Oh, come on. We have beaches here — tons of ’em! So what if the sands are usually encapsulated in ice. Surely this land of many lakes should have produced more than a few great summertime reads. Yet only one (long dead) Minnesota author makes National Public Radio’s list of 100 Best Beach Books: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is No. 7 on the list. (Nitpickers will also note that Anne Tyler, who came in at No. 29 with “The Accidental Tourist,” was born in Minneapolis, but she wasn’t even raised here.)
Maybe Minnesota writers are too serious for the beach? Naw. Even in the serious category, our writers are plenty funny. In this category, I might include the slyly humorous Louise Erdrich and Jon Hassler, who isn’t known for his fart jokes, but if you read the books, well, there they are.
What about chick lit? Is the beach book supposed to go with toenail polish or something? “Welcome to My Planet,” by Shannon Olson, is near canonical, and surely Lorna Landvik’s books have seen their share of sand between the pages. Mysteries are often associated with vacations (because when we relax, we like to think about murder?). I would have voted for Tim O’Brien’s incredibly spooky “In the Lake of the Woods,” or anything by William Kent Krueger, who writes about the dark side of lake country.
So what made-in-Minnesota books would go in your beach bag? And, as long as you’re thinking about local literature, maybe you can come up with some trivia based on Minnesota books and authors for an upcoming contest.
This is a big anniversary year for four of Minnesota’s most important literary institutions, Graywolf Press (35 years), Milkweed Editions (30 years), Coffee House Press (25 years) and the Loft Literary Center (30 years). To celebrate, they are putting together a swell scavenger hunt, “Around the Twin Cities in (Almost) 80 Days,” that will send participants to 20 bookstores in search of the answers to burning local literary questions. Got any? Send them in. If they pick your question, you’ll have a head start toward winning enough books to keep you at the beach till, well, it freezes over.