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Only a handful of romance writers can boast a career as long or prolific as Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Over the past three decades, she has published nearly thirty books. Moreover, that corpus including five novels singled out as Favorite Book of the Year by the Romance Writers of America (RWA) – a distinction achieved by no other author to date. RWA inducted Phillips into its Romance Writers Hall of Fame in 2001, and she received the organization’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Phillips is perhaps best known to readers for her New York Times bestselling Chicago Stars series – a string of nine beloved books that, in the words of fellow writer Kristin Hannah, solidify her reputation as “the absolute queen of contemporary romance.” Her latest installment, #1 New York Times bestseller First Star I See Tonight, will be reissued in paperback in June. In it, dogged, novice detective Piper Dove is assigned to tail a star quarterback, and quickly finds the case to be anything but routine.
P.J. Tracy is the pseudonym of mother-daughter writing duo Patricia (P.J.) and Traci Lambrecht, authors behind the internationally bestselling Monkeewrench mystery series. Set right here in the Twin Cities, the Monkeewrench novels center around a group of computer geniuses who split their time between software engineering and a much less prosaic pastime: helping authorities solve Minnesota’s seemingly unsolvable crimes. P.J. Tracy’s debut, Monkeewrench (2003), earned the Lambrechts the prestigious Anthony and Barry Awards for Best First Mystery Novel, as well as the 2014 Minnesota Book Award for Popular Fiction. Subsequent installments – Live Bait (2004), Dead Run (2005), Snow Blind (2006), Shoot to Thrill (2010), and Off the Grid (2012) – firmly established P.J. Tracy as a murder mystery mainstay. Their seventh, The Sixth Idea, was released in paperback in June. Nothing Stays Buried, Traci Lambrechet’s newest Monkeewrench thriller – and the first since the passing of her mother P.J. in 2016 – was released in August.
Ghanaian-American novelist Yaa Gyasi is the author behind Homegoing, one of the breakout hits of 2016. This sweeping, transcontinental family saga follows the descendants of two sisters torn apart by the African slave trade. The legacy of slavery follows six subsequent generations – through the American Civil War, to twentieth-century Harlem, and up to the modern day. It has earned a wide range of accolades and honors. The Washington Post endorses Homegoing as “[Alex Haley’s] Roots for a new generation. A bold tale of slavery… how much we know, and how much we willfully forget.” Gyasi’s unique, relevant, and engaging voice earned the 26-year-old the National Book Foundation’s highly coveted ‘5 Under 35’ Award for 2016. Random House is re-releasing the New York Times bestseller in paperback in May.
Minnesota’s own Lorna Landvik is a comedienne, actress, playwright, and prolific novelist. Her 1995 fiction debut, Patty Jane’s House of Curl – a zany but heartwarming story about two Minnesota sisters who open a beauty parlor… complete with live harp music and Norwegian baked goods – introduced readers to Landvik’s unique brand of humor. She has since published nearly a dozen other books, including bestsellers Welcome to the Great Mysterious (2002), Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (2004), Oh My Stars (2008), and Best to Laugh (2014). In addition to her writing, Landvik is a regular in the local improv comedy scene, and has written and starred in several scripted plays. Her latest novel, Once in a Blue Moon Lodge, is a long-awaited sequel to Patty Jane’s House of Curl. It hit shelves in April.
Julie Rivett is a scholar and granddaughter of Dashiell Hammett, author of the 1929 detective classic The Maltese Falcon. Hammett is considered the father of the “hard-boiled” style of detective writing, and The Maltese Falcon is undoubtedly his opus. Julie Rivett has edited five books on her celebrated grandfather’s work, including: Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett (2001), Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers (2001), Return of the Thin Man (2012), The Hunter and Other Stories (2013), and The Continental Op: Case Files Complete (2016). Rivett is also a trustee of the Hammett estate, and delivers lectures around the world on Hammett and autobiographical Falcon protagonist Sam Spade.
Award-winning novelist Lily King is the author of Euphoria, one of 2014’s best reviewed books. King’s popular page-turner is inspired by and loosely based around the New Guinea fieldwork of famed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. The New York Times Book Review singled out Euphoria for a coveted spot on its annual “10 Best Books” list, praising King’s work as a “meticulously researched homage to Mead’s restless mind — and a considered portrait of Western anthropology in its primitivist heyday.” The book garnered the author a host of other honors, as well, including the first-ever Kirkus Prize for Fiction. Lily King has also published three additional novels, including The Pleasing Hour (1999), a riveting debut honored with a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, and Father of the Rain (2010), winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction.
Pam Jenoff is the author behind The Kommandant’s Girl (2007), one of this past decade’s best received works of historical romance. After the Nazis occupy Poland in 1939, young Jewish bride Emma Bau is forced to flee her home and husband and assume a new identity. In hopes of gaining intel for the Polish resistance movement, she becomes the secretary and love interest of a high-ranking German official – a brave decision with unexpected consequences. Jenoff has since penned half a dozen more novels against the backdrop of war-torn Europe, including The Diplomat’s Wife (2008), The Things We Cherished (2011), The Ambassador’s Daughter (2013), The Other Girl (2014), The Winter Guest (2014), and The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach (2015). Her newest, The Orphan’s Tale, debuts in February. It follows Noa, a young woman who becomes pregnant by a German soldier, is ostracized from her community, and joins up with a traveling circus.
