Illustration by Jasu Hu • Special to the Star Tribune

The frozen chosen

In Iceland, it’s a tradition to give the gift of a book on Christmas Eve and then spend the evening wrapped in blankets, reading and drinking cocoa, perhaps by the fire. There is nothing to not like about that cozy tradition (especially the cocoa), so here are suggestions for books to give — fiction, nonfiction, picture books for small children, novels for middle-grade and young adult, and, as always, our critics’ annual Top 10 favorites. As we head into the coldest, darkest time of year, books will send you all over the world, deep into all kinds of stories. As winter begins, books will keep you warm.

  • All Books (59)
  • Critics’ Choice (10)
  • Fiction (12)
  • Non-Fiction (12)
  • Picture Books (10)
  • Regional Books (5)
  • Young Adult (10)
  • List (59)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

By Olga Tokarczuk

Those who missed this magical Polish writer’s English-language debut, “Flights,” can experience her talent with an equally remarkable novel in which an eccentric woman turns from horoscopes and William Blake to the mysterious deaths of local men. This existential whodunit by a Nobel laureate asks big questions about animal rights and human kindness and keeps us in its grip until its shock denouement. (Riverhead, $27)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Night Boat to Tangier

By Kevin Barry

Charlie and Maurice, two past-their-prime Irish gangsters, both “heavy in the bones,” sit at a Spanish ferry terminal. While waiting for a boat to appear, they muse over their misspent years of crime and violence but also lost loves, old friends, a missing daughter and their own mortality. This electrifying novel doffs its hat to Samuel Beckett, but stamped throughout is Barry’s unique signature composed of caustic wit, ragged lyricism and devastating blows. (Doubleday, $25.95)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

The Other Americans

By Laila Lalami

Part family drama, part intriguing mystery, Lalami’s timely and potent novel revolves around the death of a Moroccan immigrant: Was it a hit-and-run accident or a calculated killing? A cast of finely drawn and deeply sympathetic characters — the victim’s wife and daughter, an Iraq war vet, a Mexican eyewitness, a dogged detective and the dead man himself — expose their flaws, share their viewpoints and bring us closer to the truth. (Pantheon, $25.95)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Normal People

By Sally Rooney

In a lesser writer’s hands this could have been an insubstantial tale about an on-off millennial romance. Instead, Rooney, author of the accomplished “Conversations With Friends,” delivers a sharp, smart and heartfelt study of young love. Throughout school and college, in Ireland and beyond, Connell and Marianne keep coming together and falling apart. Is their relationship strong enough to last? This quietly stunning novel brilliantly lays bare hearts and minds. (Hogarth, $26)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

The Dutch House

By Ann Patchett

Patchett’s compelling eighth novel is narrated by Danny Conroy, who remembers his childhood years in the Dutch House, his grand family home in Pennsylvania — and the day he and his sister were banished from it by his wicked stepmother. A fairy-tale opening gives way to an emotionally engaging life journey made up of births, deaths, marriages, reunions, and, at the end of it all, Danny’s return and rediscovery of his “lost and beloved country.” (Harper, $27.99)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Grand Union: Stories

By Zadie Smith

A faded drag queen goes shopping for a corset and ends up having a showdown with a store-owning couple. An Antiguan immigrant contemplates marriage, unaware that this day will be his last. An artist notes the changes in society while on a tour with her aunts — “Jamaican ladies of a certain dimension.” And a woman communes with the ghost of her mother. Smith’s bravura first collection of stories showcases a dazzling range of styles, voices and perspectives. (Penguin Press, $27)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Olive, Again

By Elizabeth Strout

The irascible title character of Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Olive Kitteridge” makes a triumphant return. Olive delivers a baby, visits a former student battling cancer, and embarks on a new relationship — but finds her indomitable spirit dented by truths from a poet laureate and her son’s family. Imbued with autumnal reflection, insight and wit, Strout take us into the heart of a community where we are enchanted again by an unforgettable heroine’s “Olive-ness.” (Random House, $27)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Women Talking

