Category Archives: Books and Reading

Libraries on the move – Not such a new idea

This post was prompted by recent hype over the Subway Library that now serves some New Yorkers some times (SubwayLibrary.com)  New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Library are now collaborating to reach straphangers with the incredible resources of those great institutions.  Bibliophiles who ride the E and F lines will now be on the lookout for the ten brightly colored “subway libraries”—outfitted with seats designed to look like books on a shelf!

Mobile reads include children’s and YA titles, adult fiction, books about NYC, and new releases – readings are geared to short hops, longer rides and inevitable delays.  If you happen to be headed for Gotham City in the near future, you’ll probably want to learn more – if not, here’s a quick intro:  http://gothamist.com/2017/06/08/nypl_subway_library.php#photo-1

For some reason, probably because it’s summer in Minnesota, the subway library hype got me thinking about a legendary movement to expand access to good books and mobile library service.  Though New Yorkers claim credit for most innovative thinking, the fact is that mobile library service enjoys a long and noble heritage.

In 1905 Mary L. Titcom, Librarian of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland, launched the first book wagon.  Pulled by two horses, driven by the library janitor, the wagon shared library services with rural residents throughout the County.

And thus began the evolution of the bookmobile, a story beautifully shared by library lover Larry T. Nix in The Library History Buff, http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/bookmobile.html

One way to celebrate Independence Day is to think about the ways in which libraries and  librarians through the years have honored the individual’s right to read and the right to know.  These photos will trigger your memory or expand your image and expectations:

Tracy K. Smith – The Poet Laureate’s Minnesota Links

I’m very excited about the opportunity to take what I consider to be the good news of poetry to parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go.  Poetry is something that’s relevant to everyone’s life, whether they’re habitual readers of poetry or not.

These are the words of Tracy K. Smith, named last week as the Poet Laureate of the United States. (https://www.graywolfpress.org/news/tracy-k-smith-named-new-poet-laureate-united-states)   The words resonate especially with those of us had the chance to participate in the recent Rural Arts Summit described in an earlier post.  (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/rural-arts-and-culture-summit-2017/)

Smith’s poetry and her selection as Poet Laureate are of special interest to Minnesota readers who are long familiar with the local publisher of her work — Graywolf Press (https://www.facebook.com/GraywolfPress/)   Graywolf has published numerous books of Smith’s poetry including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner Life on Mars.  Best of all, Graywolf will publish Smith’s Wade in the Water in April 2018.

Needless to say, much has been written about the new Poet Laureate in the past week – many focus her long relationship with Graywolf:

Though the Minnesota connection runs throughout the local press this blast from Bemidji tops the list of Minnesota newsmakers!  We look forward to hearing more about last evening’s event!   http://www.bemidjipioneer.com/news/local/4286330-poet-laureate-tracy-k-smith-headline-northwoods-writers-conference.  We  hope that America’s Poet Laureate will return often and travel throughout the region to share “the good news of poetry” with those who live in “parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go.”

Summertime means time to read!

One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by ~~Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle

The recent post report notwithstanding, the F. Scott Fitzgerald international conference does not a summer make. When the dust has settled bibliophiles will continue book binge and reluctant readers won’t be able to resist the abundance of literary lures. What follows are hints of the possibilities.  Whether you’re a reader, a good listener, a browser or just choose to hang out with word lovers, you’ll want to keep your eyes and mind open to the possibilities!  The list here is sadly metro-centric and arbitrary – the idea is to suggest sources and inspire creative searches for bookish gatherings that may pop up in unexpected places.

Public libraries and local Friends of the Library are planning close-to-home programs for all ages.  The MELSA calendar is humungous and detailed, loaded with Bookawocky events for kids,  book discussions, music, house history, art, gardening, something for everyone.  Think reading options, varieties of content and the choice of format that fits the seeker’s fancy and device.

More than ever libraries have no monopoly on reading resources and events – the great good news is that book sales are rising, book groups, literary events of every fashion are everywhere – in coffee shops, places of worship, indie bookstores, parks, book festivals  and more.

