Boring. Dull. Flat. We’ve probably all heard this about Kansas from someone: visitors, individuals that have never been here, and even other Kansans. Even I have said it, albeit, many, many years ago. From my childhood into my late teens, I dreamed of leaving everything Kansas didn’t have to offer behind. I mean, there’s nothing exciting about Kansas, right?
WRONG! As we celebrate Kansas Day, the day Kansas joined the Union as a state on January 29, 1861, I’d like to reflect on all the great history, places, and people cultivated by Kansas and all its glory. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to love our state with all its facets. Try any of these books specifically chosen to celebrate Kansas.
Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War
We had a bloody and violent beginning known as Bleeding Kansas when jayhawkers/free-staters and Border Ruffians from Missouri went into heated battle after battle to make Kansas a free state or a slave state when it joined the Union. Kansas entered the union as a free state, becoming one of the main causes for the Civil War. To learn more, try out some of these books:
DBC06570 It Happened in Kansas: Remarkable events that shaped history by Sarah Smarsh
Annotation: It Happened in Kansas features over 25 chapters in Kansas history. Lively and entertaining, this book brings the varied and fascinating history of the Sunflower State to life. Some violence.
DBC08676 The Border between Them: Violence and reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri line by Jeremy Neely
Annotation: The author recounts the exploits of John Brown, William Quantrill, and other notorious guerrillas, as well as the stories of everyday people who lived through the conflict that marked the terrible first act of the American Civil War. He then examines how emancipation, industrialization, and immigration eventually eroded wartime divisions. Some violence.
DB 08946 Bloody Kansas, 1854-1865: Guerilla warfare delays peaceful American settlement by James P. Barry
Annotation: Chronicles ten years of cold-blooded guerilla warfare between pro- and anti-slavery forces following the opening of the Kansas Territory in 1854. For grades 5-9.
Railroads, Settlement, and the Dust Bowl
After the Civil War, more people were making their homes in Kansas, and farming and ranching became the mainstay. Railroads connected new towns and cities in Kansas as development of the state increased, especially after the Civil War. One of the most well-known railroads was the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Then, the Dust Bowl occurred in the early- to mid-1930s, as drought conditions, over grazing and over-cultivation turned rich prairie and plains to bare topsoil, ripe for erosion. The books listed here provide more information about the good, rough, and desperate times in Kansas.
DBC08699 Diary of a waitress: The not-so-glamourous life of a Harvey Girl by Carolyn Meyer
Annotation: In 1926, droves of Americans traveled by train across the United States to visit the West. They ate at Harvey Houses, where thousands of well-trained waitresses provided first-class service. Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl tells the first-person story of one spunky girl, Kitty Evans, as she faces the often funny and painful experiences she and fellow waitresses Cordelia and Emmy endure. For junior and senior high.
DBC08730 Harvey Houses of Kansas: Historic Hospitality from Topeka to Syracuse by Rosa Walston Latimer
Annotation: Starting in Kansas, Fred Harvey's iconic Harvey House was the first to set the standard for fine dining and hospitality across the rugged Southwest. In 1876, the first of Harvey's depot restaurants opened in Topeka, followed just a few years later by the first combination hotel and restaurant in Florence. Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls introduced good food and manners to the land of Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and raucous cattle drives. In her third book on the Harvey House legacy, author Rosa Walston Latimer goes back to where it all began in this history of hospitality from the Sunflower State.
DBC05083 Time’s shadow: Remembering a family farm in Kansas by Arnold J. Bauer
Annotation: Arnold Bauer grew up on his family's 160-acre farm in Goshen Township in Clay County, Kansas, amidst a land of prairie grass and rich creek-bottom soil. His meditative and moving account of those years depicts a century-long narrative of struggle, survival, and demise. A coming-of-age memoir set in the 1930s to 50s, it blends local history with personal reflection to paint a realistic picture of farm life and families from a now-lost world. Contains some strong language and some violence.
DB 70282 Years of Dust: The story of the Dust Bowl by Albert Marrin
Annotation: Discusses causes and effects of the environmental and social disaster that swept across the Great Plains in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Explains that farmers and ranchers unwittingly caused conditions that led to the dust storms and the loss of the land they had settled. For grades 5-8. 2009.
There are many people who think all Kansas nature is grass and farmland. In some places that is true, but we also have so much more to offer, such as the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, and Cheyenne Bottoms wetlands, providing beautiful scenery and unique fauna and flora. Destructive nature also has its place in Kansas, as tornados, severe storms, hail, snow, and ice disrupt the everyday life seasonally. Read more about the impact nature has on Kansas history with these books:
DB 84649 Green city: How one community survived a tornado and rebuilt for a sustainable future by Allan Drummond
Annotation: Recounts the story of Greensburg, Kansas, a town that rebuilt completely green after a deadly tornado leveled Greensburg in nine minutes. Describes how they recycled their old kitchen cabinets, built sustainable homes and businesses, constructed a hurricane-proof water tower, and more. For grades K-3. 2016.