By Miriam Toews

A mesmerizing novel based on real events about eight Mennonite women who, after being repeatedly drugged and violated by men in their colony, meet in secret in a hayloft to share their ordeals and decide on a course of action that would protect their children and punish their attackers. “We are women without a voice,” one of them says. But Toews makes sure they are heard. They speak out, movingly and decisively, and command our full attention. (Bloomsbury, $24)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

An Orchestra of Minorities

By Chigozie Obioma

Narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, and tapping into Igbo culture and traditions, Obioma’s Booker Prize finalist shadows Nigerian poultry farmer Chinonso — both a hapless victim and an embattled underdog — on his arduous, perilous quest to get even with a false friend and win back the woman he loves. An ingenious modern spin on Homer’s “Odyssey” and a captivating study of a man who refuses to be broken. (Little, Brown, $28)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

The Porpoise

By Mark Haddon

Haddon’s shape-shifting, mind-bending, pulse-racing novel expertly fuses modern storytelling and ancient myth. Flitting from the tender tale of a woman desperate to escape her abusive father in contemporary England to the daring exploits of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, in the classical world — and incorporating a haunting encounter with William Shakespeare in Jacobean London — “The Porpoise” is an astounding literary achievement. (Doubleday, $27.95)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

The Nickel Boys

By Colson Whitehead

Set during Jim Crow and based on a reform school in Florida that not only ruined the lives of children but also claimed some, “The Nickel Boys” traces the plight of two black pupils as they weather the campaign of brutality that is their re-education. This follow-up to the award-winning “The Underground Railroad” is filled with the harshest of blows. It exerts such power that we remain rapt until the final shattering twist and in awe of the displays of endurance. (Doubleday, $24.95)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

By Elif Shafak

Tequila Leila has been murdered and dumped on the outskirts of Istanbul but her brain refuses to shut down. She reflects on events of her life, from her troubled childhood to her mistreatment in the Street of Brothels. A group of fellow castoffs keep her strong when she is alive and rally to give her a fitting send-off when she is gone. Leila’s heart may have stopped beating but Shafak ensures her protagonist is vividly alive. (Bloomsbury, $27)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Incidental Inventions

By Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

A few years ago, editors at the Guardian asked the author of “My Brilliant Friend” to write a weekly column, and she hesitantly accepted under the condition that they help her with ideas. The result is 51 columns, short in length but long on wisdom, on topics ranging from pregnancy and daughters to lies and confessions. As with her fiction, Ferrante’s voice here is clear, eloquent and powerful. (Europa, $20)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Peculiar Questions and Practical Answers

From the files of the New York Public Library

Now you can search the internet, but back in the day you had to ask a person. These questions asked of librarians between 1940 and 1980 were discovered in a box at the New York Public Library. “What is the difference between ‘pig’ and ‘pork’?” someone asked in 1945, to which a librarian responded, “Pig is the beast that squeals just before it is butchered to become pork.” (St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Yellow House

By Sarah M. Broom

This brilliant memoir tells the story of the Broom family of New Orleans and the loss of their family home. In 1961, Broom’s mother bought a small house and dreamed of making it bigger, with room for all. In Broom’s distinctive voice, we learn about the chaos as projects are abandoned and the family grows bigger. And then — Katrina hits. The house is razed. The family scatters. This moving book tells a broader story of how this country has failed its black citizens. (Grove Press, $26)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Queen

By Josh Levin

Ronald Reagan used Linda Taylor (dubbed the Welfare Queen) to put a face on welfare fraud. She wore furs, drove flashy cars and bilked the government out of thousands of dollars. But Taylor was not a typical welfare recipient and, as Levin uncovers in this fascinating biography, welfare fraud was pretty small potatoes for her, a master con artist. Born to a white mother and a black father, pregnant at 14, she set off alone to make a new life — by her own rules. (Little, Brown, $29)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

They Called Us Enemy

By George Takei

The man known as Cmdr. Sulu on “Star Trek” spent his childhood in an Arkansas internment camp during World War II. This graphic novel memoir tells the experience from the young Takei’s point of view — the confusion, fear and injustices. Many in the camps lived productive lives. Others became radicalized. “If the U.S. government was going to treat them like the enemy,” Takei writes, “they were going to show them what kind of enemy they could be.” (Top Shelf, $19.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Women’s Work

