February Book, Wine, Music Recommendations

The monthly must-haves for February.

Naoki Higashida is an autistic young man who learned to communicate through an alphabet grid taught to him by his mother and Ms. Suzuki at the Hagukumi School in Japan. In The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism, Higashida lets his readers know what he is thinking and how he feels. With candor and sweetness, he educates people about the mysteries and functions of his brain. Novelist David Mitchell, (The Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green) and his wife, K.A. Yoshida, who have an autistic child, translated Higashida’s memoir for the English-speaking world.
–Maureen Millea Smith is a librarian at Edina Library and a Minnesota Book Award-winning novelist.
*Available for $22 (hardcover) at Barnes & Noble in the Galleria.

There are three defining qualities to look for in a “smart” wine: the nose, the palate and the length of the wine. Does the nose have structure? Look for aromas of concentrated fruit or a fairly structured dirt and/or minerality smell. Does it travel the distance of your tongue, making you think beyond the first sip of the wine and initiate other flavors and aromas? Does the wine have length? Does it generate a desirable, lingering aftertaste in your mouth that leaves you wanting more? One of my favorite Spanish wineries that almost always upholds these characteristics is Muga. The winery’s Rioja Reserva Unfiltered is perfectly smart! Dark and husky with notes of deep, concentrated fruit, rich yet savory on the palate, it leaves you wanting more. At $28, this is a gorgeous Rioja wine that won’t break the bank.
–Leslee Miller is a certified sommelier and owner of local wine consulting firm Amusée.
*Available at France 44 for $24.99.

Earth Wind and Fire returns with another groove-oriented CD filled with the band’s easygoing, uplifting songs, soaring lyrics, thumping bass and great horn arrangements. The double disc is called Now, Then & Forever and is their first release since 2005. The only original members still performing with the band are Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson. They, along with Al McKay, were inducted into the Songwriting Hall Of Fame in 2010, but on this CD, they wrote only a few songs. Siedah Garrett and Bailey’s son, Philip Doron Bailey, wrote most of the rest, with guidance from producer Maurice White. “Sign On,” “Love Is the Law” and “Got To be Love” are reminiscent of their classic sound and remind the listener to live with positivity and love. This release includes a second CD with hand-picked songs by Lenny Kravitz, made up of older favorites you’re going to love.
Patty Peterson, award winning vocalist and Jazz 88, KBEM radio host, shares her CD pick of the month. Visit her at pattypeterson.com.
* Available online at iTunes for $7.99.