Midwest Connections

Midwest Connections Picks are curated by independent booksellers in the Midwest region. The titles they select have a connection to the Midwest - from North Dakota to Kansas, Wisconsin to Illinois - either through the author or the setting of the story. From small towns to bustling cities, covering a wide expanse of genres and interests, these picks are as diverse as the readers who call the Midwest home.




Loudermilk: Or, the Real Poet; Or, the Origin of the World Cover Image
ISBN: 9781593763909
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Soft Skull Press - May 7th, 2019

A June 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

"Ives' satirical masterpiece follows poet Troy Augustus Loudermilk, a shallow Adonis recently admitted to the nation’s premiere creative-writing graduate program, located in the heart of America’s starchy middle . . . Laugh-out-loud funny and rife with keen cultural observations, Ives’ tale is a gloriously satisfying critique of education and creativity." –– Booklist (starred review)

Midwest Connection: The book is set in the fictional town of Crete, a fictitious Midwestern town that plays host to “The Seminars,” a fictionalized Iowa Writers’ Workshop; Lucy Ives attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Overview: ​A tale of two idiots—the handsome, charismatic Troy Augustus Loudermilk and his unassuming, socially anxious friend Harry Rego—who, in the early days of the new millennium, scam their way into a fellowship at the most prestigious creative writing program in the country.

Target Readers: ​Anyone with experience with or interest in higher education, the art world, the literary world, social satires, scammer stories, etc. Can be read and enjoyed on multiple levels: a fun scam story, a critique of higher ed institutions.

Similar to: The Idiot by Elif Batuman, Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Summer Demands Cover Image
ISBN: 9781948226301
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Catapult - June 4th, 2019

A June 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

“Shapiro’s prose is elegant, effortless, but it’s her characters that will keep you up late into the night, hoping you can save them.” — Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter

Midwest Connection: Deb Shapiro lives in Chicago, IL.

Overview: On the verge of her fortieth birthday, and shaken by a recent miscarriage, Emily inherits an abandoned summer camp in Massachusetts and discovers a magnetic young woman living undetected in a cabin whose presence will force her to question everything she thought she knew.

Target Readers: Readers of smart book club fiction and women’s fiction

Similar to: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki, Marlena by Julie Buntin, Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Reflections on a Life in Exile Cover Image
ISBN: 9780825308932
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Beaufort Books - May 1st, 2019

A June 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

Reflections on a Life in Exile is a book that is easy to pick up for a quick dip in the morning or evening, but also holds up to a lovely afternoon in an adirondack chair soaking up the sun along with the reflections...This gentle volume encourages us to listen with a bit more open curiosity to the words of strangers and reminds us that we all belong to a culture of kindness if we only watch for it.” — Deb Wayman, Fair Isle Books, Washington Island, WI

Midwest Connection: J.F. Riordan grew up in Wisconsin. Although her early career took her to Europe, she returned to the Midwest by choice. She lives there because she loves the culture of humility, hard work, and decency. All of her books are an expression of that love, but this one is, perhaps, the most personal. Ms. Riordan has written three award-winning novels in the North of the Tension Line series thus far, all set on Washington Island, Wisconsin: North of the Tension LineThe Audacity of Goats, and Robert’s Rules. The fourth book in the series, A Small Earnest Question, is due out in May 2020. 

Overview: Written in lyrical prose, Reflections on a Life in Exile captures and magnifies the passing beauty of the ordinary and the extraordinary that lingers near the surface of daily life. Although not about dogs, the book is permeated with dog stories, a love of nature, and an almost mystical sense of wonder.

Target Readers: Men and women over thirty, dog lovers, nature lovers, people of faith, those struggling with personal loss, those searching for kindness and beauty in a world filled with rage-tweeting

Similar to: Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott, A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen, Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair Cover Image
ISBN: 9781534414471
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - June 4th, 2019

A June 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

"If Scout Finch had had a sister, she would be future ‘world-famous lawyer’ Guinevere St. Clair....With the same nostalgia-tinged humor as Dead End in Norvelt and A Long Way from Chicago, Makechnie's debut will have readers in stitches. Gwyn's voice is distinct and likable, carrying readers through the eventful narrative with ease. Guinevere St. Clair is indeed 100 percent unforgettable." – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Midwest Connection: Author Amy Makechnie grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and the book takes place in Crowe, Iowa.

