Book Awards - ALA Carnegie Medals

One of the useful things about book awards is that they serve as a reminder to dig into your stack of to-be-read books. The authors of two books in my stack were recently awarded the American Library Association (ALA) Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction: Jennifer Egan for Manhattan Beach (fiction) and Sherman Alexie for You Don't Have to Say You Love Me (nonfiction). I'm looking forward to reading both of these books.

Egan previously won a Pulitzer Prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad. Alexie has won many awards, including the National Book Award for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. That book was also the most challenged book of 2014 according to the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom, which annually compiles a list of books that people attempt to ban from schools, libraries and our communities. Making the ALA's banned book list is a resounding recommendation for a book, in my opinion. I read and greatly enjoyed The Absolutely T…


After looking over the finalists for the 2018 Minnesota Book Awards, I plan to dip into Alice in France: The World War I Letters of Alice M. O’Brien by Nancy O’Brien Wagner. My dad's stepfather, Carl Waack, served in France during World War I. It must have been quite a shock for him to go from rural Wisconsin to fighting in the fields of France. He was nothing like Alice O'Brien, who was the daughter of a wealthy family. I never asked Carl about his military service -  my childhood memory of him is of someone who was very old and who didn't feel well - so it will be interesting to read about Ms. O'Brien.

St. Valentine's Day: Add a Children's Book to that Chocolate Heart

If you are planning to give something sweet to a special child next week, why not add a book to your gift? Check out these five children's books recently recommended by the amazing Maria Popova at

Big Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme and illustrator Olivier Tallec

The Paper-Flower Tree by Jacqueline Ayer

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers

The Blue Songbird by Vern Kousky

What's Your Weekend Read?

Celine, by Peter Heller, has been in my to-be-read pile for a while now. Heller is the author of one of my all time favorite books, The Dog Stars (review here). Because I found The Dog Stars to be so amazing, I've set aside Celine to let the anticipation grow. But now the time to read it has come at last - hooray!

Also, did I mention how much I enjoyed The Dog Stars? Check it out if you need a weekend read.

Recommended Reading: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips, considers a contemporary American problem: You are enjoying a lovely time somewhere when suddenly there is an active shooter on the scene. What to do?

Just what to do becomes the urgent question for the novel's protagonist, Joan, who is at a zoo late one afternoon with her four-year-old son, Lincoln. They often go to the zoo and are hanging out in a favorite area in the back of the park, in the woods. It's October and the zoo is decorated with Jack-o'-lanterns and scarecrows. So when Joan hears cracking sounds, pops like fireworks, she dismisses it as something related to Halloween. Yet it is 5:30 p.m. and closing time is approaching, so Joan and Lincoln start walking towards the exit.

A long row of scarecrows has been propped along the fence that circles the pond. many of them have pumpkins for heads, and Lincoln is fascinated by them. He loves the Superman one and the astronaut one - with the pumpkin painted like a white space helmet-and e…

What's Your Weekend Read?

For the weekend I plan to dig into Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, a book which won the 2017 National Book Award and which was highly praised this week at lunch with my book-reading friends. I'm looking forward to starting it.

Last night I stayed up late to finish reading Sulfer Springs, in which author William Kent Krueger shares his views on US / Mexico border issues by sending his protagonist, Cork O'Connor, to southern Arizona. Cork, a former sheriff in Minnesota, and his new wife, Rainy, are down on the border searching for Rainy's son, Peter. Peter, a recovered addict, left Rainy a garbled voice mail in which it sounds like he confesses to a murder; their subsequent efforts to talk to Peter on the phone fail. So it's off to Tucson and further south, with the standard border characters making an appearance (border patrol, drug runners, land grabbers, winemakers (yes, winemakers in Arizona), etc.). It was an entertaining read.

And speaking of wine, this weeke…

Highly Recommended Reading: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) awards are a great source for good books. In 2016 the NBCC award for autobiography went to Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, and rightly so. Lab Girl is the story of geobiologist Jahren's journey from growing up in Minnesota, where her father taught physics and earth science at a community college, to the forging of her own path into science and academia, and the relationships that grew along the way.

What is most striking to me about this book is how beautifully it is written. It is composed as artfully as award winning fiction or poetry. The chapters alternate between Jahren's sparkling discussion of plants and her engrossing personal story of professional and personal struggles and success. The memoir is lean, yet comprehensive and compulsively readable.

If you are looking for an outstanding autobiography to settle into this winter, check out Lab Girl. And to see the nominees for the 2017 NBCC awards, click here