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Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  447 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
For more than twenty years Louise Erdrich has dazzled readers with the intricately wrought, deeply poetic novels which have won her a place among today's finest writers. Her nonfiction is equally eloquent, and this lovely memoir offers a vivid glimpse of the landscape, the people, and the long tradition of storytelling that give her work its magical, elemental force.

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Hardcover, 192 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by National Geographic
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Jan 29, 2013 Mmars rated it liked it
Really 3.5 stars. Somewhere on Rainy Lake, which borders Minnesota and Canada and reaches further north into the wilderness, there is one island among 1600 that has on it over 10,000 books. An Ojibwe bibliophile collected these over the course of a long life. Now, if you've ever paddled in the Boundary Waters Wilderness, or if you ever do, think about that. The is very harsh country. Winters can be bitterly cold and snowy and summers are often wet and rarely overly hot. It's also quite beautiful ...more
May 13, 2013 Dorothea rated it it was amazing
I had never read anything by Louise Erdrich before, but I knew right away, from the first paragraph --
My travels have become so focused on books and islands that the two have merged for me. Books, islands. Islands, books. Lake of the Woods in Ontario and Minnesota has 14,000 islands. Some of them are painted islands, the rocks bearing signs ranging from a few hundred to more than a thousand years old. So these islands, which I'm longing to read, are books in themselves...
--that I had to read Boo
May 20, 2012 Ron rated it liked it
A good one-day read. Based on Erdrich’s trip to islands in Lake of the Woods (northern Minnesota and southern Ontario), especially the island where the Ernest Oberholtzer foundation is located. Oberholtzer was a friend of nature and the Ojibwe people. At his death, he left behind a large book collection that Erdrich introduces to us. In addition, she gives us interesting commentary on Ojibwe rock art, language, and culture throughout the book. One of my favorite examples is her discussion of ter ...more
Jul 19, 2015 Carla rated it it was amazing
I bought this signed copy at Louise Erdich's bookstore as a treasured gift. It was a book that my husband read before I got a chance to read it! This despite the fact I have read so many of her books, but I had not read this. It was a beautifully written journey into Northern Minnesota, a baby in tow, discovering pictured rocks, and Ojibwe history. You need to read this to appreciate all the lore that Louise Erdich brings to her writing, and the parts she shares with readers about herself. Very ...more
Lindsey Knipe
Oct 14, 2014 Lindsey Knipe rated it really liked it
Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country by Louise Erdrich is a great book that not only gives great insight into Ojibwe culture, but also provides insights into motherhood and reasons why we love books. The book follows her trip to Lake of the Woods in Ontario and Rainy Lake, which her youngest daughter accompanies her on. During this trip to see the painting on the rocks, she provides us with little insights into what Ojibwe believe, how they speak, and how they do certain things like give offerin ...more
Rachael Quinn
Jul 20, 2014 Rachael Quinn rated it it was amazing
Holy geez, y'all. Basically, I had been hearing about this book through a few podcasts I like to take in for a couple of months now. Last year I read Erdrich's Round House and absolutely loved it but I wasn't sure if I wanted to delve into this. I mean, we have Ojibwe culture, books, and an author that I know I like, all wrapped up in 140 pages. Obviously there was no way that I could like all of that, right? Oh, wait, those are things that I love.

