The Best Books of 2015--A Very Biased List from the Staff at Common Good Books

Yes, we love all the books equally. But there are a few books we love just a little bit more. Here then, is Common Good Books' very subjective, very idiosyncratic list of our favorite books of 2015.

ISBN: 9781555977177
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - September 1st, 2015

The narrator of Paul Kingsnorth's novel The Wake loses everything in the days following the Norman conquest of England. His home is burned, his farm his destroyed, and his family is killed. Retreating to the green woods, he quickly descends into a fever dream of revenge.

It takes a few moments to learn to parse the language of The Wake; it is written in a simplified version of Old English, after all. The effort is richly repaid, however, by an engrossing and immersive reading experience unlike any other historical novel. Kingsnorth's vividly imagined medieval tale is an ancient story that throbs with life. 


ISBN: 9781936747924
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sarabande Books - October 14th, 2014

A young lady philosophy scholar literally wanders into the world of mixed martial arts fighting. This book kept leaving me dumbstruck. It's like an ice cube down the back. 

ISBN: 9780399167256
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Blue Rider Press - October 13th, 2015

My favorite book of the year.


Head West This Summer


If you, like me, are daydreaming about a summer vacation, you want to miss The Oregon Trail, which goes on sale June 30. 

Rinker Buck, a self-described “boozehound with a bad driving record,” had a scheme. He wanted to pilot a covered wagon down the length of the Oregon Trail--from Kansas to the Pacific coast. Enlisting his brother, a dog named Olive Oyl, and three stalwart mules, Buck sets out to “see America slowly.” Along the way he find quicksand and kindness, frustration and hospitality in equal measure.

Part travelogue, part family history, part national history, The Oregon Trail is a heartfelt ode to Middle America. Whether he’s writing about the joys of smalltown campgrounds or the agony of chasing runaway mules while wearing slippers, Buck is a clear-eyed and gregarious storyteller. The Oregon Trail is a journey into the beauty of the American heartland, past and present. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Reserve your copy now. 


ISBN: 9781451659160
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - June 30th, 2015

A sneak preview of Michael Perry's hilarious new novel, "The Jesus Cow"

Michael Perry is a fantastic Wisconsin writer whose past work has included memoirs, essays, and a novel for young adults. His next book, The Jesus Cow (available May 19), is a scorchingly funny send up of a Midwestern small town. Here's a peek, in the author's inimitable voice.

ISBN: 9780062289919
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - May 19th, 2015

Thanks to Cathy Wurzer and Wilder Caregiver Services

Thank you again to Cathy Wurzer and Wilder Caregiver Services for a wonderful discussion of the life of Bruce Kramer and the challenges and joys of being a caregiver.

Keep the conversation going by visiting Wilder's Caregiver's Resource Center for support and information.

ISBN: 9780816697335
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of Minnesota Press - April 2015

The envelope, please...

Almost one thousand entries have been narrowed down to seven prize-winning poems.

Close to 1,000 poets submitted their work to Common Good Books, in St Paul, MN. Entries came from across the United States, with Minnesota making up the single largest bloc of poems. After reading them all, store owner Garrison Keillor, has chosen seven poems of particular merit. Congratulations to this year’s winners, and thank you to all who entered.


$1000 Winners:

  • Lisa Kundrat of Minneapolis, MN, for "Dear You"

  • Ethna McKiernan of Minneapolis, MN for "Leaving"

  • Kari Castor of Arlington Heights, IL, for "Dear Roger”


$500 Winners:

  • Heidi Annexstad of Golden Valley, MN, for "Regarding Your Dishes"

  • Elizabeth Twiddy of Syracuse, NY, for "Dear Neighbor"

  • Cynthia Orange of St. Paul, MN, for "Red, Cabbage, Oldsmobile"

  • Sharon Dardis of St. Paul, MN, for "Dear Stan: You Know Horses"


Lisa Kundrat

Dear You


Dear you

If we had met ten years earlier, would we have had ten more years?
Or, meeting too soon, would we have rejected the alien and had no
time at all? You the responsible, hard-working corporate guy, me a
hippie vagabond, living in a trailer adjacent a rooster coop. For me to
wander into the corporation took a while. How lucky to find you in
that tiny window of time, grinding out PowerPoints and yearning
toward bumdom. Once I wandered in, we left together. Driving our
rented Camry through the West, driving that straight-line highway
toward Albuquerque, the land scrabbled with petrified trees and
ringed with a 360-degree rainbow. We stopped at a cave-like
restaurant in Taos for Thanksgiving fajitas, chili-pepper lights
dangling like calcite.  Driving north through the pitch black, we knew
we were surrounded by beauty. Opening the window to breathe the
cold pine air of the forest we knew was there, but couldn’t see.
Gripping the dash, saying, “stop stop stop,” as a bull elk stepped into
the headlights. You slowed, we watched him saunter across. You
wanted a photo, but could only stare, heart pounding. Why do we
always have to know what we’re traveling through or toward and
when we’ll find it? What matters is we’re wandering together. As our
hearts slow enough to take a picture, he disappears into the black on
the other side.



Ethna McKiernan


         For Conor


                    I turned around tonight to say—

And then I missed you so hard

at that instant, the wry smile of you
absent, every atom of you flown,
not a particle hovering in the house.

I left too, young as you
craving wind-shifts of change,
hitching through Europe in the 70’s,
camping rough, picking grapes in France,
bleaching the stain off down in Spain,
five months of glory on the road.

Now the same winds have pushed you
to Mexico, a silver jet seam visible as stars
in the sky last night, that long curl
dissipating into cloud.

Remember how I knew you at five
in that Ninja costume?
I knew you skate-boarding
with an attitude at Brackett Park,
and sensed for certain when
you first fell in love. I knew you
as a heartbeat beneath my ribs
at nine months, almost born.

And know you now,




Kari Castor

Dear Roger


Dear Roger,

I think sometimes about
that night in college when I
sat on your lap in your room

and the way we tried to devour
each other when we
realized we were alone for a moment--

         Aaron graduated and in
         Chicago waiting
         for me to join him,
         our friends returned
         to the living room--

the way your thick stubble
burned my cheek

the way I was terrified
to make this mistake
and also terrified
to not make it

the way I made you drive me
home and leant my
still-burning cheek
against the cool car window
and fantasized
the whole way about asking
you into my empty apartment

the way we carefully
avoided touching each other
for fear of striking a spark that might
set the whole fragile veneer ablaze

and I wonder sometimes if you
all these years later
ever think about that night
the way I do

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