As the sports columnist for Isthmus, I’ve been impressed by the efforts of Wisconsin Book Festival organizers in recent years to include author presentations about baseball’s forgotten heroes and the trials and tribulations of owning a miniature golf course in northern Wisconsin.
This year’s festival expands its sports and recreation reach further. To that end, let’s begin with an illustrated history of the videogame Time magazine recently hailed as the best of all time. Tetris: The Games People Play, by Box Brown (Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m.), features simple, black, white and yellow drawings that reflect the videogame genre’s infancy in 1984, when a Russian computer scientist working for the Soviet government created the colorful stacking puzzle game. Box, an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator, will be part of the free hands-on Science Arcade Night showcasing vintage videogames, virtual reality and more, courtesy of the Wisconsin Science Festival.
Another themed event I’m excited about is what Sheboygan brothers Lee and Larry Williams are calling the “Wisconsin Book Festival Luau.” As the focus of author William Povletich’s Some Like It Cold: Surfing the Malibu of the Midwest (Oct. 21, 3 p.m.), the Williams brothers will share the story of how they turned the frigid waters of Lake Michigan into a surfing mecca. In true Wisconsin style, snacks and beer samples will be provided.
Speaking of lakes, a fellow swim dad and I were talking books at a recent meet, and he mentioned the thrill of reading Donald Sanford’s On Fourth Lake: A Social History of Lake Mendota (Oct. 22, 10:30 a.m.). This gem of a book, richly illustrated with more than 500 maps, photographs and newspaper clippings, chronicles in an easy-to-read format the 15,000-year history of what the author calls “Madison’s greatest lake.” You might recognize Sanford as a Betty Lou Cruises captain, but after reading the engaging book that took him a decade to write you’ll never view Lake Mendota the same way again.
As a father whose wilderness experience doesn’t extend much past a Cub Scouts weekend of camping at the Sauk County Fairgrounds, I’m intrigued by author and journalist James Campbell, who decided to take his 15-year-old daughter with him to Alaska’s outer edges on a work assignment. Braving It: A Father, A Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild (Oct. 23, 10:30 a.m.) is a poignant account of a parent-child bond taken to extremes, and it made me cry.
On a lighter note, journalist and Belt magazine publisher Anne Trubek has written a concise summary of and prognosis for — quite literally — the written word. In The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting (Oct. 23, noon), she links ancient times to the digital era and explains why we all are “living through a transitional moment.”
Regardless of whether I type it or use longhand, I (like many other journalists I know) aspire to write a novel. Which is why I’m drawn to The Making of a Book: Writing, Editing, and Small Press Publication (Oct. 20, 5:30 p.m.). Jeremiah Lewis — a Madison-based fiction writer and the founder of Snow Creek Press — will join first-time California author Louis Lo Praeste to discuss the long process of turning Lo Praeste’s once-sprawling novel into a taut post-9/11 survival story.
Finally, I like books about offbeat topics, and books don’t get more offbeat than Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders (Oct. 22, noon). The handsome, hefty collection is co-written by Ella Morton with the co-founders of the collaborative AtlasObscura.com website, hailed as “the definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places.” It features more than 600 weird and quirky destinations, including Spring Green’s House on the Rock and Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron between Baraboo and Prairie du Sac.