Archive for September 2007

Time To Talk About ‘The Girls’

September 30, 2007

girls.jpgAs I try to note this time of the month, the ever-beguiling River City Books fiction book club meets the first Tuesday of each month to discuss great books. The October meeting will feature a conversation about The Girls by Lori Lansens.

Booklist, in its starred review of “The Girls,” said Lansens’ “biggest achievement in the novel is bringing to life two truly extraordinary characters to such a degree that readers may forget they are reading fiction.” Hey, just don’t forget the time and place: The club will gather at 7 p.m. this Tuesday in the store’s downstairs meeting area.

The club is free and open to the public. Participants receive 20 percent off selected titles. Call the store (507-646-7754) and ask for Sue or, heck, just stop on by. They aren’t formal. Though when they meet I often hear some serious laughter coming from the basement.

The Final Book Is A Beauty

September 28, 2007

halberstam.JPGBack in April, following the tragic death of David Halberstam, I mentioned how much I admired his books. Of course, I am far from the only one.

Fortunately for Halberstam’s readers, he had completed a manuscript before he was killed in a car accident on April 23, while on his way to an interview for a future book. That final manuscript has now been published and, as I browsed The Coldest Winter (and snapped this photo down at River City Books; click to enlarge), I was struck by how beautiful the book is. And I don’t use that word often — unless, of course, Mrs. Raven is around.

The book’s subject, the Korean War, won’t soon conjure the word beauty, however, but like so many of Halberstam’s other books, this is one every student of history should read.

One of America’s most distinguished journalists and historians, after graduating from Harvard in 1955, Halberstam covered the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, then was sent overseas by the New York Times to report on the war in Vietnam. The author of fifteen bestsellers, including The Best and the Brightest, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam reporting at the age of thirty.

This final book is drawing the sorts of raves Halberstam’s efforts usually did. Said Booklist in its starred review: “Commanding and evocative … Halberstam’s final work stands as the coda to his enduringly famous The Best and the Brightest.”

Fall Calendar Filling Up

September 26, 2007

rcblogos.jpgI was just taking a gander at River City Books’ calendar of events and, wow, they’ve got some good ones coming up. You’ve heard me mention the Kevin Kling Northfield Reads! event a time or two already. There are also two cool readings in October — Thomas Maltman’s book The Night Birds has a Northfield connection and is getting great reviews, and Heather McElhatton’s Pretty Little Mistakes is several little fascinating books in one — and, just added, a December appearance by the author of A Gift for Sadia (a big seller locally) who has a new book coming out next month.

If I am ever asleep at the wheel — the alarm breaks, periodically — feel free to bypass me and go straight to the calendar. It’s updated regularly and always has links to the featured titles.

Another Great Read fom the Master

September 25, 2007

Is there a finer or more decorated living writer in the world than Philip Roth? I have wracked my brain — never mind that it can fit into a thimble — and I cannot come up with a one. Fortunately for fans of Roth’s famous literary creation, Nathan Zuckerman, the latest — and said to be last — Zuckerman-starring novel, Exit Ghost, has been released and will be available Oct. 1 down at the old neighborhood bookstore. Or, you can pre-order online and either have the book shipped to you or you can pick it up in the store.

Here’s a plot description:


It Was A Full ‘Table’ (Audio)

September 22, 2007

Last night I was fortunate to be among those who found a spot inside the Northfield Arts Guild room when author Gary Holthaus appeared to talk about his new book, From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know about Agriculture. The place was so packed that in order to listen in some people had to stand outside the door. I can attest that it was worth the effort.

Holthaus spoke for about 90 minutes, including a question-and-answer session with eager readers. I won’t do his remarks justice — buy the book! — but talked about importance of sustainability, the uphill battle family farmers face, the stories he discovered on the research trail, information about federal farming policy, and the economic factors that influence how we eat and live. Holthaus was insightful, informative, and showed why the topics he writes about in “From the Farm to the Table” are relevant to all of us, whether or not we’ve ever stepped foot — or feather — on a farm.

The event was sponsored by River City Books, the NAG, and Just Food Co-op. I have to squawk a bit extra especially for the good folks at Just Food, who provided the best spread of food I have ever nibbled on at an author event. It was all locally grown goodness. Thanks, Just Food. When I eat indoors, Just Food is where I shop.

