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What to read? Check out the Minnesota Book Awards finalists

ALSO: Author Joshua Yaffa at Museum of Russian Art; guitarist Badi Assad at Crooners; and more.

The finalists for the 2020 Minnesota Book Awards were announced Saturday: four books each in nine categories, totaling three dozen titles deemed worthy of consideration for the state’s top literary honors. They were chosen by 27 judges from around the state – writers, teachers, librarians, booksellers and others from the literary community – so if you’re looking for tips on what to read next, this list would be a good place to start.

Marlon James
Marlon James
Several familiar names jump out: Marlon James, William Kent Krueger, Kao Kalia Yang, Bao Phi, Benjamin Percy, Ed Bok Lee, Jacqueline West, David Treuer. More than a third of the finalists were published by Minnesota-based publishers. The University of Minnesota Press has three finalists (in three different categories); Minnesota Historical Society Press, Milkweed, and Coffee House all have two.

Topics range from the Apollo missions to Wounded Knee, from the platypus to surviving a grizzly attack. Current and former MinnPost writers are represented by the same book: Bill Lindeke, who writes Cityscape, and Andy Sturdevant, who wrote and illustrated the Stroll for several years, are the coauthors of the Twin Cities bar crawl “Closing Time.” You can read an excerpt here.

The Minnesota Book Awards are organized by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday, April 28, in the Ordway Concert Hall. New location, new approach: more seats, no tables, one ticket price ($45). Tickets went on sale at noon Monday (Jan. 27).

A Meet the Finalists event will take place Friday, March 27, at George Latimer Central Library starting at 7 p.m.

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These are the finalists for the 2020 awards:

Children’s literature: “A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute” by Nate Christopherson and Tara Sweeney (University of Minnesota Press), “Home in the Woods” by Eliza Wheeler (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House), “A Map into the World” by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim (Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group), “My Footprints” by Bao Phi, illustrated by Basia Tran (Capstone Editions/Capstone).

Kao Kalia Yang
Kao Kalia Yang
General nonfiction: “America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States” by Erika Lee (Basic Books), “Consider the Platypus: Evolution Through Biology’s Most Baffling Beasts” by Maggie Ryan Sandford, illustrations by Rodica Prato (Black Dog & Leventhal), “Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions” by Nancy Atkinson (Page Street Publishing Company), “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present” by David Treuer (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House).

Genre fiction: “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” by Marlon James (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House), “The Body Keeper” by Anne Frasier (Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing), “Ice Cold Heart” by P.J. Tracy (Crooked Lane Books), “Nothing More Dangerous” by Allen Eskens (Mulholland Books/Little, Brown, and Company).

Memoir and creative nonfiction: “All the Wild Hungers” by Karen Babine (Milkweed Editions), “Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family” by Anika Fajardo (University of Minnesota Press), “The Memory House” by Raki Kopernik (The Muriel Press), “The Twenty-Ninth Day: Surviving a Grizzly Attack in the Canadian Tundra” by Alex Messenger (Blackstone Publishing).

Middle grade literature: “The Line Tender” by Kate Allen (Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin Random House), “The Lost Girl” by Anne Ursu (Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins Publishers), “The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly” by Rebecca K.S. Ansari (Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins Publishers), “A Tear in the Ocean” by H.M. Bouwman, illustrations by Yuko Shimizu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House).

Andy Sturdevant
MinnPost file photo by Andrew Wallmeyer
Andy Sturdevant
Minnesota nonfiction: “Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities” by Bill Lindeke and Andy Sturdevant (Minnesota Historical Society Press), “Slavery’s Reach: Southern Slaveholders in the North Star State” by Christopher P. Lehman (Minnesota Historical Society Press), “Tulips, Chocolate & Silk: Celebrating 65 Years of the James Ford Bell Library” by Marguerite Ragnow and Natasha D’Schommer (James Ford Bell Library), “Walking the Old Road: A People’s History of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Anishinaabe” by Staci Lola Drouillard (University of Minnesota Press).

Novel and short story: “Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions” by Sheila O’Conner (Rose Metal Press), “Stray” by Nancy J. Hedin (NineStar Press), “Suicide Woods” by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press), “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster).

Poetry: “Bodega” by Su Hwang (Milkweed Editions), “A Bony Framework for the Tangible Universe” by D. Allen (The Operating System), “Mitochondrial Night” by Ed Bok Lee (Coffee House Press), “Safe Houses I Have Known” by Steve Healey (Coffee House Press).

