Fall Arts 2020: Book releases, virtual readings, and indie bookstores

Getty Images

Getty Images

For avid readers, fall is new book season. It’s a time when the shelves of shops are filled with fresh picks, authors come to town to share their latest work, and the weather is cool enough to make curling up indoors with a good read a cozy treat. Like many industries, publishers and shops have had to make adjustments due to COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean the season is canceled—events have moved online, local businesses have pivoted to crowd control and curbside pickup, and even the Twin Cities Book Festival is carrying on.

The following section contains a handful of new release sneak peaks, virtual happenings, and updates on what your local bookshop is offering this fall.


BrownMark Star Tribune archives, cover art


My Life in the Purple Kingdom

University of Minnesota Press

Sadly, Prince is no longer around to share his boundless creativity with the world. But his story is still being told by the people who knew him best. BrownMark (real name: Mark Brown), bassist in the Revolution, shares his experiences creating, performing, and growing up alongside Prince in his revealing new memoir, My Life in the Purple Kingdom. BrownMark candidly recounts the racism, hardships, and creative roadblocks he faced as a Black teenager coming of age in Minneapolis in the early ’80s, as well as his time attending Central High as an aspiring young musician dreaming of bigger things. But the bulk of the book covers BrownMark’s whirlwind musical journey, from playing to crowds of 50 people in small Minneapolis venues like the Nacirema Club, to being cold called by Prince to audition for him at the age of 19, to nervous recollections of his first official show with the group—when Prince and the Revolution opened for the Rolling Stones in front of 90,000 less-than-receptive fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1981. Though BrownMark’s time playing with Prince was brief (from 1981-86), he was part of some of the most celebrated and successful albums of Prince’s career. The profound life lessons BrownMark learned while playing in the Revolution, as well as his experiences touring the world with Prince, forever changed his life. And BrownMark proudly carries those memories with him as he continues to blaze new trails while keeping Prince’s legacy alive. There will be a virtual book launch on Monday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. You can register for it at—Erik Thompson

Maria Dahvana Headley

Maria Dahvana Headley Beowulf Sheehan, cover art


Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Can a thousand-year-old poem written in Old English count as a new release? Yes. “Despite its reputation to generations of unwilling students... Beowulf is a living text in a dead language, the type of thing meant to be shouted over a crowd of drunk celebrants,” argues Maria Dahvana Headley, who is the latest author to take a spin translating the epic work. This isn’t her first venture into Beowulf territory; her 2018 novel, The Mere Wife, is a modern retelling of the tale, focusing more on Grendel’s mother, a PTSD-stricken veteran. This year, Headley returns to the source, taking the well traveled story of good kings, epic battles, and gruesome monsters, and asking the reader to look at it with new eyes. “Language is a living thing,” she writes in her intro. “And when it dies, it leaves bones.... But I’m as interested in contemporary idiom and slang as I am in the archaic.” Her approach suits the tale mightily; for proof look no further than this bad-ass passage where Beowulf meets Hrothgar: “I’m the strongest and the boldest / and the bravest and the best. / Yes: I mean — I may have bathed in / the blood of beasts, / netted five foul ogres at once, / smashed my way into a troll den / and come out swinging, gone / skinny-dipping in a sleeping sea / and made sashimi of some sea monsters. / Anyone who fucks with the Geats? Bro, / they have to fuck with me.” Yes, “bro” is used liberally throughout this translation. Say goodbye to ye olde exclamations of “Lo!” and “Behold!” These are tales of dudes puffing their chests as they brag and exude toxic masculinity, 1000 AD-style. What we’re saying here is you should definitely fuck with this new take on Beowulf—Jessica Armbruster

Chris Stedman

Chris Stedman Promo

IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives,

Broadleaf Books

Most of us have a complicated relationship with social media. We try every new Instagram face filter even if we know the app is eroding our self esteem; we rely on Twitter just as much as we resent relying on Twitter. It’s tricky stuff! If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t stop drunk tweeting (even if you try to trick yourself by changing your password) or stick to your commitment to delete Facebook from your phone (even if you feud with your racist aunt every time you log on), Stedman’s book might help you feel better about—and maybe even better understand—your behavior. He got us with this chapter-one comparison to drag: “In our messy attempts to stage a show, social media gives us a chance to see that, when it comes to being human, we’re all amateurs.” Isn’t that kind of comforting? Besides, it’s nice to know there’s someone out there who thinks about posting even more than you do. —Emily Cassel