Book club favorite Jamie Ford made waves in 2009 with the publication of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Set in Seattle against the backdrop of Japanese-American internment during World War II, Ford’s historical fiction debut follows the unlikely but lasting friendship between a Chinese-American boy and Japanese-American girl. Kirkus Reviews commended it “a timely tale that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices.” Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet became a mainstay on the New York Times bestseller list for two full years, and garnered Ford a number of honors, including the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. It has been translated into an astounding 34 languages to date. Ford’s sophomore novel, Songs of Willow Frost (2013), revisits the author’s favorite setting at the height of the Great Depression.
Richard Zacks is an accomplished journalist and historian, best known by many for his gripping, well-researched books on topics relating to the Golden Age of Piracy. These include The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd (2002), billed as a “rare, authentic pirate story for grown-ups,” and The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805 (2005) – a bestseller that Kirkus Reviews lauds as an intense adventure narrative peppered with “exquisitely researched, character-enhancing tangential anecdotes.” Zacks expanded his investigative lens in 2012 with Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York. His newest, Chasing the Last Laugh, tells the tale of a round-the-world comedy tour that took American humorist Mark Twain as far from home as Australia and South Africa. Booklist recommended it highly as a “fast-paced and revealing look at a neglected episode in Twain’s life.”
Chris Pavone burst onto the mystery thriller scene in 2012 with The Expats, a chart-topping spy novel centered around an unassuming American housewife who stumbles upon evidence of a major conspiracy – while safeguarding a secret of her own. His debut earned Pavone both Edgar and Anthony awards. The international bestseller is currently in print in over twenty languages, and being adapted for a major motion picture produced by Kevin Spacey. None other than Stephen King singled out Pavone’s 2014 follow up, The Accident, as one of the best nail-biters of that year. His newest, The Travelers, centers around a disillusioned travel writer who finds himself caught in a web of international intrigue that takes him to Argentina, Iceland, and many points in between. Notes The New York Times: “The Travelers confirms what Mr. Pavone’s first two books have established: that when it comes to quick-witted, breathless thrillers that trot the globe, his are top-tier.”
Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American memoirist and teacher, and a leading voice for one of Minnesota’s fastest growing ethnic groups. Her moving 2008 memoir, The Latehomecomer, chronicles the story of her own family – and hundreds like them – who made the harrowing trek from their native Laos, to refugee camps in Thailand, and ultimately to the United States in the wake of the Vietnam War. The Latehomecomer won Yang the 2009 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, as well as that year’s MNBA Reader’s Choice Award – the first-ever title to win two awards. The National Endowment for the Arts recently singled out the memoir for a coveted spot on its Big Read roster, and it remains Minnesota publisher Coffee House Press’s single bestselling title to date. Yang turns the spotlight on the trials and travails of her father, Bee Yang, in her 2016 follow up The Song Poet. The Pioneer Press praised it as “inventive and touching . . . an elegantly written, moving testament to so many aspects of the human experience.”
Internationally bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Nnedi Okorafor is one of that genre’s most unique contemporary voices. Her spell-binding work is inspired by her rich West African heritage. Titles of particular note include the post-apocalyptic Who Fears Death (2010), winner of the prestigious World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and its 2016 prequel The Book of Phoenix, which was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Okorafor’s equally popular young adult books include Akata Witch (2011), affectionately dubbed “the Nigerian Harry Potter” by fans, and Zahrah the Windseeker (2005), winner of multiple prizes for pan-African literature. A screenplay for Zahrah the Windseeker is currently in the works, and both Who Fears Death and Akata Witch have also been optioned for films. In addition to her novel-length work, Okorafor also pens short fiction, including the recent Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction novella Binti (2015).
Minneapolis native R.T. Rybak served as mayor of Minnesota’s largest city from 2002 to 2014, before stepping down from the post at the end of a third term. His post-mayoral career is proving to be an eventful one. Rybak currently serves as CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation, one of the region’s most prominent philanthropies, and is active at the helm of Generation Next, a public–private coalition aiming to improve academic outcomes for underserved children. Between commitments, he has found time to pen a well-received memoir that is equal parts political coming-of-age story and behind-the-scenes look at the running of a major American city. With refreshing candor, Pothole Confidential: My Life as Mayor of Minneapolis chronicles Rybak’s experiences with and thoughts on defining events of the past decade, including the I-35 bridge collapse and the fight over marriage equality.
