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Lake Wobegon Days

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  6,753 ratings  ·  516 reviews
Based on the enormously popular "Prairie Home Companion", Keillor's show on public radio, this collection of stories of modern Midwestern life skyrocketed to the top of the bestseller lists in the mid 1980s, and remained there. In this small Minnesota town, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average". The book won the co ...more
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published September 5th 1985 by Viking Penguin, Inc. (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)

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3.63  · 
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Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Lake Wobegon. I have tried to read you over the years and every time I picked you up I was bored out of my mind. This time I tried audio. That helped. I can see why people love to listen to you; I can see why people don’t like to listen to you.

So, Lake Wobegon was founded by Unitarians, and it seemed to do okay by them.

My town has lakes too, but they are not in town. We have rivers too, and a creek running through town. Tahlequah is its name, given to it by the Native Americans, so I would say
Paul Bryant
Sep 28, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Although I liked this book ok, I really wanted to like it more. The stories are cute, homespun tales of life in a small town in Minnesota during the 60's? 70's? I'm not actually sure and that's one of the problems I had with this book. I'm pretty sure the intention was to show the way life doesn't change much in small towns, but that's not actually true. The nostalgic eye may see it that way, but when you take off the rose colored glasses you can see changes. Whether we like it or not. A small t ...more
Jan 31, 2007 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
Sep 10, 2015 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'.
Peter Monn
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just amazing. The consummate storyteller. My full review will be on my booktube channel at
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Pradnya K.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A friend picked it up and asked me to buy it saying it's good and humorous. I liked the writing. A lot of colloquial stuff one would miss if not native or is not alert enough while reading. I may have missed myself a lot.
It's a journey back to the time when Norwegians came to Wobegon and built it slowly. Though it's mostly nostalgic, it is not emotional. The writer talks about his childhood, how things were when he was kid, how, along with other things values changed too. He knows about his nei
Adam Oster
Sep 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 14, 2008 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
Mar 15, 2008 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
Feb 26, 2011 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 08, 2013 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
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
An early compendium of Lake Wobegon lore, going back to the town's ignoble founding in the late 1800s and including a number of tales that made it into the monologues, like the car on the ice lottery for ice-out date. I read it to be impressed again by the virulence of the 95 Theses of a disaffected modern young guy rebelling against the constraints of small-town life, accusing his family and the community of innumerable offenses against joie de vivre, which has crippled his ability to life life ...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
Donna Davis
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Steve Hersh
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2007 is currently reading it
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
Thomas Ray
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trivia
Shows that Keillor really isn't a nice person, doesn't play well with others. The book is largely uninteresting: mundane details of fictional people's lives.

Fictional lake Wobegon is supposedly in the Sauk River watershed, thirty-something miles north-northwest of St. Cloud, about a square mile in lake area. There's no such place exactly, but Grey Eagle, Todd County, is in the neighborhood.

His Prairie Home Companion radio show, 1974-2016, was fun.

Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historical
a very boring look at small town life
I feel like I should either give this 1-Star for being boring/pointless/smug twaddle, or 5-Star for being a masterpiece of observation/eternal truth/great american novel, buuut... I can't get excited enough about it either way - there were some amusing/touching parts and some passages that I just skipped cos they didn't seem to add anything; impressed by the craft/ambition, annoyed by the mixed messages (repressive or idyllic - you decide... and no, it can't be both). So 3.
Lynette Caulkins
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
In the movie, Beetlejuice, you know when the couple goes into town so he can pick up supplies for his model, and the old barber sitting in front of his window is talking on and on endlessly?

Yeah. The barber wrote a book.
Cathryn Conroy
How's this for a distinguished way for a reviewer to describe a book? It was okay.

While parts of it were mildly amusing, many more parts of it were absolutely boring. Because I'm the kind of reader who finishes what I start no matter what, I found myself plodding through too much of the book to give it more than three stars.

But I have to give author Garrison Keillor a lot of credit for creating this fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. He not only populates it with a wide assortment of ch
Shai Sachs
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jean Szegedy
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
I love the radio show and the stories of Lake Wobegon. Unfortunately, reading the cumbersome detail put me off this book
Mar 02, 2012 rated it liked it
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, so
Joshua Guest
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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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.
“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?” 44 likes
“He was admired for never being at a loss for words and never wasting any either.” 20 likes
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