Following are some bookish possibilities that suggest you’ll find books and reading – local writers reading their books, book art, book discussions, poets, historians, even Little Free Libraries — in unexpected places!  Troll the neighborhood to learn who’s reading or listening to what… consider your nosiness as a high-brow form of voyeurism.

A few events that might activate your literary inclinations:

June 16, 7-8:00 PM Victoria Houston (http://www.victoriahouston.com) The author will discuss her new book Dead Spider at Once Upon a Crime Bookstore, 604 W 26th Street, , Minneapolis. Doors open at 6:30.

June 17, 2 PM.  History Comes Alive: Emily O. Goodridge Grey.  Emily O. Goodridge Grey was an African American social activist, pioneer and abolitionist in Minnesota during the 19th century.  Hosmer Library. 347 E 36th St, Minneapolis  This is just one in a robust series of History Comes Alive programs, stories of African American men and women shaped not just Minnesota, but the entire nation. The series is developed by Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center.(https://www.facebook.com/MAAMCC/

June 17, 10 AM.  Joel Katz, author of From Footpaths to Freeways, Minneapolis Central Library.  Katzwill discuss the history of highway development in Hennepin County and around the state.  His talk will trace Minnesota’s road and street systems, how they developed in pre-statehood times in the 1840’s to today.  Katz will also talk about classifications, construction, maintenance, traffic control, safety congestion, bridges and the interstate system.  Sponsored by Friends of Minneapolis Central Library.

June 17, 3 PM. David Sedaris and Ariel Levy, Common Good Books.  The authors will read and sign their new books:  Sedaris’ Theft by Finding and Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply. http://www.commongoodbooks.com/event/common-good-books-hosts-david-sedaris-ariel-lev

June 21. All day. Book it to the parks!  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of MPR the Minneapolis Foundation is donating 50 Little Free Libraries to Minneapolis Parks.  Local writers will be reading from their children’s books at city parks throughout the day.  For a full list of parks and readings check here: https://www.minneapolisfoundation.org/bookit/

June 25, Open Mic Night at Coffee House Northeast, 2852 Johnson in Northeast Minneapolis– 5:45-8:30 PM.  This is one of countless  summertime open mic possibilities –  For a full list of Open Mic events check here: http://openmikes.org/calendar/MN

June 16 7 PM.  Heid E. Erdrich Eat My Words, 1228 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis. Learn more about Heid Erdrich here:https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/heid-e-erdrich 

June 17, 2 PM David Housewright, What the Dead Leave Behind.(https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rosemary-simpson/what-dead-leave-behind/) Valley Bookseller, Stillwater. 

June 22, 7 PM. East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, St. Paul. Norah Murphy reads from her book White Birch, Red Hawthorn: A MemoirThe story of the author’s ancestors’ maple grove, home of Dakota, Ojibwe and Ho-Chunk who were dispossessed when the Irish arrived, the story of the author’s search for the connections between the contested land and the communities who call it home.  Part of the ESFL’s monthly “Women from the Center Reading Series.”

Friday, June 22, 7 PM Kevin Kuhn: Do you realize? A Novel.  Eat My Words, 1228 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis https://www.evensi.us/kevin-kuhndo-you-realize-a-novel-eat-my-words-bookstore/212898374

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You get the idea — These are June happenings only.  During the summer months Minnesotans will take part in these and a zillion other book/reading/word events.  To know what’s happening in your community,  keep checking these current – and complementary – calendars.  Each posts literary happenings set in bookstores, parks, coffee shops and wherever people who dare to share ideas gather.

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge;

it is thinking that makes what we read ours. John Locke

All things F. Scott Fitzgerald on St. Paul’s Summer Calendar

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Let there be no mistake Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald reigns in St. Paul these early days of Summer 2017.   Fitzgerald fans have been preparing for eons — reading and re-reading, explicating, exploring the fine points of Fitzgerald’s works and world.

The schedule of events – academic, social and other – will keep the Saintly City planning and parsing until – and no doubt after – the 14th Annual International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Conference meeting in St. Paul June 25-July 1.  http://www.fitzgerald2017.org

Exploring the program is a glorious introduction to Fitzgerald.  Though you may not have plumbed the depths of the hometown hero you can claim a bit of literary chauvinism, even if your only brush with Fitzgerald is skimming the text for sophomore English or a glorious summer afternoon lost in Jazz Age society.

