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Sigurd Olsen Writing Awards

braiding sweetgrass cover image This year we have had the distinct honor and pleasure of serving on the juries which determined the winning books in both the adult and children’s categories. The winners have just been announced. In the adult category, the prize goes to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Dr. Kimmerer has her PhD in plant ecology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is currently Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at SUNY. She beautifully blends the indigenous wisdom of her Native American roots with the rigor of her scientific knowledge to create a work of rare grace and inspiration. Braiding Sweetgrass weaves its way toward her central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.

place for turtles cover image


The children’s award goes to A Place for Turtles written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond. This book simply and beautifully introduces young readers to ways human action or inaction can have a direct impact on the creatures that share our world, and opens children’s minds to a wide range of interrelated ecological issues.

What Is the Group Reading?

 Winter scene with bookHi Everyone! It's Winter in Bayfield and we're reading! The AIB General Book Group got off to a great start for its third season.  We chose to meet again at Big Water Coffee Roasters across the street from the bookstore -- the second Wednesday of each month from 3:00 to 5:00 pm around the big table, all comers welcome.  We had enthusiastic participation and some great book choices.  The first book we read was The Lighthouse Road, Minnesota author Peter Geye's second novel.  It is the story of a young immigrant woman settling into life in Duluth in the 1890's still shocked at finding herself stranded in a new country alone and adrift.  Our group loved the book appreciating the authentic historical details, the exquisite language and the nuanced characters and relationships.  It's been a real pleasure to share this special book with our customers.

Our next Book Group choice, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, inspired a fascinating discussion about memory.  Everyone in the group liked the book and was glad we read it, less for any specific memory techniques than for the author’s examination of the history, science and sociology of memory and of memory’s evolving role in human interaction from the time before writing when memory was the only way to pass along information to the present where devices are being researched and developed to fully externalize memory, making internal memory theoretically completely unnecessary.   Yikes!  There are also some really simple techniques in the book which render some practical situations that call for memory a lot easier.  For example, all those bookstore customers who visit us frequently but often with long absences between visits.   I am always so glad to see them and mortified that I cannot remember their names!

One very important thing of which I was reminded from reading Moonwalking  is that, if we don’t take simple affirmative steps to place information likes names and faces into our long term memory, it will not simply happen automatically.  Period.  It’s a question of basic science, not declining mental capacity.  And, in this day when I depend on my “smart” phone for all those names, numbers and addresses that I used to know, unfortunately I guarantee that my phone is a lot smarter than I am!  So, I am designing my memory palace and images as I write!

How Much of "History" Is Fiction?

At the March meeting of our AIB Book Group, we discussed Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.  While many of us found good reasons to read this book, virtually everyone agreed that it was poorly written and surprisingly so since the author had won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier biography and Cleopatra, itself, was named a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year. But, it just wasn’t a compelling read. It kept wandering away from the main subject and the writing was scattered and disjointed. It was almost as if the author had taken all her note cards, thrown them in the air and then pieced them together wherever they happened to fall. We had to keep rereading paragraphs and even sentences just to follow the thought thread. Personally, I have never seen a book that used so many dashes to offset ideas and factoids that sometimes were completely unrelated to the sentence in which the offset appeared. Others felt the same way about the footnotes.

What are you reading?

Well, the nine of us who got together the other day for Apostle Islands Booksellers General Book Group had a very lively discuCleopatra book cover imagession based on our reading of Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs definitely would not have been nominated by our group as Boss, Father, Husband or Son (or really anything human) of the Year, but there was general acknowledgement of his creative genius and extraordinary marketing skills, and a recognition of his profound effect on world culture. 

Our conversation largely wound around what are the true costs and benefits of the non-stop technological revolution that we have experienced over the past half-century (epitomized by Steve Jobs), and its ever-increasing pace, in terms of human/labor capital and working conditions, civility and sensitivity in human interaction, environmental waste and/or savings and so on. How have these innovations helped our lives? How have they hurt them? How can we help our children to use technology as a useful tool and not let it overwhelm their lives or substitute for direct interaction with their environment (nature, friends, family) and our broader society? How do you effectively balance access to virtually unlimited information with making quiet time to plumb the depths of your own intuition or reaching out for other direct human resources close to you like your grandparents, teachers, or just perusing a real book or encyclopedia all of which provide a different experience than electronic research? Do the new skills and tools we are all learning and using come at the expense of old skills like handwritten notes and leisurely telephone conversations or not? Lots of questions and food for thought, not so many answers but some good ideas were shared. In case anyone hasn’t seen it, we have a new book in the store that plays off this theme of the modern “connected” family – ­Goodnight, iPad – a Parody for the Next Generation, which parodies Good Night Moon and guides you throughout your house at bedtime turning off all your devices! 