By Megan K. Slack

Stack, a former war correspondent, writes about the trade-off women make when they continue working after having children. She writes about her own situation — an expat in China and India trying to write a novel — but also writes about the Chinese and Indian women she hired to care for her children, who then had to find someone to care for theirs. The complicated world of minding children, cooking and cleaning, Stack notes, remains almost entirely a female problem. (Doubleday, $27.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Booked

By Richard Kreitner

Literary tourism has grown popular in recent years, and Kreitner’s book (subtitled “A Traveler’s Guide to Literary Locations Around the World”) will whet your appetite to visit the places you have read about. With color photos and engaging descriptions of Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street, James Joyce’s Dublin, Basho’s Japan and scores of other places, “Booked” will inspire you to put down your book and head into the world. (Black Dog & Leventhal, $29.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Our Man

By George Packer

Brilliant and idealistic early on, difficult and egotistical later, Richard Holbrooke was perhaps best known as the brain behind the Dayton Accords that ended the Balkan war. He started in Vietnam, died trying to solve Afghanistan, and did his best to have his fingers in every international pie in between. Packer’s writing is lively and quick, rich with voice and asides. More than the story of a man, this is the story of America. (Alfred A. Knopf, $30)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Inheritance

By Dani Shapiro

Like many of us, memoirist Shapiro sent off a sample of her DNA to be analyzed, mostly as a lark. But the results were shocking: Her father, she learned, was not really her father. This stunning information sent her on a quest to figure out who she is and where she came from. Unfolding minute by minute in page-turner fashion, “Inheritance” explores family, legacy and truth in Shapiro’s most compelling memoir yet. (Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Salt Path

By Raynor Winn

In one fell swoop, Raynor Winn and her husband lost their home, their livelihood, their life savings, their health. So they shouldered their packs and set out to hike the South West Coast Path in England, primarily because they had nowhere else to go. As they trudged across that corner of England, they met hikers and homeless people, endured rainstorms, sunburn and constant hunger, and found beauty everywhere. (Penguin Books, $17)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

A Woman of No Importance

By Sonia Purnell

The most fascinating World War II spy is someone you have likely never heard of — a beautiful American socialite with a wooden leg that she called “Cuthbert.” Virginia Hall went behind enemy lines into France to organize unlikely accomplices (nuns, prostitutes and peasants), assist downed pilots, blow up bridges and organize parachute drops. Her story is almost too incredible to believe. (Viking, $28)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Good Talk

By Mira Jacob

This graphic-novel memoir is wise, poignant, thought-provoking and funny. Jacob tells her story through dialogue, starting with discussions between herself and her 6-year-old son, and branching out to include her parents, brother, husband, friends and in-laws. The topics? Race, love and sexuality, first against the backdrop of being the bisexual daughter of immigrants from India and then of being the mother of a mixed-race child during the time of Donald Trump. (One World, $30)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Unpassing

By Chia-Chia Lin

At the center of Chia-Chia Lin’s astute, precisely observed debut is 10-year-old Gavin, who lives in Alaska with his Taiwanese immigrant family. Stricken with meningitis, he recovers to find his sister dead and his passionate interest, the Space Shuttle Challenger, exploded. Grief, guilt and dread skew Gavin’s view of the world and inform his account of the family’s history. Lin conveys Gavin’s partial knowledge, misunderstandings and growing awareness subtly and brilliantly, bringing revelation out of bleakness. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)

Reviewed by Katherine A. Powers, Special to the Star Tribune

Say Nothing

By Patrick Radden Keefe

A gripping account of political and religious bloodshed, Patrick Radden Keefe’s “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” focuses on a Belfast woman’s 1972 kidnapping. Her death lingered as an unsolved mystery, but Keefe’s “startling discovery” appears to crack the case. In the process, he takes us deep inside the Troubles, the deadly unrest that defined Northern Ireland’s relationship with Britain in the 20th century’s final decades. (Doubleday, $28.95)

