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Litchfield MN 55355

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Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Read Minnesotan


by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Come to the library to find some new books with Minnesota ties.

The Minnesota Book of Skills
The Minnesota Book of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More is a fun, brand-new book from the Minnesota Historical Society Press.  Author Chris Niskanen has put together a collection of short overviews of many topics, such as building your own backyard ice rink, portaging in the BWCA, finding agates, and backing up a trailer.  I was curious to read the sauna etiquette section, since my grandma had a wood-burning sauna I used often as a child.  I learned from the book that there’s a Finnish word for the combined smell of the steam, wood, and woodsmoke of a sauna: löyly.  Now I know that it’s löyly that makes me powerfully nostalgic for Saturday sauna nights.  This is a book I plan to read further and probably give for Christmas gifts, because I think it’s both useful and entertaining.

We Sinners
Another book I look forward to reading doesn’t take place in Minnesota, but it could have been set here because the same religious and ethnic group lives in our area.  We Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen is a novel about a Finnish Laestadian Lutheran family in Michigan.    Each chapter is told by a different person in the eleven-member Rovaniemi family.  Some of the children stay in the church, and others leave.  Some readers have told me that they loved it and learned so much more about Finnish Lutherans, while others have said they’ve been disappointed that it didn’t go deeper.  The final chapter, which takes place at the founding of the Laestadian church, tends to confuse most readers; it’s intended as historical perspective.    Amazon named this one of its best books of the month in August, and it has gotten good reviews elsewhere for Pylväinen's spare, nuanced writing.

Cooking With Pavarotti
A Litchfield writer praised for her nuanced writing, Nancy Paddock has a new book of poetry out this year that our library has added to the collection this fall.  Cooking with Pavarotti includes poems on the culinary arts and many other subjects.  This book is published by Red Dragonfly Press.  We do not yet have Joe Paddock’s new book, but I will find a copy for our library.

Mni Sota Makoce
Another new book from the Minnesota Historical Society Press is Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota.  According to the book, “The Dakota phrase Mni Sota Makoce, Land Where the Waters Reflect the Clouds, gives the state of Minnesota its name.” The book tells the story of the Dakota people in Minnesota: creation stories , archaeological history, interactions and treaties with European Americans, and modern efforts to reclaim traditional cultural places.

One Drop in a Sea of Blue
Yet another book from the MHS Press, One Drop in a Sea of Blue: The Liberators of the Ninth Minnesota, tells a little-known story of the Civil War.  In 1863, 38 men from the Ninth Minnesota Regiment held a train at gunpoint to free a fugitive slave and his family who had been captured and were being shipped out of state to be sold.  Because it happened in Missouri where the soldiers were not to interfere with Union loyalists who were slaveholders, the soldiers were charged with treason and imprisoned without trial for two months.  Their case was debated in the U.S. Senate.  The book follows these 38 after their release, as they rejoined their regiment to be defeated at Brice Crossroads.  Some were imprisoned at Andersonville stockade.  The Ninth suffered unusually high mortality rates at Andersonville, but those who continued to fight helped to win the western theater of the war.    Fourteen of the 38 liberators survived the war and left behind accounts of their wartime experiences.  Author John B. Lundstrom tells a carefully researched story that is being described as a microcosm of the entire Civil War experience.

A library should have books that cover local interests.  I hope you’ll find something that interests you among these new additions.