Archive for the ‘Recommendations’ category

What Northfield Has Read

February 19, 2009

best-of

Periodically over the last, well, now that I think of it, it’s be pert near three years now, I’ve provided updates about local bestsellers. The old neighborhood bookstore has always devoted wall space for a nifty “What Northfield’s Reading” display, and it’s fun to check out what people have been reading over various stretches of time. I especially enjoy looking at a full year’s worth. Today, I offer a gift of this sort that comes in bittersweet wrapping: a list of What Northfield Has Read since River City Books came into being (March 2002). I think this list says a lot about your neighbor. And it reveals secrets about the couple sitting in the opposite booth as you at Hogan’s. Or not. Still, it’s a neat list and I thought you’d like to have a gander. Note that I do not provide links to all of these books because I’m entirely too lazy to undertake such an endeavor. By the way, there is no prize for guessing the overall numero uno. But if you can tell me which book landed at No. 136 I will serve as a reference on your application to the Minnesota School of Professional Clairvoyants. All right, enough horse pucky buildup, here’s the top 150:

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Instant ‘Summer’ On the Cheap

February 15, 2009

merwin-bargainWho is the best poet still open for business? Billy Collins? Mary Oliver? It’s my opinion that any such barstool debate — what, brewski drinkers don’t argue about verse? — would have to include the name W.S. Merwin, a magician with words.

A few years back Merwin wrote a lyrical nonfiction prose book called Summer Doorways. Set in 1948 when he was twenty-one and already married, it’s the story of Merwin’s days as a student in seminary school and at Princeton and the years he spent as a tutor fo children of privilege living abroad. Summer Doorways also tells of the poet’s youth in the few years before he won the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1952. And it describes life in Europe that was already passing away at the close of the Second World War. Kirkus reviews says “Summer Doorways” is “masterful.”

Oh, one other thing I must say before you consider whether to pick up a copy at the old neighborhood bookstore. The price of this hardcover just may entice you to write an ode of your own: $5.98.

Presidential Poetry

February 13, 2009

prez-poemYou know what, I really liked that poem that was read at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. “Praise Song for the Day” is its name and Elizabeth Alexander is its author. Hey, that’s a tall order. For one, you’re writing for such an historic occasion that, like, everyone’s going to remember, maybe for years! And then you have competing pressures of appeasing both the masses and the critics, who, you know, will scrutinize your every word like a banker scrutinizes a bailout. If there’s a writer who can identify, you’re reading him. What, you think it’s easy being the only bird who can write? In any event, I was at River City Books last night and I saw that they can a couple of copies of a nifty little chapbook of “Praise Song for the Day” and if you liked it, too, you just might want to pick one up.

Best in Children’s Books of the Year

January 29, 2009

graveyardI’m starting to get a little miffed at the WeatherHeads. Throughout last week/weekend’s obscenely cold spell they said it would warm by Wednesday. It will be much more pleasant on Wednesday. Temps, perhaps in the 30s, on Wednesday. Just survive until Wednesday. Wednesday! Well, I was outside on Wednesday and I can tell you we weren’t any closer to 30 than I am to winning a Pulitzer. Now they are saying Saturday’s the day. I’ll believe it when I feel it.

In the meantime, warmth must be found in knowing that awards season has begun and that means spring can’t be too many months off (can it?). The American Library Association has announced the winners of its major prizes — the Caldecott and Newbery medals, and the Coretta Scott King Award — for the best children’s and young adult literature.

Among this year’s winners:

John Newberry Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature — The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Newberry Honor Books — The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small; “The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle”; Savvy by Ingrid Law; and “After Tupac and D Foster” by Jacqueline Woodson

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children — “The House in the Night,” illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson

Caldecott Honor Books — “A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever” by Marla Frazee; “How I Learned Geography” by Uri Shulevitz; and “A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant

The Coretta Scott King Award recognizing African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults that demonstrate sensitivity to “the true worth and value of all beings” — “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Inaugurate This Book

January 24, 2009

bargain-prezI was so riveted the other day when the author of Dreams from My Father was sworn in as the forty-forth president of the United States. I especially got excited during his speech when the newest president mentioned the first. Like a lot of people that reference reminded me that River City Books has a copy of His Excellency: George Washington on sale for $5.99. The book is a landmark biography of our nation’s first president written by Joseph Ellis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Founding Brothers. The book is the rare combination of exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric prose that has made Ellis, who also has a National Book Award on his mantle, one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Says the New York Times: “Absorbing. … An incisive portrait [that] eloquently conveys the magnitude of Washington’s accomplishments.” The book is available while supplies last. Hint: It probably won’t make to the end of the new prez’s first 100 days.

