On the North Shore, we can get outside for winter adventures with skiing, sledding, or snowshoeing to name just a few activities. However, for most, winter is a time for the cultivation of our inner landscapes as we wait for springtime renewal outdoors and do not like to turn down the opportunity to curl up with a good book by the fire.
We have put together a few of our favorite reads which have helped us anticipate this time of renewal and growth as we gear up for a new set of spring adventures outdoors with waterfall season, spring hiking, biking, and canoeing on the horizon.
Our Neck of the Woods: Exploring Minnesota’s Wild Places
Daniel J. Philippon, Editor
“In the evening we sit in the glow of the fire in private worlds of thought, but as the darkness gathers round us we draw closer and closer.” -Anne M. Dunne
In Our Neck of the Woods, editor Daniel J. Philippon has curated a selection of essays originally published in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine. Nature lovers will enjoy the selections chosen which feature well-known Minnesota writers and conservationists such as Paul Gruchow, poet Bill Holm, and featuring excellent contributions from North Shore figures Sigurd F. Olson and Anishinaabe-Ojibwe storyteller Anne M. Dunne’s “Sugar Bush Journal” about the sugar bush camp near Buck Lake as the season transitions from winter to spring to collect sap which will be turned into maple syrup and sugar.
Our Neck of the Woods celebrates the urgent and sometimes quirky stories of Minnesota communities which have often been overlooked or forgotten. The essays collected bring presence and a strong sense of place to these outdoor landscapes which are meant to be told and shared with future generations.
Our Neck of the Woods: Exploring Minnesota’s Wild Places is published by University of Minnesota Press. Daniel J. Philippon is also the author of Conserving Words: How American Nature Writers Shaped the Environmental Movement.
“Language was impossible; vowels confused with consonants—water and
continents were one—consonants, and continents; with water, and vowels— ”
Homes is Moheb Soliman’s poetic travelogue tracing the landscape around the shorelines of the Great Lakes, ranging from the North Shore of Minnesota to the Thousand Islands of eastern Ontario. Soliman crafts an intimate perspective on an immigrant experience which draws up the familiar vistas of the Great Lakes moving through mining towns, tourist towns, and midwestern suburbs, seeking to inhabit an entire region as home.
Readers will encounter the many frontiers of the Great Lakes: civilization and the natural world, memory and the present, and more. Soliman’s text playfully reconstructs and confronts these boundaries on the pages of the book itself with how the poetry is formed and flows that need to be seen to fully enjoy.
Published by Coffeehouse Press in 2021, Homes is Soliman’s first collection of poetry and was selected as a 2022 Minnesota Book Award’s finalist. He has been featured as an Artist in Residence at the Grand Marais Art Colony.
Lightning Strike: A Novel
William Kent Krueger
“He knew there was no magic to wipe clean the slate of memory. You just learned how to move on.”
Lightning Strike is the latest entry in William Kent Kreuger’s long running Cork O’Connor series which serves as an excellent entry point for new readers, while rewarding longtime fans of the detective series. This prequel tale is a coming-of-age story set in Aurora, MN which lies between the boreal forest and the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the novel, twelve-year Cork happens upon the body of a man, Big John, a member of the Ojibwe reservation and a man he admired. The circumstances surrounding Big John’s death sets into motion a series of events which causes Cork to question everything he has come to believe about his hometown, family, and self.
Readers will enjoy Kreuger’s deft exploration regarding the complexities of the legal and cultural minefield existing in some Native areas as it pertains to law enforcement. Minnesotans will also love picking apart and solving all the references to familiar locales in Minnesota, with some more cleverly disguised than others.
Published by Atria Books, Lightning Strike was selected as a finalist for the 2022 Minnesota’s Book Awards in the fiction category.
A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters
Amy and David Freeman
“A walk in the woods was suddenly made richer by the scent of the earth, duff, and pine needles – scents we hadn’t realized we were missing all winter.”
A Year in the Wilderness is an exploration of one of the North Shore’s most valued treasures: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Collecting and expanding upon their podcast, Amy and David Freeman chronicle their year in the wilderness. Inspired to action with their camera, canoe, and dog Tank in tow, the Freemans share their experiences from within one of the nation’s most pristine wildernesses after learning of a toxic mining proposal which would endanger the BWCAW. The book tells the Boundary Water’s story of its wildlife, from loons whistling, a moose and its calf swimming across a lake, and the water itself taking center stage as the ice booms and cracks form on its surface.
An excellent addition to any coffee table, A Year in the Wilderness contains nearly 150 photos from the Freeman’s year spent in the BWCAW. Divided into sections by seasons, beginning with winter, it is a great read as we prepare to move from winter to spring on the North Shore. The Freeman’s did not venture into the wilderness like Henry David Thoreau to find solitude, but to create fellowship with nature and humanity with this essential and precious resource.
A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters is published by Milkweed Editions.