When I can’t decide what to read, I head to places that allow me to comb through shelves of books I’d never find myself gravitating toward otherwise. Enter, Magers and Quinn. With a brick-and-mortar location in the heart of Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, it is one of the largest independent bookstores in the Midwest. Think of it as Minnesota’s version of Powell Books.
The store originally opened in August 1994 during the Uptown Art Fair in the Bryant Building, a 1922 structure that originally housed an automobile dealership. The store was founded by Denny Magers, who already owned a small antiquarian bookstore in the city. Initially, the location offered newly published works and titles that were no longer available, such as out-of-print books. The store has grown to include unusual and hard-to-find editions, current releases, rare and collectibles, and beautiful, one-of-a-kind editions. The three floors house roughly 250,000 books.
With so many titles, and a continued ask to social distance and stay home, I thought I would share some of my favorites you can find on http://www.magersandquinn.com.
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
On a lake in northernmost Minnesota, you might find Naledi Lodge–only two cabins still standing, its pathways now trodden mostly by memories. And there you might meet Meg, or the ghost of the girl she was, growing up under her grandfather’s care in a world apart and a lifetime ago. Now an artist, Meg paints images “reflected across the mirrors of memory and water,” much as the linked stories of Vacationland cast shimmering spells across distance and time. Those whose paths have crossed at Naledi inhabit Vacationland a man from nearby Hatchet Inlet who knew Meg back when, a Sarajevo refugee sponsored by two parishes who can’t afford “their own refugee,” aged sisters traveling to fulfill a fateful pact once made at the resort, a philandering ad man, a lonely Ojibwe stonemason, and a haiku-spouting girl rescued from a bog. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Ice Cold Heart: A Monkeewrench Novel by Tracy, P. J.
It’s a bitter winter in Minnesota–too cold to kill. There hasn’t been a murder for a month, but the lull quickly comes to an end for Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth, when they’re called to the gruesome homicide of Kelly Ramage. Found in a friend’s vacant house, this was no random attack, and clues reveal that she was living a very dangerous secret life. Magozzi and Gino trace her steps back to an art gallery where she was last seen alive. The gallery seems like a dead end, but the art is disturbing and exploitative. It may very well be inspiring a sadistic killer, because in this instance, art doesn’t imitate life, it imitates death. Tipped off about a year-old murder that is a mirror-image of Kelly’s crime scene, Gino and Magozzi enlist the aid of Grace MacBride and her eccentric, tech genius partners in Monkeewrench Software to help them decipher the digital trail that might connect the cases. As coincidences emerge, Magozzi, Gino, and the team have to work around the clock at breakneck pace to unravel a series of clues that form the framework of a larger, more sweeping, and insidious conspiracy than any of them could have imagined. Is Kelly the last person to die or just the most recent? And is there any way to stop it? You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder. As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory. Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout? You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
The Survivor, Volume 14 by Vince Flynn
The #1 New York Times bestselling novel that picks up where The Last Man left off, The Survivor is a no-holds-barred race to save America…and Mitch Rapp’s finest battle. When Joe “Rick” Rickman, a former golden boy of the CIA, steals a massive amount of the Agency’s most classified documents in an elaborately masterminded betrayal of his country, CIA director Irene Kennedy has no choice but to send her most dangerous weapon after him: elite covert operative Mitch Rapp. Rapp quickly dispatches the traitor, but Rickman proves to be a deadly threat to America even from beyond the grave. Eliminating Rickman didn’t solve all of the CIA’s problems–in fact, mysterious tip-offs are appearing all over the world, linking to the potentially devastating data that Rickman managed to store somewhere only he knew. It’s a deadly race to the finish as both the Pakistanis and the Americans search desperately for Rickman’s accomplices, and for the confidential documents they are slowly leaking to the world. To save his country from being held hostage to a country set on becoming the world’s newest nuclear superpower, Mitch Rapp must outrun, out think, and outgun his deadliest enemies yet. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Butter by Anne Panning
