The best books about Minnesota

20 authors have picked their favorite books about Minnesota and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of A Million Little Pieces

I loved reading this book before it became tainted by fact checkers. That being said, it remains a fascinating, raw, and gripping read. His use of language as falls deeper and deeper into becoming hooked is similar to being a storm chaser. He can’t help himself chasing the highs, knowing full well the low may be the last one. “I want a drink. I want fifty drinks. I want a bottle of the purest, strongest, most destructive, most poisonous alcohol on Earth. I want fifty bottles of it. I want crack, dirty and yellow and filled with formaldehyde. I want a pile of powder meth, five hundred hits of acid, a garbage bag filled with mushrooms, a tube of glue bigger than a truck, a pool of gas large enough to drown in. I want something anything whatever however as much as I can.

If there ever were…

A Million Little Pieces

By James Frey,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Million Little Pieces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey’s acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.

Who am I?

I am fortunate to have been blessed with a positive disposition. When my toast falls on the floor I like to believe it will land butter side up. I learned at a very early age that owning one's mistakes and airing them out loud could bring on laughter or a smile of recognition that many of us suffer the same fears as we navigate this often uncharted life with our fingers crossed or hands in prayer, that we will mostly get it right. This is why I write the books I write. By nature, I am a happiness ambassador… And humor is my weapon of choice.


I wrote...

Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society that Loves Thin

By Monica Parker,

Book cover of Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society that Loves Thin

What is my book about?

Getting Waisted is a vivid look at growing up fat. It's a hilarious and painful ride from chubby baby to a never really thin adult. Monica’s story is also a love story, one where she comes to love herself and in the process finds her true Prince Charming. Monica is an actor, writer, and producer. Most notably she co-wrote the beloved All Dogs Go to Heaven. One of her proudest achievements was creating her insightful one-woman show, Sex, Pies and A Few White Lies. Her latest memoir, the very funny but brutally honest Oops I Forgot to Save Money—(not a how to but a don’t ever!) came out in the fall of 2021. Currently, she is hard at work on her first novel.

Dirty Copper

By Jim Northrup,

Book cover of Dirty Copper

Jim Northrup, Fond du lac Ojibwe author, was my writing mentor from the time I met him in 1991 until he passed away in 2015. He would always ask, “What are you writing today?” That was his way of encouraging me to keep writing. His crime novel, Dirty Copper is the story of Luke Warmwater, who returns to the Reservation after serving in Vietnam. Luke becomes a deputy sheriff on the Rez and sees firsthand the war raging below the appearance of peace.

I would listen to Jim talk about his writing and the progress he was making on his story as he wrote it. Listening to him encouraged me to keep going with my writing. Jim’s way of storytelling through the written word is something I have tried to emulate.

Dirty Copper

By Jim Northrup,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dirty Copper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dirty Copper, the prequel to Walking the Rez Road, tells the story of Luke Warmwater, an Anishinaabe soldier, as he returns to the Reservation after serving in Vietnam. Once again, Luke is torn between duty and morality as he becomes a deputy sheriff on the Rez and sees firsthand the war raging below the appearance of peace.

Who am I?

As an Anishinaabe writer, my award-winning/nominated books, Murder on the Red River and Girl Gone Missing, feature Cash Blackbear; a young, Native woman, who solves crimes for the county sheriff. Oprah Magazine 2020 listed me as a Native American Author to read. I received Minnesota's 2020 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award. My script, Say Their Names, had a staged reading with Out of Hand Theater, Atlanta, 2021. Vazquez and I received the Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship for work with incarcerated women. I have been a friend, colleague, and peer with the authors recommended. We might currently be a small crew writing but we are a mighty, award-winning crew.


I wrote...

Girl Gone Missing

By Marcie R. Rendon,

Book cover of Girl Gone Missing

What is my book about?

Bored by her freshman classes at Moorhead State College, Renee “Cash” Blackbear just wants to play pool, learn judo, chain-smoke, and be left alone. But after one of Cash’s classmates vanishes without a trace, Cash, whose dreams have revealed dangerous realities in the past, can’t stop envisioning terrified girls begging for help. Things become even more intense when an unexpected houseguest appears: a brother she didn’t even know was alive, from whom she was separated when they were taken from the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation as children and forced into foster care.