Internationally renowned naturalist, author, documentarian and media commentator Sy Montgomery is sometimes described as “part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson” (Boston Globe). A distinguished career in animal behavior research has taken Montgomery to far-flung locations including Costa Rica, the Congo, Mongolia’s deserts, and many points in between. Her impressive written corpus spans ten books for adults and another ten geared toward children. Bestsellers include the perennial favorite The Good Pig (2007), a personal memoir about her family’s 750-pound pet pig, and Birdology (2011). Her latest New York Times bestseller, The Soul of an Octopus (2015), was shortlisted for a National Book Award. In it, she explores the psyche of this extraordinary species, including their remarkable ability to forge personal connections with humans.
Candice Millard is a New York Times bestselling historian widely acclaimed for producing “crisp, concise and revealing history” (The Washington Post). She began her distinguished career as a writer and editor for National Geographic, before turning her attention to book-length projects. Millard’s 2005 debut, The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, explored a little-known chapter in the life of our twenty-sixth president. Her 2011 follow-up, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine & the Murder of a President, chronicled the life and assassination of President James Garfield. Both charted extremely well and garnered Millard numerous honors. Millard’s newest title, debuting in September, focuses on the larger-than-life character of Winston Churchill – prior to his time as Prime Minister. Hero of the Empire recounts the story of Churchill’s capture and harrowing escape from a POW camp in colonial South Africa during the Boer Wars.
American Book Award winner Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a master of many different genres. Her hit novels to date include The Mistress of Spices (1997), Sister of My Heart (1999), One Amazing Thing (2010), and Oleander Girl (2013). Studios have optioned many of Divakaruni’s works for films or television, including a big screen adaptation of The Mistress of Spices in 2005. She is also an accomplished poet, playwright, and an award-winning author of short stories and teen literature. Divakaruni’s short fiction and essays have appeared in more than 50 publications. Her newest novel, Before We Visit the Goddess, is set in India and Texas – two places she has lived in and knows intimately. It explores the bounds of multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, twinned themes that have become the author’s hallmark. It charted high on bestseller lists in both the United States and India.
Architect-turned-author Charlotte Rogan made waves on the literary scene with the publication of The Lifeboat, a tense and haunting survival story set at sea at the outset of World War I. Stranded on an overcrowded lifeboat with few provisions and little chance of immediate rescue, survivors of the mysterious sinking of an ocean liner grapple with life-and-death decisions. Rogan’s debut hit numerous bestseller lists and put Rogan in contention for several major literary awards. The Lifeboat has been translated into more than 25 languages, and is currently being adapted into a major motion picture produced by and starring Anne Hathaway. Rogan’s second novel, Now and Again, hit shelves in April. Hailed by The Huffington Post as “just as harrowing, and even more complex,” it centers on an unassuming secretary who stumbles across proof of a massive corporate conspiracy.
Lucie Amundsen is a self-described ‘reluctant farmer’ and co-owner, with her husband Jason, of Locally Laid Egg Company, a ranch enterprise in Duluth that supplies pasture-raised eggs to markets in Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana. Amundsen holds an MFA from Hamline University and is a past contributor to the Star Tribune and Reader’s Digest Association. When this plucky couple – with no real agricultural experience between them – decided to leave their professions to start up a mid-sized chicken farm, Amundsen applied her considerable writing talents to a part-memoir, part-exposé about the experience. Kirkus Reviews recommends Locally Laid highly, stating: “The author’s skepticism and her husband’s optimism collide to create a laughable tale.” Behind the humor, however, Amundsen reveals some alarming truths about today’s egg and poultry industry, along with insights on what we can all do to turn the situation around.
Mystery favorite Cara Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer behind the popular Aimée Leduc private investigator series. Set in and around Paris, Leduc’s adventures span fifteen installments to date. Black boasts an international following, with more than 400,000 books in print in eight different languages. She is also a two-time finalist for the Anthony Award, a high honor in the crime fiction genre. Her newest novel, Murder on the Quai, hit shelves in June. In an exciting departure from the norm, Black takes us back in time to explore how a college-aged Aimée Leduc first came to take the reins of her family’s detective agency. Her first caseload is an exciting one, involving a hunt for Nazi gold and much more. Booklist raves: “Finally we have the prequel we’ve been craving… A treat for series fans.”
Forrest Pritchard is a seventh-generation farmer and New York Times bestselling memoirist. He is one of the nation’s foremost experts on and champions of organic and sustainable farming practices. Pritchard’s literary debut, Gaining Ground, chronicles his personal struggle to save his family farm in Virginia. His 2015 follow up, Growing Tomorrow: A Farm-to-Table Journey, showcases the remarkable stories of 18 sustainable farmers across the country who are changing the way we eat. (Several live and work here in Minnesota.) Club Book is pleased to host Pritchard in Stillwater in conjunction with the 2016 St. Croix Valley Big Read, co-sponsored by Stillwater Public Library and ArtReach St. Croix. The featured title is The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinback – a classic novel replete with cautionary lessons about the price of poor stewardship of our agricultural resources.