Anne Panning’s fiction has been described as warm and original by Publishers Weekly, intelligent and humorous by the Boston Globe, graceful and wry by Booklist, and infectious and enchanting by the New York Times. In fact, Panning’s last collection of short stories, Super America, was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Enter this exciting new novel, the best work yet from a writer whose astute observations of American life are as honest as they are engaging. Butter is a coming of age tale set against the backdrop of small-town Minnesota during the 1970s and told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old girl, Iris, who learns from her parents that she is adopted. The story of Iris’s childhood is at first beguiling and innocent: hers is a world filled with bell-bottoms and Barbie dolls, Shrinky Dinks and Shaun Cassidy records, TV dinners and trips to grandma’s. But as her parents’ marriage starts to unravel, Iris grows more and more observant of disintegration all around her, and the simple cadences of her story quickly attain an unnerving tension as she wavers precariously between girlhood and adolescence. In the end, Iris’s story represents a profound meditation on growing up estranged in small town America–on being an outsider in a world increasingly averse to them. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Seed Queen: The Story of Crop Art and the Amazing Lillian Colton by Colleen Sheehy. Foreword by Karal Ann Marling
The first richly illustrated history of crop art and of the generations inspired by Lillian Colton and her arresting portraits of celebrities in seeds. At the same time Andy Warhol was changing American art in New York City, Lillian Colton, owner of the Cinderella Clip ’n’ Curl in Owatonna, Minnesota, launched her own version of pop art. From her patient hands, practiced at embroidering linens and crocheting lace, came captivating portraits of Jesus, Elvis, Oprah, Lady Diana, Clinton, and Prince, intricately rendered in timothy, bromegrass, canola, poppy seeds, salsify, alsike, bird’s-foot trefoil, grits, and wild rice. Seed Queen brings to light the story of this crop artist extraordinaire—how she developed her matchless aesthetic by merging rural traditions from her childhood on a farm with a love of Hollywood movies, training as a hairstylist, and skills in drawing and painting—and the larger story of crop art as it has evolved over time. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
The Abundant Kitchen: Recipes from the Culinary Classroom for the Family Home Cook by Becki Melvie
This cookbook is meant to be read while you’re curled up under a blanket, notebook nearby for future grocery lists.
Author Becki Melvie–chef, cooking instructor, mom, world traveler, and small business owner–shares a collection of stories and recipes inspired by the needs of the students in her cooking classes. Her down-to-earth approach and easy-to-follow instructions empower families to enjoy wholesome food. This beautifully curated collection of breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and beverage recipes will inspire you to hit the kitchen in all four seasons. Vegans, carnivores, picky eaters, and adventurous cooks will all find something satisfying to create and savor within these pages. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Packinghouse Daughter by Cheri Register
The violence that erupted when the company “replaced” its union workers with strikebreakers tested family loyalty and community stability, and attracted national attention when the governor of Minnesota called in the National Guard, declared martial law, and closed the plant. Register skillfully interweaves her own memories, historical research, and first-person interviews of participants on both sides of the strike into a narrative that is thoughtful and impassioned about the value of blue-collar work and the dignity of those who do it. Packinghouse Daughter also testifies to the hold that childhood experience has on personal values and notions of social class, despite the upward mobility that is the great promise of American democracy. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Murder Bay: A Ben Carey Mystery by David R. Horwitz
No one noticed anything suspicious about the death of a wounded soldier at the height of the Civil War–not, that is, until almost a hundred years later. In 1957, a young Washington, D.C. police sergeant, Ben Carey, heads up a team of officers in a dilapidated house three blocks from the Capitol. Though Carey’s career is on the rise, his marriage is circling the drain, and as he spends more time at the office, he discovers there is something not quite right about this decaying old home. It harbors some dark secrets–connecting him to the long-dead soldier and others in ways he can’t understand. With his personal life in shambles, and forces from within the house vying for his attention, Carey casts reason aside and begins an investigation to uncover the truth about what happened in this haunted place. As he peels back the layers of history, he finds courage and love, but also deception, greed, jealousy, and murder. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Sundown at Sunrise by Marty Seifert
