Minnesota Book Awards Winners and Finalists

By Carol Van Why

Follow the link to see the finalists and winners. https://thefriends.org/minnesota-book-awards/minnesota-book-awards-winners/

You’ll notice a few familiar authors in the lists.  Our library owns books by authors Kate DiCamillo, Allan Eskens, Patricia Hampl and Sarah Stonich.

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Minnesota Book Awards 2019

By Carol Van Why

The finalists for the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards were announced in late January.  The awards ceremony will be held April 6, 2019, in St. Paul. Patricia Hampl’s 2018 book, The Art of the Wasted Day, is one of the nominees.  I’m happy to say that it is in the Coffman Library’s collection.  Look for it under Hampl in the Biography section.  Our library also owns her 2005 book, Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life; look for it on the Religion/Spirituality section.

Coordinated by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and supported by many individuals and organizations, “The Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long program that fosters our statewide literary arts community and connects readers and writers throughout Minnesota.”  Learn more about this effort.

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Share Our Success

By Carol Van Why, as originally publishes in the March 2019 issue of the 1666 Coffman Newsletter

Did you know that the Coffman library loaned over 900 books in 2018? You may be surprised to know that most of the credit for the library’s vitality actually goes to you, our generous residents.

Your book donations are the lifeblood of the collection. We welcome donations of books, large print books, audiobooks, and DVDs.

You can always donate one or two items at a time. Our cardboard donations box is on the library’s lower level in the closet just to the left of the entrance. You must limit donations left there to no more than one shopping bag.

Have more to donate than the suggested limit? Or are you considering offering a significant portion of your personal library? If so, contact either Katie Weiblen or Catherine Wengler beforehand. They will suggest visiting you so they can identify items in your collection that our library could use.

We cannot use books with broken spines; yellowing or loose pages; a musty smell; significant wear, stains, highlighting or underlining that will detract from the item’s appeal to readers. We also cannot accept books that are obviously dated, particularly in areas of business, economics, medicine, science, and technology where books five years or older have limited value.

If we can’t use your donations the organizations shown below accept used books: Half-Price Books, Books for Africa, Ramsey County Library – Roseville, St. Paul Public Library – St. Anthony Park, and Goodwill – Roseville.

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New Residents’ Books Share Shelves with Those of U of MN Stars

By Carol Van Why

The Library Committee is proud to have recently added books by new residents Lindeke and Wilsnack to its very special section on the Library’s upper level – the 1666 AUTHORS collection.

These books join others by some current residents – Vern Jensen, Mary Lynn Kittelson, M.D. Lake and Burt Sundquist, to name just a few.  

Former residents and U of MN superstar scholars Clyde Christensen, Harold C. Deutsch and E. Adamson Hoebel have books in this permanent Coffman Library collection.  Apologies to the many I didn’t have space to name. 

Do you have a published work that should be in the 1666 Authors collection?  To donate a copy, contact Library Committee Co-Chair Katie Weiblen.

By the way, do you know who M.D. Lake is?  Browse the 1666 AUTHORS shelves to find out. 

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Writing from Warm Places

By Barbara Woshinsky, as originally published in the February 2019 issue of the 1666 
Coffman Newsletter.

Winter is a time for reading and dreaming of faraway places. If you have not departed for Arizona or Fiji, there are other ways to escape into a balmier climate—even a different continent—without the inconveniences of bag-packing or security lines. The gateway can be found in our wonderful Coffman library. This column will feature a new thriller from India as well as other works from outside our Euro-American heritage.

While The Widows of Malabar Hill (2018) is a newcomer to our shelves, its author is not. Sujata Massey is the creator of a popular mystery series about Rei Shimura, a young woman seeking to negotiate her Japanese and American heritages. Massey herself has a cosmopolitan background. Born in England to German and Indian parents, she was mainly raised in Saint Paul and now lives in Baltimore.

Massey’s new book (and hopefully new series) explores cultural contacts and conflicts in colonial Bombay through the eyes of its intrepid heroine, Parveen Mistry. Parveen belongs to the Parsi community, descended from the Zoroastrian Persians who migrated to the subcontinent in the seventh century to escape Muslim persecution. She is a solicitor with an Oxford degree, working with her barrister father. (Though unusual, this situation is not invented: an Indian woman read law at Oxford and was admitted to the Bombay Bar in 1923.) Through flashbacks, we learn that Parveen suffered abuse at the hands of her husband before returning home to her family. Her father’s firm is now representing three Muslim widows who live in seclusion in the fashionable neighborhood of Malabar Hill. Suspicions of fraud turn into something darker when the family agent is killed, and Parveen herself is again put in danger through her efforts to protect the women and their children. This suspenseful novel keeps you reading; but its main attraction for me was the revelation of an Indian subculture I didn’t know existed. Meticulously researched, the book includes a multilingual glossary featuring Parsi-Gujarati foods, customs, and insults. Anyone interested in law, local history, complex cultures, women’s rights, or just a good story, will enjoy this novel!

