Nine Great Reads for the Minnesota Stay-In-Place

Might as well be the land of 10,000 books.

Many writers and readers have said that books make a place feel like home. And since we’re spending so much time in our own spaces with our current shelter-in-place order, there’s no better time to dig our nose into a new title. It’s even better when those books happen to be about Minnesota, which is home itself to many terrific novels, memoirs, and story collections.

That’s why we rounded up nine books set in Minnesota, organized by region. With a mix of short stories, dystopias, coming of age tales, and more, these titles are perfect for a few hours of blissful quiet in your favorite recliner.

South / Metro

The Late Homecomer


image courtesy of Coffeehouse Press

Billed as a Hmong family memoir, Kao Kalia Yang’s true story takes on her family’s escape from Thailand in the 1980s. Yang recalls her family’s initial move to California before settling in St. Paul. The Late Homecomer also considers (and challenges) our state’s welcoming reputation to immigrants.

Future Home of the Living God


image courtesy of harperCollins

Louise Erdrich’s newest novel is set sometime in the near future, a world where evolution has inexplicably begun to move backward. It’s an inconvenient reality for Cedar, a 26-year-old Native American, who discovers she’s conceived a baby (even the idea of having a human baby is in question, given the circumstances) at a time when the world is grinding to a halt. In the same vein as Atwood or Orwell, Erdrich has crafted political and ominous read set in Minneapolis.

What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky: Stories


Image courtesy of Penguin Random house

Two stories from Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut story collection are set in Minneapolis. Arimah, who has called Minnesota home since the mid-2000s, has a knack for innovative, sci-fi inspired stories, like, for example, one where scientists work to subtract sadness. Another is about women creating babies out of fabric and wrapping paper. Arimah’s work is unconventional, surprising, and really fun to read.

Freedom


image courtesy of FSG

Yes, Jonathan Franzen is definitely not a local, but his sprawling story about the “urban gentry of St. Paul” feels close to home. Prevailing themes of marriage and love dominate this tragi-comic story of Walter and Patty, two life-long Minnesotans who descend into unhappiness while raising a family.

Central

Staggerford


image courtesy of Ballantine Books

Set in the span of one week in the mid-1970s, Staggerford is a glimpse at the life and mind of Miles Pruitt, a teacher who lives in rural Minnesota. A slow look at a school teacher may sound like a laborious read, but Jon Hassler’s novel is anything but, especially for teachers who will sympathize with Pruitt’s life and challenges. The story becomes increasingly addictive midway through as Pruitt becomes less of a protagonist and something more like a friend.

Torch


image courtesy of houghtin mifflin hardcourt

Cheryl Strayed is best known as the author of Wild, the memoir-turned-movie about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail amid a crumbling marriage. Torch—which is about a family’s reaction to a recently deceased mother—includes many of the same morose themes: dysfunctional families, marital problems, but (like Wild) it also contains the hint of new beginnings. Set in Midden, Minnesota, the setting loosely resembles Strayed’s former hometown of McGregor, Minnesota.

Ordinary Grace


Image courtesy of simon & Schuster

Known primarily as a crime-writer, William Kent Krueger departs from his crime series to tell the story of Frank Daum, the 13-year-old son of a minister who grapples with three consecutive deaths in small-town Central Minnesota during the 1960s. Amazingly, the novel manages to be uplifting despite the weight of death.

North

History of Wolves


image courtesy of harper perennial

Given that a boy dies on the first page of Emily Fridlund’s debut thriller, it’s no wonder that reading this book is so darn addicting—the experience feels like driving a curvy road at high speeds. Set in Northern Minnesota, History of Wolves doesn’t follow the conventions of a normal thriller, yet it thrills nonetheless. With themes of solitude, coming of age, and attraction, Fridlund manages to build a North Country murder into a completely immersive read.

In the Lake of the Woods


wikipedia

Tim O’Brien may have sold millions of copies of Things They Carried, but this horror/thriller novel often gets overlooked. Set in a resort community on Minnesota’s northernmost lake, O’Brien’s book tells the story of a woman who disappears and the husband’s growing belief that he may be the one responsible.

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