I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sucker for books that feel like they’re going to wind up a classic 50 years down the line. I suspect that Jonathan Evison’s new book, West of Here, is just such a novel. In the grand tradition of America’s best storytellers (think Steinbeck, especially), Evison’s epic is a grand saga that chronicles the history of the northwest expansion, centered primarily in what is now the state of Washington. With a James Michener-like attention to detail, history and story, Evison describes the struggle between the people native to the area and the explorers who venture on out to expand our country. This is a beautifully written adventure saga that captures the heart and soul of a time and place like no other. —Charlie Leonard
607 E. Lake St., Wayzata
Besides being the owner of the Bookcase in Wayzata, the Twin Cities’ oldest independent bookstore, Charlie Leonard has been at various times a writer, editor and teacher, and is currently the founder and executive director of Blue Water Theatre Company in Plymouth.
Summer is just around the corner, and there’s no better wine on a long summer day than France’s fresh and invigorating Muscadet. Grown in the western Loire Valley, Muscadet is made from a seemingly innocuous local grape called melon de Bourgogne. On its own, melon produces tart and mostly flavorless wine. The secret to great Muscadet, however, is a practice called sur lie aging, where the wine is left in contact with its yeast for several months before bottling. This process softens the harsh, acidic edges of the base wine and adds flavor, texture and structure to the final product. Our pick, Chateau de l’Aiguillette Muscadet, is the perfect summertime wine: crisp and refreshing with tingly minerality and well-balanced acidity. Classically paired with seafood, we also recommend drinking Muscadet alfresco with friends and family on a warm evening near the lake. —Ryan Sadowski
THE WINE SHOP
17521 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka
Ryan Sadowski is the owner of The Wine Shop. Sign up for his weekly recommendations by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and read his best seasonal wine pick on this page each month.
Intimidatingly young and unreasonably talented UK producer James Blake spent the bulk of 2010 composing three EPs. Each explored an aspect of dubstep, that most mercurial of genres, bouncing from synthesized dissonance to the slithery curves of “CMYK.” Turns out the three EPs were practice for Blake’s self-titled full-length James Blake, which eschews much of the experimentation of his prior work and coheres into its own haunting beauty. “Unluck” starts off the record with wide-open samples before the real revelation: Blake can actually sing, albeit sometimes underneath a blanket of distortion. And while there are plenty of album standouts, like single “The Wilhelm Scream,” nothing can contest the show-stopping Feist cover “Limit To You Love.” It’s easy to lapse into hyperbole, but even if Blake vanishes from the scene, his legacy in 2010 and 2011 will be enormous. —Jack Kentala
FIND THE ALBUM AT:
Barnes & Noble
13131 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka
Jack Kentala, a local freelance writer and filmmaker, haunts most Twin Cities indie rock shows. He’s the tall guy blocking your view of the stage. He also recently directed his second feature film, which will hit the festival circuit this year.