When Sheriff Wheaton, her guardian and friend, asks for Cash’s help with the case of the missing girl, she must override her apprehension about leaving her hometown in order to discover the truth about the girl’s whereabouts.

This Tender Land

By William Kent Krueger,

Book cover of This Tender Land

The author, well known for his mysteries, used to write daily from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the St. Clair Broiler by our first home in St. Paul. In 2019, he penned a gorgeous narrative chronicling three boys and a sweet young girl named Emma and their 1932 odyssey from an Indian training school breakout down the Mississippi River. Krueger drops readers smack-dab into the Great Depression and a magical trek. It reminds me of Amor Towles' Lincoln Highway but was written first.

This Tender Land

By William Kent Krueger,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked This Tender Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1932, Minnesota-the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O'Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent's wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will fly into the unknown and cross paths with others…

Who am I?

After more than 30 years in daily journalism in Minnesota, I moved to a trout stream near Durango, Colo., to stage a second act. Editors at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where I worked for 26 years, gave me a freelance contract to write a Minnesota History column every Sunday. It’s morphed into a popular crowd-sourcing of history with readers feeding me delicious family stories. I’m the lucky one who gets to weave these stories—enriching my knowledge of what being Minnesotans is all about.


I wrote...

Minnesota, 1918: When Flu, Fire, and War Ravaged the State

By Curt Brown,

Book cover of Minnesota, 1918: When Flu, Fire, and War Ravaged the State

What is my book about?

In what mushroomed into a unprecedented trifecta of woe, Minnesotans in 1918 faced the state’s deadliest wildfires and a lethal influenza outbreak just as the nation’s first World War erupted. Award-winning Minnesota journalist Curt Brown puts a human face on the dread—braiding the three simultaneous calamities into a gripping read with true accounts impeccably researched from across the state. Published 100 years later in 2018, the book was written in the pre-COVID days but morphed into an especially relevant flashback.

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Book cover of On the Banks of Plum Creek

I still smile when I think of all the Little House on the Prairie books, though this was my favorite. The dramas may be small, but they feel real, and the wealth of small, skillfully woven details brings the characters and their world to life so that we can still relate to them, no matter how different our present-day world may be. 

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Banks of Plum Creek as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Classic tales by Laura Ingalls Wilder about life on the frontier and America's best-loved pioneer family.

After all their travelling, from the Big Woods and the Prairie, the Ingalls family have found a place to settle Plum Creek. Now Mary and Laura can go to school as there's a town close by. But how will they settle in such a busy place after the wild lands in which they've grown up?

The timeless stories that inspired a TV series can now be read by a new generation of children. Readers who loved Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Heidi…


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and when I dreamed of being an author, imagined I’d write historical fiction. However, it took many writing detours to arrive there. (Nim’s Island, by the way, has no basis in historical fact!). When I first imagined the story that led to the Minoan Wings trilogy, I fell in love with researching this era, which is particularly intriguing because there are virtually no written records. Visiting the ruins of a four-thousand-year-old town on Crete under the guidance of an archaeologist who had not only excavated there but had become passionately involved with my imaginary characters, was an absolute highlight of my life. 


I wrote...

Cuckoo's Flight

By Wendy Orr,

Book cover of Cuckoo's Flight

What is my book about?

If Clio had stayed to load the kiln as she should have, she’d never have seen the ship. But she saw it, and the world changed. Now the oracle is demanding the greatest sacrifice: a young maiden to serve the goddess – and Clio’s grandmother creates a sacred statue to save Clio’s life.

But Clio is torn between the demands of guarding the statue and caring for her beloved horses. Disabled in an accident, she must try to put aside her own grief at no longer being able to ride – and in the process, save a friend’s life and stop a war. 

Book cover of Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Cookie-baking sleuth Hannah Swenson is the star of one of the first culinary cozy series. From Book One, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, through her latest, Joanne Fluke’s cozies have found a huge audience thanks to the long-running series and the Hallmark Channel’s versions. Hannah owns The Cookie Jar, a popular bakery in small town Eden, Minnesota while fending off her mother’s attempts to marry her off and her own amateur snooping. How can a reader with a sweet tooth resist titles like her latest, Caramel Pecan Roll Murder?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

By Joanne Fluke,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First in the New York Times-bestselling mystery series: “A cleverly plotted cozy full of appealing characters and delicious cookie recipes.”—Publishers Weekly

Take one amateur sleuth. Mix in some eccentric Minnesota locals. Add a generous dollop of crackling suspense, and you've got the recipe for this mystery series featuring Hannah Swensen, the red-haired, cookie-baking heroine whose gingersnaps are almost as tart as her comments and whose penchant for solving crime is definitely stirring things up.