Mystery phenom J.A. Jance is the mind behind not one, but three blockbuster series. Her corpus, stretching back to 1985, includes an impressive 60 novels to date. Jance’s popular and compelling protagonists include retired Seattle police detective J. P. Beaumont, Arizona sheriff Joanna Brady, and news anchor-turned-sleuth Ali Reynolds. Among other high honors, two books in the Beaumont series, Without Due Process (1992) and Failure to Appear (1993), have won Jance the prestigious American Mystery Award. Her latest is Clawback, the thirteenth installment in the Ali Reynolds series. In her most controversial case to date, Reynolds is determined to solve the murder of a man whose Ponzi scheme bankrupted hundreds of people – a plight that hits all too close to home for her. Clawback debuts in March 2016.
Book club favorite Jacquelyn Mitchard is the author of ten acclaimed novels to date. Her 1996 debut, The Deep End of the Ocean, propelled the author to superstar status after Oprah Winfrey chose it as the inaugural selection for her wildly popular book club. Hollywood adapted the story into a movie of the same name, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Whoopi Goldberg. Mitchard’s newest book, Two If by Sea, hit shelves in March 2016. The story follows a retired police officer, grieving after the recent and sudden loss of his family, and his relationship with a young ward who exhibits apparent telepathic abilities. “Soulful and emotionally arresting… [Two If by Sea] masterfully mines the place where catastrophic loss meets near-impossible hope and healing,” praised novelist Paula McLain.
Lyndsay Faye is one of the most unique voices writing today in the realms of historical and speculative fiction. Her 2009 debut, Dust and Shadow, takes place in Victorian-era England, and pits the inimitable Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper. Faye followed up that success with the three-book Timothy Wilde series, set in New York City over the 1840s – during the early days of the NYPD and the height of Tammany Hall political corruption. Both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews named The Gods of Gotham, the first in this trilogy, among the ten best crime novels of the year. It also garnered Faye a nomination for the prestigious Edgar Award for Best Novel. Her newest, Jane Steele, is an imaginative retelling of Jane Eyre, the beloved classic by Charlotte Brontë. It hits shelves in March – coinciding with the celebration of Bronte’s 200th birthday.
Writers David Mura and Sun Yung Shin will come together for an evening of conversation about the Asian-American experience in Minnesota. David Mura is a multitalented poet, novelist, memoirist, and playwright. His four full-length poetry collections to date include After We Lost Our Way, winner of the 1989 National Poetry Contest, and The Colors of Desire, winner of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. Mura’s first memoir, Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sensei, gained distinction as a New York Times Notable Book. Sun Yung Shin is a Korean American poet and educator. Her poetry debut, Skirt Full of Black, received the Asian American Literary Award in 2008. She is also editor of the upcoming essay anthology A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, which debuted in February.
Novelist Christina Baker Kline is best known by many as the author behind Orphan Train, a runaway hit that reached #1 on The New York Times bestseller list – and continues to chart well on trade paperback bestseller lists nearly two years after its debut. Depression-era Minnesota factors prominently into this true-to-life tale, which centers around a welfare program responsible for relocating thousands of orphaned and destitute children to new homes in the Midwest between 1850 and 1930. At present, there are well over two million copies of Orphan Train in print, and foreign rights have been sold in nearly 40 countries. Kline is also author of four previous novels and writer or editor of five works of nonfiction.
Karen Abbott is a New York Times bestselling historian and a pioneer of what USA Today calls “sizzle history.” Her hits to date include Sin in the Second City (2008) and American Rose (2012). Publishers Weekly praises Abbott’s latest title, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, as a “gripping… remarkable story of passion, strength, and resilience.” It brings to light the stories and contributions of four daring female spies from the Civil War. Amazon, Library Journal and the Christian Science Monitor are among those who singled out Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy as one of the best books of 2014. Sony recently optioned it for a miniseries. In addition to her book-length work, Abbott is a regular contributor to Smithsonian and The New York Times.
Lori Sturdevant is a veteran editorial writer and columnist for the Star Tribune and one of the most recognizable bylines in Twin Cities print journalism. Her forte is state government and politics, a beat she has covered for more than 35 years. Sturdevant has also penned, co-written, or edited nine books on important Minnesota topics. These include A Man’s Reach: The Autobiography of Elmer L. Andersen, The Pillsburys of Minnesota, and Citizen Swain: Tales of a Minnesota Life. Sturdevant is a three-time Minnesota Book Award winner, most recently in 2015 for Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement, which tells the remarkable story of the first woman to be named to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Novelist and memoirist, Brando Skyhorse, made a name for himself in 2011 with the publication of The Madonnas of Echo Park. This fiction debut – set in one of Los Angeles’ most racially diverse neighborhoods, where Skyhorse himself grew up – garnered accolades for its contributions to the important, ongoing dialogue on what it means to be Mexican in America. It won the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award, as well as the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction. Skyhorse’s recent, one-of-a-kind memoir is equally compelling. In Take This Man, Skyhorse recounts stories from a singular childhood, during which his mother hid the truth of his heritage and raised him to believe he was Native American. Kirkus Reviews named it one of its Best Nonfiction Books of 2014, and NBC News called it one of its 10 Best Latino Books for that year.