No need to wait for the grand event.  On Wednesday, June 21 the Show Gallery will sponsor a pre-conference event.  Fitzgerald scholar David Page, author of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota: The Writer and His Friends at Home will share the stories he has found while doing research.  Page will share stories of the places and people Fitzgerald describes, snippets of local lore he discovered in his extensive study of the writer’s letters, scrapbooks and diaries.  June 21, 6:00 PM at the Show Gallery, 346 North Sibley in St. Paul’s Lowertown.

The following Wednesday evening, June 28, Anne Margaret Daniel will offer a public reading from I’d Die for You: And Other Stories, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. http://www.startribune.com/review-i-d-die-for-you-stories-of-f-scott-fitzgerald/420017193/   The reading will be at 7 pm at Common Good Books, 38 Snelling Avenue South in St. Paul.

This is just a taste of what promises to be a grand frenzy of Fitzgerald festivities! There’s still time to brush up a bit on Fitzgerald lore.  Though the best prep would be to take time to re-read a Fitzgerald classic, rime is fleeting so here are some last-minute options:

NOTE: 6/27/17 —  https://www.minnpost.com/artscape/2017/06/f-scott-fitzgerald-society-events-open-public?utm_source=MinnPost+e-mail+newsletters&utm_campaign=28526b5a6c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_06_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3631302e9c-28526b5a6c-123365126

Eat My Words — A Moveable Feast

Decades ago I had the  experience of helping to move a library – actually the substantial library of the institution formerly known as the College of St. Catherine.  The move was from the basement of Jeanne d’Arc Chapel to a magnificent new facility across the campus.

The operation was masterminded by Sister Marie Inez (aka Alice Smith) with the precision of the Normandy Invasion.  We trudged up what felt like 100 narrow steps from the basement then trekked across campus toting a meticulously ordered and labeled stack of tomes to a pre-determined destination determined on the shelves of the new library.  The rewards were irresistible – time out of class and a cookie/bar at the end of each delivery.  It was a grand experience – and to this day I doubt that a single volume was lost or mis-shelved upon arrival!

All of this comes to mind in vivid detail as I anticipate the forthcoming move of Eat My Words!, my favorite indie bookstore in Northeast Minneapolis.   Proprietor Scott VanKoughnett and his assistant Jennifer Bailey press on with the unflappable spirit of Sister Marie Inez.  Though I’m not privy to the details, I share their optimism for the Grand Relocation, if not for the move per se.  (I suspect Scott has lined up real movers not college students and that their pay will be more negotiable than cookies….)

It’s an upward move – i.e. EMW will be moving about a block up 13th Avenue Northeast to a gracious setting heretofore the home of Two 12 Pottery.  More than ever, visitors will be able to relax and relish the used book selection in the environment described thus on the EMW website: “Spending an hour at Eat My Words is like going to the home of friends – friends with 20,000 books to show you and share with you.”

The relocation setting is well known to denizens and visitors to the Northeast arts community. For many years Two 12 Pottery has been a favorite haunt of discriminating shoppers with a yen for high quality goods at real people prices. Times change, Bob Sorg, the potter and proprietor of Two 12 Pottery, will be exploring other options while EMW will inherit the lovely site and the residual good vibes that Two12 has long emitted.   Learn more about Two12 here:  (http://www.two12pottery.com/about/4590772963)

EMW is not only a bookstore, it is a gathering place of people with ideas.  For example, EMW is is one of the several entities in Northeast that continues to welcome and support community initiatives to engage in civil discourse during these troubled political times.

(https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/heeding-the-clarion-call-to-civil-conversation/)  Somehow the staff will continue to host their robust calendar of events during and after The Move.  You can check these out here.  http://www.eatmywordsbooks.com/events/?view=calendar&month=June-2017  (Tip: You really want to sign up to be on the distribution list for forthcoming events.)