They’re Still Pick Them

January 15, 2009

january1At the half-way point in the month it finally occurred to me that I should remind you that the industrious booksellers down at River City Books are still manically reading and recommending great books (and DVDs and CDs!) that you can get for cheap-cheap-cheap (books, 25 percent off; DVDs and CDs, 15 percent off).

Just stop by the store and peruse the display pictured (partially) in this post. Now I better get going. I think I also had some bills due at the beginning of the month.

Happy reading. Or listening. Or viewing.

Northfield’s Favorite Books of the Year

January 12, 2009

best-of-08

Well, the final tabulations of the final full year are in and, as my wicked good photography skills clearly show, River City Books has arranged its “What Northfield is Reading” display to reflect the local bestsellers for the calendar year that was twenty-o-eight. Here they are, folks. Well, actually, this isn’t the full display. Turns out my photography skills aren’t quite as good I thought and that I, in fact, have a hard time with walls. But you already knew that. Anyway, read this eclectic mix of books (and those near the bottom of the list that you can’t see here). That is, if you want to keep up with what your neighbor, or the guy in the next cubicle, is reading.

Pretty Good Gift Idea: For The Best Friend

December 23, 2008

deweyToday’s pretty good gift idea is one you can give to your friend that he or she can in turn give to his or her best friend. Wait. I know what you must be thinking: this bird is batty! No, I am not really suggesting that on top of the shopping list, the cookie baking, the turkey basting, the tree trimming and the shoveling (oh, the shoveling) that you should also volunteer to come up with gifts for other people’s people. Actually, I am thinking of the fuzzy four-legged friends in our lives.

If you are buying for a dog or cat lover you might want to consider perusing River City Books’ pet section for one of the many great books about pet rearing/animal tales and then couple it with a treat or gift certificate to a local pet supplier. A few that come to mind: Dewey, a true story about a cat that saved an entire Iowa town. Or marleyso I am told. I am also told a movie is in the works. Of course, you can go tried and true: Marley & Me, which, of course, already has the movie mojo. One book I picked up the other day is “Do Dogs Laugh?” I haven’t gotten too far into it yet (been a little busy, ya know) but it looks like it will help me figure out a few things about the terrier in my life and about dogs in general (I have much to learn). Not too long ago I saw a Cesar Millan title on one of the store’s many bargain tables. I can’t vouch that it’s still there. But his books are worth checking out. They don’t call him the Dog Whisperer for nothing.

Two more options — just because I’m hot, and you never know when that might happen again. The first is Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform by Carleton College graduate Karin Winegar and the second is Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. This time of year we all could use more freethinkers, whether or not they are canines.

Pretty Good Gift Idea: Beer

December 19, 2008

beer-bookPerhaps there’s someone on your gift list that likes beer. It is, technically speaking, possible. I mean, some people, I have heard, do like a brew now and then. A little. Once in a while. But what do you give the beer aficionado? Slapping a bow on a sixpack and sliding it under the tree crosses a line that makes many of us feel, well, a little like Clark W. Griswold’s cousin Eddie. But aha! Down at the old neighborhood bookstore, they have a solution: Land of Amber Waters by Doug Hoverson, winner of a Minnesota Book Award. Starting with Minnesota’s first brewery in 1849, Hoverson, a certified beer judge and award-winning homebrewer, tells the story of the state’s beer industry from small-town breweries to large companies such as Schell’s and Grain Belt. The book also highlights today’s beer culture, including new wave of brewpubs. Pair this book up with a gift certificate to one of Northfield’s fine pubs and there you go! Last time I checked, too, RCB had a couple of signed copies on hand.

Pretty Good Gift Idea: Tunes for All

December 17, 2008

music
Well, actually, this post’s header lies. This isn’t one pretty gift idea — it’s several. And they all come courtesy of River City Books bookseller and music maven Kevin Krein. I have multiple music lovers on my shopping list and, um, I pretty much stopped knowing what was on the radio in 1989. Kevin’s the one to turn before zipping over to RCB’s impressive wall of CDs. Recently, I was smart enough (shuddup!) to take a few notes.

Here’s his roundup of gift-worthy tunes, with an eye on finding options for every sort of ear:

Giving the gift of music during the holiday season can be both thoughtful and dangerous. Thoughtful in the sense that you thought that someone on your holiday shopping list might like an album by an artist they have enjoyed in the past. Dangerous in the sense that if you’re buying blindly for someone without knowing their tastes, come Christmas morning, they could shoot you a dirty look like they’ve just unwrapped an ugly sweater or a package of athletic socks.

A lot of albums were released in 2008. Here are some of them, sorted by genre/demographic to please even the most picky listeners this holiday season.

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