Erdrich's memoir in books is focused on a trip s
Miz Lizzie
Another novelist who has been on my "to-read" list for some time who I find myself being introduced to through a book of essays. Something of a memoir, something of a travelogue, and definitely a rumination on books -- whether written in the landscape or on paper -- and the stories of our lives. Looking at the landscape and history through an indigenous perspective truly deepens my understanding of place. I love the importance of dreams, native language (in this case, Ojibwemowin), and personal ...more
Jun 15, 2015 Crystal rated it really liked it
Perhaps not in the same league as her marvelous novels but still a worthwhile read, esp. if you happen to be on the road. As an avid reader, I deeply sympathize with Erdrich's urge to understand how the geography and the language(s) of her life are entangled. I loved her exploration of books as island and as islands that could be read like books. For years I lived in Europe and had the notion that the land I walked on was a palimpsest marked by the many feet that had preceded mine. I never thoug ...more
Cathy Douglas
Jul 21, 2011 Cathy Douglas rated it really liked it
Nice. I didn't get a sense that Erdrich put a whole lot of work into this, and she's coy about sharing too much, but she writes so well and the places she visits are so interesting, it's well worth the read. I was especially taken with the strange Mr. Oblerholtzer, who retires from a career of swashbuckling the Canadian frontier to fill his very own island with books. And I love epilogue about Erdrich's own book store back in Minnesota, the information about the Ojibwe language, and the little a ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Jenna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'm only on page 21 of this book and already love it. Two passages struck me so far:

"Mazina'iganan is the word for books in Ojibwemowin or Anishinabemowin, and mazinapikiniganan is the word for "rock paintings." Ojibwemowin is the Algonquin language originally spoken by the Ojibwe people living throughout MI, MN, Ontario, Manitoba, and ND [and Northern WI may I add. She forgot to mention the Anishinabeg Red Cliff Reservation. That's ok. Everyone forgets about us.:] As you can see, both words beg
Aug 26, 2009 Marisa added it
I just finished this and I am starting it again. I brought it on our vacation and it was very easy to relate to as travel literature. Here is an excerpt:
"The loneliness of roadside motels steals over me at once. Walking into my room, number 33, even with Kiizhikok's presence to cushion me, the sadness soaks up through my feet... I rein my thoughts in, get my bearings. There are touches. Although the bed sags and the pickle-green coverlet is pilly and suspicious looking, the transparent sheets ar
Aug 17, 2007 Demelza rated it really liked it
I usually don't like Erdrich's work. I get really into it at the beginning, then suddenly I find that I can't pick it up again. Finishing one of her books is like pulling teeth, usually. However, with Books and Islands I couldn't put it down. I finished it in two days. This book is a new type of travel book. The travel book medium from the 19th century is a good way to propagate ideas about the "other." It's easy to see it as a medium for colonialism. However, Erdrich turns this upside down. As ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, heartfelt, and at times, humorous- Erdrich gives you a peek into her personal life and her very intimate love for the Ojibwe language and history. The characters and land that you've grown accustomed to in her novels are given a new breath. The magnitude of Erdrich's writing, coupled with the magesty of what her written word represents leaves you with a feeling of reverence and gratitude.
Ehrdrich loves books, and as she travels to ancestral Ojibwe islands in Canada with her small daughter, she meditates on this love. She visits ancient rock painting, the 'books' of her Ojibwe ancestors, and a fantastical island library that was created by an friend to the Ojibwe, Ernest Oberholter. One of the books she reads while traveling is Sebald's Austerlitz, about a man who discovers over the course of 30 years that he is originally a Jew from Prague whose parents sent him to England on a ...more
Sera Ranville
Sep 25, 2014 Sera Ranville rated it liked it
I enjoyed Erdrich's beautiful writing style, and I do really love a good ode to books. If I were more familiar with the author, I might have had more appreciation for what this book is--- a memoir taking place over the course of maybe a week or two. There is no one complete story here, though I suppose, as this book will teach you, that is how the Ojibwe do.
Dec 14, 2014 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A different kind of book for me, yet familiar in the "middle-aged-woman-examining-her-life" style I enjoy. A book about words and books and finding meaning, story, and structure in the written word (within native culture).
Jul 14, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing
I don't know of a book more perfect for my last day on Big Sugar Bush lake in Minnesota. Erdrich travels north from Minneapolis with her youngest child to travel the lakes of her people. Nature graces the book.
Jan 16, 2016 Fishface rated it it was amazing
I was so sorry to see this one end. An autobiographical account of Louise Erdrich's great loves, one of the most abiding being her longstanding affair with books. Regrettably short.
Jan 23, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it
Beautiful look at a part of North America (USA and Canada) that has so much meaning for Erdrich. Her trip with her youngest daughter by canoe through territory that is both unique and also sacred to the Ojibwe, make this a very satisfying travelog/memoir.
Sep 21, 2014 Jane rated it liked it
I truly enjoy Erdrich's writing style. It's rich, descriptive and magnetic.