Overview: Guinevere St. Clair is a lawyer, the fastest girl in NYC, an expert on the human brain, and, now that her family’s moved to her parents’ hometown of Crowe, Iowa— in hopes of curing her mother’s memory loss— she wants to ride into her first day of school on a cow named Willowdale Princess Deon Dawn. Since Gwyn was four, her mother hasn’t been able to remember anything—not even that she has two daughters. While Gwyn’s obsesses over helping her, Gwyn focuses on problems within her reach. Like proving their strange neighbor, Gaysie Cutter is behind her only friend’s disappearance. Soon, Gwyn’s quest to crack the case leads her to people and places she never expected, including one person she’s been running from.

Target Readers: Readers of contemporary middle grade fiction, ages 8 to 12

Similar to: The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand 

In the Night of Memory: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781517906504
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Univ Of Minnesota Press - April 2nd, 2019

A May 2019 Midwest Connection Pick!

The moving story of Azure and Rain, two sisters who lose their mother but find family and themselves, told entirely through a chorus of Ojibwe women’s voices.

"Linda LeGarde Grover offers us a gift of story across generations of Native American women. This book examines what it means to grow up poor, grow up female, and grow up in a place that should be home but feels far from belonging. Grover creates a tapestry of history and imagination, a weaving of perspectives beautiful and wise, a collection of truths that anchors and honors the experiences of Indigenous women." —Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father

Midwest Connection: Linda LeGarde Grover lives in Duluth, MN and the book is set largely in Duluth.

Target Readers: Readers of literary fiction that explores contemporary Native American experience​

Of Fathers and Fire: A Novel (Flyover Fiction) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496211866
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Nebraska Press - April 1st, 2019

A May 2019 Midwest Connection Pick!

A story of family, friends, and the wider community, this story pleads for a world torn by lies, war, and hatred to reconcile—even as present day America faces similar issues.

“Steven Wingate has a rare feel for American landscapes and for our recent past. I admire his willingness to tackle genuinely controversial topics—including religious vicissitudes and our complex visions of masculinity. Wingate’s keen sense of language houses an equally keen compassion for human plights.” ​—Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Shadow Land

Midwest Connection: Of Fathers and Fire is the latest installment of the Flyover Fiction series. Books in this series actively engage–through plot, character, setting, or theme–with what it means to inhabit the Great Plains. Steven Wingate is an English professor at South Dakota State University. He lives in Brookings, South Dakota.

Target Readers: Readers of magical realism, literary fiction, faith-based fiction

The Line Tender Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735231603
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - April 16th, 2019

A May 2019 Midwest Connection Pick!

Follow the sharks! A beautiful and heartbreaking book and the magic of science and resilience of children. 

“In following the adaptation of sharks to a shifting ecology, The Line Tender speaks to our own human capacity to adapt to loss—and Lucy’s losses are profound. This is a novel that stirs our deepest hope that we can survive profound change, that we can even move into new channels that will support us and nourish us and point us toward what we had never anticipated. This is a celebration of our ability to survive.” —Gary Schmidt, Newbery and Printz Honoree and National Book Award Finalist

Midwest Connection: Kate Allen has lived in Minneapolis for over a decade. 

Target Readers: Kids 10 and up. Readers who love classic middle grade. Readers who love books about sharks and marine biology.

When You Are Brave Cover Image
By Pat Zietlow Miller, Eliza Wheeler (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780316392525
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - March 5th, 2019

A May 2019 Midwest Connection Pick!

An inspiring picture book affirmation about having courage even in difficult times, because some days, when everything around you seems scary, you have to be brave.​

"Helps show children they can learn to be in charge of their feelings and that a positive attitude will go far in allaying fear of the unknown." --Booklist

"This is a wonderfully encouraging message that is well expressed and supported by illustrations that start out dark and scary and end light and colorful." --School Library Connection

Midwest Connection: Pat Zietlow Miller lives in Wisconsin, and Eliza Wheeler lives in Minnesota.

Target Readers: Readers who are starting a new phase of life, and are seeking inspiration to be courageous and to persevere.

Little Faith: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062469717
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - March 5th, 2019

An April 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

A Wisconsin family grapples with the power and limitations of faith when one of their own falls under the influence of a radical church.

“Powerful.... [Butler] skillfully handles the complicated—and heartbreaking—psychological and emotional complexities of this story, crafting a deeply moving novel about love, faith, and loss.... A beautifully realized meditation on the nature of parenting and living in a perplexing (and often cruel) world.” --Library Journal starred review 

Midwest Connection: Nick Butler lives in Wisconsin and writes about his personal connection to Wisconsin and the Midwest.

Target Readers: Readers of literary fiction of all ages.

Beautiful Bad Cover Image
ISBN: 9780778369103
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Park Row - March 5th, 2019

An April 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

A devoted wife, a loving husband and a chilling murder that no one saw coming. A thriller that started as a memoir.