DBC15012 Waking in the Flint Hills: Poems of the People and the Land by Steven Hind
Annotation: A collection of poems by a Kansas native highlighting the richness of life in central Kansas.
DBC02420 And Hell followed with it: Life and death in a Kansas tornado by Bonar Menninger
Annotation: Detailed account of the June 1966 tornado in Topeka, where property damage of $100 million made it the most destructive in U.S. history up to that time.
Have you heard of any of these individuals?
• Clementine Paddleford
• Bob Dole
• Dwight D. Eisenhower
• Melissa Etheridge
• Gordon Parks
• Megan Phelps-Roper
• Sarah Smarsh
• Robert M. Gates
• Karl A. Menninger
• Amelia Earhart
Each are famous in their own way, whether it’s nationally, locally, or even internationally. Listen to these to find out more.
DB 29223 At ease: Stories I tell to friends by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Annotation: Presidential reminiscences and anecdotes as well as autobiographical recollections covering Eisenhower's Kansas boyhood, West Point career, and courtship of Mamie.
DB 60181 One Soldier’s Story: A Memoir by Bob Dole
Annotation: Former senator from Kansas describes his enlistment into the elite U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division as a lieutenant during World War II. Chronicles the April 14, 1945, battle in Italy that paralyzed him, his long recovery, first marriage, and entry into civilian life and the political sphere. Bestseller. 2005.
DB 52788 The truth is--: My life in love and music by Melissa Etheridge
Annotation: Autobiography of rock star, born in Kansas in 1961, who began writing songs at the age of ten. Describes her career as well as her personal life, which includes coming out as a lesbian and the birth of her partner's two children fathered by singer David Crosby. Bestseller. 2001.
DB 78129 Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates
Annotation: Former secretary of defense recalls his five years in office, beginning in 2006 as the replacement for Donald Rumsfeld under President George W. Bush and continuing under Barack Obama. Analyzes the fight against terrorism and describes the political and bureaucratic struggles he faced at the Pentagon. Bestseller. 2014.
DB 93467 Heartland: A memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country by Sarah Smarsh
Annotation: The author recounts her childhood among the working poor in Kansas. Discusses the class divide in America, myths about poverty, and the impact of intergenerational poverty on individuals, families, and communities. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2018.
DB 73290 Amelia lost: The life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming
Annotation: Biography of pilot Amelia Earhart offers an account of her attempt to circumnavigate the globe--a journey that ended when she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937. Discusses Earhart's adventurous nature, the difficulties of long-distance flight, and the lack of navigational equipment aboard her plane. For grades 4-7. 2011.
Kansas claims the Royals and the Chiefs as our professional sports teams just as much as Missouri. There was great sadness when the Royals lost the 2014 World Series, and great celebration when they won in 2015 and the recent victory of the Chiefs over Tennessee to win the AFC Championship and head to the Super Bowl. There are also the wildly divisive college teams to cheer on. Find out more about the history of sports in Kansas with these reads.
DB 31342 The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball by Janet Bruce
Annotation: The development of "the great American pastime" as it related to the African-American population, and one team's place in that history. Young black men dreamed of playing for the Kansas City Monarchs or one of the other fifteen black teams in the "majors." From the Civil War until Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson in 1945, baseball was a segregated sport, and the Monarchs were the premier black team.
DBC09694 Tales from the Kansas City Royals dugout: A collection of the greatest Royals stories ever told by Denny Matthews
Annotation: Royals radio broadcaster Denny Matthews has been with the team from the beginning. He recalls anecdotes and memorable moments about the players and owners, as well as various rivalries through the years.
DBC15009 Phog Allen: The Father of basketball coaching by Blair Kerkhoff
Annotation: Forrest C. ("Phog") Allen overcame the argument of James Naismith, inventor of the game, that basketball didn't need a coach. Allen served (for a while under Naismith) at the University of Kansas as coach from 1907 to 1909 and from 1919 to 1956, and as Athletic Director from 1919 to 1937, also heading the Physical Education Department for a time. Kansas City Star Sportswriter Kerkhoff has written an evenhanded yet generally laudatory story of a highly controversial figure who spoke his mind even when his words spelled trouble for him. He attacked some of his faculty colleagues in the KU Medical School, who objected to having a department head with a degree in osteopathy, carried on a running battle with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and stubbornly clung to his opinion --never heeded -- that the basket should be raised from 10 to 12 feet above court.
KS 00060 Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen by Joe Drape
Annotation: Offers an inspiring portrait of the extraordinary high school football team whose quest for perfection sustains Smith Center, Kansas, its hometown in the heartland.
