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Lake Wobegon Days

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  5,960 Ratings  ·  440 Reviews
If you've ever marveled at the simple elegance of a weather-worn gazebo resting in a small-town America park, or sat down in a Main-Street diner and felt right at home with the locals, then you'll know the warm feelings and hidden charms found in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days.

Celebrating the quirks and idiosyncrasies of small-town America, part town history, part f

Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 1st 1989 by Penguin Books (first published 1985)
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joey The town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota,* lies on the shore against Adams Hill, looking east across the blue-green water to the dark woods. From the…moreThe town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota,* lies on the shore against Adams Hill, looking east across the blue-green water to the dark woods. From the south, the highway aims for the lake, bends hard left by the magnificent concrete Grecian grain silos, and eases over a leg of the hill past the SLOW CHILDREN sign, bringing the traveler in on Main Street toward the town's one traffic light, which is almost always green.

* "Right on this road 0.7 m. to OLD WHITE BARN, then right 1.2 m. to LAKE WOBEGON (1418 alt., 942 pop.), named for the body of water that it borders. Bleakly typical of the prairie, Lake Wobegon has its origins in the utopian vision of nineteenth-century New England Transcendentalists but now is populated mainly by Norwegians and Germans who attend LAKE WOBEGON LUTHERAN CHURCH (left at BANK .1 m.) and OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL RESPONSIBILITY CHURCH (right at CHURCH .08 m.), neither of which are remarkable. The lake itself, blue-green and brightly sparkling in the brassy summer sun and neighbored by the warm-colored marsh grasses of a wildlife-teeming slough, is the town's main attraction, though the view is spoiled somewhat by a large GRAIN ELEVATOR by the railroad track.
North of town .3 m. is the junction with an oiled road."
--Minnesota, Federal Writers' Project (2nd edition, 1939)(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Paul Bryant
May 14, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Ah, I miss the old days, those innocent Goodreads days of pretzels and beer, Wittgenstein and Gertrude Stein, and of course, Celebrity Death Matches. So I'm reviving one of my personal favourites. I call it...


BOY GEORGE : Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome Meine Damen und Herren, Mesdames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentlemen! Guten abend, bon soir, good evening! Wie geht's? Comment ca va? Do you feel good? Ich bin euer confrencier, je suis votre compere, I am your host! Lea
Jan 31, 2007 erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nostalgists, cynics, introverts
I'm amazed that Garrison Keillor is seen as the written equivalent of Norman Rockwell; His stories are only nostalgic if you aren't paying attention. The Lake Wobegone of his childhood is a dark, oppressive place, where the laughs are generally at someone's expense and everlasting embarrassment. For those of us who identify, the grim humour and beautifully rendered stories evoke not nostalgia, but a satisfaction that those years are long past.
Wayne Barrett
Jan 13, 2016 Wayne Barrett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, 2015
This story is like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Even though there were some tidbits of interesting history here it was a little long and tedious. I much prefer these stories told in smaller portions over his live radio broadcast, 'A Prairie Home Companion'.
Picture me sitting on a train reading this book, getting to the passage where the boys are in the classroom at lunchtime and the headteacher farts nearby and acts as if nothing happened. Gary makes his friend fall to pieces with laughter because the teacher demands to know what is so funny, and Gary says something like "it smells like a badger fart". The effect on his friend - I think he says something like: ”I’ve never had such an impressive(explosive? Can’t remember the line properly) effect o ...more
Jul 22, 2008 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, but especially those who survived the 1940s and 50s.
As a child of the 60s, I have gotten used to books having to be dark and meaningful. Happy endings are rare and suspect. So it is with pleasure that I discovered Garrison Keillor's books. He makes me smile, sometimes nostalgically, but sometimes just out of clear enjoyment of someone saying what I've always felt but never knew how to put into words. I encourage readers to give this book a chance. How anyone can read about Lake Wobegon's citizenry and not love this book is beyond me. A church nam ...more
Adam Oster
Feb 24, 2014 Adam Oster rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to love this book. Me and Garrison Keillor have spent a great deal of time together on the road, as I would listen to him ramble on about his times spent on the shores of Lake Wobegon during the fantastic radio show that is Prarie Home Companion.
Of course, I had a feeling that a book dedicated to these long winded tales of days never-existing would find themselves to be too long for their own good, but I had really hoped things would be different.
I spent several nights trying to
Apr 08, 2008 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone desperate to read the last book they've got, but only if they're desperate
(4/8/08): Toilsome. That's a good word to describe this book, if it even is a word. (It ought to be, if it's not.) Four hundred plus pages and not much to it.