Reviewed by Kevin Canfield, Special to the Star Tribune

Feast Your Eyes

By Myla Goldberg

This ingenious novel is presented as an exhibition catalog for the work of a fictional midcentury New York photographer named Lillian Preston, put together by her daughter Samantha — who, when she was small, was the subject of a series so controversial it landed her mother in jail. Never have the consequences of one mistake in judgment been more vividly brought to life — nor the challenges of being a single mother and an artist. (Scribner, $28)

Reviewed by Marion Winik, Special to the Star Tribune

Maggie Brown & Others

By Peter Orner

Occasionally a literary master is hiding in plain sight. With his fifth work of fiction, “Maggie Brown & Others,” Peter Orner strides to center stage in a virtuosic collection that ranges from comedic high notes to the basso profundo of divorce and death. A despondent husband; a gay Midwestern Falstaff; a Grateful Dead groupie; quarrelsome Jews in Massachusetts: Orner distills whole lives into pieces that often run only a few pages, probing the “Maginot Line of love” with exquisite economy and élan. (Little, Brown, $27)

Reviewed by Hamilton Cain, Special to the Star Tribune

Metropolis

By Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr’s magnificent Bernie Gunther novels are Third Reich-set noirish thrillers featuring a wisecracking, world-weary detective. “Metropolis” is a reboot of sorts. It takes Gunther back to the chaos and debauchery of 1920s Berlin — “hell’s metropolis” — where he attempts to earn his spurs hunting down a killer of prostitutes and disabled war veterans. Tragically, Kerr’s latest is also his last, for he died prematurely in 2018. This gripping, if bittersweet, posthumous outing is a perfect swan song for fans of the series and an ideal entry point for newcomers. (Putnam, $28)

Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes, Special to the Star Tribune

Magical Negro: Poems

By Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker’s visceral third collection of poetry, “Magical Negro,” captures the incessant labor required of people of color to exist in spaces that are violently inhospitable. “My body is an argument I did not start.” This argument whines on in history class, on television screens, and with police brutality. An accelerating directness drives her poetry that is nevertheless constantly dragged back and reactivated through repetitions and lists, making for an exciting and powerful read. (Tin House, $15.95)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hoover, Special to the Star Tribune

She Was Like That: New and Selected Stories

By Kate Walbert

Kate Walbert’s latest collection of stories grapples with the joys and anxieties of motherhood: the terrifying experience of losing track of a child in Times Square; the intoxicating closeness between otherwise lonely mothers; the attempt to build friendships among mothers who are incompatible. In Walbert’s work, the presence of twins might prompt another woman to ask, “In vitro?,” in a knowing way that renders the two of them sudden, if temporary, intimates. A striking, often melancholy collection. (Scribner, $26)

Reviewed by Jackie Thomas-Kennedy, Special to the Star Tribune

The Old Drift

By Namwali Serpell

With her ambitious debut, “The Old Drift,” Namwali Serpell has written a book fit for the ages. She charts the history of Zambia — from its swampy, colonial past to its high-tech future, replete with microdrones and palm-embedded devices. As she introduces character after intriguing character, each within four generations of families, she proves herself to be a versatile, genre-defying novelist, writing across race, gender and class with an assured and often beautiful stride. (Hogarth, $28)

Reviewed by Angela Ajayi, Special to the Star Tribune

Inland

By Téa Obreht

Like her luminous, numinous novel “The Tiger’s Wife,” the parched landscape of Téa Obreht’s “Inland” is alive with myth and magic, especially for the homesteading housewife stranded in the Arizona Territory, circa 1893, and the orphaned Levantine immigrant who happens into the Camel Corps at the tail end of the Civil War, both of whom, as their stories meander toward each other, commune with the dead, the voices of loss and longing and, oddly, infinite promise. (Random House, $27)

Reviewed by Ellen Akins, Special to the Star Tribune

Henry, Himself

By Stewart O’Nan

Henry Maxwell is 75 and everything around him is changing. His health is failing, his children confound him, his neighborhood is less safe. Stewart O’Nan’s previous novels about the Maxwell family take place after Henry’s death; in “Henry, Himself,” we go back in time to what might be Henry’s last year. He is steeped in responsibility, routine and tradition, and as he endures health problems, he looks back at his life in a series of moving reflections. Henry is an ordinary man, but O’Nan depicts him so skillfully he becomes extraordinary. (Viking, $27)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Cracking the Bell