“What sets this remarkable book apart from other psychological thrillers is its breadth of scope—the story stretches over 15 years and moves from Kansas to the war-town Balkans to New York, and Iraq, and back again. Maddie, Ian and Joanna first meet halfway around the world, under dangerous circumstances, and their relationship with each other follows a long, twisted path that ends with a heinous crime. If you love a jaw-dropping third-act twist, you'll get that here...but it's these characters, and their story, that will stay with you. Just awesome.” ​—Erika VanDam, Roscoe Books

Midwest Connection: Annie was raised and currently lives in Kansas City.

Target Readers: Mystery/Thrillers readers, adult

The Raven Tower Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316388696
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Orbit - February 26th, 2019

A March 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

Gods meddle in the fates of men, men play with the fates of gods, and a pretender must be cast down from the throne in the masterful first fantasy novel by Ann Leckie.

“A powerhouse epic of humans and gods at war, deeply imagined and profoundly thrilling. There are echoes of Shakespeare and Le Guin in The Raven Tower, but its strange dark brilliance could only have come from Ann Leckie.”  ―Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author of The Magicians

Midwest Connection: Ann Leckie lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Target Readers: Readers who enjoy deeply imagined and profoundly thrilling epic fantasy. 

Finding Dorothy: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525622109
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - February 12th, 2019

A March 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

A richly imagined novel of the story—and woman—behind L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

“Engrossing . . .  Letts expertly illuminates the true story behind the tale beloved by so many readers through history, but best of all is the wonderful depiction of Maud [Gage Baum] herself. This is a crowd-pleasing, thoroughly satisfying novel.” --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Midwest Connection: Finding Dorothy is a story of love, loss, inspiration, and perseverance, set in America’s heartland. This novel captures the pioneering spirit of the Baum family settling in South Dakota in the 1880s and, later, Chicago. The people they meet and the places they visit help inspire L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—which many consider to be America’s first home-grown fairytale.

Target Readers: Historical fiction readers, and people who enjoy learning about little-known stories behind major cultural and historical events, such as fans of Before We Were Yours. Wizard of Oz enthusiasts—those who love the books, the movie, and the Broadway show.

Nothing Is Scary with Harry Cover Image
ISBN: 9781680523867
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Cottage Door Press - February 19th, 2019

A March 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

Nothing Is Scary With Harry tells the story about a little girl, her blanket, and the value of comfort to provide strength in childhood and beyond. The snuggle is real…

"In this engaging story, ...charming paint and colored-pencil illustrations showcase Katie’s love and bravery and feature diverse characters. ...for kids and adults who embrace these objects as coping mechanisms, this sweet tale should ring true." – Kirkus Reviews

Midwest Connection: Katie is a lifelong Midwesterner and Chicagoan. She was born and raised just outside Chicago, attended college at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and currently resides in Oak Park, Illinois. When Katie was a toddler, she named her blanket ‘Harry’ after Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African-American Mayor. 

Target Readers: Children, ages 3 to 7

Bim, Bam, Bop . . . and Oona Cover Image
ISBN: 9781517903954
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Univ Of Minnesota Press - February 5th, 2019

A February 2019 Midwest Connections Pick!

Make Way for Ducklings meets Rosie Revere in this irresistible read-aloud picture book.

“Martin tells the tale in rollicking cadences just right for reading aloud. ‘A gust of wind grabbed the sails and up she went. OOO-hoolie-hoo!’ ” --Kirkus

Midwest Connection: Author from Iowa. Illustrator from Illinois. Rural, American heartland setting.

Target Readers: ​Anyone who has ever been the youngest sibling or the slowest member of a group of friends, readers who like silly stories about farm life. Children, ages 3 to 7.

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501194375
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 22nd, 2019

A November 2018 Midwest Connections Pick!

A brilliant and moving family saga about three generations of women fighting to find freedom, happiness and self-fulfillment in their small Midwestern college town. 

“Jean Thompson is a brilliant novelist from the classic school of storytelling. This is a moving tale built upon a foundation of unforgettable characters, drawn with empathy and insight. A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a story that illustrates our present moment through a keen and unflinching look at our past. Thompson’s work centers on the Midwest, what some call ‘fly over’ country, but in her hands, we come to see that it is the center.” —Tayari Jones, New York Times bestselling author of An American Marriage

Midwest Connection: Author Jean Thompson taught creative writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Reed College, Northwestern University, and lives in Urbana, Illinois. Cloud in the Shape of a Girl takes place in a fictional Midwestern college town. 

Target Readers: ​Women 35-64, literary fiction and comin-of-age readers, book clubs, fans of Anna Quindlen and Sue Miller.