Books & Bars: For Beginners

Round House“I liked it, which is rare for me to open with…” So started Jeff Kamin, MPR producer by day and Books & Bars host by night, at this month’s discussion of Louise Erdrich’s National Book Award-winning novel, The Round House, on Tuesday, March 12th at Bryant Lake Bowl. There were a few less people in attendance than usual and the crowd was a little older, but it was apparent that those who came out were knowledgeable of Erdrich, the Native American community, and had, for the most part, enjoyed the book.

Books and Bars LogoIf you are unfamiliar with the Twin Cities’ most famous community book club, Publishers Weekly had an excellent feature a few weeks ago celebrating the group’s tenth anniversary. (You can read it here for a better handle on the history and format of the group’s meetings.)  Meeting three times a month in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and “Chanhappenin’”, Books & Bars is a great way to get your bookish kicks, especially if you are looking for intelligent literary discussion without the commitment issues of a small reading group. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to a college lit class, but with fewer traditional students and more beer. Sounds great, right? It is, usually, though sometimes the drink specials lead to a certain type of contributor… The “I had a wine and I have opinions!” person isn’t always illuminating, but the reason Books & Bars is one of the most important literary staples in the Twin Cities is that the atmosphere and discussion are so approachable, the event attracts people from all walks of life. Each evening brings a unique crowd and conversation.

On Tuesday discussion centered on the relationship between justice and revenge; why Joe, The Round House’s protagonist couldn’t have been anything except a thirteen-year-old boy; and how amazing it was that Louise Erdrich was able to successfully use literature to shape policy in providing more protections for Native American women through the Violence Against Women Act. We imagined alternate scenarios if certain plot points had gone in different directions. We geeked out over Louise Erdrich’s Star Trek fandom. (Well, I didn’t, but people did.) We worked through (read: debated) some fuzzy plot points as a large group. We spent an hour telling each other what we loved and what we hated about the book.

My favorite moment of the night happened when Jeff did a quick poll to see how many people had read Erdrich before The Round House. There were two die-hard Erdrich enthusiasts in the house who had read everything she has written. One was an elderly woman and one was a younger dude. Watching those two acknowledge each other across the room reminded me why Books & Bars is such a hit. There is something very special in having a meaningful connection with a stranger.

Want in? Catch part three of The Round House discussion this Tuesday, March 19th at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul.


Were you There? Have something to add, or a different take on this event?  Chime in on the comments below, or send us an email at! Be sure to check the schedule to the right and the Twin Cities Literary Calendar to be at the next attended event. See you around!


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