What are you all reading out there? Any great books that you want to share? For our next Book Club meeting, we are switching gears entirely and reading Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, and for the April meeting, which will be the last one until next Fall, we chose Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls. If you have read any of these titles let us know what you think and you can be a part of the conversation from afar.

Bayfield Businesses Featured in Lake Superior Magazine

We'd like to thank Lake Superior Magazine for featuring Apostle Islands Booksellers and several other Bayfield businesses who are working to stay open throughout the quieter months of the year. If you'd like to see the article, check out this link:

Please stop by the store to see the magazine in person. We have plenty of copies in stock.

It's Snowing!

I love the snow!  Big, dry flakes, billowy confetti clouds, and everything in between.  Sometimes floating and slowly swirling, sometimes blowing and frenzied, gentling all sounds, coating the leafless trees and shrubs and the dry brown fields, turning all in to a wonderland of light and sparkle.  And of course opening the door to endless outdoor winter activities! 

Winter Travels from the Comfort of My Easy Chair

Peter the Great cover imageSomething I love so much about books is how I am able, without leaving my favorite chair by the woodstove, to go anywhere in the world (or even out of this world), to any time and culture in history (or in the future) and dive right into it.  Just by curling up, opening the cover and turning the page.  Today, the setting is late 17th and early 18th century Russia, the author Robert Massie, the book Peter the Great.  As many of you know, Robert Massie is one of the world's leading experts and most prolific writers on the Romanov period in Russian history.  His latest book, Catherine the Great, was just released only a few weeks ago, and is already moving to the top of the national bestseller lists.  I was all set to read it and my brother said, no! You have to read Peter the Great first.  It will be a tremendous gift to yourself, one of the best books you will ever read.  Massie did win the Pulitzer Prize for it so I agreed.  What is another 900 pages?  I am so glad I did!  What an excellent book, so compelling, you don't even know you're not right there with them in Moscow during the internecine battles and struggles for power, in the dark, low-ceilinged rooms of the Kremlin and the monasteries where the women were secreted, in battles for the Steppe and the Black Sea with the Turks and the Tatars, during the creation of the Russian navy and the building of St. Petersburg, in Louis IV's Versailles (Except when Kia bites my foot because I am ignoring her!).  Another world, another time, the literary magic of yet another great author.  I have such gratitude for them.  On to Catherine next!

Bringing myself to the present, I am really looking forward to Bayfield's Holiday Shopping Night this Thursday, December 15, from 4-7PM.  Apostle Islands Booksellers will be welcoming Bayfield watercolor artist, Francie Austin Miller, who will be demonstrating her craft at the store.  I hope you will all come out and support our local businesses.  We want so much to be here for you so we really appreciate when you support that outcome by shopping locally!  Even if your local purchases are only a part of your holiday shopping, every bit counts and is valuable to sustaining our local businesses and all the people who work in them.  And, as an added benefit,  many local businesses are contributing a portion of their evening's sales to the Bayfield Area Food Pantry, something I know we all support.

A celebration of Spring and Earth Day!

April 20th and it’s snowing! We woke up last Saturday and found three more inches of the stuff covering everything. That, after it seemed that we had done with that for another season. It melted away again and then we arose to a new dusting today. Is there no end to it? Yes, there will be, and then we will await with joy those first flakes of the coming winter.

Endings and Beginnings

It reached 55 degrees yesterday and, after a long string of zero and sub-zero temperatures, our fingers are sufficiently thawed to make an entry in these notes. Not that the cold weather was unpleasant, mind you. The air and light were crisp and clear. The snow (and there is a lot of it!) was light and dry like talcum powder. Tires had good traction on packed snow. Fires burned reassuringly.  Everything hot tasted especially good. But, the hot tub froze solid notwithstanding the stock tank heater which worked most of the winter.

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by Dr. Radut