Local Literati Share Their Summer Reading Lists
From Kerri Miller:
1. Maya’s Notebook (Isabel Allende) This is the reason I’ve been to Chile twice in the last three years. Allende can do no wrong!
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) It’s the 200th anniversary of the book’s publication, and the Guthrie is staging it this month. I want to sit in the audience and whisper the lines.
3. The Silver Star (Jeannette Walls) She wrote one of my favorite memoirs, The Glass Castle, and then a delightful half novel/half family history called Half Broke Horses.
4. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (Therese Anne Fowler) I’m leading a group of book lovers to Paris next spring and will be immersing myself in writing by and about the Fitzgeralds to prepare.
5. The Black Box (Michael Connelly) Connelly used to be a Los Angeles Times crime reporter. His novels are filled with details that only such a reporter would notice.
6. Cooked (Michael Pollan) I’m a terrible cook but I’m interested in the history and science of cooking. His chapter about baking bread might lure me into the kitchen!
7. The World is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village (Anna Badkhen) The author’s bio grabbed me—she has roamed all over the Middle East, Russia, and Africa.
Miller hosts The Daily Circuit on MPR and Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater.
From MaryJanice Davidson:
1. Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) As a teenager, I read it for the romance. Years later I reread it and was amazed: there’s a war going on! I could relate to a heroine who was selfish, vain, greedy, dishonest, and ruthless.
2. The Stranger Beside Me (Ann Rule) Rule shows us the side of Ted Bundy his victims saw and makes us care. She demands we remember them as well as him.
3. IT (Stephen King) I disappeared into this book. When I came up for air, my skull felt too small and my eyes hurt. We go into the monster’s mind and can’t get out until King lets us.
4. Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin) I’m one of 98 people who had no idea GoT was a book before I saw Sean Bean swinging a big-ass sword on HBO. I broke up with the fantasy genre after high school, but Martin helped us patch things up.
5. The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder) My guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Winter comes, the entire family almost dies, the trains stop, there’s never more than three days between blizzards, and the nearest Cub is 600 miles and 80 years in the future.
Davidson is the best-selling author of You & I, Me & You and Undead and Underwater.
From Fiona McCrae:
1. The Flamethrowers (Rachel Kushner)
2. The Woman Upstairs (Claire Messud)
3. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Ben Fountain) Before Fountain wrote this, his editor had told him to abandon a manuscript he’d been working on for many years. I have to admire the author’s persistence.
4. Let the Dark Flower Blossom (Norah Labiner) Described as a “literary ambush”—perfect for a stormy summer night.
5. River of Smoke (Amitav Ghosh) The second novel in the riveting Ibis trilogy set in India. The first was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (Britain’s National Book Award equivalent).
McCrae is the director and publisher of Graywolf Press.
Three For the Road
Pack ’em, read ’em, leave ’em at the cabin
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted
By Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Simon & Schuster, $26)
More than 40 years after Mary Tyler Moore tossed her tam on Nicollet Mall, Armstrong offers a behind-the-scenes history of how Moore’s eponymous show introduced feminism to television. The best parts relate the creators’ careful calibrations about everything from her backstory (did she divorce or did her boyfriend dump her?) to setting the show in Minneapolis—a wintry city, they reasoned, would “provide plot points and visual interest,” never mind Moore’s refusal to wear furs after the first season.
By Michael Stanley (Harper Collins, $15)
Michael Stanley is the pen name of two South Africa natives, one of whom (Stanley Trollip) taught at the University of Minnesota and still lives here part of the year. This fourth entry in their Detective Kubu series revolves around killing for muti, the real—if rare—African practice of murdering to acquire body parts for witchcraft.
By Neal Karlen (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $25)
Who knew that the history of Augie’s Lounge, a Hennepin Avenue holdover from seedier days, included Jewish gangsters, shakedowns, slayings, and celebrities like Groucho Marx and Jimmy Hoffa? Karlen did, as Augie Ratner, the late proprietor, was a relative. And at some point, after decades of keeping the secrets of men like mobster Kid Cann and Davie “The Jew” Berman, Ratner spilled. With Yiddish wisdom and wise-guy flair, Karlen relates all the meshuggeneh shenanigans.