Take Eight: New, novel Badger books

Time to make holiday gift lists, and don’t forget the value of a good book during the shopping flurry. They’re easy to wrap too.

These newly published works by Wisconsin authors caught my attention this year.

Dairylandia: Dispatches from a State of Mind by Steve Hannah ($27, University of Wisconsin Press): Hannah was raised in New Jersey, not Wisconsin, but he eagerly adopted the Badger State as home turf.

“State of Mind” was the title of his longtime newspaper column, but the author perhaps was more widely known as managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal, then CEO of The Onion (a satirical publication, born in Madison). Although Hannah refers to his new book as a mini-memoir, it’s also a mix of only-in-Wisconsin humor and heart.

Ed Garvey Unvarnished: Lessons from a Visionary Progressive by Rob Zaleski ($25, University of Wisconsin Press): Ed Garvey’s biggest recognition nationally was as the NFL Players Association lawyer who organized work strikes in 1974 and 1982. Statewide, his reputation and legacy were about being a passionate activist, especially for the underdogs of life.

Zaleski, whom I worked with 20 years at The Capital Times in Madison, is an expert weaver of compelling stories. Here he captures his subject (who died in 2017) in a conversational interview format, and the resulting material is about more than politics.

The Joy of Cider: All You Ever Wanted to Know about Drinking and Making Hard Cider by Jeanette Hurt ($17, Simon and Schuster): The Milwaukee foodie/drinkie, who is prolific and edgy, had lots of fun with beverages in “Drink Like a Woman,” her 2016 book that mixed cocktail recipes and cocktail culture history.

Now she takes a deep dive into hard cider, looking at beverage history, regional nuances, pleasant pairings with food, cocktail recipes and cider’s rise in popularity as an alcoholic beverage.  

The Land Still Lives: 50th Anniversary Edition by Jerry Apps ($25, Wisconsin Historical Society Press): Apps, a Wisconsin literary treasure, has written around three-dozen books and most are a personable celebration of nostalgic, rural living. This book was his first, published in 1970, when Apps was a new agriculture prof at the University of Wisconsin.

He reflects on this inaugural work – and the evolution of Roshara, his farm – in a new epilogue to the re-released book. “The land still lives, and Roshara still lives,” he writes. “There is much to be learned from nature, no matter one’s age.”

Little Faith by Nickolas Butler ($27, HarperCollins): Religious faith has the power to ground and comfort many of us, but what happens when theology and practices are carried to extremes? That’s the underlying question in this novel, and the setting is Wisconsin.

The author, an international award winner, was raised in Eau Claire and lives with his family on 16 acres in rural Wisconsin. Before writing turned from hobby to livelihood, Butler’s work ranged from hot dog vendor to coffee roaster to manager of a bed and breakfast inn.

Reflections on a Life in Exile by J.F. Riordan ($15, Beaufort Books): The author lives on remote Washington Island, at the tip of Door County, and as a younger woman was a professional opera singer.

Themes within this book of personal essays include the grief and joys of daily living; Riordan’s aim is to find the extraordinary within the ordinary grind of life. She writes: “I have come to believe that the things that really matter in life are the things rooted in Midwest values: integrity, decency, hard work, loving your neighbor and the minor events that comprise our daily lives.”

Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook: Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet and Savory Recipes from the State’s Best Creameries by Kristine Hansen ($25, Globe Pequot): Food and agriculture are two longtime writing specialties for the Milwaukee author, whose work is published locally and nationally.

Dozens of recipes, from 28 businesses, show off the versatility of cheese as an ingredient and move the spotlight onto small-batch cheesemakers. Expect comfort foods to gourmet dishes. All courses and mealtimes, breakfast through dinner, are covered.

The Wisconsin Story: 150 People, Places and Turning Points that Shaped the Badger State by Dennis McCann ($25, Wisconsin Historical Society Press): When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist left the daily news biz in 2007, he had more time for Bayfield retreats and book research.

The author’s specialty is past and present Wisconsin life, the kind of stuff that defines and explains who we are, and now his first book is re-released. What began as a Wisconsin sesquicentennial project, published in 1998, holds up well – more than 20 years later. The short stories cover oleo smuggling to wartime campus protests.

Would you like a recently published book from University of Wisconsin Press or Wisconsin Historical Society Press? I would like to share my review copies, which include a couple of the above titles and at least two others not mentioned here.

To be considered, share your best idea for an excellent and under-the-radar holiday gift that is produced in Wisconsin. Your deadline is Nov. 30.

“Roads Traveled” columns began in 2002. These articles are the result of anonymous travel, independent travel, press trips and travel journalism conferences. What we choose to cover is not contingent on subsidized or complimentary travel.

Your column feedback and ideas are welcome.