Must Read Books of 2008

Minnesota literature lovers were in hog heaven this past Saturday, when Rain Taxi pulled off another spectacular Twin Cities Book Festival. The annual event brings together local publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, and writers for a day-long celebration of books.

I spent the day sitting at the Utne Reader table with librarian Danielle Maestretti and editorial assistant Elizabeth Ryan, chatting with people about our magazine’s great love of indie publishers and handing out homemade chocolate-chip cookies. Later, with a little help from assistant web editor Bennett Gordon, we fanned out on a mission to find out the must read books of 2008.

Here’s a quick recap:

Eric Lorberer, editor of Rain Taxi, recommended The Dream We Carry: Selected and Last Poemsof Olav H. Hauge, just released by Copper Canyon Press. Translators Robert Bly and Robert Hedin gave a joint reading at the festival.

Jessica Deutsch, marketing and publicity director at Milkweed Editions, singled out Driftless by David Rhodes, while one of her compatriots suggested A Whaler’s Dictionary, a Melville-inspired collection of poetry from Dan Beachy-Quick.

Ian Graham Leask, publisher of Scarletta Press, offered two picks from his catalog: the nonfiction Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006 by Cathy Sultan, and The Once and Future Celt, a memoir by Bill Watkins.

Esther Porter, marketing assistant at Coffee House Press, was quick to pick up their recently released debut novel by David Mura: Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire. From Graywolf Press, administrative assistant Leslie Koppenhaver was excited about their collection of short stories: Refresh Refresh by Benjamin Percy.

Former Utne Reader editors Craig Cox and Jon Spayde also chimed in. Cox recommended David Carr’s Night of the Gun, while Spayde humbly proposed his new book–How to Believe, published by Random House–as well as The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault, from Shambhala Publications.

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