Archive for the ‘Recommendations’ category

What Northfield Has Read

February 19, 2009


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:


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


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.