By Geoff Herbach

For years, football has given Wisconsin teenager Isaiah his “singularity and purpose” after the death of his sister and his parents’ divorce. But when a concussion sidelines him from the game, his behavior begins to spin out of control, just as a recruiter dangles a college scholarship. Mankato writer Geoff Herbach captures the joy of pummeling rivals on the field and the slow way Isaiah gathers his inner resources to find a path forward. (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Lalani of the Distant Sea

By Erin Entrada Kelly, illustrated by Lian Cho

On the island of Sanlagita, the villagers send their sons to sea to find a mythical island, but no one returns. Lalani has lost her father and now lives with an abusive stepfather and stepbrother. When her mother falls ill, she sets out at sea to chart a different future. Erin Entrada Kelly has written a tale, suffused with myth and poetry, that allows one girl to tap her resilience to break free of an insular community. (Greenwillow, $16.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

By Laura Ruby

In the depths of the Great Depression, Frankie and her siblings are left in a Chicago orphanage when their Italian immigrant father finds a new family. In a second, braided story line, a ghost, Pearl, tries to understand the harsh reaction to her first love. “This is a story about how the world likes to punish girls for their appetites, even for their love,” Hamline University instructor Laura Ruby says of her sprawling and ambitious novel. (Balzer + Bray, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Pet

By Akwaeke Emezi

In the city of Lucille, a revolution has erased prejudice and abuses of power, and all knowledge of evil has been locked away. That is, until teenage Jam unleashes “Pet,” from her mother’s painting, a terrifying creature who has come to Lucille to hunt a monster. In their first young-adult novel, Akwaeke Emezi creates characters who “read” houses, speak in poetic tongues, and confront their deepest fears to set the world right. (Make Me a World, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Frankly in Love

By David Yoon

Frank Li’s parents live in a bubble — working seven days a week at their convenience store and socializing in a competitive circle of fellow Korean-Americans. When Frank’s older sister marries a black man, they cut her off. So when he falls in love with a privileged white classmate, he attempts an elaborate ruse to protect everyone from hurt. David Yoon’s first novel is full of warm, funny characters and truth bombs about racial collisions and the immigrant experience. (Putnam, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Look Both Ways

By Jason Reynolds

The dialogue is sharp and the characters unexpected in these 10 tales of young people after school. A foster kid and his best friend share deep and playful thoughts about loss; a skater faces off with a bully who wants to shut her down; and a group called the “Low Cuts” finds surprising ways to help a parent dealing with chemo. Jason Reynolds weaves worlds out of moments, leaving unforgettable stories in his wake. (Simon and Schuster, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

White Bird

By R.J. Palacio, illustrated by R.J. Palacio, Kevin Czap

The friendship between two teens — a Jewish girl, Sara, and her classmate, Julian, a polio survivor taunted for his twisted gait — form the core of this story set in World War II France. When Nazis arrive to remove the Jewish children from their school, Julian risks his life to help Sara escape and his family hides her for the war’s duration. Warm watercolors add emotional depth to a powerful story of one French town’s resistance to inhumanity. (Knopf, $24.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Take The Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance

By Bethany C. Morrow

Young people are propelling national and global movements, but sometimes the hardest challenges are close to home. In this collection, editor Bethany C. Morrow has gathered short stories, poems and a comic that speak to moments of “everyday resistance.” Highlights include Morrow’s story of a prom proposal gone wrong, poems by Jason Reynolds, and bookend chapters by Darcie Little Badger about finding a voice and finding home. (Levine/Scholastic, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Born to Run

By Jason Walz, illustrated by Jason Walz, Jon Proctor

Four years after an alien invasion of Earth, neurodiverse Wyatt attempts to lead a resistance of the young, the old and the disabled. His twin, Sam, is stuck on a remote planet, where she’s forced to kill monsters or die. Minneapolis cartoonist Jason Walz keeps the stakes high and the plot moving in the second volume of his Last Pick trilogy, as unexpected moments bring his dystopian universe to life. (First Second, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

