Maybe it’s the long winters, but Minneapolis and St. Paul repeatedly rank among the nation’s most literate cities. No question, we have some of the best bookstores in all the land (shout-out to Magers & Quinn, Birchbark, Subtext, Moon Palace, and Wild Rumpus). Influential small publishing houses like Graywolf and Coffee House Press, too. Anne Tyler, Ellen Hart, Marlon James, David Carr, Beth Dooley, Charles Baxter, Kao Kalia Yang, T.J. Stiles, Julie Schumacher, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Sun Yung Shin, Sarah Stonich, Sinclair Lewis, Linda LeGarde Grover, and F. Scott Fitzgerald—they’re all ours, either born and raised or just for a moment.
Anyone keen to dig into the local lit scene or world of book arts will find an endless source of inspiration in Open Book, a 19-year-old nonprofit literary arts center in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood. The first tenant you’re likely to encounter in the three-story, multi-use space is Milkweed Books, an indie bookstore run by publishing nonprofit Milkweed Editions. Though it’s only 600 square feet, the retail space is as bright and airy as a gallery, with a special exhibition wall offering behind-the-scenes looks at the world of small publishing. On the shelves and tables: one of the city’s tightest and edgiest selections of poetry, creative nonfiction, and short stories.
Elsewhere on Open Book’s first level is Conexion, a coffeeshop and café, and the 36-year-old Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The MCBA hosts free gallery exhibitions (including one trumpeting the winner of the annual Minnesota Book Artist Award) and offers introductory and advanced classes in letterpress, screen printing, bookbinding, calligraphy, marbling, and origami. If you’ve ever been curious about experimental bookmaking or creative self-publishing, this is the place to learn the ropes.
Typography nerds and other visual arts appreciators should also devote some QT to browsing the shelves in MCBA’s James and Marilynn Alcott Library, a collection of 2,700 artists books, magazines, newspapers, and other reference materials, at least a quarter of which have some connection to Minnesota. The Shop at MCBA, meanwhile, is one of the best spots in Minneapolis to purchase unique greeting cards, handmade journals, one-of-a-kind art books, and outré ‘zines. (Amanda D’Amico’s Better Presidents is one of our favorites.)
The second and third levels of Open Book house reading rooms, writers’ studios, event spaces, and the storied Loft Literary Center, the largest and most comprehensive literary center in America. Its stacked catalog of writing classes cover everything from comedy and memoir writing to journaling, blogging, and copywriting. Workshops in marketing and social media round out the mix. The Loft hosts two big annual events: the Wordplay book festival (May 11-12, 2019), with appearances by Stephen King, Mary Karr, Dave Barry, and Amy Tan; and the Wordsmith writing conference (November 1-3, 2019).
To stay abreast of other literary to-dos, sign up for Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Literary Calendar and be on the lookout for details about the Twin Cities Book Festival, the largest lit fest in the Midwest, held every October at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
1011 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis, MN; 612-215-2650 (Open Book), 612-215-2540 (Milkweed Books); 612-215-2520 (Minnesota Center for Book Arts), and 612-215-2575 (The Loft).