Holthaus also read a wonderful passage from his book that was instructive and lyrical. You can listen by clicking below.

‘War’: What Is It Good For? About Fifty Bucks

September 21, 2007

war.jpgAs you may have heard, the latest highly anticipated documentary by Ken Burns, this one about World War II, will begin airing on PBS this Sunday evening. Before the show starts — pass the popcorn! — I want you to know that you can pick up a pamphlet down at River City Books that will help you follow long.

OK, so perhaps pamphlet isn’t the best word to describe this thick tome. But there’s no doubt the book, which is loaded with amazing photographs and compelling stories from some of the most critical years of the 20th century, is worth picking up and thumbing through. What’s more, one of the four towns featured in the book is in Minnesota.

For those who would like to know more, here’s a summary:


The ‘Dog’ Is In The House

September 20, 2007

dog.jpgRemember how I told you — more than once, in fact — that Kevin Kling’s book, The Dog Says How, would be available in early to mid October? Turns out (sit down before you read the rest of this sentence) I was wrong. Shocking, but true. Next thing you know aliens will be discovered in the checkout line at Home Depot and a new study will reveal that ballpark franks are good for the pancreas. In my defense, the book was released weeks ahead of schedule.

The reason this matters is that Kling will be at Sevy Great Hall on the Carleton College campus at 7 p.m., Nov. 7, as part of the Northfield Reads! communitywide book club.

In his first book, Kling, best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and his storytelling stage shows like “Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log,” delivers a “collection of hilarious, often tender, autobiographical stories.”

By the way, “The Dog Says How” is on sale for 20 percent off at River City Books through the event.

Now that you have more than a month to read this slim volume if you don’t make time to participate, well, that would be just all wrong.

A Tasty Event This Friday Night

September 18, 2007

holthaus.jpgDo you eat food? If so, does any of it come from the ground? If you’re nodding you’re head, there’s an event in town this Friday night that you’re not going to want to miss.

Gary Holthaus, author of From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know about Agriculture, will appear at 7 p.m. at the Northfield Arts Guild. Holthaus will read from his book and facilitate a discussion about topics raised in his research. There will also be a reception that includes refreshments provided by Just Food Co-op.

The event, sponsored by River City Books, Just Food, and the Northfield Arts Guild, is free and open to the public. The NAG is located 304 Division Street in downtown Northfield.

The book is on sale at River City for 15 percent off through Sept. 21. If you can’t make it but would like a signed copy, contact the store or order online.

Here’s a short summary of the book:


Save Dough for the Rest of the Week

September 17, 2007

hersh.jpgIt’s Monday. Back to work and school and the grind. I know this feeling. Yes, birds have to slave, too. Which is why I am always looking for a break. And when I find one — if it doesn’t involve food anyway — I try to share. Sharing is good. Or so I’ve been told.

So here’s a terrific break: You can buy a great read at a fraction of the cover price. Yep. You can do this. I can do this. The guy in the next cubical can, too. Just stop down to River City Books where they have tables full of bargains — upstairs and down — every day of the week.

I snapped a picture of one such bargain (click to enlarge). Here’s a book that made plenty of headlines a couple of years ago and is still germane (pretty spiffy word for a bird, eh?) to the political discussions of today.

A brief summary of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib: “Since September 11, 2001, Seymour M. Hersh has riveted readers — and outraged the Bush Administration — with his stories in The New Yorker, including his breakthrough pieces on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Now, in Chain of Command, he brings together this reporting, along with new revelations, to answer the critical question of the last three years: how did America get from the clear morning when hijackers crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to a divisive and dirty war in Iraq?”

The price, however, won’t create any firestorms: Just $5.98 in paperback. While supplies last.

Club Looking ‘Elsewhere’ in September

September 14, 2007

elsewhere.jpgBooklist, in its starred review of Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere, called the novel “a work of powerful beauty.” Members of the River City Books young adult book club, I am here to say, will consider that assessment for themselves when the club meets at 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 24, in the store’s downstairs meeting area.

The club, as you probably could guess, is free and open to the public. What’s more, participants receive 20 percent off on all selected titles. 

Give the store a call or, heck, just drop on by! New members are always welcome. And treats are frequently served.

For those who like to read ahead (it’s OK, this isn’t school), future young adult book club selections include Crooked (October) and The Golden Compass (November).