We have a number of famous authors from Kansas to include Laura Moriarty, Max McCoy, Rex Stout, Don Coldsmith, William Allen White, and Ben Lerner to name a few. Check out some of their books recorded for Talking Books.
DB 75235 The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
Annotation: 1922. Abandoned as an infant in New York City, Cora Carlisle is now a respectable matron in Wichita, Kansas. When teenaged Louise Brooks needs a chaperone to attend a New York dance school, Cora volunteers, hoping to find her birth family. Strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2012.
DB 31200 Trail of the Spanish bit by Don Coldsmith
Annotation: It is 1540 and Juan Garcia has ridden out from Coronado's camp on the Great Plains. His horse is startled by a snake, and a boulder renders Juan unconscious. He is discovered by "the People" (Indians), who admire his "elk-dog" (horse). Juan is nursed back to health and teaches the People horse breeding, which will change their entire way of life. Prequel to The Elk-dog Heritage (DB 31387). 1980.
DBC06565 Of grave concern by Max McCoy
Annotation: The Civil War is over, and many a young widow has turned to spiritualism to contact their husbands on 'the other side.' But Ophelia Wylde won't be fooled twice. After wasting her money on a phoney psychic, she decides if she can't beat 'em, join 'em. She leaves New Orleans and heads West, selling her services as a spiritual medium who speaks to the dead. By the time she reaches Dodge City, business is booming. Except for a handsome but skeptical bounty hunter named Jack Calder, no one suspects Ophelia of running a con game--until an unfortunate 'reading' of a girl who's still living exposes her to a town full of angry customers. Contains some descriptions of sex, some strong language, and some violence.
DB 97054 The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
Annotation: Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of '97. Both of his parents work at a world-renowned psychiatric clinic. Adam, as one of the popular students at school, befriends loner Darren Eberheart, not knowing Darren is one of his father's patients. Violence and strong language. Commercial audiobook. 2019.
DB 39348 Fer-de-lance by Rex Stout
Annotation: Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin make their debut in this first of many tales about the corpulent master sleuth who operates out of a New York brownstone office. When Wolfe receives the gift of a deadly snake, his assistant suspects that they are onto the clever person who murdered an Italian immigrant and a college president, although he cannot imagine what connection there may be.
There have been some major crimes in the history of Kansas, from bank robbers to cattle rustlers, to murders and serial killers. Kansas has had an interesting connection to crime for most of its history. Read on for books from our true crime collection.
DB 22726 In cold blood: A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences by Truman Capote
Annotation: The author coined the term "nonfiction novel" for this account of the murder of a Kansas family. He reconstructs the crime and the backgrounds and personalities of all the principals, drawing his information from observation, interviews, and official records.
DB 56817 Suddenly gone: The Kansas murders of serial killer Richard Grissom by Dan Mitrione
Annotation: Former FBI agent details the 1989 Kansas crime spree of serial killer Richard Grissom Jr., who kidnapped and tortured young women. Grissom's psychological troubles--and a grisly murder he committed as a youth--were revealed in his juvenile record, and such deviant behavior continued into his adulthood. Violence and strong language. 1995.
DB 60180 Nightmare in Wichita: The hunt for the BTK Strangler by Robert Beattie
Annotation: Lawyer chronicles the more-than-three-decade search for the self-named serial killer BTK (bind, torture, kill), who terrorized Wichita, Kansas, residents. Begins with the 1974 discovery of the first-known victims, summarizes the murderer's media correspondence, and follows the case through the 2005 arrest of Dennis Rader. Violence. Bestseller. 2005.
DB 87428 Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the wickedest town in the American West by Thomas Clavin
Annotation: Dodge City, Kansas, started as a small military site and exploded with the coming of the railroad. By the 1870s, it was known as the most violent town in the West. The author recounts the infamous Dodge City War, led by frontier lawmen Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, who sought to restore order. Contains some strong language. Commercial audiobook. 2017.
DBC14923 Notorious Kansas Bank Heists: Gunslingers to Gangersters by Rod Beemer
Annotation: Bank robbers wreaked havoc in the Sunflower State. After robbing the Chautauqua State Bank in 1911, outlaw Elmer McCurdy was killed by lawmen but wasn't buried for sixty-six years. His afterlife can be described only as bizarre. Belle Starr's nephew Henry Starr claimed to have robbed twenty-one banks. The Dalton gang failed in their attempt to rob two banks simultaneously, but others accomplished this in Waterville in 1911. Nearly four thousand known vigilantes patrolled the Sunflower State during the 1920s and 1930s to combat the criminal menace. One group even had an airplane with a .50-caliber machine gun. Join author Rod Beemer for a wild ride into Kansas's tumultuous bank heist history. Some strong language and some violence.
We hope you enjoy this collection of books all about Kansas. Hurray Kansas Day!