Yes, I understand there's not really a plot to it. In fact, I'd bet there's a particular term to describe the type of writing Mr. Keillor endeavors. I don't know it and I just don't care for it. Yeah, there are some interesting parts about how town life affects so many of its residents (one of the problems - too many characters to really k
I loved it. Although it made me smile a lot, sometimes laughing out loud, it also had a almost neurotic undertone, but it never gets the better of the reader. The community of Lake Wobegone is described in so much detail, it is amazing. I skipped most of the footnotes in the end, since it became annoying to remember where I was in the book after having to read yet another footnote that was a chapter in itself. The characters are so all-American, yet it could have been our own neighborhood in Sou ...more
Michael Foley
What is Lake Wobegon? Is it a place? Is it a state of mind? Is it nothing more than a nostalgic longing for times gone by? In his first Lake Wobegon novel, Garrison Keillor introduces us to his semi-autobiographical world of memory. He leaps between the present and past as he breathes life into his fictional Midwestern world. His characters are unique and interesting not because they are bigger than life, but because they could be your neighbor, your best friend, or even yourself. Lake Wobegon’s ...more
Feb 26, 2011 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Garrison Keillor,

I read your book and liked it a lot. It took me a while to get through it, though. First I started reading it a couple of years ago, but I got so confused in the first few pages' footnotes about how many meters apart everything in town was that I thought it was going to be a boring book and quit. I started reading it again around August, and when I realized that you were just being cheeky, I quickly picked up on the style and began my enjoyment. I try not to be an obnoxious
Jul 27, 2007 Leslie is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoyed A Prairie Home Companion
Garrison Keillor is a rambling kind of person/writer who just keeps spewing details and weaving threads in a fabric of Lake Wobegon. His somewhat satirical take on a small town, his own hometown - possibly, I still can't figure out if this is a work of fiction or not, and frankly I don't mind - reminds me of stephen leacock's sunshine sketches of a small town, nostalgia and humour, pride in one's hometown, made up or real. A book to be savoured, read in the right place.

"“Humankind knows no finer
Jul 13, 2013 Kaitlin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Putting this one on the "I don't get it" shelf. I've never read Keillor before, started here, and likely will not try again. It seems like the people who enjoy his writing are those who grew to love him on the radio, and I've never heard him speak.

This isn't a novel, so much as a bunch of facts and stories about a fictional American town. It's a long rambling reminiscence with few recurring characters, no coherent trajectory and no discernible point whatsoever. There are some giggle-worthy sente
Dec 30, 2008 Jacki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to have to take a break on this. I'm only on page 148 & I'm totally bored with it. It's taken me 2 days to read that much. That's really unlike me. So. I'm going to start another book & read this one little-by-little I guess.

Alright. Well. I finished it. Finally. This book really did nothing for me. I pretty much had to force my way though it. I admit, there were funny parts, but getting to them was pretty painful. I kept reading because it came to me so highly recommended by
Shai Sachs
I read this book over Thanksgiving break in Minnesota; it seemed like a very fitting time and place. And with a fair amount of expectation, too - Lake Wobegon is a famous symbol of salt-of-the-earth rural life, populated by simple folks who are the very incarnation of heartland values, and so on and so forth. I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

As far as that goes, I think this book is too long by a fair stretch. Where a handful of short stories would have illustrated this charming little
Mar 03, 2012 April rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like Garrison Keillor's radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, then you'll like this. It's essentially the same thing, but in writing —a lot of meandering vignettes with very good descriptions of small town characters and small town life, much of it universal, quirky, humorous, and sad, a very nostalgic feeling sprinkled throughout.

There isn't any huge plot driving the book or overarching theme or message. It really does just meander. So if you're looking for a book you can't put down, som
Joshua Guest
Jul 06, 2012 Joshua Guest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I laughed out loud. And as much as I enjoy laughing, I don't like to give many people the satisfaction of knowing that they got a laugh out of me. But Garrison Keillor earned every drawn chortle. My two favorite qualities of this book: (1) There's no plot or any really important character, so you can just open up to any page and start reading as if you're just listening to a senile old man reminisce. This quality also allowed for me to skim some boring parts guiltlessly. (2) The footnotes are so ...more
Jun 16, 2015 Penny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title sounded familiar so I picked it up to read on an airline flight. At first, I thought...wait a minute---is this non-fiction? I needed to look up a bit of background information on the book. I really enjoyed the 'history' of Lake Wobegon and tales of some of its inhabitants.

Sometimes I will travel through small towns and think about what it must be like to live there or I will see people whose faces or actions make me wonder what their story is...reading this book was very satisfying in
Carl Pate Jr
A top-ten all time book, growing up in a small rural town, it was as if Keillor had been right there...
Donna Davis
This is sweet, funny, unbelievably poignant, from the man who began his career (I believe, at least to the extent of being well-known) on public radio, then branched out.

