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Book Tips & Bird Songs at the State Fair

Our professors brought their research & reading recs to Minnesota's get-together
September 21, 2017

Professor Kim Todd at the Minnesota State Fair

Professor Kim Todd at the Minnesota State Fair
Professor Kim Todd shared her writings about science at the Minnesota State Fair

It's not often you leave the Minnesota State Fair with a reading list. But why not? On the second to the last day of the Fair, Department of English faculty and staff took over a booth in the U's Central Building. Professor Nate Mills, who teaches contemporary American literature, offered "60 Second Recs" of his favorite 2017 novels. (This summer he published his first book, Ragged Revolutionaries, which focuses on works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Margaret Walker.) His recommendations:

English booth at the State Fair
The English booth at the State Fair
  • If you like ghost stories, mystery novels, stories of academic life, stories of troubled marriages, Shirley Jackson, and Stephen King: Elizabeth Brundage, All Things Cease to Appear
  • If you like fantasy, science fiction, spy fiction, and books structured like puzzles: Iain Pears, Arcadia
  • If you like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, historical fiction, novels with strong female protagonists, and Victorian England: Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent
  • If you like mystery novels, police procedurals, noir fiction, novels with strong characters, and ("trust me" says Mills) Henry James: Hideo Yokoyama, Six Four

Kim Todd, a Creative Writing professor, shared the recordings of sparrows that inspired her article "The Language of Sparrows: How Bird Songs Are Evolving To Compete With Urban Noise" (scroll down to access the audio). Professor Todd writes about science and the natural world; she's particularly interested in the ways human stories about animals have on-the-ground implications. Her third book is titled, simply, Sparrow.

Jar of marbles
Voting for favorite book genre!

English executive administrative assistant Caitlin Bailey, who won this year's Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, assisted fairgoers in trying erasure poetry. Her debut collection, Solve for Desire, is published in December by Milkweed Editions.

Passersby also voted, with marbles, for their favorite book genre. The winner? Literary fiction, closely seconded by fantasy and science fiction. (However, if there had been a historical fiction category. . . .) See you next year at the Fair!