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Young adult literature: “Catfishing on CatNet” by Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen/Macmillan Publishing Group), “Cracking the Bell” by Geoff Herbach (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers), “Last Things” by Jacqueline West (Greenwillow/HarperCollins Publishers), “The Stars and the Blackness Between Them” by Junauda Petrus (Dutton Books/Penguin Random House).

A few related fun facts:

Yesterday (Monday, Jan. 27), Junauda Petrus’ “The Stars and the Blackness Between Them” was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book by the American Library Association.

Also yesterday, Marlon James, best-selling author of “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (and before that, “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize), launched a new podcast with Jake Morrissey, his editor at Riverhead Books. It’s called “Marlon and Jake Read Dead People.” Morrissey explains, “We’re going to be honest. Brutally, unsparingly honest. Which is why these authors have to be dead.” It’s like eavesdropping on a far-ranging, fiercely opinionated conversation between two people who know each other well and have both read everything, or nearly everything. FMI.

Starting Feb. 29, Nate Christopherson and Tara Sweeney’s “A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute” will be the centerpiece of a major new exhibition at the ASI. As is ASI’s pretty cool habit, they will open the show with a party the night before.

Talk of the Stacks to feature Erika Lee, Julia Alvarez, Larry Watson

Announced last week, Talk of the Stacks is a free lecture series from Friends of the Hennepin County Library. All events take place in Pohlad Hall at the downtown Minneapolis library, with doors at 6:15 and start times at 7. Book sales and signings follow. FMI.

Coming in 2020:

Erika Lee
Friends of the Hennepin County Library
Erika Lee
Monday, Feb. 24: Erika Lee will discuss her new book, “America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States,” which was just named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in general nonfiction. Lee, a University of Minnesota Regents Professor and the granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, will be in conversation with Tom Weber.

Monday, April 20: Julia Alvarez will talk about her latest, “Afterlife.” Alvarez is an international best-selling novelist whose previous books include “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies.” Her first adult novel in 15 years, “Afterlife” is also one of the most anticipated books of 2020.

Thursday, July 23: Larry Watson is a regional best-seller, book club favorite and author of “Montana 1948” and “Let Him Go.” He’ll return with his new novel, “The Lives of Edie Pritchard.”

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The picks

Ranked one of the top guitarists in the world, Badi Assad was born into a musical family in Brazil.
Courtesy of the artist
Ranked one of the top guitarists in the world, Badi Assad was born into a musical family in Brazil.
Tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 28) at Crooners: Badi Assad. Ranked one of the top guitarists in the world, Asssad was born into a musical family in Brazil. Her brothers are the classical guitarists Sérgio and Odair, the internationally famous Duo Assad (who were here with the Schubert Club in 2018). She has released more than 16 albums of her own and calls her music “universal Brazilian music.” Along with playing guitar, she sings and imitates other instruments with her voice. In an interview Monday with KBEM’s Emily Reese, Assad mentioned that she might play some Bjork and Piazzolla. Local guitarist Robert Everest will join her for a tribute to Tom Jobim. If you meet her and want to say her name, it’s “Bah-jee Ah-Sahje.” In the Dunsmore Room. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30-35).

Wednesday at Hamline Midway Library: Fireside Reading Series: John Coy & Gaylord Schanilec: “My Mighty Journey: A Waterfall’s Story.” St. Anthony Falls – Owamniyomni in Dakota – is the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River. Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press, this book recently won the 2020 Minnesota Book Artist Award, which will be presented at the Minnesota Book Awards in April. Like the Book Awards, the Fireside Reading Series is organized by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library. Each reading includes coffee, cider, cookies and book signings. 7 p.m. FMI. Free. Note: Schanilec’s artwork, printed with materials collected along the riverbank, is currently on display at the Mill City Museum through March 29.

Wednesday at the Museum of Russian Art: Joshua Yaffa: “Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition and Compromise in Putin’s Russia.” Yaffa is a correspondent for the New Yorker in Moscow, where he has lived for eight years. Just out, his first book is a portrait of modern Russia and the inner struggles of the people – politicians, entrepreneurs, artists and historians – who sustain his rule. Doors at 6 p.m., program at 7. A Q&A and signing will follow. All galleries will be open for viewing. FMI and tickets ($15/$12 TMORA members/$5 students).