A Storm of Wishes

By Jacqueline West

Van has stayed away from the world of wish “collectors” since his best friend, Pebble, disappeared. But as his mother recovers from an attack, he receives dark warnings from the unseen world. He’s soon drawn into a battle against Pebble’s abusive uncle that unleashes years of trapped wishes with spectacular and unpredictable results. West’s second Collectors novel crackles with magic and action. (Greenwillow, $16.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Midwest Architecture Journeys

Edited by Zach Mortice

Books on architecture are easy to find. Far less common are volumes like this one, packed with thoughtful essays about a range of buildings as diverse as rest areas, mausoleums and breweries. Twin Citians will recognize Eliel Saarinen’s Christ Church Lutheran and the Purcell-Cutts House, gorgeous edifices designed by celebrated architects. But don’t stop there: Keep reading to learn about more modest but equally fascinating parts of our built environment, from silos to subterranean structures. (Belt Publishing, $40)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb, Special to the Star Tribune

What God is Honored Here?

Edited by Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang

Many women experience miscarriage and infant death, but for each it is a solitary tragedy. Women of color live through these losses at a far higher rate than do white women, to our national shame. More than two dozen of their stories are movingly told in this collection of poems and essays, including offerings from both editors. Writes one contributor: “It is hard to describe what it’s like to lose someone I never saw outside of my body.” The writers here do an admirable job of just that. (University of Minnesota Press, $19.95)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb, Special to the Star Tribune

Irreversible Things

By Lisa Van Orman Hadley

This is one of those works of fiction that reads like a memoir, in which the protagonist and author share a name, a family and a life story. Winner of the 2019 Howling Bird Press Fiction Prize, “Irreversible Things” is told in epistolary fashion, laying out in brief, funny chapters (“Swing Set,” “Lice Day”) the childhood and early adult life of Lisa, one of six children in a lively Mormon family growing up in Florida and Utah. (Howling Bird Press, $18)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb, Special to the Star Tribune

Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities

By Bill Lindeke and Andy Sturdevant

If you’re nostalgic for late, great gathering spots like Lee’s Liquor Lounge, pick up this comprehensive compendium of Twin Cities bars. It goes much further back, too, to such compelling dives as the Hollyhocks Club, a Prohibition-era speakeasy in a Mississippi River mansion. Urban geographer Lindeke and cultural writer Sturdevant met, fittingly enough, at the bar at Pracna. Their devotion to their subject shines through all 48 watering holes they so lovingly describe. (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $27.95)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb, Special to the Star Tribune

The Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbjornsen & Moe

By Translated by Tiina Nunnally

Inspired by the Brothers Grimm, Asbjornsen and Moe spent years traveling the mountainous countryside of southern Norway, collecting folk tales. The book was published in 1841; this is the first English translation in more than 150 years. Here are such familiar stories as “Tom Thumb” and “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” as well as lesser known tales such as “Everyone Thinks Their Own Children Are Best.” (University of Minnesota Press, $34.95)

Reviewed by Lynette Lamb, Special to the Star Tribune

Home in the Woods

By Eliza Wheeler

“Dad lives with the angels now, and we need to find a new home.” This poignant book by a Minnesota artist/writer begins in sadness as a widow and her eight children load their possessions into a wheelbarrow and trudge down the road to a tarpaper shack. Over the course of a year, they fix up the house, plant a garden, piece quilts, can vegetables, and learn to love this new, simple life. The book is based on the life of Wheeler’s grandmother, whose family made a home in the Wisconsin woods during the Great Depression. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood

By Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier

As the Driving Hawk children trudge to school, a shivering young Virginia thinks about the charity boxes that will soon arrive at their South Dakota reservation. She needs a winter coat, but as the daughter of the town’s Episcopal priest, she gets last pick. The perfect coat does, indeed, arrive — but it is chosen by another girl. And then the plain brown coat that Virginia is given is taken away for someone who, Virginia’s mother says gently, needs it more than she does. Will there be a Christmas miracle? This story of giving and receiving — back in print after eight years — is illustrated with paintings so evocative they will make you shiver. (South Dakota Historical Society Press, $9.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Hike

