Monday, January 23, 2012

Books about places

I’m teaching an honors seminar this term with a fellow faculty member, she from the English Dept. She and I both brought in some of our books about place to share with the students. I noticed that mine tended to be from the Great Plains. It’s not that I'm pining for the plains, it’s that I’m not there and so the next best thing to being there is reading about there (yes, reading, not watching a video). I don’t buy so many books about the Great Lakes region a). since I live here and b). they are readily available from the libraries here. A new entry in my collection of plains-based books is “The Eight Wonders of Kansas,” published by Kansas Sampler Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to “preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities…The cause is to keep every town viable that shows the will and spirit to help itself.” A great goal and they’re doing some nice things to reach that goal. This book is one of them. To see what they are doing, visit It’s good place-making and rural economic development work. For example, they have a Rural Brainstorm coming up early next month. But more about the book… First to take care of any wise cracks from non-Kansans about the book. Yes, it is a thick book. And yes, the hard part was choosing finalists, not finding eight wonders in Kansas. OK having taken care of that… The book represents the results of a contest to name 8 wonders (there continues to be an annual contest to add to the list). The contest was and the book is arranged around the themes of architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people. It’s a large format book, spiral bound to lay flat. The pictures are wonderful as are the short descriptions of each of the sites and people. It starts out with the 8 wonders overall, then describes the top 8 in each category along with the finalists. As a Kansan, I knew many of the sites, had been to several, but now want to visit the ones I have not. You can order the book from the website. I recommend it for people willing to learn more about Kansas or as an example of a good job at promoting places.

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