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Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of my Ancestors

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  569 Ratings  ·  77 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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Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 20th 2006 by National Geographic (first published June 1st 2003)
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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
4 Sterne

Hat mir gut gefallen. Man erfährt viel über indianische Bräuche und immer wieder schimmert Erdrichs große Liebe zu den Büchern durch den Text. Auf die Bücher-Insel würde ich auch gerne mal! Über Erdrichs Buchladen hätte ich gerne mehr gelesen. Etwas schade fand ich, dass es keinen Bildteil zu ihrer Reise gab - wo doch sogar erwähnt wird, dass sie die Felsmalereien fotografiert hat.
May 13, 2013 Dorothea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 29, 2012 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 05, 2015 Carla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate McCartney
Erdrich takes a journey out of love of books and her people. An incredible journey through an region I didn't even know about and it's importance to a people almost all but physically removed from it. The treatment of the First Nations through Canada and the United States is tragic.

Another book I may not have gotten around to reading if not for the Read Harder Challenge.

2017 Read Harder Challenge- Read a book about books
This was a great read. I loved all the little details and her journey from Red Lake to Lake of the Woods. The descriptions she gave were excellent, along with the stories related to the rock paintings.
Jun 11, 2017 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Really interesting. I was going to say I loved the book part best BUT stopped because I liked the lake part, too!!
Rachael Button
May 29, 2017 Rachael Button rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Beautifully written descriptions art, medicine, motherhood, books, Ojibwe culture, and travel that I could happily lose myself in. I am grateful to have a copy of "Books and Islands" on my shelf so I can continue to page through Erdrich's writing, revisiting passages that I love.

On a side note: Reading this inspired a trip to Louise Erdrich's bookstore "Birchbark Books" in Minneapolis which was well worth the trip (for a bookstore filled with American Indian literature, poetry, literature about
Lindsey Knipe
Oct 14, 2014 Lindsey Knipe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Juanita Rice
(2) Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country
by Louise Erdrich

Juanita Rice's review
Feb 01, 09 2 STARS

it was ok Read in January, 2009

I am a great admirer of Louise Erdrich, so I was disappointed in this quasi-travel memoir. It read more like a series of daily notes: a little bit about the writer, a little bit about how enchanting she thinks her baby is, a little bit about her important lover, and books she reads, and books she took with her, and her marvelous house, and the death of a tree, and anci
Jan 09, 2009 Jenna rated it it was amazing
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
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 13, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling through the land of my ancestors, by Louise Erdrich, 2003, 2014. Enjoyable short non-fiction by one of our best, Louise Erdrich. The title tells what it’s about. She and her baby daughter travel to and on Lake of the Woods, and to Rainy Lake and Mallard Island, home of Ernest Oberholtzer. As they travel, reading rock paintings (some illustrated in the book by Erdrich), and being watched and engaged by animals, the land comes alive across generations ...more
Rachael Quinn
Jul 16, 2014 Rachael Quinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Cathy Douglas
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
Janet Frost
Dec 25, 2016 Janet Frost rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I have been studying creative non-fiction and how to write in this genre. As a search to expose myself to the genre I coincidentally found this lovely memoir by Louise Erdich. She is well known and often assigned reading in Children's Literature and Native American Literature. I have read some of her early juvenile literature ie Birchbark House but have never read any of her adult literature.
She has a lovely eloquent and lyrical writing style that made this little memoir/travel journal an exqui
Aug 17, 2007 Demelza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 12, 2016 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an exquisite book—don't let the serviceable title throw you. It’s part of a National Geographic travel series, so the title is factual, but does not match the lyrical quality of the narrative. Louise Erdrich proves that she can make non-fiction as mystical and poetic as fiction. This is a book about Erdrich’s relationships: to the 18-month-old daughter she gave birth to at age 47; to the baby’s husband, a shaman who lives in the north country and who, in the book, travels primarily by ca ...more
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
Jun 15, 2015 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 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
This is another book I can't really describe - perhaps the non-fiction equivalent to If on a Winter's Night, though not nearly as strange. It's almost a thought journal, the author sharing observations on motherhood and riding in a canoe, on driving an old and beloved vehicle, on reading and wood ticks and the peculiar joys of Anishinaabemowin. It reads as if free-form, but it's clearly thought out and organised. If you're interested at all in the culture and language of the Ojibwe or the northe ...more
Dec 18, 2010 Kathryn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 14, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it
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
Jun 19, 2010 Joanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 17, 2016 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan/follower of Louise Erdrich's wrtings and this book was no exception. in the context of a memoir about a trip to traditional Ojibway country on islands in northern Minnesota/southern Ontario, the book describes Ojibwa history and traditional culture in beautifully written essays. I thought the writing flowed like a conversation with Erdrich. I could hardly put it down it was so interesting I highly recommend it.
May 06, 2008 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 02, 2012 Zoe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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“We have a lot of books in our house. They are our primary decorative motif-books in piles and on the coffee table, framed book covers, books sorted into stacks on every available surface, and of course books on shelves along most walls. Besides the visible books, there are books waiting in the wings, the basement books, the garage books, the storage locker books...They function as furniture, they prop up sagging fixtures and disguised by quilts function as tables...I can't imagine a home without an overflow of books. The point of books is to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment, but then sometimes to find you'd longed to fall asleep reading the Aspern Papers, and there it is.” 51 likes
“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.” 1 likes
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