While dodging her mother’s attempts to marry her off, Hannah runs The Cookie Jar, Lake Eden’s most popular bakery. But after Ron LaSalle, the beloved deliveryman…

Who am I?

Nancy Drew was the gateway drug for my mystery reading and writing addiction. I love unusual sleuths, and sleuths with secrets such as Mrs. Pollifax, Miss Marple, and Stephanie Plum. Dubbed the “takeout queen” by my kids, I love cooking shows and had the good sense to marry a man who enjoys making ice cream.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Rocky Road to Ruin: An Ice Cream Shop Mystery

What is my book about?

Riley Rhodes is the new manager of Udderly Delicious, a specialty ice cream shop in Connecticut’s bucolic Quiet Corner. A professional disaster on a mission in Rome forces her to leave behind her career as a librarian for the CIA, but not her talent for digging out secrets. While whipping up batches of to-die-for flavors like cherry amaretto and pumpkin caramel spice, she stumbles into the murder of a family friend, and uses her sleuthing skills to unmask a killer. 

The Life We Bury

By Allen Eskens,

Book cover of The Life We Bury

Joe Talbert’s not your average college student but a hero easy to love for all he’s up against. He’s escaped his mom’s unstable household and her revolving door of abusers, but barely and not really. With his autistic brother Jeremy still in her care, Joe’s in a constant tug-of-war between his family and his future. Joe’s survivor-tough but with a soft side. He needs both when a biography assignment leads him to Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam vet and convicted felon. How can this war hero be a killer? Chasing the story with Joe is as thrilling as rooting for him. He must solve the mystery, save his family, get the girl, and, of course, get an A on his paper.  

The Life We Bury

By Allen Eskens,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Life We Bury as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A USA Today bestseller and book club favorite!

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…

Who am I?

A Virginia Tech grad, I’ve been many things: a teacher, preschool director, #PitchWars mentee, blogger, chef, caregiver, and chauffeur (some, just for my household). But always a writer. My fifth and final Delilah Duffy Mystery is coming in early 2023. A pandemic romance (One Thing Better) and an unlikely superhero novel (Adam) come next. I love a good mystery. Quirky, amateur sleuths using their wits and grit to solve tough cases while juggling regular lives like real people deliver a double-thrill—one for justice and another for the everyday oddball taking the win (like me, when I publish a book). This inspired my Delilah Duffy series and this list.


I wrote...

Sea-Devil: A Delilah Duffy Mystery

By Jessica Sherry,

Book cover of Sea-Devil: A Delilah Duffy Mystery

What is my book about?

Tipee Island isn’t just a breathtaking vacation spot but the perfect small town for a new start. Gutsy but error-prone, Delilah Duffy returns to the beloved island to reinvent herself as manager of Beach Read Books. But disturbing acts of vandalism send a clear message—her bookstore dreams have strange enemies. A murder in Beach Read Books the night before her grand opening threatens her second chance and, as she gets closer to the truth, puts her in danger of becoming the next victim. A family feud and a sweet romance deliver more complications as if a looming murder charge isn’t enough. Will she get her idyllic beach life, or will her second chance be her last?

Shot All to Hell

By Mark Lee Gardner,

Book cover of Shot All to Hell

One of the biggest worries as the Civil War wrapped up was that Confederate troops might disappear into the Appalachian Mountains, where they could conduct guerrilla raids with relative impunity. As a result, the war could have been extended for years, maybe even decades, as the insurgents crept out of their strongholds to conduct hit and run raids. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee and Pete Longstreet reminded Southerners they lost the war. It was time to get on with their lives.

Most southern veterans accepted the situation. However, a few, like Jesse and Frank James and the Younger brothers, couldn’t accept defeat. So they holed up in the backwoods of Missouri and fought a new kind of war using tactics they’d learned under William Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson.