Lilliam Rivera

Lilliam Rivera Promo

Never Look Back

Bloomsbury YA

Lilliam Rivera’s Never Look Back is a Bronx retelling of star-crossed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. For those who haven’t been spoiled, even after 1,500 years: In the ancient legend she dies while he gets torn to pieces by crazed Dionysian cultists. The horror of this Greek tragedy is the illusion of choice in the face of fate. Heroes who fail are doomed from the start. That’s also the ever-present evil in Never Look Back, which spins a luminous reverie of summer courtship through bachata and Prince before plunging our young Afro-Latino lovers into the depths of hell. Romance and the verdant aliveness of the Puerto Rican rainforest are interwoven with hauntings by the ghosts of history, ghosts of hate, and death itself, which offers to lift the pain in return for submission. Rivera knows the cathartic power of retelling mythology for a modern audience is the reclamation of agency, and so Never Look Back becomes a call to rise above the hopelessness of an unjust world. It’s a story imbued with the power to heal. —Susan Du

Cover art

Cover art

Black in the Middle: An Anthology of the Black Midwest

Belt Publishing

“It is a bitter irony... that many of the arguments about Mr. Trump’s appeal to Midwesterners make sense only if you pretend Black people don’t exist in the middle of the country,” writes Tamara Winfrey-Harris. “We are told economic anxiety, not willingness to embrace racist rhetoric and policies, drove the white workers of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin to cast their vote for Mr. Trump. But what about the profound economic insecurity of their Black counterparts, a vast majority of whom were unwilling to bet on the promises of a David Duke-endorsed candidate to bring the local factory back?” This is one of many great points shared in Black in the Middle, a refreshingly diverse collection of pieces celebrating the thoughts, joys, and struggles of Black Midwesterners living in “America’s Heartland.” You’ll find a little bit of everything here, including essays, short stories, history lessons, photography, and artwork. Local highlights include Vanessa Taylor’s short piece on “Minnesota Nice,” painter Leslie Barlow’s gorgeous portraits, and Brian G. Gilmore’s trippy experience of traveling to the Twin Cities and seeing Somali people playing soccer in the snow. While this anthology shares Black perspectives, it also hits on some general Midwestern truths. “I want to be doused / in cheese / & fried. I want / to wander / the aisles, my heart’s / supermarket stocked high / as cholesterol. I want to die / wearing a sweatsuit —” writes poet Kevin Young in “Ode to the Midwest.” Relatable. —Jessica Armbruster

There's pizza in there now!!!

There's pizza in there now!!! Moon Palace Books


A not-so fun fact: Jeff Bezos has made billions during quarantine lockdown alone. Let’s give our money to better businesses.

Birchbark Books

Shop online ( or pick up orders curbside. 2115 W. 21st St., Minneapolis; 612-374-4023.

Black Garnet Books

This Black, woman-owned business stocks a variety of literature from diverse, underrepresented voices on their online site, They hope to open a brick-and-mortar space by spring 2021.

Boneshaker Books

This radical, volunteer-run bookstore called it quits earlier this year only to triumphantly return, offering a great variety of political, queer, feminist, and other hard-to-find materials. The physical store is currently coronavirus closed, but you can order online at

Book House

Schedule an appointment online to browse the used book collection in person. Or shop virtually. 1316 Fourth St. SE #201, Minneapolis;

Cream & Amber

Shop in person or online ( 1605 Mainstreet, Hopkins; 952-595-5640.

Eat My Words

Rare and used books. Browse in person or order online for curbside pickup at 214 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 651-243-1756.

Irreverent Bookworm

While the new(ish) store remains closed during coronavirus, you can still shop online at 5163 Bloomington Ave., Minneapolis; 612-500-4339.

Magers & Quinn Booksellers

This Uptown indie shop has open shopping hours (with limited admission) and contact-free book pickup daily. Place orders and find more info at 3038 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-822-4611.

Milkweed Books

This store, located in the same building as the Loft Literary Center, is currently closed, but orders for mail shipping can be placed by calling 612-215-2540, via email (, or at

Moon Palace Books

This indie bookstore survived the riots this summer, and now has a pickup window weekdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with plans to fully reopen after the plague ends. Order online at 3032 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis.

Next Chapter Booksellers

The store is closed, but curbside pickup is available. Visit for more deets. 38 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul; 651-225-8989.

Once Upon a Crime Mystery Books

Score great spooky reads from local and national authors. The store has limited browsing hours, as well as online sales and curbside pickup. Read more at 604
W. 26th St., Minneapolis; 612-870-3785.

Red Balloon Bookshop

This delightful kids’ bookstore has porch pickup, neighborhood delivery, and online ordering at 891 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651 224 8320.

Subtext Books

This indie shop has open browsing hours, plus pickup and mail offerings at 6 W. Fifth St., St. Paul; 651-493-2791.

