Reading the West 11-23-09 |

Reading the West 11-23-09

At my house there are always books under the Christmas tree. Sometimes they are books I purchase for family members; sometimes they are books I buy for myself!

Here are some recommendations for you to put under your tree.

First the Fiction …

• “Journeying,” by Barbara Fleming, (Five Star Press, hardcover, $25.95), is a novel of 1870s Colorado in which Hannah Morris flees her home in Cincinnati rather than be in an arranged marriage. In St. Louis she reunites with the man she loves, Lucas Bowman, and together they set off for California, but ultimately homestead in Colorado.

• My friends W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear have two new books this year in their prehistory series. “People of the Thunder” (Forge, Hardcover, $25.95) is a continuation of the characters and storylines developed in their earlier title, “People of the Weeping Eye.” Like all books by these authors this one is complex, has a huge cast of characters, and many twists and turns in the plot, though overall it is a love story set in a sophisticated civilization that existed long before Columbus arrived in North America. For their newest title, the Gears are stepping forward a couple hundred years to the period in 1539, shortly after Hernando de Soto landed in Florida. “Coming of the Storm” (Pocket Books, hardcover, $26) is the first book in the Gears’ new series, “Contact: The Battle for America.” It is story of Black Shell, a Chickasaw trader and his efforts to deal with de Soto’s arrival in America.

• Editors James Thomas and D. Seth Horton bring us “Best of the West 2009: New Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri” (University of Texas Press. Trade Paperback, $19.95) an anthology of short stories by authors such as Annie Proulx, Joyce Carol Oates, Louise Erdrich, Lee K. Abbott, Mitch Wieland, Daniel Chacon and many more. These diverse authors write about equally diverse subjects: drug dealers growing crops on National Forest land, lonely women, the need for water in a dry land,

and more.

Then the nonfiction …

• The 10 stories in “Lone Star Lost: Buried Treasures In Texas” (TCU Press, A Texas Small Book, $9.95) by Patrick Dearen, could fall into the category of “maybe history, not folklore.” The author conducted 34 interviews to come up with these stories such as “Comanche Jewels,” and “The Santiago Peak Cache.”

And for you Texas lovers, Sherrie S. McLeroy gets to “Braggin’ On Texas” (TCU Press, A Texas Small Book, $9.95) in a collection of Facts to Brag On such as the location of the country’s largest working wildflower farm, details about the first cattle drives out of Texas, back in 1779, and much more.

• W. David Baird and Danny Goble bring “Oklahoma: A History” (University of Oklahoma Press, hardcover, $24.95) with stories ranging from the geologic formation of Oklahoma’s land to the recovery and renewal following the Oklahoma City Bombing. The authors explore a wide variety of Oklahoma happenings including the 1889 Land Run, Glenn Pool oil strike, and a 40-year winning streak for the Byng Lady Pirates. This is a good single-source history to the state.

• In his memoir, “Saving Sand: Stories of a Prairie Culture During the Great Depression” (Self-Published, trade paperback, $15.95), Charles Brashear shares how his rural family coped with the Great Depression. Four-year-old Charles helped his father with farming and raising livestock and as he tells the stories of his childhood it is easy to see how families stick together during tough times. Those who lived through it will identify with the stories; students might learn something about work ethic and history.

Finally for the Children …

• Johnny D. Boggs has another great tale in “Hard Winter: A Western Story” (Five Star Western Series, Hardcover, $25.95) a coming of age story set in the midst of Montana’s harsh winter of 1886-1887, also known as the “Great Die-Up.” Jim Hawkins, barely in his teens, is a good hand and bronc rider who heads north from Texas to Montana in time to be on the northern Plains when the winter snows started. With his two partners, Hawkins wants a country free of barbed wire, and with plenty of grass for cattle. They find a hard winter and equally difficult experiences, but there is enough low key humor to keep the story moving. Though ideal for youth readers, this is a book adults will like, too.

Theodore Roosevelt and the conservation movement is the topic for Ginger Wadsworth’s “Camping with the President” (Calkins Creek, hardcover, $16.95) a book suitable for early or middle-grade readers. Illustrations by Karen Dugan highlight this story of the president’s camping trip in 1903 when naturalist John Muir in California’s Yosemite National Park. As President Roosevelt would say of the trip, “It was Bully.” And this is a Bully of a book that will both teach and entertain.

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