Based on a true tale from the early 1900s, this work of historical fiction gives life to murderer William Kleeman, a handsome young farmer from southwestern Minnesota who courts the beautiful Maud Petri. After a quick engagement and marriage, the couple produce four childrenand are joined by boarder Mary Snelling, who teaches at the country school across the road. This addictive story winds through many twists before ending in a deadly rampage that results in one of the most notorious ax murders in American history. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor
Snow is falling all across the Midwest as James Sparrow, a country- bumpkin-turned-energy-drink-tycoon, and his wife awaken in their sky- rise apartment overlooking Chicago. Even down with the stomach bug, Mrs. Sparrow yearns to see The Nutcracker while James yearns only to escape-the faux-cheer, the bitter cold, the whole Christmas season. An urgent phone call from his hometown of Looseleaf, North Dakota, sends James into the midst of his lunatic relatives and a historic blizzard. As he hunkers weather the storm, the electricity goes out and James is visited by a parade of figures who deliver him an epiphany worthy of the season, just in time to receive Mrs. Sparrow’s wonderful Christmas gift. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
The women of Freesia Court –the foundation of a book group they call AHEB (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons), an unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline. Holding on through forty eventful years, there’s Faith, a lonely mother of twins who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that with good posture and an attitude you can get away with anything; Merit, the doctor’s shy wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a wise woman with a wonderful laugh who knows that the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, a tiny spitfire of a woman who isn’t afraid to look trouble straight in the eye. This stalwart group of friends depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, of children and grandchildren, of bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Backroads of Minnesota by Shawn Perich
This updated 2nd edition of the popular Backroads of Minnesota (2002) comes in a new portable size, making it easy to tote in your car and head out to a new destination in beautiful Minnesota. Have you driven on the Gunflint and Arrowhead trails? Have you circled the whole of Mille Lacs? Have you gone birding on the western prairies, or wound around the bluffs of the Mississippi River from Red Wing to the Iowa border? Have you experienced the forgotten corners of the Twin Cities metro area? Backroads of Minnesota takes you on 31 routes covering all corners of the Land of 10,000 Lakes: routes that lead you to the state’s most scenic natural areas and sites that capture the state’s colorful history. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a weekend getaway, Backroads of Minnesota will lead you deep into the soul of the state, beyond the common tourist attractions. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Sky Blue Water: Great Stories for Young Readers by Jay D. Peterson
From the Dakota people who first inhabited the state to its generations of immigrants and today’s residents, Minnesota has long had a vibrant and unique storytelling tradition. A rich and often under-appreciated part of this tradition is youth storytelling–a movement of which Minnesota is a national forerunner. Here, for the first time, two of the state’s beloved independent booksellers collect a wide array of short stories for young readers that pay homage to Minnesota’s diverse cultures and stunning landscapes. Featuring primarily never-published stories, this anthology beautifully captures the essence of a Minnesota adolescence in twenty short stories and poems. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen
Before Amy Thielen frantically plated rings of truffled potatoes in some of New York City’s finest kitchens–for chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten–she grew up in a northern Minnesota town home to the nation’s largest French fry factory, the headwaters of the fast food nation, with a mother whose generous cooking dripped with tenderness, drama, and an overabundance of butter. Inspired by her grandmother’s tales of cooking in the family farmhouse, Thielen moves north with her artist husband to a rustic, off-the-grid cabin deep in the woods. There, standing at the stove three times a day, she finds the seed of a growing food obsession that leads her to the sensory madhouse of New York’s top haute cuisine brigades. But, like a magnet, the foods of her youth draw her back home, where she comes face to face with her past and a curious truth: that beneath every foie gras sauce lies a rural foundation of potatoes and onions. Amy Thielen’s coming-of-age story pulses with energy, a cook’s eye for intimate detail, and a dose of dry Midwestern humor. You can purchase this book from Magers and Quinn here.
NOTE: If you are unable to find these titles, take a look at these Minnesota-owned Independent booksellers sites:
Birchbark Books: birchbarkbooks.com
Cream and Amber: http://www.creamandamber.com/
Drury Lane Books: https://drurylanebooks.indielite.org/
Moon Palace Books: moonpalacebooks.com
The Irreverent Bookworm: http://www.irrevbooks.com/