Bourke's Bookshelf: 'Go as far as you can'

This week's books include "Twiddle Yer Toes" by Jim Mans, "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens and "My Cousin Rachel" by Daphne du Maurier.

Stack of books
This week's books include "Twiddle Yer Toes" by Jim Mans, "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens and "My Cousin Rachel" by Daphne du Maurier.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Short stories, novels, comic books, poetry, biographies — no matter the format, reading is reading and should be celebrated as such.

Theresa Bourke headshot

Scrolling through social media, I tend to find numerous lists of books labeled “must-reads.” And while I do like to indulge in these lists at times and see how many of the so-called greatest classics or most popular young adult books I can claim to have read, I also want to make a point of saying that reading should be enjoyable. If you thoroughly enjoy graphic novels or amateur fanfiction or books written for a much younger audience and don’t ever plan on delving into the likes of Tolstoy, Dickens or Joyce, that’s OK — fantastic, even.

Challenging yourself a bit and venturing outside your comfort zone every now and then can be beneficial, but make sure you’re still setting aside time to read the things you like.

Oh, and audiobooks count, too.

‘Twiddle Yer Toes’ by Jim Mans

What makes Minnesota Minnesota?


"Twiddle Yer Toes" by Jim Mans

Sure, there’s the multitude of lakes, the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities and the wealth of natural beauty. All of that plays a part, but Minnesota wouldn’t be Minnesota without the unique individuals who call it home — the people, both past and present, who have lived in the big cities, the small towns and everywhere in between, slowly weaving the history and culture of this great state.

Central Minnesota author Jim Mans highlights some of those people whose stories color the fabric of the state in his short story collection “Twiddle Yer Toes.”

The book sprang from Mans’ 1987 trip around the state, during which he stopped in every county and interviewed a resident or two. Thirty-seven of the stories he learned on that journey made it into the book, and let me tell you, it’s a wild ride.

From the world’s largest ball of twine, to a 20-mile long cornfield and the tiny town that tried to secede from the union — these are the stories of Minnesota. Brainerd’s historic water tower and Pequot Lakes’s iconic bobber even get a shoutout, alongside Paul Bunyan and the varied accounts of his life.

“Twiddle Yer Toes” is a fun, lighthearted read for anyone who wants to indulge in the spirit of Minnesota, have a few laughs and maybe even learn something along the way.

‘My Cousin Rachel’ by Daphne du Maurier

Full disclosure: It was only after I sat down and opened up the beautiful leather-bound anthology that contained “My Cousin Rachel” that I picked up years ago solely for its look that I realized it was a condensed version of the book. But taking into account my last experience with Daphne du Maurier, I decided to read it anyway.

"My Cousin Rachel" by Daphne du Maurier

I read the author’s more famous “Rebecca” last year, and while I enjoyed the story immensely — especially the second half — the first part of the book was difficult for me to get through, with long walls of descriptive text that put me half to sleep. That’s why I figured I couldn’t go wrong with the condensed version of another of her books. It’ll have all the important elements of the story and perhaps progress at a faster pace.

“My Cousin Rachel” turned out to be a fantastic read — engaging and mysterious with just the right amount of suspense. The tone was similar to “Rebecca” and the storytelling style similar, told from the first person point of view of the main character.


Maybe I’ll get around to reading the full book someday, but for now I’ve talked myself into not feeling bad about reading a shortened version because I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent doing so.

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens

One of my favorite feelings is the one just after I realized I’ve been so engrossed in a book that I have no concept of how long I’ve been reading or how many pages I’ve read.

"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens

That’s exactly what happened to me while reading “Where the Crawdads Sing.” Since its publishing in 2018, the book has spent 150 non-consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. And I can tell you that honor is justified.

The story starts in the backwoods marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s and follows Kya Clark from the time she’s 6 up through adulthood. Kya sees her mother abandon the family and her older siblings and abusive father eventually follow, leaving the little girl to fend for herself and figure out how to survive.

As illiterate Kya navigates life with nothing to her name except the locals’ nickname for her — The Marsh Girl — the book also flips forward to the next decade as police in the nearby town are working to solve a murder. And who better to pin as a suspect in the death of a popular, well-liked young man than swamp trash Kya?

As the story progresses, so does Kya’s love for the marsh, knowledge of the surrounding creatures and her soul-crushing loneliness. Everyone she’s ever known as left at some point, so finding that balance between wanting human contact but trying to guard her heart is a feat Kya doesn’t know if she can accomplish.

If anyone is looking for a compelling book in which to absolutely lose yourself, I’d suggest putting “Where the Crawdads Sing” at the top of your list.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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