Authors Alexs Pate and Tish Jones come together for an evening of conversation about their writing and the African American experience in Minnesota. Pate is a professor of writing, playwright, and award-winning novelist. His notable work includes his debut, Losing Absalom, which won a Minnesota Book Award in 1994, and Armistad, a novelization of the screenplay for the 1997 Steven Spielberg historical drama of the same name. Tish Jones is a poet, activist, and the executive director of TruArtSpeaks – a Twin Cities nonprofit dedicated to arts education through the Hip Hop and Spoken Word culture. Pate is senior editor of, and Jones one of 43 contributors to, Blues Vision, a landmark anthology showcasing the unique vision and reality of Minnesota’s diverse African American community.
Minnesota boasts more than its share of homegrown thriller novelists, and Chuck Logan ranks near the top of that list for many. He is best known for his six-book Phil Broker series, featuring a larger-than-life military veteran and ex- undercover agent. After the Rain, the fifth in that series, earned Logan a Shamus Award nomination for Best P.I. Hardcover Novel in 2005. Hollywood adapted its follow up, Homefront, for the big screen in 2013, with Jason Statham playing Broker alongside co-stars James Franco and Winona Ryder. Logan’s newest book, Fallen Angel, is a gripping standalone. A wounded Army pilot, only recently returned from Iraq, struggles to make sense of the incident that brought down her helicopter – and finds herself part of something much bigger.
Ron Rash is one of the most popular authors writing today in the areas of historical and regional fiction. Rash’s “powerful, yet gently beautiful” novels draw heavily from his own experiences in his native Appalachia (USA Today). These include Serena, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award, and The Cove, winner of the 2012 Langum Prize for Historical Fiction. The former saw a big screen adaptation in 2014, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Rash is also an accomplished short story writer, with two O. Henry Prizes and the prestigious Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award to his credit. His newest novel, Above the Waterfall, offers a poignant look at small town life in contemporary Appalachia. It debuted in September.
Journalist Marja Mills made a name for herself in the literature world last year with the publication of her much-anticipated The Mockingbird Next Door. Considered the definitive biography on Harper Lee – the reclusive author behind one of the best-loved novels of the last century – The Mockingbird Next Door became an instant national bestseller. Mills traveled to Lee’s native Monroeville, Alabama in hopes of securing a rare interview for the Chicago Tribune. Exceeding all expectations, Mills struck up an unlikely and close friendship with the literary luminary. In addition to accolades for her writing on Harper Lee, Mills received a Pulitzer Prize as part of a Chicago Tribune team who worked on a 2001 expose about O’Hare Airport entitled “Gateway to Gridlock.”
Detective fiction favorite, Sara Paretsky, is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling V.I. Warshawski series. Warshawski, an intrepid private investigator from Chicago, “always makes the top of the list when people talk about female operatives” in literature, according to The New York Times. In recognition of her achievements to date, Mystery Writers of America named Paretsky a Grand Master of the genre in 2011. She earned the prestigious Anthony Award – Lifetime Achievement Award that same year. Her latest novel, Brush Back, hit shelves this July. “Paretsky plots more conscientiously than anyone else in her field,” and this latest installment in the V.I. Warshawski series is no exception, notes Kirkus Reviews.
Mitchell Zuckoff is a veteran journalist and prolific historian. A two-decade career as a roving correspondent for The Boston Globe won him numerous accolades, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination. As an author, his recent New York Times bestsellers include two larger-than-life WWII aviation thrillers: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II (2011), and Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II (2013). Zuckoff’s journalism background proved invaluable to his most recent – and most important – book project to date, 13 Hours. It is considered the definitive account of what happened on September 11, 2012, when terrorists in Libya attacked the U.S. State Department compound in Benghazi.
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Book club favorite, Meg Waite Clayton, is the author of five novels to date. Her 2002 debut, The Language of Light, was a finalist for that year’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction. She gained national recognition when her 2007 follow up, The Wednesday Sisters, landed spots on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Entertainment Weekly named it one of its “25 Essential ‘Best Friend’ Novels of All Time.” Clayton has also penned articles for a wide range of publications, including Writer’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, and Runner’s World. Her newest book, about female reporters in the closing days of WWII in Europe, hit shelves in August. “Involving and thoroughly researched… [The Race for Paris] will draw women’s fiction readers as well as historical fiction and WWII devotees,” according to Booklist.
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Literary dynamo Garth Stein is best known by many for 2008’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, a runaway hit that spent a consecutive 156 weeks on The New York Times bestsellers list. In addition to penning several other well received novels, Stein is also an accomplished playwright and film producer, whose credits include a 1991 Academy Award win in the short film category. His newest book, A Sudden Light, is a masterful blend of ghost tale and coming-of-age story, centered around a 14-year-old desperate to uncover the dark secrets hidden in his ancestral estate. Random House calls it “a triumphant work of a master storyteller at the height of his power,” and Booklist lauds it as simply “haunting in all the right ways.”