Sound familiar? It’s the same situation that has allowed terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda to…

Shot All to Hell

By Mark Lee Gardner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shot All to Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shot All to Hell by Mark Lee Gardner recounts the thrilling life of Jesse James, Frank James, the Younger brothers, and the most famous bank robbery of all time. Follow the Wild West's most celebrated gang of outlaws as they step inside Northfield's First National Bank and back out on the streets to square off with heroic citizens who risked their lives to defend justice in Minnesota. With compelling details that chronicle the two-week chase that followed-the near misses, the fateful mistakes, and the bloody final shootout on the Watonwan River, Shot All to Hell is a galloping true tale…

Who am I?

What could be cooler to a kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s than the Civil War? TV spoon-fed us westerns—Bonanza, F-Troop, The Lone Ranger, and The Wild, Wild West. Many of the stories were set during the Civil War or had characters molded by it. And then, somewhere in the mid-1960s, my parents took me to a civil war reenactment. Guns cracked. Cannons boomed, and men fell. I was hooked. I’ve devoured every Civil War book I could get my hands on for the past fifty years and watched every movie remotely connected to the subject. So, it’s only natural I wrote a book about it.


I wrote...

1861: Civil War Beginnings

By Nick Vulich,

Book cover of 1861: Civil War Beginnings

What is my book about?

It’s 1860. Military societies form throughout the south, drilling and waiting for orders to attack. The threat: Abraham Lincoln. Southerners are convinced his election means the end of life as they know it.

Lincoln has received hundreds of death threats since his election. As he travels to Washington for his inaugural, things turn deadly. Rumors say thousands of bloodthirsty Southerners intend to storm the capital, burn the public buildings, and kill the president-elect before he reaches the capital. The attack on Fort Sumter is still months off, but for Abraham Lincoln, war is imminent and real. Very real.

Ordinary Grace

By William Kent Krueger,

Book cover of Ordinary Grace

This story takes place over the summer of 1961 written in the voice of the narrator reflecting back 30 years to when he was 13 years old. I loved the way it took me back to that era, a time when summers as a child were spent outdoors with minimal adult supervision. Adventure, discovery, and imagination were at one’s fingertips. A tragedy occurs that summer and the family struggles to make sense of it. I was struck by how well the contrasting characters of this family and small town were portrayed. There was the minister father, a rebellious mother, a younger brother struggling with an impediment, and a cast of interesting small-town characters that the child encounters. There was an undertone of spiritualism and questioning of one’s own beliefs and values when the inconceivable happens. It stirred up a range of emotions and questions in my own mind. Ultimately it…

Ordinary Grace

By William Kent Krueger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ordinary Grace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
WINNER OF THE 2014 DILYS AWARD
A SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2013

From New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger, a brilliant new novel about a young man, a small town, and murder in the summer of 1961.

"That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word."

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their…

Who am I?

I grew up in a family where my father’s physical disability (M.S.) was the focus. He soon became bedridden when I was still young and being an only child with a mother struggling with depression, I became the primary caregiver. My parents were always loving and caring and that got us through the tough times but other tools such as writing stories from a very early age became my coping mechanism. I could bring anything to life in my imagination and then on paper. Later I became a Clinical Counsellor, now over 40 years in practice. It seemed like a natural career choice for me as I love to hear other people’s stories. 


I wrote...

When I Became Invisible

By Maret Johanson,

Book cover of When I Became Invisible

What is my book about?

Life for young Molly and her parents in a sleepy rural town is idyllic—until Nell begins working for them as a farmhand. The fifteen-year-old brings with her a troubled home life that she desperately tries to keep secret—until it’s too late. As their lives intertwine, suspicions and resentment begin to tear the young family apart. A decision to try to right a wrong leads to tragic consequences for all of them. No one sees what’s coming.

 Insightfully told from the perspectives of four characters, who grapple to put the shattered pieces of their lives back together again, it’s impossible not to be deeply affected by… When I Became Invisible.

