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Book Report: Books make great gifts, put these on your list

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Gift giving time has once again rolled around and today we'll talk about some notable books I've read and reviewed over the past year. We'll start with some books from the region, then move on to books published in New York City, (some of them from authors in our region):

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REGIONAL FAVORITES

Biography and History

"Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear (University of Minnesota Press, $39.95), a fascinating inside look at the victories and defeats of a Minnesota state senator who came out of the closet and wrote his memoirs before dying.

"Joined at the Hip," by Jay Goetting (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95), an engrossing history of jazz in the Minneapolis from the riverboat days to the present, as well as "And All That Jazz," by Jim Swanson (Nodin Press, an in-depth examination of Minneapolis woodwind genius, Percy Hughes.

"Through No Fault of My Own," by Peg Meier (University of Minnesota Press, "$12.95). The diary of St. Paul Socialite "Coco Irvine," with commentary by Meier, author of "Bring Warm Clothes" and other popular Minnesota histories.

"The Pillsburys of Minnesota," by Lori Sturdevant with George Pillsbury (Nodin Press, $29.95). An in-depth examination of one of Minnesota's founding families.

"Norwegian-American Women," by Betty Bergland and Lori Ann Lahlum (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $24.95). A fascinating re-examining of the contributions of Norwegian American women. (They did more than make lefse.)

Poetry

"But You're Wearing a Blue Skirt the Color of Sky," by Lucille Broderson of Willmar (Nodin Press, $17). Charming first volume of poems by nonagenarian Broderson.

Essays

"Vikings in the Attic," by Eric Dregni (University of Minnesota Press, $22.95). The author of "In Cod We Trust" is back with a good-humored book about Scandinavians.

"The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked (Random House E-Book, n.p.), by David Benjamin, who grew up in Tomah, Wisconsin, and has a difficult time forgetting about it in this hilarious memoir.

Fiction

"Dorie LaValle," by Mary Des Jarlais (North Star Press, $14.95). An exciting novel about a female bootlegger in Stearns County during prohibition.

"A Mile of Dreams," by Jim Trevis (Xlibris, n.p.). First time novelist Trevis pens story about the changing agricultural scene in Minnesota's dairyland.

NATIONAL PUBLISHERS

Fiction

"Killing Kate," by Julie Kramer (Atria Books, $23.99). Former Minneapolis TV reporter Kramer comes with yet another exciting mystery and her heroine, a TV reporter who gets involved.

"Gryphon: New and Collected Short Stories," by Charles Baxter (Pantheon, $27.95), novelist and University of Minnesota professor who knows how to write a short story and who knows Minneapolis's West Bank.

"The Tragedy of Arthur," by Arthur Phillips (Random House, $26). If you're a Shakespeare buff, you'll like this book set in modern day Minneapolis by Phillips, who grew up there.

"The Devil All the Time," by Donald Ray Pollock (Doubleday, $26.95) a down and dirty novel about snake healers and evangelists in southern Ohio. A hard book to put aside.

"The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party," by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon, $24.95). The first lady detective from Soweto, "Precious" is back with another adventure.

Adolescent

Adolescent

"Spellbound," by Red Wing, Minnesota's Jacqueline West, a young writer whose second book about the adventures of Olive Dunwoody, who lives in a haunted house with two rather lamebrained college professor parents.

Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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