Because this is so purely American, and much of it set in the post-war years,I never tried to share it with my husband, because he was not born in the US and didn't move here or start learning English till the 70s, so I thought the retro nuances would be lost on him. However, when he heard a brief excerpt that Keillor recited on
Three weeks! That's how long it took me to get through this. It seemed like I endured it.

Lake Wobegone did not resonate with me. For that, I am disappointed. I will be seeing Keillor in a few weeks. My perception has been that he is a masterful storyteller, Lake Wobegon being his magnus opus.

Storytelling is supposed to be compelling. There should be suspense. There should be conflict. There should be story arcs. There is none of that here. This is pure essay. Long descriptions that would work we
Jun 10, 2009 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, humor, midwest-us
At 337 pages of continuous droning, this book was extremely difficult to get through. Although Keillor did really well articulating small town Protestant life in the Midwest, he made the book WAY too long to hold my interest. The novel seemed like a disjointed work of short stories or essays instead of a believable whole. At times I wasn't sure who was the narrator or where the story/ies was/were going. Despite these setbacks, I found myself laughing at the second half of the book a lot more tha ...more
Feb 28, 2016 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's good to go back and reread a book that's brought me so much pleasure in the past. From the elegant and economic phrasing of the prose to the razor-sharp observation of human foibles, LWD is a genuine classic. Later Wobegon books may have drifted towards the slight, but I remain convinced that this is a work of genius. Maybe as a Norfolk man I recognise my own people in these Midwesterners, but I think anyone would find something in these characters' obsessions with their own, small worries ...more
Mitchell George
I can identify with what is written in this book but only because I am old enough to remember childhood visits to a remote community that was very much cut off from the modern world.
Anyone who grew up in that time before television had fully replaced "visiting" as a social pastime will recall being trapped in rooms filled with relatives that could well have been the inspiration for this book. If you were born after 1968 it is unlikely you have a frame of reference that allows you to fully apprec
Aug 29, 2008 Shaindel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Keillor, Midwesterners
I love Garrison Keillor. Being from the frigid Midwest (okay, Indiana's not as cold as Minnesota), I always feel at home reading Keillor. I discuss that in a little bit in an interview here:

when asked if having a poem on The Prairie Home Companion website means more if you're from the Midwest.

Lake Wobegon Days = fun, humorous, and heartwarming.
Sep 19, 2011 Praxedes rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Being a lontime fan of Garrison Keillor's live radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, I was very curious about this novel. What surprised me was that the voice was exactly the same for both! Unfortunately, although the style works beautifully for the old-time radio show it is too cumbersome for print. The stories are fun enough; it's just that to truly enjoy them one needs to read them with Keillor's slow cadence. This makes the reading too slow for me. Oh well.
Jun 22, 2015 Cora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little hard to get through. Yes, some funny gems in it but not enough to give it 4 stars.
The Night Hawk (Erin)
Jun 26, 2012 The Night Hawk (Erin) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
a very boring look at small town life
Steph (loves water)
Not really my thing at all.
Aug 17, 2016 Harris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: minnesota, humor, usa, fiction
It is, perhaps, unfortunate, that Lake Wobegon became the most enduring pop cultural impression of Minnesota to seep into the public consciousness of people throughout the nation and the world. Garrison Keillor’s literary setting, first formed for stories on his seminal radio station, A Prairie Home Companion, is shorthand for the Minnesotan (and Midwestern) mindset for locals and visitors alike. This “little town that time forgot,” where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, ...more
Steve Hersh
Dec 07, 2016 Steve Hersh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first came across Garrison Keillor when I saw Robert Altman's fictional film version of A Prairie Home Companion. The movie led me to the radio show, which was always great fun when I had the time to listen. This book, about the fictional Lake Wobegon that Keillor created and would talk about in monologues during the radio broadcast, is a great trip into small town, Midwestern life. Keillor gives a history of the town, but aside from that there isn't much plot. Instead, there are individual se ...more
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USA Geography Cha...: Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor 1 2 Dec 29, 2014 01:38AM  
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Garrison Keillor (born Gary Edward Keillor on August 7, 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota) is an American author, storyteller, humorist, columnist, musician, satirist, and radio personality. He is known as host of the Minnesota Public Radio show "A Prairie Home Companion".

Keillor was born in Anoka, Minnesota, the son of Grace Ruth (née Denham) and John Philip Keillor, who was a carpenter and postal worker.
More about Garrison Keillor...

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“If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?” 42 likes
“He was admired for never being at a loss for words and never wasting any either.” 16 likes
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