Fireside Reading Series & Podcast

Fireside Readings and PodcastsSix Weeks of Readings by the Fire

Wednesdays, January 21-February 25, 7 pm Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave.

With cookies in one hand and coffee in the other, cozy up to the fire for six weeks of free readings by some of Minnesota’s finest writers. Now in its 21st season, the Fireside Literary Reading Series is one of The Friends’ oldest and most popular events. The series annually highlights the work of some of Minnesota’s finest writers who have published a new work in the previous year.

This year, The Friends offers the entire season as a free podcast, available on the website (links below) and on iTunes.

 2015 Lineup


Marlon James - Jan 21

A Brief History of Seven Killings Novelist Marlon James kicks off the series with a reading from his new book, A Brief History of Seven Killings. Described by the New York Times as “sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex,” James’ new book uses the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley as a springboard to explore Jamaican society and culture.  James teaches creative writing and English at Macalester College in Saint Paul.

Swanson-StolenWilliam Swanson - Jan 28

Stolen from the Garden William Swanson joins the series to discuss his new book, Stolen from the Garden, the thrilling true crime story of the 1972 abduction of Virginia Piper, one of the largest kidnap-for-ransom cases in the history of the FBI. Drawing on government documents and exclusive interviews with family members, the book provides the first comprehensive account of the sensational kidnapping and its long, eventful aftermath. Swanson is the author of Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson and Black White Blue: The Assassination of Patrolman Sackett.

Podcast Icon-01-01


Ping-and-LefesteyWang Ping and Jim Lenfestey – Feb 4

Ten Thousand Waves and The Cave Wang Ping and James Lenfestey return to the Fireside Series for an exploration of China through poetry and prose. Wang’s latest collection of poetry, 10,000 Waves, gives us the voices of Chinese farmers and factory laborers, revolutionaries, writers, artists and craftsmen. Inspired by the work of a T’ang Dynasty poet, Lenfestey chronicles his trek to China’s Han-shan, or Cold Mountain, to pay tribute to the writer who retreated there and took its name in Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain. Wang Ping is the award-winning author of several collections of poetry, essays, and works of fiction, and is a professor in the English Department of Macalester College. James Lenfestey is a former journalist who has also written four collections of poetry and a book of personal essays.

Podcast Icon-01-01


Lorna-LandvikLorna Landvik - Feb 11

Best to Laugh Writer and comedian Lorna Landvik joins the series to read from her new novel, Best to Laugh, which follows her latest irresistible character, Candy Pekkala, from Minnesota to Hollywood as she pursues her dream of becoming a comedian. Landvik taps her own adventurous past as a comic performer and writes in her classic style—sometimes so funny, you’ll cry; sometimes so sad, you might as well laugh; and always impossible to put down. Landvik is the best-selling author of many novels, including Patty Jane’s House of CurlTall Pine Polka, and Mayor of the Universe. She has performed stand-up and improvisational comedy around the country and is also a public speaker, playwright, and actor, most recently seen in an all-improvised, one-woman show Party in the Rec Room.

Podcast Icon-01-01


EskensAllen Eskens - Feb 18

 The Life We Bury Author Allen Eskens adds some literary chills to the series when he reads from his twisting and evocative mystery The Life We Bury, called a “masterful debut” in a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly. When college-student Joe Talbert’s writing assignment introduces him to a convicted murderer, he has no idea that it will send him tumbling into the heart of a thirty-year-old mystery that will threaten to end his life. In addition to his writing life, Eskens is a criminal defense attorney with over 20 years experience. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University School of Law. The Life We Bury is his first book.

Podcast Icon-01-01


Linda-LeGardeLinda LeGarde Grover - Feb 25

The Road Back to Sweetgrass Linda LeGarde Grover closes the series by sharing her powerful debut novel of love, hardship, and family bonds: The Road Back to SweetgrassThe book follows a trio of American Indian women, from the 1970s to the present, observing their lives intersect on the fictional Mozhay Point reservation. Grover connects the sense of place with the experience of Native women who came of age during the days of the federal termination policy and the struggle for tribal self-determination. She is associate professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a member of the Bois Forte band of Ojibwe. Grover is also the author of the short story collection, The Dance Boots, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.

Podcast Icon-01-01

Past Events

Andy Sturdevant FSAndy Sturdevant – Jan 22, 2014

Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow Essayist and artist Andy Sturdevant kicks off the series with a reading from his new book, Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow. This genre-bending collection explores the urban landscape of his adopted hometown of Minneapolis and offers a new way of thinking about urban spaces in the contemporary Midwest.

Jack El-HaiJack El-Hai – Jan 29, 2014

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Goring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII Jack El-Hai joins the Fireside lineup to discuss his fascinating new nonfiction book, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Goring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII. Recently optioned for stage and screen by Mythology Entertainment, this fast-paced psychodrama explores the complex relationship between the American psychiatrist Douglas M. Kelley and his 22 Nazi patients awaiting trial as war criminals in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

Miriam KarmelMiriam Karmel – Feb 5, 2014

Being Esther In her wonderful fiction debut, Miriam Karmel gives voice to an extraordinary woman who has lived a quiet, middle-class life in the Chicago suburbs. At once sad and amusing, unpretentious yet wonderfully ambitious, Being Esther brings understanding and tremendous empathy to the unforgettable Esther Lustig.

Brain FreemanBrian Freeman – Feb 12, 2014

The Cold Nowhere International bestselling author Brian Freeman returns to the Fireside Series with a reading from his upcoming Jonathan Stride novella, Turn to Stone, and a sneak peek at the long-awaited release of the sixth full-length Stride novel, The Cold Nowhere, to be published in the U.S. this spring.

Heid ErdrichHeid E. Erdrich – Feb 19, 2014

Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest Local foods have garnered much attention in recent years, but the concept is hardly new: indigenous peoples have always made the most of nature’s gifts. Erdrich celebrates this tradition in Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest with 135 home- tested recipes paired with stories from tribal activists, food researchers, families, and chefs.

Karen HeringKaren Hering – Feb 26, 2014

Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within Closing the Fireside Reading Series, teacher, writer and minister Karen Hering joins us to discuss Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within. Blending writing prompts, meditations, and stories, this book invites you to begin wherever you are and discover your own unique relationship with language, spirituality, and the world around you.