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Great Picks for History-loving Northlanders

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Publisher: Random House

August 2011

by Ellen Baker



Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society

May 2011

Photos by Doug Ohman

By Will Weaver


I am thrilled and humbled to discuss a familiar Living North name this

month: Ellen Baker, former Booklight columnist and author of "Keeping

the House." I read "Keeping the House" last year and couldn't wait for

Ellen's sophomore effort. "I Gave My Heart To Know This," released in August, did not disappoint. Following in the successful tradition of "Keeping the House," this breathtaking historical novel sweeps across the twentieth century to follow the saga of a Wisconsin family's struggle to come back together after a series of events and disappearances tore it apart. The various third person narrators range from Grace, a welder in a WWII shipyard in Superior who dreams of a Hollywood career, to Julia, a modern young woman who is struggling to overcome the loss of her "almost" fiancé by secluding herself in the woods of Wisconsin to remodel her great-aunt's farmhouse.

Julia's search into her family's history is interspersed with Grace's indomitable voice and spirit as the two women's stories (along with the stories of the rest of the family's tenacious women) blend into one. Ellen Baker's expert eye for historical fact turns an already suspenseful and character-driven novel into a gem for those of us curious about our local heritage. Full of mystery, heartbreak, and hope, "I Gave My Heart To Know This" breathes with a life of its own that is rooted in the emotionally packed history of the Minnesota and Wisconsin region. Like the author's first novel, this new endeavor is difficult to put down and absolutely impossible to forget.

Speaking of history, the Minnesota Byways Series that brought us "Barns

of Minnesota" (not to mention "Churches," "Courthouses," "Schoolhouses,"

and "Cabins of Minnesota") has a great new release: "Libraries of Minnesota," published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. This fascinating photo essay book gleams with glossy photos taken by Doug Ohman, of the oldest, biggest, newest, and most interesting libraries across the state, from the gorgeous Central Libraries of both St. Paul and Minneapolis to the surviving Carnegie Libraries in Two Harbors and Stillwater. Ohman captures characteristic images of libraries that reflect the flavor of local areas, including the Duluth Public Library (shaped like an ore ship) and the log cabin library in Hackensack. Various contributors, including author Will Weaver, share stories of favorite libraries from their childhood and outline the varied history of the library system that includes tiny rooms of books such as the 600-square-foot Bird Island Library, as well as the palatial Carnegie

Libraries that have lived on as institutions in small Minnesota towns. As well as being an entertaining and informative read, "Libraries of Minnesota" preserves and celebrates the memories of these well-loved libraries that may vanish in generations to come.

Whether you are eager for a riveting bit of fiction to while away the

autumn evenings or a photo book to decorate a corner coffee table, historical reads like "I Gave My Heart to Know This" and "Libraries of Minnesota" are great picks for history-loving Northlanders across the region.