2014 Kansas Notable Books

Each year the State Library of Kansas releases a list of Kansas Notable Books. The list is comprised of books of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry written by Kansas Authors or books that feature Kansas as a location or theme. This year’s collection of Notable Books has something for everyone, whether you enjoy poetry, cooking, mysteries, or history. The 2014 Kansas Notable Books entries are a great collection and like most past years, history books are featured prominently. Being a history buff, I am naturally attracted to those titles that talk about Kansas’s placement in the history of our country or those that focus on the history of this great state.

The main event in our state’s history thus far has centered on how our state was founded and how it entered into the union of the states. Would it be a free state or a slave state? This question has set the tone for our history.

Most of us are familiar with the border conflicts, skirmishes, and outright wars that precipitated the Civil War. In fact for those that live along the Kansas-Missouri border there still appears to be drawn an invisible line between the two states. Interestingly enough, this line not only manifests itself in sports such as the Border War when the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri play one another in sports, but this separation also exists in the academic study of the turbulent times prior to the Civil War.

One book that hopes to bring both academic sides of the border together to study this period in history is “Bleeding Kansas,Bleeding Missouri“. Full of well-researched and interesting information about the events leading up to the Civil war and the ramifications of those events after the Civil War, I find this book to be one that is well worth the read for those interested in digging a little deeper into the causes and personalities involved in the conflict. This book is maybe not where you want to start, but definitely a waypoint on gaining an understanding of those tumultuous times.

But now onto my favorite book from this year’s list. What would Kansas history and a study of Bleeding Kansas be without a book about John Brown? (Seriously. If you don’t know who John Brown is, please run to the library and find me. We need to talk.)

When I first read that there was a new John Brown book out, I was a bit hesitant. The history, and at times mythology, of the man has been exhaustively researched, written down, and memorized by everyone interested in the events leading up to the Civil War.

The Tie that Bound Us” by Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz breaks the mold for the discussion of John Brown and instead focuses in on the women that were in the background during most of his life and their lives  after his death. There was a reason John Brown could live such a wild life and stay alive long enough to make it to Harper’s Ferry on that fateful night in 1859. His wife, his children, and the dependents of his followers were responsible for not only caring for the men, but for also hiding and making sure that they could move around the country undetected. Telling elaborate backstories to elude suspicion and never knowing when or indeed if, they would ever see their husbands or fathers again. Much more than other books, we get a sense of John Brown the man. Harsh disciplinarian one moment, gentle and compassionate husband the next. Apart from the cause of abolition, his role as father and husband he took seriously and through the stories of the women in his life we take a fresh look at this important figure in Kansas History.

Stop by the library, either in person or online, to checkout some of the books that make up the 2014 Kansas Notable Books. They can be found on our website by going to: http://featured.lmlibrary.org.

For a more complete list of this year’s and previous year’s notable books visit the Notable Books page of the State Library of Kansas at: kslib.info/notablebooks.

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