Minnesota books to warm your heart


Peg Meier photo

Her Story

Peg Meier is the author of seven books about Minnesotans, past and present. Her best-seller is “Bring Warm Clothes,” published in 1981 and still going strong. It’s been loved by both history fans and people who thought they weren’t interested in Minnesota history. A favorite gift for newcomers to the state and even long-time residents, it has sold about 200,000 copies, proving history doesn’t have to be dull. (Yeah!) Teachers from kindergarten to college have used the book as a source.

Some readers have been astounded to find long-gone relatives in the photos and diaries. One man bought two copies of the book, ripped out all the pages and used both sides to wallpaper his bathroom. Really. 

A reporter for the Star Tribune for 35 years, Peg wrote mostly human interest stories about “ordinary,” but fascinating, people. She also loved researching and writing history articles. She retired from the newspaper in 2006 and went on to create more books, along with researching stories for the History Theatre in St. Paul, helping first-graders learn to read, and playing with her dog, St. Charlie.

She still likes people — most, anyway — and it shows in her books.

 Peg’s books are available from most Minnesota booksellers, amazon.com, and the publishers. 


Bring Warm Clothes: Letters & Photos from Minnesota’s Past

This best-selling book (did we already say that?) is a look at Minnesota’s history as told through the letters, diaries and photographs of people who lived it. Readers enjoy its honest look at the past. 

You’ll meet such people as Sam Bloomer of Stillwater, a Civil War soldier injured in the Battle of Antietam; Horace Glenn, a highly opinionated lumberjack at the turn of the twentieth century, and Linda Bennett, a well-educated woman who ran a Hastings apple orchard during the Depression. These are not the rich, famous or powerful people of the past. They are people with whom you can identify and whose stories you can cherish.

The title “Bring Warm Clothes” comes from the advice Polly Bullard’s friend gave her in 1908 about moving to northern Minnesota: “Bring your warm clothes, for 35 below zero means it is cold.”

Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95, 340 pages, indexed, richly illustrated with photographs and drawings. $29.95 retail. Original copyright, 1981, Minneapolis Tribune 

Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl’s Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age

When Coco Irvine was 13 years old in 1927, she kept a charming diary. She loved to write and get into trouble, and the diary gave her a chance to explain the messes she created. “I’m in deep trouble through no fault of my own,” she frequently wrote. Coco’s father owned lumber companies, and the Irvines were among the Midwest’s wealthiest families. As adults, Coco and her sister donated their late parents’ home to the State of Minnesota. It is now the Governor’s Residence.

Meier discovered Coco’s hilarious diary in the Minnesota Historical Society archives and wrote a foreword and an aftermath about Coco’s surprising life as an adult. The book was the core for a play called “Coco’s Diary” at the History Theatre in St. Paul. It ran in March 2012 and December 2017.

University of Minnesota Press, copyright 2011, 88 pages with photos of the Irvine family, $12.95


Reviews of "Through No Fault of My Own"

Publishers Weekly (starred review*)

“[Coco’s] exuberance, defiance and sweetness will win over readers from the first entry.”

Kirkus Book Reviews

“What makes this account so appealing is the clear evocation of what it is to be 13 — impatient to be grown up yet childlike in many ways.”

Linda White in her blog, Book Mania

“There is everything to love about this darling little package, including its provenance. Peg Meier, a dogged historian who delights in digging through reams of dusty old papers, found a diary during one of her forays into the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society.” 

Wishing for a Snow Day: Growing Up in Minnesota

Peg likes kids. Because she didn’t have any of her own, she’s had to borrow from family and friends. This book is her collection of stories written by and about Minnesota children, from the 1830s onward.


It shows the joys and pains of childhood through the decades — at home, at school, at play, and reminds us that we were all children once.

Peg dug through letters, diaries, reminiscences, newspaper columns and plenty of photographs, unearthing a wealth of material left by Minnesotans who took the time to write, whether as children in the moment or as adults looking back.The book features more than 200 black-and-white photos.

Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95, copyright 2010, indexed, 258 pages

Too Hot, Went to Lake: Seasonal Photos of Minnesota’s Past

A delightful collection of more than 300 wonderful old photos, this is a history book easy to enjoy. It proves that Minnesotans’ obsession with the season goes far back. You’ll find pictures of picnics, blizzards, sports teams, gardens, dance recitals and harvests. You’ll see women ready to embark on a road trip to California in 1925, hunters in the 1880s, a Christmas pageant in about 1900 and State Fair Prize winners in 1926. The photo selection and writing show appreciation of the small pleasures of everyday life.

Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95, 309 pages, indexed, originally published by Neighbors Publishing in 1993 

Out of Print

Available Only Through Libraries & Used Book Stores

The Pie Lady of Winthrop: & Other Minnesota Tales

Peg teamed up with Star Tribune reporter Dave Wood for this book about Minnesotans in the 1980s. The pair traveled the state and found stories about some of its most charming residents. The book is a collection of 48 tales of “just plain folks.” A critic described it as “a winner plain and simple, and Minnesotan to the core.”

Coffee Made Her Insane: & Other Nuggets from Old Minnesota Newspapers

An amusing and gripping look at Minnesota’s history, this book features newspaper stories that tug at the heart. They come from all over Minnesota, from good times and bad. Some are stories from long ago, and some are stories you may remember. Critics called it a “fascinating social history” and “sheer pleasure.” The book’s title comes from an 1895 newspaper article about a woman who drank 20 quarts of coffee a day.

The Last of the Tearoom Ladies: & Other Minnesota Tales

Warm, wonderful Minnesotans are the subjects of this book, a collection of 44 of Peg’s articles for the Star Tribune. Garrison Keillor wrote in his foreword: “These beautiful and brilliant pieces about ordinary people are journalism at its most humane….The minute you pick this book up, you are back in Minnesota, listening to people talk the way people talk in cafes, taverns, kitchens, church basements and the back seats of cars.”


Peg won national and local awards for her writing, including sweepstakes awards from the Associated Press, an award from the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota for her writing about Minnesota and an excellence award from the then-named National Association for Retarded Citizens. For her newspaper coverage of Minnesota history, she won an award of merit from the American Association of State and Local History

She used to tell journalism students they won't get rich in the field, but journalism groups give out lots of awards for hard work and creativity. Besides, readers respond with lots of attention — both nice and nasty. 

History Theatre

Seven of Peg’s newspaper stories, books and other ideas became plays at the History Theatre in St. Paul. They include “Coco’s Diary,” “Hiding in the Open,” and “Sister Kenny’s Children.” She contributed research for “Glensheen,” “Lord Gordon Gordon” and “Dance ’Til You Drop.” She jokes, “I didn’t know what a dramaturg was, and now I is one.”

Contact Peg

Peg welcomes inquiries about speaking to groups.

You can contact Peg at