12 Titles to Borrow or Buy

Try these reads with your library card, then buy signed copies for your collection or for holiday gifts. You can meet all of these authors and more at our Great Writers Right Here Book Fair, Sat, Dec 8 from 1-4pm in Marvin Auditorium. Chat with more than 40 authors, as well as reps from publishers, literary journals and writing groups. Make and take a bookmark, enjoy an art demo from artist and author Angie Pickman, and listen to readings.

1. Merry Menagerie: Animal Antics From A to Z by Angie Pickman

Author and artist cut-paper demo at 1 pm
This book will make it to your kid’s favorite pile of books to be read again and again. Artist Angie Pickman has written a delightful alphabet book with animals from armadillo to zebra frolicking and playing across the pages. Illustrating the silly capers of the animals are visually stunning graphics. The original artwork is cut from paper with charming detail engaging and delighting young readers and adults alike.

2.  Found Documents From the Life of Nell Johnson Doerr by Thomas Fox Averill

Author reading at 1:30 pm
Not just epistolary, this novel is archival, told entirely through journals, letters, photos, drawings, notes and clippings left behind by Nell Doerr, who lived in Lawrence, Kansas, between 1854-1889. Although Nell seems so real you can reach out and touch her, she is a fictional character. The novel tells the story of her two stillborn babies, her move to Kansas, the loss of her husband in Quantrill’s Raid, and her discovery, while hiding in her basement, of the fossils of ancient creatures in the foundation rock. In finding those specimens this unforgettable heroine finds herself, a woman unconventional and strong, a mother without children, a wife without a husband, a scientist without educational pedigree, and someone who nurtures her passion for nature and contributes to the scientific knowledge of her time.

Cover of Jen Mann's book People I Want to Punch in the Throat3. People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann

National Bestseller. Author reading at 2 pm
Jen Mann doesn’t have a filter, which sometimes gets her in trouble with her neighbors, her fellow PTA moms and that one woman who tried to sell her sex toys at a home shopping party. Known for her hilariously acerbic observations on her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Mann now brings her sharp wit to bear on suburban life, marriage and motherhood in this laugh-out-loud collection of essays. From the politics of joining a play group, to the thrill of mothers’ night out at the gun range, to the rewards of your most meaningful relationship (the one you have with your cleaning lady), nothing is sacred or off-limits. So the next time you find yourself wearing fuzzy bunny pajamas in the school carpool line or accidentally stuck at a co-worker’s swingers party, just think, what would Jen Mann do? Or better yet, buy her book.

4. Under a Kansas Sky: True Stories of A Sanctuary for Abused and Abandoned Dogs by Maureen Cummins

Author reading at 2:30 pm
You must live for a cause greater than yourself ~ Cummins’ father, Edward Michael Luby, Captain, USN, was guided by these words taught to young midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, which he later passed down to Cummins and her sister. Cummins found her cause 40 years ago when she brought two abandoned dogs from the streets of Puerto Rico to the states and began her journey in animal welfare. The Second Chance Animal Refuge Society (SCARS) is a 501 (c) (3) no kill dog shelter located on 50 acres on the edge of the Kansas Flinthills. Homeless and abandoned dogs for miles around are treated for medical problems, exercised, socialized and eventually adopted to forever homes. If they are never chosen for adoption they remain there where they are cared for and loved. This journey has ushered more 1000 dogs on the road to SCARS. These are just a few of their heroic stories.

5. The Man from the Train by Rachel McCarthy James & Bill James

Author Reading at 3 pm
Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history. Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. Fewer still realized that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station. When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the same know-how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery: they learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal. In turn, they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America. Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, The Man from the Train paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the 20th century, when crime was regarded as a local problem and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system.

6. The Afterlives of Trees, by Wyatt Townley

Author reading at 3:30 pm
A volume of astounding poems on the theme of transformation, this book has been called “a love song to the life force.” It features stunning black-and-white photographs by Michael Johnson, likened by critics to Ansel Adams. A must-read whether one commonly reads poetry or not.

“The power and scope of Wyatt Townley’s The Afterlives of Trees shakes you to your very bones. There’s some audaciously formidable poetry in this book.” -John Weisman, New York Times bestselling author

7. A Bitter Magic by Roderick Townley

When 12 year-old Cisley’s mother, who controls real magic, disappears during a magic act, Cisley is left with her cold, distant uncle and a great mystery that will only be solved if she can summon her own magic. A glass castle and a black rose. Whispering dresses. A lobster on a golden leash. A Bitter Magic is lyrical and original, a tale of magic that avoids cliches and subtly tackles class division and income inequality. This is a book you’ll remember and think about long after you’ve finished.

