For the Love of Kansas: A Reading List

I’ve only lived in Kansas for about 8 years, but my heritage in this state goes back a ways–mother, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on–some prime pre-Civil War pioneer stock. My husband is from Kansas, too, so between the two of us, our kids can trace their Kansas roots back about 6 generations.

Ad astra per aspera.-1

However, since suburban Kansas City is similar in no little way to suburban Indianapolis, I realized about three years after moving across the stateline that I knew no more about Kansas present and history than, well, my three year old, or any average person who had maybe seen “Wizard of Oz,” and had all the same prejudices that we see in the media. I had avidly read the “Little House” series as a kid, but other than that…not so much. So, I set myself a little agenda to learn, embrace and celebrate what Kansas was, is and can be.

Also might be helpful for those out there who think that Kansas has always been the way it’s been portrayed the last decade or so, or that it could never be different. Interesting tidbit: do you know how many states have elected three Democrat women to Governor in the history of the United States of America? Only one: Kansas.

Here are a few books that have helped me develop a deeper understanding of Kansas, beyond what the average history book shells out (though “It Happened In Kansas,” by Sarah Smarsh, is a quick, easy catch up on significant historical events).

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To the Stars Through Difficulties, Romalyn Tilghman
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Fowl Language, Brian Gordon
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Good Seeds, Thomas Pecore Weso (In truth, this book is more about his life growing up in Wisconsin, but he counts as a Kansas author and this is an excellent read, so just go read it, ok?)
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The Last Wild Places of Kansas, George Frazier
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No Place Like Home, C.J. Janovy
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Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest County of Earth, Sarah Smarsh

Looking to add some titles to my 2019 reading list and dig deeper (especially pre-settlers, maybe?), so what should it be?

Shout out to Rainy Day Books, Prospero’s Books & Media, and the Kansas City and Johnson County Public Libraries for supporting my habit.

2 thoughts on “For the Love of Kansas: A Reading List

Add yours

  1. You might check out “PrairyErth” by William Least Heat-Moon. A travelogue of sorts about his experiences walking throughout Chase County, Kansas.

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