Also noted:

Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (2016). The popular host of The Daily Show recounts with pointed humor the experience of growing up as a mixed-race child in South Africa at a time when interracial unions were punishable by law, and how he survived through his own tenacity and the support of his indomitable mother.

The Poetry of Derek Walcott, 1948-2013. This Nobel-prize winning poet was born on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean; he has lived and traveled widely in Europe and the United States. Walcott’s evocations of his homeland and his erudite, passionate voice will carry you away.

Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians (2013) is the novel on which the popular movie and sequels are based. If you’re looking for great literature, leave this one on the shelf; but if you want an entertaining insight into the mixed languages and cultures—and delicious food—of the beautiful Malaysian peninsula, give this a try.

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We Have Some of the Best Books of 2018!

By Carol Van Why

This is the time of year when book awards begin to be announced and the big names in the newspaper biz announce their favorite books from the previous year.  With pride the Library Committee announces that some of those notables have graced our shelves for months.  In case you’ve missed them here they are:

BIOGRAPHY
Educated by Tara Westover

ESSAYS
Calypso by David Sedaris

FICTION
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

MYSTERY/SPY/ADVENTURE
Blue Bird, Blue Bird by Attica Locke
Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens
Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Witch Elm by Tanna Smith

POETRY
Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

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AUT in the Coffman Library

By Joanne Kendall

Originally published in the January 2019 issue of the 1666 Coffman Newsletter

What’s the deal with the headline above? Should it read “OUGHT”? Or even “AUGHT”? Actually, neither works in this context. In 2017, 1666 Coffman Newsletter contributor Fred Gaiser ended one of his writings, about being a library user, with the comment that he occasionally found “altogether unexpected treasures” (AUT) on the 1666 library shelves.

As a longtime member of the library committee, I had the privilege, assigned on a weekly basis, of shelving books returned to the library’s blue box by borrowers. Thanks to that volunteer task, my first reaction to Fred’s words was strong objection to his use of the word “occasionally.” When I did that weekly shelving, I seldom left the library without signing out a book I found intriguing. And almost every one proved to be an altogether unexpected treasure!

Promised a writing assignment for this issue by Katie Weiblen, library committee cochair, I was questioned about the propriety of writing as a past resident. The question was settled by giving me the title “foreign correspondent.” For me, that had the ring of extraordinary freedom to write at length and ramble around the library collecting some of those AUT titles that had provided me with so much good reading for so many years, all twenty-one of them!

So in the next few months when lack of sunshine (a given this winter), extreme cold and/or the return of ice and snow give Minnesotans expendable time, Coffman residents can prepare ahead with a list of reading suggestions gleaned as you wander with me from top to bottom floors of the Coffman library collection, while I point out a few of the AUTs that may have been buried treasure to you until now.

On the building’s third level, top floor of the library, Sections I – XIV, notice Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle (sociology); The Measure of My Days by Florida Scott-Maxwell (aging); In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen (Native American writing), and two books by Reynolds Price (essays). As you turn the corner, try to bypass the several sections of mystery, spy, adventure books, or you may be hooked and go no further. Old favorite writers and a host of new ones abound!

Books in the travel writings and travel guides sections are guaranteed to take you away from winter. You will find Minnesotan Bill Holm’s Coming Home Crazy addictive in its hilarious descriptions of that red-headed/red-bearded “giant” and his experiences as a teacher in China.

If you’re feeling rebellious at having anyone tell you what to read, the visual beauty of almost any book in art and architecture sections allows you simply to enjoy looking at the illustrations. An altogether unexpected treasure in the writing section is Brisbanes’s A Gentle Madness, a book I “bought” off the book sale cart and, after reading it, recommended that it be returned to the library collection. It’s that fascinating!

Cabin fever victims should not ignore the library sections on mythology, sacred texts and writings on sacred texts; cookbooks, golf, and games; and should certainly include browsing among the books by 1666 authors. If you don’t already know M. D. Lake’s mysteries, now is the time to discover the reading excitement waiting in their pages for any would-be sleuth. Then, be sure to ask a longtime resident about the mystery surrounding the writer’s name!

