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Midwest Connections Picks

The Midwest Independent Booksellers Association selects a few books per month across genres that they feel exemplify the spirit of the Midwest! June's Picks are:

The Lion's Binding Oath by Ahmed Ismail Yusuf

Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, The Lion's Binding OathReligious and ethnic conflict is Somalia's most enduring legacy. The U.S. has welcomed Somali refugees yet views them with suspicion. Yusuf's collection is written with deep compassion for the lives of its characters, examining the stories of families, clans, lovers, neighbors, and friends beneath its history of war and displacement.

"Through his entertaining stories, Ahmed Ismail Yusuf captures the world of Somalia's pre-war past and the tragedy of what was lost there. Alternately comic, allegorical, heartbreaking, they provide a window into the richness of Somali storytelling."—Brad Kessler, author of Birds in Fall

Ahmed Ismail Yusuf has lived in Minneapolis since fleeing Somalia in the late 80s. He did not speak English when he arrived, he was a high-school dropout, and he was not sure what his actual age was. Today he has two college degrees and is the author of Somalis in Minnesota, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. In 2017, The History Theatre of St. Paul, Minnesota produced his short play, “A Crack in the Sky,” a memoir about how Yusuf found inspiration in Maya Angelou and Muhammad Ali during his early days as an immigrant to the U.S.


Our Towns by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows

James Fallows, Deborah Fallows, Our TownsA unique, revelatory portrait of the civic and economic renewal already taking place across America, town by town and generally out of view of the national media. A surprisingly hopeful view of the country between its coasts.

“An eye-opening, keenly optimistic reminder of the strength of America’s vital center.” —Publishers Weekly

James Fallows is a National Book Award and a National Magazine Award-winning writer who has written eleven previous books and worked as a national correspondent for The Atlantic for more than thirty-five years. Deborah Fallows is a linguist and author of two previous books. Together the authors have two children and four grandchildren.

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The Westing Game: Deluxe Anniversary Edition by Ellen Raskin

Ellen Raskin, The Westing GameWhen Samuel W. Westing is found dead, the residents of Sunset Towers find themselves gathered for the reading of his will. What they are shocked to hear is that Westing was actually murdered and that his murderer is one of them! The residents are given a series of clues and tasked with solving the mystery. Winning means they inherit Westing’s vast fortune, but the further they move through the game, the more dangerous it becomes. ​

“Confoundingly clever, and very funny.”—Kirkus starred review

Ellen Raskin was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up during the Great Depression. She was the author of several novels, including the Newbery Medal-winning The Westing Game, the Newbery Honor-winning Figgs & PhantomsThe Tattooed Potato and Other Clues, and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel). She also wrote and illustrated many picture books and was an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dust jackets for dozens of books, including the first edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time. Ms. Raskin died at the age of fifty-six on August 8, 1984, in New York City.

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Neck & Neck by Elise Parsley

Elise Parsley, Neck & NeckEverybody loves Leopold the giraffe. He inspires awe and wonder. His adoring fans gaze and cheer. Best of all, they feed him lots of deeeelicious snacks! But, one day, a shiny, bobble-headed new rival comes in and ruins everything...a giraffe-shaped balloon! Just how far will Leopold go to prove that he's the hero of the zoo?

"Hilarious...a laugh on each spread. And readers will cheer on Leopold as he opts to take the high road--and ends up on top."
​--Publishers Weekly 

Elise Parsley wrote and illustrated the bestselling If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! and 2 other books in the Magnolia says DON'T series; and illustrated The Magic Word by Mac Barnett. She lives in South Dakota with her husband. She invites you to visit her online at


May's Picks were: 

The Recovering by Leslie Jamison

A deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and journalistic reportage, THE RECOVERING turns the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. ​

"An astounding triumph. Profound. Achingly wise. A recovery memoir like no other." --Entertainment Weekly 

Leslie Jamison is the author of the New York Times bestselling essay collection The Empathy Exams and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book ReviewHarper'sThe New Yorker, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications.

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Great American Outpost by Maya Rao

When they heard they could earn $17,000 a month in the Bakken Oilfield of North Dakota, they flooded in: the profiteers, deadbeats, ex-cons, dreamers, doers--and Maya Rao, a journalist who embedded herself in this surreal new American frontier. With an eye for the dark, humorous, and absurd, she chronicles the largest oil boom since the 1968 discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska--and, as the boom receded, the people who were left behind wondering what happened to the good times and if they will ever return.

"A potent metaphor for modern American capitalism. Maya Rao's bracing dispatch from the Bakken reveals the toll of fracking on everything it touches. Keenly observed and vividly told." --Jessica Bruder, author of Nomadland

Maya Rao is a staff writer in the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and her work has appeared in the AtlanticAwlPhiladelphia InquirerLongreads, and more.

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Beaut by Donald Morrill

If your mother decided to write about the details of her life, would you read her account? Jill Lundgrove does just that, and her children don't know what to make of it. They consider destroying the pages, for in them they find an account of their family blended by death and divorce, tested by illness and drug addiction, and unevenly duct-taped with their mother's love. 

"With his debut novel, Donald Morrill shows that prose and poetry can become indistinguishable on the page just as beauty and tragedy are often indistinguishable in our lives. This is a punchy, finely written novel driven by a fierce determination to condense our humanity to the written word." --Wiley Cash, author of The Last Ballad 

Donald Morrill is the author of the nonfiction volumes Impetuous SleeperThe Untouched MinutesSounding for Cool, and A Stranger's Neighborhood, as well as three collections of poetry. He has been the Bedell Visiting Writer at the University of Iowa. A native of Des Moines, he teaches at the University of Tampa.


Dear Girl, by Amy K. Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal

Written by mother-daughter duo Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, Dear Girl, is a perfect book for the special girl in your life. Dear Girl, encourages girls to always be themselves and to love who they are--inside and out.

“Abundantly necessary. Holly Hatam’s simple, stark style and limited palette reflect the essential and basic nature of equality, conveying that Dear Girl can be any girl. Dear Girl ends with love. Scary times call for extra love.” --New York Times Book Review

Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a New York Times bestselling author of books for children and grown-ups. Paris Rosenthal, Amy's daughter, is a student at Quest University outside of Vancouver. She plays on the soccer team there and is a member of a women's empowerment-themed hip-hop dance troupe. She has studied a wide range of subjects this year but her favorite class thus far? Prose and Poetry. She clearly takes after her mother. 


MIBAMidwest Connections

Staff Pick Logo
The Lion's Binding Oath and Other Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781946395078
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catalyst Press - June 5th, 2018

Midwest Connections Pick, April 2018

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Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101871843
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon Books - May 8th, 2018

Midwest Connections Pick, April 2018

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The Westing Game: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition Cover Image
ISBN: 9780451480989
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Puffin Books - May 15th, 2018

Midwest Connections Pick, April 2018

Staff Pick Logo
Neck & Neck Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316466745
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - June 5th, 2018

Midwest Connectoins Pick, April 2018

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The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316259613
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little Brown and Company - April 3rd, 2018

Midwest Connections Pick, May 2018

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Great American Outpost: Dreamers, Mavericks, and the Making of an Oil Frontier Cover Image
ISBN: 9781610396462
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: PublicAffairs - April 24th, 2018

Midwest Connections Pick, May 2018

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Beaut Cover Image
ISBN: 9780932112743
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Blair - May 1st, 2018

Midwest Connections Pick, May 2018

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Dear Girl, Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062422507
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - December 26th, 2017

Midwest Connections Pick, May 2018