Bedside List

by Louise Erdrich
The Sixth Extinction

You know how there are little filler pieces in magazines asking people what is on their bedside table? Here is my list from two of the six stacks on my floor. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, The Mishomis Book by Edward Benton Banai, How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (my sister gave this book to me because there is a part in it that made her laugh so hard she got the hiccups), I'll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin, Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, The Explorations of Pierre Esprit Radisson edited by Arthur T Adams, The Golden Bowl by Henry James, Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, Lovers at the Chameleon Club by Francine Prose, All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, The Ogalalla Road by Julene Bair, Paper Lantern Loveby Stuart Dybek, Children of Dune by Frank Herbert, Maisie Dobbs by Jaqueline Winspear. I think that I can recommend every single one of these books although I have been traveling so much this summer that I haven't finished Radisson's explorations.

Things are always happening at Birchbark Books -- l am excited that we'll soon be selling Pancakes Not Pipeline syrup from Honor the Earth, that there will be new Lucky Feather Earrings made by Josef Reiter. I now wear mine only on very special occasions when luck is inevitable -- for instance I will wear them to the North Dakota Council of Teachers of English on Sunday in Mandan, North Dakota, at the Best Western Seven Seas conference hotel. As the daughter of two teachers (who taught me everything) I'm pleased that I get to talk with English teachers. I will certainly cite the study by a pair of social psychologists and the New School who found that reading complex literature increased a person's empathy. Interestingly, it had to be complex literature to make the brain work a certain way. Reading complex literature also increases a person's attention span. At the same time I'll cite studies that reading bits of things on screens including iPhones and this screen decrease your attention span and contribute to ADHD. If you are reading this, you're in peril, friend. Close down your computer and pick one of the books above.

Yours as ever,