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Give great books

To me the best presents - aside from dark chocolates - are books. Bookstores draw me like a magnet and even if I don't buy anything, I love the smell and feel of books, especially those in used book shops. Last year I made a list of my favorite N...

To me the best presents - aside from dark chocolates - are books. Bookstores draw me like a magnet and even if I don't buy anything, I love the smell and feel of books, especially those in used book shops. Last year I made a list of my favorite North Dakota authors and those whose books I wanted to read. This year it's Minnesota writers.

- Published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, "North Country Reader" edited by Jean Ervin, is a delectable smorgasbord that offers a taste of short stories, essays, memoirs and excerpts from novels written by 37 Minnesota authors.

Among the authors included are Carol Bly, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paul Gruchow, Jon Hassler, Garrison Keillor, Meridel Le Sueur, Sinclair Lewis, Gordon Parks and Ole R'lvaag. My favorites among these are Fitzgerald, Gruchow and Hassler. The selections reflect the variety of Minnesotans' lives at different times from the Depression to the present. The stories echo various ethnic backgrounds of the state's citizens and reveals their hopes, dreams and sorrows.

- I am an avid reader of mysteries, and Minnesota's Ellen Hart, five-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery and three-time winner of Minnesota Book Award for Best Crime and Detective Fiction, is a favorite of mine. She has written 21 crime novels that include a series about Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless and St. Paul Hotel owner Sophie Greenway.

- While I was perusing the Internet for mysteries one day, I found Carl Brookins' name among a list of 39 Minnesota mystery writers. I met Brookins when he used to work at Prairie Public Television in Fargo. I am anxious to read his books.

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- When I returned to college in the early 1970s, I took a class in children's literature and although I was in my early 30s, I was entranced by the Betsy-Tacy books written by Maude Hart Lovelace. She wrote about the lives two high school classmates and their friends in the fictional town of Deep Valley, Minn., as well as many other novels.

Lovelace's books were first published in the 1940s and eventually went out of print. However, a resurgence of their popularity most likely due to the Betsy-Tacy Society, has brought them back.

I loved "Heaven to Betsy," "Betsy in Spite of Herself," "Betsy Was a Junior," "Betsy and Joe," "Betsy and the Great World" and "Betsy's Wedding" and still read them from time to time. To me reading books you've read before is like visiting old friends.

- I can't make a book list without mentioning books about cooking. "Minnesota Ethnic Food Book" by Anne R. Kaplan, Marjorie A. Hoover and Willard B. Moore tells of the foods - and gives recipes - of Minnesota's many ethnic groups.

"Food on the Frontier" by Marjorie Kreidberg gives the history of Minnesota Cooking from 1850 to 1900 plus 275 recipes. If you want to know how grandma cooked, you'll find the answers here. "Minnesota Eats Out" by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky with recipes by Eleanor Ostman is an illustrated history of Minnesota's nightclubs, soda fountains, hotel dining rooms and resorts. The book includes 70 favorite restaurant recipes.

Although it isn't a cookbook, a history of the Jewish experience anywhere, would have to cover the Jewish kitchen. And it does. "And Prairie Dogs Weren't Kosher: Jewish Women in the Upper Midwest Since 1855" is a heart-warming book that includes oral accounts, diaries, letters and autobiographies of Jewish settlers on the northern Great Plains.

And on my to-read list I have "Progressive Era in Minnesota, 1899-1918" by Carl H. Chrislock which traces the rise and decline of the Progressive movement in Minnesota; "Radicalism in Minnesota, 1900-1960" by the 20th-Century Radicalism in Minnesota Project, Carl Ross, Director, a bibliography that records Minnesota's left-wing political radicalism; and "Crusaders: The Radical Legacy of Marian and Arthur Le Sueur" by Meridel Le Sueur, a daughter's story of her parents commitment to political and social change.

There's no room to mention Rainy Lake Chronicle "editor, et. cetra," the late Ted Hall. I've run out of space. Although my list is small, it's tasty.

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Resources: www.duluth.lib.mn.us/PopLib/MNAuthors.html; www.betsy-tacysociety.org/; http://shop.mnhs.org/index.cfm?CFID421329&CFTOKEN33003849; www.minnesotacrimewave.org/carlbrookins/

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