Tim O’Brien – “In the Lake of the Woods” (2006)
Birthplace: Austin, Minnesota
A political science graduate from Macalester College and a Vietnam War veteran, Tim O’Brien has written several novels and been the recipient of many awards, starting with the O. Henry Award in 1976. “In the Lake of the Woods” tells a riveting tale of long-hidden secrets surrounding the war in Vietnam that ultimately force a U.S. Senate candidate and his wife to retreat to a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota. When his wife mysteriously disappears shortly thereafter, the novel’s protagonist finds that his problems have just begun. Get your copy at Common Good Books in St. Paul.
Charles Baxter – “The Feast of Love” (2001)
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Perhaps best known for his short stories, Minnesota native Charles Baxter has also written four novels. His most recent, “The Feast of Love: A Novel,” begs the fundamental question, ‘What IS love?’ Reminiscent of a “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Baxter’s tale is told through the eyes of several characters, prompting entertaining subplots around every bend. Nominated for the National Book Award, a film version of Baxter’s novel was released in 2007, starring Morgan Freeman. You can find this book at your local Barnes & Noble.
F. Scott Fitzgerald – “The Great Gatsby” (1925)
Birthplace: St. Paul, Minnesota
First published in 1925, “The Great Gatsby” is often regarded as The Great American Novel, as well as a true literary classic. Set at the end of the first World War, this novel is centered around a Midwestern man who moves to New York City to enter the bond business. There he befriends a cast of wealthy characters and attends lavish parties at the Gatsby mansion next door. A complicated web of love, deception and even murder unravel in this riveting masterpiece that no bookshelf should be without. “The Great Gatsby” is currently being filmed for a seventh time, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, with plans to open in theaters on December 25, 2012. Head to Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis and discover this classic for yourself.
Paul Gruchow – “The Necessity of Open Places” (1999)
Birthplace: Montevideo, Minnesota
Often compared to Henry David Thoreau, Gruchow (1947-2004) usually wrote about nature and the Minnesota landscape. A collection of essays rather than a novel, “The Necessity of Open Places” reflects upon an exploration of natural places from the plains of Minnesota to the mountains of Wyoming. In doing so, Gruchow blends his personal observations with philosophical questions, many of which will surprise you into asking questions of your own. If you’ve ever felt disconnected from nature in the bustle of the modern world, this book is for you. Borrow a copy from one of over 100-plus Twin Cities’ metro libraries.
Carol Bly – “The Tomcat’s Wife and Other Stories” (1992)
Birthplace: Duluth, Minnesota
A teacher and an award-winning author of short stories, essays and nonfiction, Bly’s works often featured Minnesota women dealing with crises facing their communities or themselves. Her second collection of short stories, “The Tomcat’s Wife and Other Stories,” portrays seemingly average Midwesterners living in the Twin Cities as their lives are either altered by misfortune or transformed by revelation. Natives of the area will enjoy references to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Before her death in 2007, Bly won Minnesota Women’s Press Favorite Woman Author (2000). Head to The Bookcase in Wayzata for your very own copy.