Personally and selfishly I am delighted that we have been assured that there will continue to be space and a welcome mat for Voices of Northeast, the series of videotaped interviews with Northeast writers and literary artists that we have produced in the EMW “parlor” for the past many months.  (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/hungry-for-a-good-read-try-eat-my-words/)

We thank the proprietors of Two 12 Pottery for the many ways in which the unique merchandise and gracious staff have met the wishes of artists and visitors to the shop.  It’s a beautiful hand-off from Two 12 Pottery to Eat My Words.  The Northeast arts community has been and will be enriched by both enterprises and by the customers who appreciate and frequent shops that have

Escaping Anxiety This Summer of Our Discontent

By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something about the world.  Umberto Eco


In this summer of our discontent we have a sense that control has been wrested from our hands.  One way to be sure that we are not reduced by the situation in which we find ourselves is to explore our options – especially ideas and events that expand our thinking beyond the harsh reality of the day.  Here are just of few of the creative mind-refreshing events happening this summer – the tip of a mighty learning iceberg (which, unlike physical icebergs, is not melting as a result of human stupidity.) Clearly the major institutions have promoted grand events, exhibits, openings and more.  Following are just a just a very few of the initiatives with a bookish connection that may be slipping through the promotional cracks.  There’s no intent to be inclusive, simply to suggest that readers be on the lookout for escape routes from anxiety!

The 2017 Book Art Biennial.  “Shout Out: Community Intervention, Independent Publishing, and Alternative Distribution” is the theme of this biennial event.  Expect programming that “encourages people of all disciplines and skill levels to amplify individual and collective voice through grassroots artistic practice.” The centerpiece of the Book Art Biennial is the presentation of the MCBA Prize, a unique award that showcases and honors the best artists’ books in the world. The winner will be announced at a gala and awards ceremony the evening of Saturday, July 22. (http://www.mnbookarts.org/biennial)

Registration is open through June 11 for exhibitors at the Thirteenth Annual Twin Cities Zine Fest set for September 24 2017.   The Free For All Zine Lounge is now open through August 13 at Boneshaker Books, 2002 23rd Avenue South.  Sponsored by the Twin Cities Zine Fest (http://tczinefest.org)

A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. June 12 (7:00 PM – 8:30 PM) Minneapolis Central Library. IBé, Bao Phi and Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria as they read their essays from the timely book, “A Good Time for the Truth.” This collection from 16 local writers features reflective essays on life as a person of color in Minnesota. Q&A will follow the reading hosted by the editor Sun Yung Shin. Registration is encouraged and can be done here. (https://www.facebook.com/events/1761221477450326/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%223%22%2C%22ref_newsfeed_story_type%22%3A%22regular%22%2C%22feed_story_type%22%3A%22117%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D)

The East Side Freedom Library continues its monthly collaboration with A Greener Read Bookstore.  On June 16th the theme is “Storytelling through Vinyl and Film” Gather at 5:00 at the Bookstore, 506 Kenny Road in St. Paul, for happy hour and listening to music.  Focus will be on South African “kwaito” music, a blend of traditional South African forms and hip hop. ESFL will also continue their Women from the Center Reading Series, featuring the work of Midwest writers from diverse communities who support one another as they “write their truths.   Writers on the fourth Thursdays of the summer months include these:   June 22: Norah Murphy (White Birth, Red Hawthorn: A Memoir), July 27: Marcie Rendon (Murder on the Red River), August 24: Carolyn Holbrook (Earth Angels).  In fact, ESFL sponsors a robust summer programs overflowing with ideas and energy. ESFL is at 1105 Greenbrier Street, St Paul 55106. Check the full schedule here: (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org)

On Wednesday, June 21, Minneapolis parks will open more than 50 new Little Free Libraries  a gift from the Minneapolis Foundation to local families in honor of Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary. MPR hosts, local authors, and other guest readers will celebrate by reading children’s books at story times in parks all over the city, from sunrise to sunset on summer’s longest day. Book It to the Parks!  (http://www.minneapolisfoundation.org/bookit/)

Silverwood Park, in the far Northeast corner of Hennepin County, is one of the mighty county’s lesser known havens for creative expression of every sort.  Focus is on the talents of local and emerging artists. Silverwood Onstage is the summer series of amphitheater programs that include Wednesday night concerts, movies and a mixed bag of performances. For details on the diverse selections click here:   (https://www.threeriversparks.org/page/silverwood-onstage)

