2008: The wheels may fall off the world’s wagon, but the Minnesota Book Awards roll on

In order to help cover the costs of the Gala and the year-round activities of the program, the Minnesota Book Awards began offering corporate and foundation supporters the opportunity to sponsor a category. This first year, Xcel Energy, MS&R (Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd.), Marquette Financial, and Wellington Management stepped up. The Pioneer Press was already a sponsor of the Readers’ Choice Award.

Global. Financial. Crisis. In Congressional testimony in October, longtime Fed Chair Alan Greenspan acknowledged that he was “partially” wrong in opposing financial regulation. “Yes, I found a flaw,” he said, when grilled about his free-market ideology. “That is precisely the reason I was shocked, because I’d been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.” Also shocked was anyone who plans to retire before the end of the century.

Doug Hoverson, Brew Guru

Doug Hoverson won the Award for Minnesota with his beer lovers’ bible, The Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota. Hoverson remains the go-to brew guru, often quoted in news stories and blog posts about the burgeoning craft beer business in the state.

In January, the price of oil hit $100 per barrel for the first time, maxing out at $147 per barrel in July, and ultimately leading to the propagation of one of the biggest buzzwords of the year: Staycation. Another popular buzzword tied to high gas prices: Hypermiling – the attempt to maximize gas mileage by slowing down, avoiding hills and never letting your car idle.

Patricia HamplTrish Hampl worked her memoir magic again to win that category’s award for The Florist’s Daughter. “If Patricia Hampl had written chronicling her days in New York or Los Angeles, her name would be on every American reader’s lips. Hailing from flyover country, she has fewer readers than she deserves. Now The Florist’s Daughter summons her parents back to vivid life. Hampl’s mother, a feisty Irish-American storyteller, and father, a tenderhearted Czech-American florist who catered to St. Paul’s elite – Truth and Beauty, indeed! – endowed their daughter with a writer’s essential credentials. Hampl’s prose is delightfully fluid, artful without being arty, ever attuned to ambiguity. She is, unquestionably, one of the finest stylists we have.” Dan Cryer, Newsday

Sarah Palin gave an exclusive series of interviews to CBS News’ Katie Couric that Time Magazine said “played like Nixon-Frost, the Sitcom.” After largely avoiding the media, Palin established the much-criticized Couric as the one mainstream journalist with any claim on affecting the election and gave SNL’s Tina Fey weeks of material.

“Think of us like a coast guard.” — Sugule Ali, spokesman for a group of Somali pirates, rationalizing their seizure of a Ukrainian ship off the coast of Somalia

“Think of us like a coast guard.” — Sugule Ali, spokesman for a group of Somali pirates, rationalizing their seizure of a Ukrainian ship off the coast of Somalia

Somali piracy was in high gear. The pirates who in September hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview that they had no idea the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas. They wanted only money. It is estimated that they collected more than $150 million in ransoms in 2008 alone.

Fiction writer and essayist Charles Baxter’s The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot was a little book that packed a powerful punch. Discussing and illustrating the hidden subtextual overtones and undertones in fictional works haunted by the unspoken, the suppressed, and the secreted, Baxter explained how fiction writers create those visible and invisible details. And with that he won the 2008 Award for General Nonfiction.

Heath Ledger as the JokerHeath Ledger died a few months after he finished filming his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, casting a somber shadow over the subsequent promotion of the $180 million Batman production.  Ledger received numerous accolades for his performance in the film, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards, for which he became the first actor to win an award posthumously.

Poet Deborah Keenan

Written over the course of three decades, Deborah Keenan’s Willow Room, Green Door was an extraordinary collection that expressed love and rage, vulnerability and authority, distraction and focus, and perhaps above all, a sharply empathetic sense of observation. With refreshing curiosity, the poems captured rich layers of life in trial and bliss alike, enabling all readers to see what a number of her contemporaries have recognized for some time: Deborah Keenan is one of our great poets. The book, published by Milkweed Editions, won the 2008 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry. Watch Keenan discuss the craft of poetry with Jim Moore on “Prized Writers”.

No 2008 election video better illustrated the reasons to love — or hate — the candidate it espoused. Barack Obama: the eloquent, passionate voice of hope, tolerance and generational change. Or… Barack Obama: the slicked-up choice of a bunch of smug hipster celebrities in love with how they look on camera. Either way, the video was effective not just for its images but for how it captured the musicality of Obama’s call-and-response. And, released just before Super Tuesday, it was a brilliantly-timed motivational spot.

Check out more 2008 Minnesota Book Awards winners and finalists!

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