Move with me now down the circular stairway to the library’s first floor. (I’ve taken a more cautious approach for several years via the elevator). Fiction books occupy sections II through VII and attract the most borrowers.

In addition to single books, two series here have provided me with countless hours of fascinating reading in recent years: The Century Trilogy of Ken Follett and Patrick O’Brian’s seven-volume (of twenty published) fictional accounts of the history of sea warfare beginning with Master and Commander.

Sections I and II hold books on drama, theater, books for teens and children (to re-read any Winnie the Pooh book by A.A. Milne is an AUT whenever I pick it up!). From Section VII on, any listing of additional AUT titles will most certainly be chopped off by the newsletter editor’s computer clicks. I’ll only say that history fans and readers of biography who browse in those sections are sure to discover altogether unexpected treasures waiting for them.

We can all hope against a prolonged period of cabin fever as 2019 begins. Should that happen, however, the library provides additional hope. Collectors of minutiae and 1666 wordsmiths may still discover AUTs in dictionary, reference, and encyclopedia sections of north-facing shelves on both levels of the library.

At this endpoint, newsletter readers should have noticed that not all the library’s labeled sections (nor specific books in each) have been noted here. It is this writer’s hope that others may want a piece of this action, writing about the “Altogether Unexpected Treasures” they, too, would like to reveal to library users and to those who have so far been doubtful guests to the library. Who will be next to join in hunting for and writing about AUT in the Coffman library?


*As I finished taking notes for this article, I was lured once more by the book sale cart and bought for $1 The Angel on the Roof: Stories by Russell Banks. I can’t leave his writing alone…another AUT providing hours of reading delight!

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Slender Books for Airplane Reading

By Carol Van Why

A couple of months ago when I was looking for a book that wouldn’t take up much space in a carry-on bag I got an email from Coffman resident, Bob Tapp.  In it he shared a piece titled “18 Short Classics You Can Read in One Sitting.” 

Like me, you’ve probably read all or many of them before. There may even be a title or two in your personal collection. At 200 pages or fewer one of these titles might make a good traveling companion.

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Most Award-Winning Books Per Shelf in the Collection

By Carol Van Why

Two excellent books donated by Coffman residents made me pause and think about how good our SCI/TECH/MATH and ENVIRONMENT NATURE collections are.   One of the new books is Roger H. Stuewer’s Age of Innocence: Nuclear Physics Between the First and Second World Wars.  You’ll remember that Dr. Stuewer gave a well-received talk at Coffman in October.  The other title, My Life with Cranes:  A Collection of Stories is by George Archibald.  Archibald is one of the founders of the world-renown International Crane Foundation, located in nearby Baraboo, Wisconsin.

For the next two months when these books are not checked out you’ll find them on the library’s RECENT ARRIVALS shelves.  Thereafter they will be in their permanent locations on the library’s upper level.  There they’ll join an award-winning collection of titles from a who’s who of writers.  Be sure to browse those shelves sometime this winter. Readers recommend the ones with the neon green stickers as particularly readable.

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Cozy Up to the Library This Winter

By Carol Van Why
Originally published in the November 2018 issue of the 1666 Coffman Newsletter

Winter is on the way. A sure cure for cabin fever is to enjoy those frigid sunny days from the comfort of the Coffman library. New to Coffman? Get familiar with the library now and begin to consider it your second living room.

Our website is your road map to using the library. Paste the following URL into your
browser: https://1666coffman.com. Once there, click on “1666 Coffman Library.” Next, slide your cursor across the menu bar. Topics of most interest to newcomers will be the book donation policy, a self-guided tour, and instructions on how to subscribe to our website.

The Library Committee receives a small budget from the condo association. However,
resident book donations are the lifeblood of the collection. Regrettably, it’s a small library and we can’t use all donations. The Library Committee takes pride in both collection content and the visual appeal of the library itself. For that reason, we cannot accept damaged, worn, or musty books.

Orient yourself in the library by taking the self-guided tour that you will find on the
website. You’ll learn how books are arranged, how to sign them out, and where to return them. Soon after you’ve settled in at Coffman, the Library Committee will offer you a tour and orientation. Contact Katie Weiblen to set up a date/time.

Want to keep up with what’s new in the library? Be sure to subscribe to our blog. You’ll get
an email each time there’s something new on the site. We feature a new book and its review each week.

So plan to beat the winter blues. The Library Committee purchased nearly forty new books
during the summer and fall. Over a dozen new mystery/suspense titles were purchased by virtue of a generous financial donation from a resident. Pick up your copy of our new books list from the library table or find it on the website, and read your way through the winter days.

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