Jon Ronson is among Britain’s most prolific journalists and documentarians, and a household name throughout that country. He first came to the attention of most Americans with the publication of Them: Adventures with Extremists in 2001 and the even more successful The Men Who Stare At Goats in 2004. In the latter, Ronson investigated the strange but true experiments conducted until just recently by a secret department within the U.S. Army. It was the basis for a 2009 movie of the same name starring and produced by George Clooney. Ronson’s most recent book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, offers a witty but eye-opening look at the widespread but little studied social phenomenon of public shaming.
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Over the last eight years, Marisa de los Santos has penned three consecutive New York Times bestsellers: Love Walked In in 2006, Belong to Me in 2011, and Falling Together in 2012. She is also an award-winning poet, with published work in a number of prominent journals to her credit, plus a collection all her own called From the Bones Out. In addition, de los Santos is co-writer (with her husband) of the young adult time-traveling odyssey Saving Lucas Biggs. De los Santos’ latest novel, The Precious One, promises to please old fans as well as new. It is “a satisfying novel about friends rediscovering one another — and confronting unwelcome truths — at their college reunion,” according to People.
Anthony Marra’s 2013 opus, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, takes place against the backdrop of occupation and insurgency in war-torn Chechnya. NPR called it “one of the most accomplished and affecting books in a very long time.” It was a contender for the National Book Award, and won the author a number of awards and accolades – including the National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize for emerging authors. Marra is a frequent contributor to publications ranging from The Atlantic to Narrative Magazine and MAKE Magazine. His other honors to date include a Whiting Writers’ Award and the prestigious Pushcart Prize.
Jonathan Odell’s popular books draw from and explore racial divisions that continue to define his native Mississippi. His second novel, 2012’s The Healing, garnered praise for its candid look at plantation life in the antebellum South, and was an American Booksellers Association (ABA) ‘Indie Next’ pick for that year. His most recent title, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, is the story of two Civil Rights era mothers – one wealthy and white and the other poor and black – bound together in unexpected ways. In addition to his novels, Odell is both a short story and essayist and a corporate leadership coach. In the latter role, he has published a number of titles on diversity and training in the workplace.
Nadia Hashimi made waves last year with the release of her fiction debut, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell – “a luminous tale of two women, destiny, and identity in Afghanistan,” according to Kirkus Reviews. Hashimi’s parents emigrated from their native Afghanistan in the 1970s, but a lifelong fascination with her cultural heritage led her to pen The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. The crisscrossing narrative follows two Afghan women, one in the present the other in the recent past, living as bacha posh —young women disguised as young men, a true Afghan practice. Hashimi, a pediatrician by training, received accolades for this “lyrical, heartbreaking account of silence lives” and is hard at work on a follow up centered around the experiences of Afghan refugees in Europe.
Quan Barry is a Vietnamese-American author and poet. Her work has appeared in a wide range of literary publications, including The New Yorker and Ploughshares. Quan Barry has written three poetry collections to date, Asylum (2001), Controvertibles (2004), and Water Puppets (2011). The last of these won the Donald Hall Poetry Prize from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs and was a finalist for the 2012 PEN/Open Book Prize. In her newest novel, She Weeps Each Time You’re Born, Quan Barry draws from history and her personal experiences with her native country to “weave a chronicle of life in pre- and postwar Vietnam within the mystical and turbulent journey of the novel’s protagonist,” according to Booklist.
Before turning his attention to novels, literary fiction breakout Peter Heller made a name for himself as a contributor to and editor for such publications as National Geographic Adventure, Outside Magazine, and Men’s Journal. Heller traveled on assignment to all corners of the globe, and parlayed many of his larger-than-life experiences into four gripping works of adventure nonfiction. Heller’s fiction debut, The Dog Stars, was a dystopian thriller. It became a New York Times bestseller and a ‘Best Book of 2012′ selection from both Publishers Weekly and Amazon. His second novel, The Painter, centers around a reclusive artist trying to outrun his checkered past. The New York Times calls it “a stunning, savage novel of art and violence, love and grief.”
Over a prolific career spanning five decades, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni has penned nearly twenty popular poetry collections including, more recently, Acolytes (2007), Bicycles: Love Poems (2009), and Chasing Utopia (2013). She is also the author or co-author of ten children’s books, including several profiling seminal moments from black history. Prominent among other awards and accolades, Giovanni is a five-time NAACP Image Award winner, holds the Langston Hughes Medal for Outstanding Poetry, and is the first-ever recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award. She is currently serving as a Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech.
Literary fiction writer Rebecca Rasmussen garnered accolades in 2011 for The Bird Sisters, an “achingly authentic, almost completely character driven” novel chronicling the remarkable lives of two spinster sisters in rural Wisconsin according to Publisher’s Weekly. Rasmussen also pens short fiction; her stories have appeared in or won prizes from notable journals including The Mid-American Review, Narrative Magazine, and TriQuarterly. Rasmussen currently resides in California, where she teaches writing at UCLA, but her creative interests remain in her native Midwest. Her newest book, Evergreen, also centers around siblings, and plays out against the picturesque backdrop of Minnesota’s verdant northwoods.