8. Unamused Muse by R.L. Naquin

Wynter Greene, newly minted Muse at the Mt. Olympus Employment Agency, is on loan for six weeks to Hades, CEO of Underworld, LLC. Not a bad gig if she doesn’t mind running errands across the River Styx. She barely ever has to clean up after the three-headed dogs that guard the front gates. But she could do without so many people eager to fix her up on what literally amount to blind dates from Hell. All Wynter wants to do is get her six weeks over with so she and Phyllis, her talking plant, can go home and she can go back to work inspiring people. If she can keep from screwing up on this job, she’ll get a clean slate at Mt. Olympus. Unfortunately, Wynter learns that a Muse on probation is still a Muse, even when the people she’s inspiring are supposed to be in eternal torment. Not the best way to win points with her new boss.

9. A Perfectly Good Guitar by Chuck Holley

Ask guitar players about their instruments and you’re likely to get a story — where the guitar came from, what makes it unique or why the player will never part with it. Most guitarists have strong feelings about their primary tool and some are downright passionate about their axes. Chuck Holley is a professional photographer and writer who loves music and listening to musicians talk about their trade. For several years he has been photographing guitarists with their prized instruments and collecting their stories. This beautifully illustrated book presents these stories in revelatory photographs and words. The guitarists included in this book range from high-profile performers including Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, Laurence Juber, Jorma Kaukonen, JD Souther, Bill Frisell, Dave Alvin and Kelly Willis, to renowned studio musicians and band members. Holley’s beautifully composed photographs portray them with their favorite guitar, including detail shots of the instrument. Accompanying the photographs are the musicians’ stories about the Gibsons, Fenders, Martins and others that have become the guitar in their lives, the one that has a special lineage or intangible qualities of sustain, tone, clarity and comfort that make it irreplaceable. Several musicians talk about how the guitar chose them, while others recount stories of guitars lost or stolen and then serendipitously recovered. These photographs and stories underscore the great pleasure of performing with an instrument that’s become a trusted friend with a personality all its own.

10. My Little Valentine by KelLee Parr

This is the true story of lost love between a mother and daughter. In 1925 a rural Kansas teenage girl found herself in the “family way” and unmarried. She was sent to The Willows Maternity Sanitarium, a home for unwed mothers, and gave up her baby to be raised by strangers. She was devastated but had to promise to never look for her baby. Though kept a secret, she never forgot and always hoped her baby girl was happy. Adopted and raised by a wonderful Kansas farm family, the daughter always wondered the who and why about her birth mother. After 66 years they are reunited and this is their story.

11. Mamie Doud Eisenhower by Marilyn Irvin Holt

This first scholarly biography of Mamie Eisenhower draws on original sources in the Eisenhower Library to paint a realistic and captivating portrait. Marilyn Irvin Holt places her in the context of her time, showing that she was a perfect first lady for the fifties–a stylish grandmother who doted on her family and considered her job to be creating a home life that eased her husband’s work tensions. But Holt shows that besides being steadfastly devoted to Ike, Mamie Eisenhower employed her own “hidden hand” to boost his image.

Holt recaptures the winning personality that made Mrs. Eisenhower an important part of both her husband’s success and her cultural milieu, and relates how her experience as an army wife-with overseas postings, acquaintance with heads of state, and experience as an accomplished hostess better prepared her for the White House. Holt reveals that there was much more to Mamie Eisenhower than the housewife she described herself as, showing us instead a resourceful first lady who ran the executive mansion like an army sergeant, relished charity work and promoted cultural events.

12. Canoeing the Great Plains by Patrick Dobson

Tired of an unfulfilling life in Kansas City, Missouri, Patrick Dobson left his job and set off on foot across the Great Plains. After two and a half months, 1,450 miles and numerous encounters with the people of the heartland, Dobson arrived in Helena, Montana. He then set a canoe on the Missouri and asked the river to carry him safely back to Kansas City, hoping this enigmatic watercourse would help reconnect him with his life. In Canoeing the Great Plains, Dobson recounts his journey on the Missouri, the country’s longest river. Dobson, a novice canoeist when he begins his trip, faces the Missouri at a time of dangerous flooding and must learn to trust himself to the powerful flows of the river and its stark and serenely beautiful countryside. He meets a cast of characters along the river who assist him both with the mundane tasks of canoeing–portaging around dams and reservoirs and finding campsites–and with his own personal transformation. Mishaps, mistakes and misadventures plague his trip, but over time the river shifts from being a frightening adversary to a welcome companion. As the miles float by and the distinctions blur between himself and what he formerly called nature, Dobson comes to grips with his past, his fears and his life beyond the river.

Check out more work by Kansas authors below.

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Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit, and to connect readers with great books. Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-leads the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.