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Sep 15

15 years of 15 books - Kansas Notable Books

Posted on September 15, 2020 at 9:14 AM by Maggie Witte

Each year, since 2006, fifteen books are selected by the State Librarian to be the Kansas Notable Books for that year. This year celebrates the 15th year of the Kansas Notable Books list. The books are written either by a Kansan, set in Kansas, or about a Kansas related topic. Help us celebrate this anniversary with Kansas Talking Books’ list of the top 15 most circulated Kansas Notable Books. We look forward to future selections and will work to provide access to more of these books as we can.

Find more Kansas Notable Books available through Kansas Talking Books by searching our online catalog.

For more information on Kansas Notable Books, please visit:

#1 DB 64701 The virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard
2007 Kansas Notable Book
Small Plains, Kansas. Mitch Newquist--banished from his hometown for witnessing the cover-up of a young girl's murder--returns when his mother dies. Together with his former girlfriend, Mitch searches for the killer and uncovers disturbing secrets of the town's most prominent men. Strong language and some violence. 2006.

#2 DB 68047 Hellfire Canyon by Max McCoy
2008 Kansas Notable Book
Missouri. Female reporter Frankie Donovan interviews Jacob Gamble, an old man known as the outlaw fiddler, who as a boy knew the notorious murderer Alf Bolin. Gamble recounts a tale of being forced by circumstances to join Bolin's gang--but he may not be telling the complete truth. Violence. 2007.

#3 DB 73994 Doc by Mary Doria Russell
2012 Kansas Notable Book
Fictional biography of Dr. John Henry "Doc" Holliday, a gambler, prostitute's lover, and friend of Wyatt Earp. Hoping to relieve his tuberculosis, Doc moves westward, leaving dental surgery for high-stakes card games in the saloons of 1870s Kansas. Strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2011.

#4 DB 87428 Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the wickedest town in the American West by Thomas Clavin
2018 Kansas Notable Book
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.

#5 DB 73787 Destiny of the republic: a tale of madness, medicine, and the murder of a president by Candice Millard
2012 Kansas Notable Book
Chronicles the life of James A. Garfield (1831-1881), the twentieth American president. Highlights Garfield's rise from poverty to the Oval Office. Details the attack by deranged office-seeker Charles Guiteau and the medical care that killed Garfield despite the efforts of Alexander Graham Bell. Bestseller. 2011.

#6 DB 75235 The chaperone by Laura Moriarty
2013 Kansas Notable Book
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.

#7 DB 74849 Eisenhower in war and peace by Jean Edward Smith
2013 Kansas Notable Book
Prize-winning author posits that Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) was the second-most successful twentieth-century U.S. president, surpassed only by Franklin Roosevelt. Chronicles Eisenhower's family life, pre-World War II army career, and rise to Allied supreme commander. Highlights the achievements of his presidency, including civil rights legislation, peace, and prosperity. 2012.

#8 KS000259 The youngest brother: on a Kansas wheat farm during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression by C. Hugh Snyder
2006 Kansas Notable Book
A first-person account by the youngest of five children born to a prosperous Knasas wheat farmer during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. This is a family's struggle to preserve their relationships and maintain the farm after the father became seriously crippled when the author was just a toddler. With a touch of humor, it describes life as it was in the "good old days" when cosiderably more than half of all Americans lived on farms.

#9 DB 74687 Bent road by Lori Roy
2012 Kansas Notable Book
1965. Arthur Scott left his rural Kansas hometown after the mysterious death of his older sister. Twenty years later he returns with his wife and three children--and soon a young girl disappears. Some violence, some strong language, and some explicit descriptions of sex. Edgar Allan Poe Award. 2011.

#10 DBC05142 Wide open by Larry Bjornson
2013 Kansas Notable Book
Abilene, 1871. Will Merritt is fiercely protective of the cattle trade that made his father's fortune. Idolizing cowboys, Will and his friends are drawn to Abilene's exotic Texastown district--a powder keg of saloons and brothels so notorious that the mayor has hired Wild Bill Hickok to police it. Still, Abilene boils with deep divisions between cattlemen and farmers. Then Will's father reveals a secret that challenges Abilene's future and makes the Merritts outcasts. Award winner. Contains some strong language and some violence.

#11 DB 61280 John Brown, abolitionist: the man who killed slavery, sparked the Civil War, and seeded Civil Rights by David S. Reynolds
2006 Kansas Notable Book
Author of Walt Whitman's America (RC 41371) presents a cultural biography of abolitionist John Brown (1800-1859). Argues that Brown's most violent activities, like the Harper's Ferry raid, were inspired by nineteenth-century America's social and political conditions. Traces Brown's family origins and his posthumous influence. Some violence. 2005.

#12 DBC06565 Of grave concern by Max McCoy
2014 Kansas Notable Book
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. As punishment, the mob drags Ophelia to Boot Hill and buries her alive in a fresh grave overnight. That's when the dead start speaking. To her. For real. And for dead people, they've got lots to say. Contains some descriptions of sex, some strong language, and some violence.

#13 KS000154 Life in a jar: the Irene Sendler Project by Jack Mayer
2011 Kansas Notable Book
During World War II, Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker, organized a rescue network of fellow social workers to save 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto. After the war her heroism was suppressed by communist Poland and remained virtually unknown for 60 years-- until three high school girls from an economically depressed rural school district in southeast Kansas stumbled upon a tantalizing reference to Sendler's rescues, which they fashioned into a history project.

#14 DB 81303 The yard: Murder squad series, book 1 by Alex Grecian
2013 Kansas Notable Book
Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives--known as the Murder Squad--to investigate thousands of murders. Created after the Metropolitan Police's spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, the Murder Squad suffers public contempt. Then one of their twelve is murdered. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2012.

#15 DB 93467 Heartland: a memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on earth by Sarah Smarsh
2019 Kansas Notable Book
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.