By Amy Rea

One of my favorite gifts to give (and, well, to receive) is the gift of books. Especially with the weather we’ve been having — what’s better when the subzero temps hit but to curl up under a warm afghan with a good book? Fortunately, here in Minnesota we have lots of great options, both for buying and for reading.

We have a strong indie bookstore culture here. In the Twin Cities alone, you can buy books at Micawbers, Magers & Quinn, Birchbark Books, Common Good Books and kids’ bookstores Red Balloon and Wild Rumpus, among many others. If you don’t know which book to buy, the staff at any of these shops would be happy to help you brainstorm. (When all else fails, booklovers love gift cards, too.)

If you prefer to give an actual book over a gift card, what to choose? I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that I’m the author of two travel guides to Minnesota, full of great ideas for afternoon outings, day trips and longer explorations. I’ve known people who have paired a copy of my book with a gift certificate from the Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association — and I think that’s a wonderful idea.

It’s been a great year for authors with Minnesota connections. In the food world alone, we saw new books from Raghavan Iyer (Indian Cooking Unfolded), new Food Network chef Amy Thielen (The New Midwestern Table), Beatrice Ojakangas (The Soup and Bread Cookbook), Katie Chin, daughter of Leeann Chin (Everyday Thai Cooking) and the folks at the Heavy Table (The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food).

Local middle grade and young adult authors have had a busy year, too. Kurtis Scaletta released The Winter of the Robots (how could you not want to read a book with that title??), Jacqueline West released the fourth book in the Books of Elsewhere series, The Strangers, and Swati Avasthi published Chasing Shadows. Two local authors were longlisted for the National Book Award this year: Kate DiCamillo for Flora & Ulysses and Anne Ursu for The Real Boy.

Speaking of the National Book Awards, local poet Matt Rasmussen was finalist for his book Black Aperture. The poetry prize itself went to a book published by local publisher Graywolf Press: Incarnadine by Mary Szybist.

In fiction, St. Paul author William Kent Krueger released Ordinary Grace, while Peter Geye released The Lighthouse Road. In nonfiction, Kevin Fenton gave us Leaving Rollingstone, Julie Buckles released Paddling to Winter, and Andy Sturdevant gave us the wonderfully titled Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow.

And those are only a few suggestions. Check with your local bookseller for more gift ideas with Minnesota connections.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Tuesday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.


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