By Alison Farrell

Three girls and a dog head out on a hike. They start at a dead run (“We run like maniacs,” they say) and they are determined to get to the top of the mountain. Soon they slow down and begin paying attention to the details of the forest — berries, woodpeckers, animal tracks. They get lost. They study their map. They find their way again. They sketch what they see in a notebook. This breezy book of derring-do and friendship celebrates diversity and girl power as well as the glories of the natural world. (Chronicle Books, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Jon Klassen’s Hat Box

By Jon Klassen

At $50, this three-book boxed set is for those of us who simply cannot get enough of Klassen’s wry, funny and mock-tragic stories about animals and hats. Two of the books (“This Is Not My Hat” and “I Want My Hat Back”) won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor award and the Caldecott Medal. Klassen’s hilarious and weird stories acknowledge our baser instincts (“This hat is not mine. I just stole it,” says a fish) and our unreasonable hope that nobody will notice when we do wrong. If you are a rabbit, and it is a bear you have wronged, all I can say is: run. (Candlewick, $49.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Shortest Day

By Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis

When you pair a Newbery Medalist (Cooper) with a Caldecott Honor winner (Ellis), the result is a moving song about solstice, death and rebirth. Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day” has been performed each winter for decades. Ellis’ awe-filled gouache paintings move seamlessly from ancient times to modern, reminding us of the eternal cycle of the year — sadness as the days grow shorter, ebullience at the reappearance of the sun. (Candlewick, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Our Favorite Day

By Joowon Oh

Papa is a creature of habit: Get up, water the plants, go to the dumpling house for lunch. But on Thursdays something special happens — that is the day his granddaughter visits, the day they make crafts and fly kites. Joowon Oh’s sweet story is dedicated to her father, and her bright watercolor-and-cut-paper illustrations have a fascinating 3-D pop. The two-page spread when granddaughter rushes into grandfather’s arms is filled with joy. (Candlewick, $16.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

The Night is Yours

By Abdul-Razak Zachariah, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

On a hot summer night children play in their apartment courtyard while the father of one girl keeps watch and narrates the story. Under a full moon, they skip rope to the sounds of hip-hop coming from a window, they look at the stars, they scatter and play hide-and-seek. Little Amani, with her dark curls and dimples, finds the other children, one by one, until only one remains hidden. “I send you silent strength,” her father thinks. “And see that you are more determined than ever. You know that some things aren’t easy.” (Dial Books for Young Readers, $17.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude

Edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles

Quatrains and found poems, odes and narrative poems, acrostics and limericks, metaphors and echo poems — the pieces in this anthology are as diverse as their writers. Collected by Miranda Paul, a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, these poems by Sun Yung Shin, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Liu, Naomi Shihab Nye and others express gratitude for things large and small, concrete and abstract. “Paint the sunset with your eyes,” writes Charles Ghigna. “Make your life a work of art.” Stunning illustrations by St. Paul artist Marlena Myles glow with pinks and purples. The book gives bios of each writer and also explains each poetic form. (Millbrook Press, $19.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

A Song

By James Christopher Carroll

Mixed-media illustrations give a dreamlike quality to this poem. Carroll’s words are few — no more than four to a page — giving space to his illustrations: swirls and circles, strange creatures and stylized trees, houses glowing with starlight. A girl hears a song and follows it into woods, where she encounters chickens and mice, alligators in harlequin pants, an elephant with a guitar. This gorgeous, mysterious book is published by a longtime Mankato publisher. (Creative Editions, $19.99)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor

Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales

By Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett

When an ancient book in a musty shop swallows up Neil the tortoise, his friends do not hesitate. Intrepid Luna and Franklin leap in after him to bring him back. “They find themselves in a dark forest. It smells of paper, ink and porridge.” This rhyming adventure features a fearless redheaded heroine who encounters three little pigs, a boy who has sold his cow for magic beans, a yawning princess with some peas — the characters of your favorite fairy tales. How easy it is, this funny story shows, to get lost in a book. (Thames & Hudson, $17.95)

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune books editor