Lake & Island Notes                                                    March 2014

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Featured Title

The Monuments Men 

by Robert M. Edsel

The movie is pedestrian at best, but the book is quite good. While the story needed to be told neither the book nor the movie knock it out of the park.  But, what a great untold story it is!  The bottom line is that the Nazis (and Hitler himself and his pal Goering), in addition to their well-known atrocities, were common, vulgar thieves on a vast scale.
Grand Theft Art! Trainload after trainload left France filled with the art objects stolen from the Jewish aristocracy of Paris, the patrimony of the French state, and churches throughout Western Europe. The movie concentrated on this sexier element of the story and the eclectic unit of the Allied forces that was tasked to find and return the treasure.
 An equally or, perhaps, more interesting, task for the Monuments Men was the safeguarding of historic artifacts – churches, monuments, buildings and so on – in the heat of battle as the allies moved across Europe and into Germany. The trade-offs between the military exigencies and the cultural objectives create interesting tensions and tricky decision-making stories. Lives or art?  Definitely worth reading.

Featured Title


by Nicole Laa Helget

Clement and Angel are fraternal twins separated at birth; they grow up in the same small, frontier logging town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Clement was left at the orphanage. Angel was adopted by the town’s richest couple, but is marked and threatened by her mother’s mental illness. They rarely meet, but Clement knows if he is truly in need, Angel will come to save him.

Stillwater reveals the hardscrabble lives of pioneers, nuns, native women, fur trappers, loggers, runaway slaves and freedmen, outlaws and people of conscience, all seeking a better, freer, more prosperous future. It is a novel about mothers, about siblings, about the ways in which we must take care of one another and let go of one another. And it’s brought to us in Nicole Helget’s winning, gorgeous prose.

Featured Title

How to Babysit a Grandma

by Jean Reagan

This wonderful book has been long awaited by our customers who loved How to Babysit a Grandpa.

A young girl heads over to her grandma's house for a sleepover babysitting session with the child providing clear and humorous instructions to readers on how to care for a grandma. The to-do list contains many choices for Grandma to select from, including a walk to the park, reading, taking photos, playing dress-up, and adding sugary sprinkles to her meal items. The child wisely allows plenty of time for Grandma to look at the pages while reading a book, peek at the stars, and choose the best spot to sleep. Any grown-up who has calmly been the object of a child's flights of fancy will chuckle at the scenarios, as Grandma, never mugging or rolling her eyes, participates fully and patiently in all of her granddaughter's ideas.
(This title will be released on March 25th)
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Island Notes Blog
Okay! So that’s it for the Great Ice Caves phenomenon of 2014. The caves closed on Sunday, March 16th at midnight. Not only have over 138,000 people visited the caves this season, but the publicity has ranged far and wide. A friend from Madrid linked us to a feature from El Pais, Spain’s leading daily. It was front page in the LA Times just days ago. Visitors came from Japan, China, France, Australia and just about everywhere else.

The amazing thing is that these 138,000 people took, at a minimum, a three-mile round-trip walk on the ice of Lake Superior, often in sub-zero temperatures, to view an entirely natural phenomenon - no cafe, no gift shop, nothing.  That's impressive! We’ve been at national parks where, if one gets fifty feet off the road, there is no one else. They’re all still in their cars.  We get a very different cut of tourists here!
We get a very different cut of readers up here, too. We probably sell more copies of Jim Fergus’s One Thousand White Women than any bookshop in the country.  Well, at least close.  Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olson fly off the shelves. Our customers must know more about Theodore Roosevelt than most historians. Stegner, Maclean, Auster, Atwood, Greene, Woolf, Bowles, Hemingway and their ilk frequently cross the counter. Pablo Neruda and Mary Oliver, too. Kent Krueger and Steve Hamilton dominate our mystery section. Good friends Peter Geye, Danielle Sosin, Howard Paap, Dennis McCann, Julie Buckles, and Mike Perry are perennial favorites. Our collection is largely curated by our customers whose suggestions rarely miss the mark.  Keep them coming!

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What we're reading...

