The Best Books and Music of the Winter



Sunday Morning Coming Down • The New Standards

As contemplative as it is cool, from the stark title song to the heartbreaking closer (Tom Waits’s “You’re Innocent When You Dream”) to the album art (Alec Soth’s photo of Johnny Cash’s boyhood home).


The Minnesota Book of Skills (MHS Press, $20) • Chris Niskanen

Tick extraction, sauna etiquette, judging ice thickness—you could figure this out on your own, or trust Niskanen, a former Pioneer Press outdoors reporter.


Lock My Heart • Dick Hyman and Heather Masse

A valentine to love itself from Hyman (Woody Allen’s go-to arranger) and Masse (of the Wailin’ Jennys folk-pop trio), whose ballads mix well with those of Porter, Weill, Gershwin, and company.


It Becomes You (Graywolf Press, $15) • Dobby Gibson

The dry wit of Gibson’s poetry crackles in exercises like 40 Fortunes (“Going naked will be your most convincing disguise”). Gibson is a Minneapolis ad man, and whatever he’s selling, we’re buying.


Dulce et Decorum Est • War Poets

The battles fought in these songs are largely between lovers, and the wreckage, courtesy of a fleet of pop-rock veterans led by Jenny Case and Rex Haberman, is devastatingly beautiful. Disc one has the rockers, disc two has the ballads.


The Disenchanted (U of M Press, $19) • Budd Schulberg

Schulberg, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who died in 2009, worked with a booze-addled F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1939 on some dreck called Winter Carnival. This unblinking novel is a veiled portrait of Fitzgerald’s self-destruction.