Valley Bookseller

The store is open, in addition to offering contactless pickup and remote shopping that can be done online ( or via phone. 217 Main St. N., Stillwater; 651-430-3385.

Wild Rumpus

This children’s bookstore is closed and the animals who live there are safe, but pickup orders are taken daily. Visit 2720 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis;

Winding Trail Books

Shop online ( or in person during open hours when the shop limits admission to four people at a time. Milton Square, 2230 Carter Ave., St. Paul; 651-414-9431.


Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Ross Gay

The authors give a virtual reading and presentation of their recent works, followed by a conversation moderated by Cathy Linh Che and Malcolm Tariq. Presented by Milkweed Editions. RSVP on Facebook. 6 p.m. Sept. 30. Free.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The author gives a virtual presentation of ‘Shorter: Work Better, Smarter, and Less—Here’s How.’ Streaming live at 7 p.m. Sept. 15. Free.

Bikes and Books and Books and Bikes

This chill 30 Days of Biking event features a short, easy ride to Magers & Quinn. RSVP on Facebook. 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 13. Free. Farmstead Bike Shop, 4001 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-824-9300;

Ellis Cose

The author gives a virtual presentation of ‘The Short Life & Curious Death of Free
Speech in America,’ in conversation with Ev Dennis. Streaming live at 7 p.m. Sept. 22. Free.

Frank F. Weber

The author gives a virtual presentation of ‘Lying Close.’ Find more info at 7 p.m. Sept. 26. Free.

Hannah Abigail Clarke

The author gives a virtual presentation of ‘The Scapegracers,’ in conversation with Naomi Kritzer. Presented by Magers & Quinn at 4 p.m. Sept. 19. Free.

JP Gritton

The author gives a virtual presentation of ‘Wyoming,’ in conversation with David Mura. Presented by Magers & Quinn. 7 p.m. Sept. 14. Free.

Jack Zipes

The author gives a virtual presentation of two children’s books, ‘Keedle the Great’ and ‘Yussuf the Ostrich.’ Presented by Magers & Quinn at 3 p.m. Sept. 27. Free.

Janet Graber

The author gives a virtual presentation of ‘The Sting of Love.’ Presented by Magers & Quinn at 5 p.m. Sept. 25. Free.

Kyle Mills

The author discusses the latest installment in his Mitch Rapp series, in discussion with Tim Flynn. More info at 7 p.m. Sept. 15. Free.

Minnesota Not So Nice

Virtual launch party for the new anthology, ‘Minnesota Not So Nice: Eighteen Tales of Bad Behavior,’ featuring authors and editors from the project. More info at 7 p.m. Sept. 22. Free.

Opus & Olives: A Benefit with Friends Virtual Gala

Online benefit presented by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, featuring emcee Mo Rocca and personal stories and insights from bestselling authors Quan Barry, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Sue Monk Kidd. Tickets and more info at 7 p.m. Oct. 11; $50.

Reid Forgrave

The author discusses his new book, ‘Love, Zac: Small-Town Football and the Life and Death of an American Boy,’ in conversation with Bill Reiter. Presented by Magers & Quinn at 7 p.m. Sept. 21. Free.

Talking Volumes: Claudia Rankine

The author of ‘Just Us: An American Conversation’ and ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ participates in a virtual conversation with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller. More info at 7 p.m. Sept. 22. Pay what you can.

Talking Volumes: Helen Macdonald

The author of ‘Vesper Flights’ and ‘H Is for Hawk’ participates in a virtual conversation with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller. More info at 7 p.m. Sept. 30. Pay what you can.

Talking Volumes: Sarah Broom

The author of ‘The Yellow House’ participates in a virtual conversation with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller. More info at 7 p.m. Oct. 6. Pay what you can.

Talking Volumes: Yaa Gyasi

The author of ‘Homegoing’ and the forthcoming novel ‘Transcendent Kingdom’ participates in a virtual conversation with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller. More info at 7 p.m. Sept. 17. Pay what you can.

Twin Cities Book Festival

The annual book and author party has moved online this year with author events, a web-based exhibit hall, and fresh content celebrating the 20th year of the TCBF. Find more info at Oct. 15-17. Free.

V.T. Bidania

The author discusses her book, ‘Astrid and Apollo.’ Presented by Moon Palace Books at 3 p.m. Sept. 13. Free.

Vincent Wyckoff

The author gives a virtual presentation of his new book, ‘Nightwatchers.’ More info at Noon Sept. 19. Free.

Virtual Poetry Night

Page Starzinger, David Baker, and Peter Campion share work from their new collections. Presented by Magers & Quinn at 7 p.m. Sept. 10. Free.