Safe from the Sea

By Peter Geye,

Book cover of Safe from the Sea

This is a novel about loss, family, and reconciliation, and it moved me deeply. It’s set in Minnesota, where I spent about half my childhood, and it deals with personal and family histories, which I find quite compelling. In the novel, Noah’s father, Olaf Torr, lives under the weight of survivor’s guilt. Years earlier, thirty men went out on the ore boat, the Ragnorak, and only three returned. One was Olaf. As the novel begins, Olaf is dying, and he contacts Noah, from whom he’s estranged. But Noah still hasn’t forgiven Olaf for his alcoholism. Also, Noah and his wife, Natalie, are struggling with infertility issues. But Noah and Natalie come to see Olaf, who starts telling Noah what happened on that boat. 

Safe from the Sea

By Peter Geye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Safe from the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other. Meanwhile, Noah's own struggle to make a life with an absent father…

Who am I?

I am a book publicist of roughly twenty years, a writer, and a reader. My award-winning short story collection, To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts (Fomite Press, 2017), deals with family, reconciliation, loss, and hope. My first novel, Geographies of the Heart (Fomite Press) was released in January 2022. It’s about the importance of forgiveness, the power of legacies, and the fertile but fragile terrain that is family, the first geography to shape our hearts. I am surrounded by books, live and breathe books, work with books. Lucky me!


I wrote...

Geographies of the Heart

By Caitlin Hamilton Summie,

Book cover of Geographies of the Heart

What is my book about?

In Geographies of the Heart, Sarah Macmillan is devoted to her multi-generational family, but her younger sister, Glennie, is dedicated to her career. As they age and face loss and other challenges, they’re forced to confront their differing priorities, sometimes with Sarah’s husband, Al, serving as mediator. This is a novel about the power of legacies, the importance of forgiveness, and the fertile but fragile ground that is family, the first geography to shape our hearts. Southern Literary Review said, “This novel of four generations is rich in nuance and its warmth and generosity leave a lasting impression."

Rules of Prey

By John Sandford,

Book cover of Rules of Prey

For an author to create a cast of characters who stay captivating and relevant throughout over 30 books in a series—I mean, wow. And Sandford has done just that with his Prey series, featuring crime-solver Lucas Davenport. His spinoffs with Kidd and Virgil Flowers are amazing too. I’ve not seen this done so effectively before. Never a dull moment, not a one! I can’t remember which Prey book I picked up first, but it was enough to move me to buy book 1, Rules of Prey  (published in 1989, though I discovered it many years later), and happily bounce through the entire series. Decades have passed, and Sandford is still writing some of the best mysteries (and characters) out there, and I’m still reading them. 

Rules of Prey

By John Sandford,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rules of Prey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Don't miss John Sandford's brand-new thriller Ocean Prey - out now**

#1 New York Times bestselling author John Sandford's 'haunting, unforgettable, ice-blooded thriller' - first in the Lucas Davenport series!

The killer was mad but brilliant.

He left notes with every woman he killed. Rules of murder: Never have a motive. Never follow a discernible pattern. Never carry a weapon after it has been used...So many rules to his sick, violent games of death.

But Lucas Davenport, the cop who's out to get him, isn't playing by the rules.

***Praise for RULES OF PREY***

'Terrifying... Sandford has crafted the kind…

Who am I?

Writer, reader, editor, reviewer, publisher… those are all parts of me. With a lifetime of experience in the “words” industry, I have a pretty good handle on what makes a book not just good, but hot. I say this with the understanding that each reader brings their own histories to the reading experience, and what one person may like, another may not. Nonetheless, I offer you my professional and personal favorites in the mystery/thriller/suspense categories. It is my sincere hope that you find these books as addictive as I’d found them. Superb and clever writing, engaging characters, unpredictable plots—yes, please! Though I occasionally step outside my comfort zone, I'm consistently drawn back to these categories. 


I wrote...

The Broken Soul

By Janet Fix, Cheryl Bradshaw,

Book cover of The Broken Soul

What is my book about?

When the party of a lifetime becomes a party to the death, the lines become blurred. Friends become enemies. Drugs become weapons. And that's just the beginning ...

Sloane Monroe, private investigator, discovers her best friend Maddie LaFoe has gone missing during Mardi Gras festivities. Where did Maddie go, and why didn’t she call? This time the investigation is personal, and Sloane will stop at nothing to find her friend. The Broken Soul is the latest installment in the mystery series Sloane & Maddie: Peril Awaits. Dive in for some heart-stopping action, enthralling characters, and a party that gets crazier by the minute for your favorite dynamic duo.

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