If you’re not already in a book group, you might want to join one of the several sponsored by the Minnesota Women’s Press.  To learn more, click here:  http://womenspress.com/main.asp?SectionID=10&SubSectionID=36&ArticleID=38&TM=62697.43

When’s the last time you reached out to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar bookstore?  Here are some possibilities that will welcome you with open tomes:   (https://www.newpages.com/independent-bookstores/minnesota-bookstores)

My favorite indie, Eat My Words, is moving up the road a piece this summer – still in Northeast Minneapolis.  More in a related blog post.   Meanwhile, the EMW calendar indicates more, not fewer, events.  Proprietor Scott VanKoughnett  confirms that event attendees will not be asked to tote armloads of books to the new site.  Click here for an interview with EMW Scott  VanKoughnett::  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tumRr08qkrc)

Traveling this summer?  The American Writers Museum, the gift of retired executive Malcolm O’Hagan and other donors, opened May 16 in Chicago.  (http://americanwritersmuseum.org)

Closer to home, you might want to check out the SoMN, a network of southern Minnesota history museums.  (http://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/5-must-see-museums-in-southern-minnesota/)

For the motherlode of ideas for summer escapes explore with the editors of Explore Minnesota their “bucket list” of possibilities!       (http://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/your-2017-minnesota-bucket-list/)

Indie Bookstore Day- A day to shop, read and think for yourself

As I write I’m thinking what a perfect day this would be to curl up in a remote corner of an indie bookstore, nose in book, devices decidedly off, lost in a world yet to be explored.  Since it’s an indie there’s a friendly proprietor/staffer who will share an opinion about my chosen book, even suggest a similar tome I will undoubtedly enjoy.

As I further envision my reading nook, I catch the imagined scent of the venerable books –an olfactory extra of hanging out at a used bookshop. ! I realize that I would rather read a crumby – even crumbly –   book in a used bookstore than today’s bestseller in a chain store.

All of which is a fabricated buildup to Independent Bookstore Day, set for this coming Saturday, April 29.  The basics are covered in an earlier post (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/looking-ahead-to-indie-bookstore-day-april-29-2017/)  This is just a reminder to treat yourself to an indie bookstore tour on Saturday.

There’s a helpful map online (http://indiemap.bookweb.org) – know that the map is far from comprehensive.  You might want to start not with the map but by trolling your own community, including the newbies, antiquarian shops, children’s bookstores, campus stores, ethnic and other bibliophile haunts you may have yet to explore. Cater to your bookish inclinations, expand your personal collection, appreciate the creative energy that supports the book community and nurtures the range of reader tastes.

Check out Indie Bookstore Day on Facebook:  (https://www.facebook.com/events/402999000036140/)  Note that this is a highly selective post of just a few of the myriad happenings at local shops.

You’ll find the creative ways in which Indie bookstores reflect the proclivities of their proprietors.  Shops host readings, book clubs and discussion groups on every conceivable topic, art exhibits and artist presentations, children’s programs, storytellers, sports heroes and their biographers, politicians, stories and mores of new Americans, environmentalists, veterans, gardeners, musical ensembles of every tone….

As blog readers have probably observed, Eat My Words in Northeast Minneapolis ranks as my favorite indie (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/hungry-for-a-good-read-try-eat-my-words/)   Come for the books, stay for the programming:  https://www.facebook.com/eatmywordsbookstore/

On Independent Bookstore EMW will feature special displays, and Bookstore Bingo (played 10 AM-8 PM) where you can put your English major to the test.  Plan to be on hand mid-afternoon to join the 3:00 reading and conversation.  Author Mary Martin will discuss her book La Familia: An International Love Story. (https://manoamano.org/la-familia-book/).   La Familia chronicles the emergence of Mano a Mano, the St. Paul-based international development organization.(http://manoamano.org)  It’s the story of ways in which this grassroots international partnership bridges cultural and racial challenges.

The EMW conversation serves as a model of the ways in which independent bookstores are taking the lead by hosting and informing safe spaces that foster civil discourse so critical to finding our way in these divisive, uncertain, unprecedented times.

UPDATE: Indie Bookstore Day celebrations around the nation: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15bc3f419b6b8ba8