is Jack and Ma have always lived in a single room. Jack has not been outside. He does get to watch TV now and then. They are held captive by “Old Nick” who comes to visit Ma at night. During these visits, Jack must hide. Ma tries to make Jack’s life as normal as possible. The story builds up as to why they live in a single room. The ending is one that ties the story up nicely.
“Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work” by Tim Gunn
I’m not a fan of “Project Runway.” I didn’t know much about Tim Gunn until this book was suggested to me. It’s a fun etiquette book with interesting tips. Along the way, the reader gets to learn about Tim Gunn as a person as well. One of his biggest pet peeves is famous people who act like snobs. A little catty and a lot witty.
“Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard” by Liz Murray
I had a hard time putting this book down. The author’s parents were drug addicts raising two girls. Some days they had food, more often they didn’t. The author shares her painful childhood and teen years. She ended up getting accepted into Harvard and is now a public speaker and advocate.
“The Goddess of Fried Okra” by Jean Brashear
This was a book I got as a freebie for the Kindle. After reading it, I would have gladly bought it. “Pea” O’Brien is depressed, has regrets, not a lot of money and alone. Pea hits the Texas road looking for a sign that leads her to her reincarnated sister. Along the way she makes her own family with a group of misfits she finds. Everything from a grandmother figure to a sword-carrying goddess. Who doesn’t want to meet one of those on a road trip?
Lindsy O’Brien, Red Step Press’ executive editor
Local: “Brown Sugar Syrup and Jack Pine Sand” by Dennis Herschbach. And if I’m not allowed to vote for my own publication, I really liked “Picture Duluth” by Dennis O’Hara.
Non-local: “The Blessings of the Animals” by Katrina Kittle.
Sheila Packa, Duluth’s poet laureate
Connie Wanek’s “On Speaking Terms” (poems published by Copper Canyon Press) and Linda LeGarde Grover’s “The Dance Boots” (stories published by University of Georgia Press) — both are local writers on non-local presses.
Matt Perrine, Budgeteer editor
Local: Dennis O’Hara’s “Picture Duluth: Photographs of the Zenith City,” which was put out by Tony Dierckins’ X-comm publishing house. It’s no secret that Duluth has almost as many photographers as views, but what makes this book stand apart from its myriad competitors is that it is a complete experience. Not only do you get to see O’Hara’s awe-inspiring prints — it goes without saying that, as an amateur shutterbug, I quite admire how much time and energy he pours into his art — but, like every other publication Dierckins has had a hand in, you’ll also learn something from its fact-filled text.
Non-local: “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things,” an insightful look at the accumulation of possessions by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, professors who specialize in obsessive-compulsive disorder (and similar afflictions). If you’re at all familiar with the compelling TLC documentary series “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” you already know that hoarding is much more common than most people think — but this book feels ultimately more rewarding, because, for starters, it’s not presented alongside “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”
Ellen Sandbeck, author
Well, it’s funny you should ask: My favorite book of 2010 is — SURPRISE! — “Green Barbarians”* by Ellen Sandbeck. I know the author quite well, and she is a really devoted, meticulous researcher who hunts down information relentlessly, day and night, until she either captures it or realizes that her quarry isn’t what it seemed to be when she began pursuing it.
“Green Barbarians” punctures sacred cows on both the left and the right; there’s something in it to infuriate just about everyone.
I’m not sure whether it’s local or non-local. I’m local, the publisher (Scribner) is in New York.
If you are asking me to recommend a book that I didn’t write, my favorite, hands down, is “The Upside of Irrationality” by Dan Ariely (HarperCollins). I have used Dr. Ariely’s work quite a lot in my own book. I find his field, behavioral economics, and his individual way of approaching it, to be highly amusing, inspiring, informative and, most of all, entertaining. I frequently regale friends and family with tasty tidbits from Ariely’s research.
*Technically a 2009 (or earlier) release, but, hey, what does it matter in the long run?
Tags: budge a and e, arts and entertainment, year in review, sharon biskey, anthony bukoski, rose hoene, claire kirch, christa lawler, sammy maida, bud mcclure, bernie nordman, sheila packa, ellen sandbeck, duluth, budgeteer, books, 2010