Jun 14, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went to Erdrich's bookstore, Birchbark Books, in Minneapolis and found this little gem. Erdrich is one of my favorite authors, the northwoods is one of my favorite places and books are one of my favorite topics so I couldn't resist. It's travel tale about one of her trips to Lake of the Woods on the Minnesota/Canadian border, her new daughter and her Ojibwe healer father and about the magical library of Ernest Oberholtzer, one of the founders of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (where I spent mu ...more
Jul 27, 2014 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I need to let those reading this review that I love reading Louise Erdrich's fictional novels! So, aftr that disclaimer, I had a lot of trouble getting "into" Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country. Maybe (and probably) it was me not the author. I found this book a very quiet, slow unfolding work and I couldn't keep my attention on the page. I did rate the work a three stars because it is well written, some of the passages are beautifully poetic. Think I'll keep to Erdrich's fictional works in the ...more
Dec 23, 2010 Kathryn rated it it was ok
I have so enjoyed all of Erdrich's other books. This was not anything like any of those. This seemed more autobiographical, about a trip she took with her baby from Minneapolis to the Lake of the Woods. Her fascination with the Ojibwe language is evident (and unfathomable). Her fascination with her people's stone paintings is also evident, as is her fascination with books. Would I recommend it to anyone? No. Am I glad I read it? Hmmm. I guess. Would I read it again? No. It is very forgettable.
Jun 19, 2010 Joanne rated it it was amazing
Louise Erdrich is a wonderful author who I really wish I could meet. Her words are soulful, lyrical, palpable. Traveling through Ojibwe Country - Minnesota and Canada Lakes - with her and her infant daughter is a wonderful voyage told in English but peppered generously with Ojibwe. Apart from the love we share of islands and books, being along for Louise's journey, meeting many native speakers in this wild place, made me feel like I was on an expedition with National Geographic.
May 06, 2008 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Just had the pleasure of re-reading this book while on "Ober's Island," where Erdrich spends the last part of the journey outlined in this book. It is an easy read, a fast read based on a trip the author takes to Canada to see Ojibwe petroglyphs and northern Minnesota to read book. All along the way, she encounters nature and layers of indigenous culture. She also weaves in stories of her dedication to the Ojibwe language and books. A lovely read. Recommended.
Margaret Sankey
I was delighted to find that this is part of a National Geographic series asking authors to write about their most interesting locations--in this case, Erdrich talks about the lakes and islands of northern Minnesota, their links to Ojibwe language and tradition, her own experiences with cultural and linguistic translation and lifelong relationship to the written word as an author, reader and bookstore owner. Justin had a very good recommendation there--
Binky Bowberg
Apr 24, 2014 Binky Bowberg rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-libraries
A lovely memoir and tribute to books and culture in the Ojibwe country of southern Ontario. I especially enjoyed the section on Ernest Oberholtzer's library on Rainy Lake.
Sep 15, 2010 Jill rated it really liked it
Recently read this while doing the pictograph loop through the Boundary Waters. It was great to learn more about the actual pictographs, how they were painted, their past and present significance, etc. I definitely approached each one with a new understanding and respect. It was also a treat to get a glimpse in to Erdrich's personal life. A great book to read while traveling - especially if it is by canoe through the boundary waters!
Nov 09, 2008 Jilll rated it really liked it
Was not a fast read, but I liked it overall. It did make me sad to realize the author's rightful resentment of what priests/ministers had done to the indigenous people to try to purge them of their naturistic religion and the stealing of their tribal lands by the white people. I did like all the references to the healing plants and herbs used by the native people and the significance of their pictographs.
Jul 27, 2012 Zoe rated it it was amazing
Almost conversational in tone, 'Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country' resounds with Erdrich's love of books while also incorporating her family, the Ojibwe language and culture and history, and the landscape of northern Minnesota and southern Ontario. Throughout the narrative Erdrich is repeatedly answering a question she has harboured for years – ‘Books. Why?’ Her answers will resonate with all bibliophiles.
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Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renais ...more
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“One of Tobasonakwut's favorite phrases is andopawatchigan, which means "seek your dream," but is lots more complicated. It means that first you have to find and identify your dream, often through fasting, and then that you also must carry out exactly what your dream tells you to do in each detail. And then the philosophy comes in, for by doing this repeatedly you will gradually come into a balanced relationship with all of life.” 0 likes
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