The Sixth Extinction

by Elizabeth Kolbert

So, we guess it’s quite natural. Any species that gets a dominant leg up in an ecological niche (like algae in a pond) seems to reproduce exponentially, eat itself out of house and home, foul its nest and, ultimately, die off along with everything around it. Sound like anybody we know? Sounds like somebody Elizabeth Kolbert knows! She finds us in the midst of a great extinction - the sixth to occur in the past 500,000 years. The earlier five were the products of inanimate objects or geophysical forces – asteroids, volcanos, etc. This time according to Kolbert, it’s us! 
She notes that, "One-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water molluscs, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion." And that’s just for starters. And virtually all these extinctions can be traced to human activity and impacts. All this within the blink of an eye in terms of geologic time.
The content is rigorously researched. The writing is crisp and accessible. The tone is deeply affectionate, but deeply troubled. This is an important book. One thing though. Its subtitle is An Unnatural History.  Hmmmmmm…?  We wonder about that – the really scary thing is that it seems like it might be quite natural after all.
Lawrence in Arabia
by Scott Anderson

Well, we’re now one hundred years down the road from those fateful days of August, 1914. The stories have been told and retold and will be again come summer. One of the best is that of Thomas Edward Lawrence – T.E. Lawrence. Most of us know him as Peter O’Toole who played the role in the 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia. There he is portrayed as a swashbuckling romantic leading the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks.
Here we go not only deeper into the man, but deeper into the context as well. Lawrence’s story is woven together with that of three other characters on the scene – Curt Prufer, a German spy conspiring to drive the British out of Palestine; Aaron Aaronsohn, a Jewish agronomist immigrant in Palestine; and, William Yale, an American aristocrat working for Standard Oil and occasionally the Department of State. Together they mix the Middle Eastern pot seasoned with the meddling of a variety of foreign-based others and the more sympathetic locals such as the then Prince Faisal.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is the kind of situation in which, if you only saw the movie and didn’t read the book, you missed one of the best books ever written for anyone age 14 and up. In The Book Thief, Markus Zusak has created a masterpiece. He is a writer of pure genius, an artist of words, a poet, a literary marvel as one reviewer puts it. His writing is lyrical, haunting, and profound, as he deftly revitalizes common words to paint emotions and a vivid visual landscape in a way we have not seen. Yet, not in spite of his poetic style, but because of it, his characters and their lives are achingly real, full of heart and passion and purpose.

Narrated by Death, The Book Thief tells the story of an extraordinary, spirited young girl sent to live with a foster family in WWII Germany. Intrigued by the only book she brought with her, she begins collecting books as she “finds” them. With the help of her new parents and a secret guest under the stairs, she learns to read and creates a magical world that inspires them all. The movie in contrast was a cozy, bland rendering of Zusak’s story lacking any of its emotional depth or brilliance. Please do not miss this book!
Shotgun Lovesongs
by Nickolas Butler

It's no secret that we at Apostle Islands Booksellers are huge fans of Peter Geye and his novels, The Lighthouse Road and Safe From the Sea. Peter has recommended many titles to us and has never steered us wrong. He recently wrote the following review in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for Shotgun Lovesongs by Wisconsin author Nickolas Butler:

"We all have them, right? Those songs that indelibly mark the milestones in our lives? Songs that stir up our deepest feelings and remind us of who we are: the anthems of our youth, our wedding songs, the old classics that are as much a part of our lives as our feet beneath us. It’s what makes music so powerful, the head and the heart and the gut all working in concert.

Only the best, most emotionally resonant novels work in the same way. Nickolas Butler’s Shotgun Lovesongs is one of those novels. In prose that is as plain-spoken and honest as a Midwestern farmer, he tells the story of five friends and lovers in the fictional Little Wing, W
is." (read full article here)

We can't wait to read it, and look forward to Peter's next recommendations!

Final Thoughts...

“Come with me into the woods where spring is
advancing, as it does, no matter what,
not being singular or particular, but one
of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.”
                          ― Mary Oliver, Dog Songs

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