Julie Klassen is Minnesota’s answer to Jane Austen. Her romances, set in Regency-era England, have a strong and growing national following. Two of these, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and The Girl in the Gatehouse, have the rare distinction of receiving both a Midwest Book Award and the Christy Award for Historical Romance. Her third hit, The Silent Governess, also earned a Christy Award, and was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award and the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award. The Dancing Master, her latest book, shines the spotlight on the unsung professionals responsible for teaching young ladies the social graces necessary for a public life in high society.
Hampton Sides is one of the best known – and bestselling – American historians of the past decade. Sides first made a name for himself with 2001’s Ghost Soldiers, a World War II narrative chronicling the greatest rescue mission in the history of our Armed Forces. The debut received the PEN USA Award for Nonfiction and also became the basis for documentaries on the History Channel and PBS. His gripping follow-ups, Blood and Thunder and Hellhound on his Trail (focused on key chapters of America’s westward expansion and civil rights movement, respectively) also saw successful small-screen adaptations. His newest, In the Kingdom of Ice, is “a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival” (Random House).
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Sue Miller is the author of nearly a dozen bestselling and critically acclaimed novels. Her first two hits, The Good Mother and Inventing the Abbotts, saw successful big screen adaptations in 1988 and 1997. Her third, Family Pictures, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and her sixth, While I Was Gone, became a popular Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. Over the course of her distinguished career, Miller has earned a number of fellowships and other honors, including the Carl Sandburg Award and Kate Chopin Literary Award. Her newest, The Arsonist, is a “suspenseful and romantic novel” that “explores the tensions between the ‘summer people’ and locals in a small New Hampshire town” according to Booklist.
Jennifer McMahon’s unique brand of suspense straddles the line between conventional mystery and supernatural thriller. Her novels have been staples on The New York Times bestseller list since her 2009 breakout, Promise Not to Tell. McMahon’s latest, The Winter People, boasts “a consistently eerie atmosphere, and some of its darker supernatural flights are reminiscent of Stephen King,” according to USA Today. It was an Indie Next pick, Library Reads selection, and Amazon Best Book of the Month (Mystery) in February, its debut month. McMahon is also the author of My Tiki Girl, a well-received GLBT young adult novel included on ALA’s Rainbow List for 2009.
Canadian mystery phenom Louise Penny is the author behind the wildly popular Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, set in Quebec but sold around the world in twenty different languages. She published Still Life, the first of that set, to great acclaim in 2005. Between the ten installments to date, Penny has won or been in contention for nearly every major prize awarded in the mystery genre: five Agatha Awards, four Anthony Awards, two Barry Awards, two Macavity Awards, and an Edgar Award. In addition to her writing, Penny also executive-produced the 2013 film adaptation of Still Life. The tenth Gamache novel, The Long Way Home, is out in August.
Amy Bloom is among the elite set of contemporary American storytellers to see international success as a novelist, short story author, and screenwriter. Bloom’s short fiction has been nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and appeared in popular anthologies including The Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Prize Stories. A psychotherapist by training, Bloom also created, wrote, and produced the Lifetime psychiatry drama “State of Mind.” She brings all this talent and experience to bear in her third full-length novel, Lucky Us, described by Kirkus Reviews as “a multilayered, historical tale about different kinds of love and family.”
Lev Grossman is the author of the bestselling Magicians trilogy, lauded by the Washington Post as a “masterful… fresh and compelling” addition to the corpus of coming-of-age fantasy literature popularized by Harry Potter. The much anticipated third and final installment, The Magician’s Land, debuted August 5, and the full series is already being adapted as a television drama by NBC/Universal. Grossman is also the author of two stand-alone novels, Warp and Codex, and he is currently lead book critic and technology writer for Time Magazine. His nonfiction work has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired. He is also a regular guest on NPR.
WARNING: This podcast contains explicit language that may not be appropriate for children.
This last Club Book Podcast of the 2014 Winter/Spring season features Amanda Coplin at her April 24th visit to Stillwater Public Library. Amanda Coplin’s majestic debut novel, The Orchardist, was a New York Times bestseller and has garnered wide critical praise since its release in 2012. Called a “stunning accomplishment” by NPR, the story follows a solitary orchardist who provides shelter to two runaway teenage girls in the late nineteenth century Pacific Northwest. Coplin, who grew up in her grandparents’ orchards in Washington, received her MFA from the University of Minnesota and was the recipient of residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the Omi International Arts Center at Ledig House in Ghent, New York. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
This Club Book Podcast features J. Courtney Sullivan at her April 17th visit to Chanhassen Library in Carver County. J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Commencement, Maine, and The Engagements. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. Gloria Steinem called Commencement a “generous-hearted, brave first novel…that makes clear the feminist revolution is just beginning.” Sullivan’s writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine, and the New York Observer, among many others. She is a contributor to the essay anthology The Secret Currency of Love and co-editor of Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. Her latest novel, The Engagements, a multi-generational look at marriage and commitment, is currently being adapted for a major motion picture produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon.
This Club Book Podcast features authors Peter Geye and Amy Greene coming together for an evening of conversation about their work and the rich physical landscapes that drive their writing at their April 15th visit to Roseville Library in Ramsey County.
Set against the powerful lakeshore terrain of northern Minnesota, Peter Geye’s second novel, The Lighthouse Road, beautifully explores the hardship and isolation of life in a turn-of-the-century logging town. Geye, a Minnesota native, is also the author of the award-winning novel, Safe from the Sea.
Amy Greene first brought her native Appalachia to life with a spellbinding debut novel, Bloodroot, in 2010. Her highly anticipated second novel, Long Man, explores rural Tennessee in the summer of 1936, as a government-built dam is about to flood an Appalachian town to bring electricity to the area. Long Man was released February, 2014.
This Club Book Podcast features Brian Freeman at his April 7th visit to Rum River Library in Anoka. Brian Freeman is Minnesota’s own master of psychological suspense. He is best known for his internationally acclaimed Jonathan Stride detective series, set in and around Duluth. His 2006 debut, Immoral, won the Macavity Award and was a finalist for the Edgar, Dagger, Anthony and Barry awards for best first novel. His second novel, Stripped, was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. 2011’s The Bone House was also a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and the Audie Award (Audiobook Publishers Association). Freeman’s titles have been printed in 20 different languages and sold in 46 countries. His highly anticipated sixth full-length Stride novel, The Cold Nowhere, was released in April 2014.
This Club Book Podcast features Dave Zirin at his March 19th visit to Southdale Library in Edina. Dave Zirin, correspondent and sports editor for The Nation, is the author, most recently, of Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down. His newest expose, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil, turns attention on the volatile political situation in Brazil in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. It’s due out this June.” Named one of UTNE Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World,” Zirin is a frequent guest on MSNBC, ESPN and Democracy Now! He also hosts his own weekly Sirius XM show, Edge of Sports Radio.
Warning: This podcast episode features limited explicit language.
This Club Book Podcast features P.S. Duffy at her March 11th event at Merriam Park Library in Saint Paul. Duffy’s highly praised fiction debut, The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, has been called an “astounding first novel” by Library Journal and was a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers pick for fall 2013. Set in France and Nova Scotia during the First World War, Duffy’s alternating portrayal of a son coming of age at home while his father faces battle overseas is a soulful addition to the canon of World War I literature. With a long career in neuroscience, Duffy is the author of numerous scientific publications and now balances her work as a science writer for the Mayo Clinic with her talent for creative writing.
This Club Book podcast features Elizabeth Berg at her February 26th event at Galaxie Library in Dakota County. One of the most prolific New York Times bestselling authors of the last two decades, Berg’s impressive bibliography lists more than twenty novels, including Open House, an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. She has also penned two well-received works of nonfiction, and her writing has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, and New York Times Magazine. Her newest novel, Tapestry of Fortunes, confirms her place as “one of America’s most beloved chroniclers of female friendship” according to The Chicago Tribune.
This Club Book podcast features Julie Kramer at her February 11th event at Central Park Amphitheatre in Washington County. Set in the cutthroat world of television news, Julie Kramer’s alliteratively titled mystery thrillers draw from her extensive career in the industry as a news producer for NBC and CBS. Her first novel, Stalking Susan, won both a Minnesota Book Award and the 2008 RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery. Her fourth, Killing Kate, won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense. Kramer has also been a finalist for the Anthony, Barry, Shamus, Mary Higgins Clark, and RT Best Amateur Sleuth awards, to name just a few. Her newest title, Delivering Death, hit bookstores in January 2014.
This Club Book podcast features Amy Thielen at her February 3rd event at Prior Lake Library in Scott County. Thielen is a classically trained chef and host of Food Network’s “Heartland Table.” A woman who spent years cooking in some of New York City’s finest restaurants before returning home to Minnesota in 2008. Since then, she has worked as a freelance writer for publications such as the Star Tribune, Men’s Journal, and Saveur, and won a James Beard journalism award in 2011. Her first cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, was released in September 2013 and served as inspiration for her popular Food Network series, which debuted the same month. A cross between memoir, travelogue and cookbook, The New Midwestern Table is a stunning collection of 200 recipes that reveal all Thielen’s come to learn —and love —about the foods of her native Midwest.
The book club that defies all previous expectations kicks off its new podcast and new season in 2014 with a rock star lineup including Amy Thielen, Julie Kramer, J. Courtney Sullivan, Elizabeth Berg, P.S. Duffy, Nikki Giovanni, Dave Zirin, Brian Freeman, Peter Geye, Amy Greene, and Amanda Coplin. With a preview of each event along with a little history and humor, Club Book outlines just how the podcast works. Plug in your headphones, crank up the volume, and get ready to be a part of the coolest club in town.