The best books about the Ozarks

Brooks Blevins Author Of A History of the Ozarks, Vol. 1: The Old Ozarks
By Brooks Blevins

The Books I Picked & Why

The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks

By Donald Harington

The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks

Why this book?

It may be pure fiction, but Harington’s saga of the remote community of Stay More (home, of course, to the Stay Morons) is still the best, most entertaining history of the Ozarks in existence. Beneath the postmodern devices and 1970s-era subversiveness, Harington’s abiding love for the Ozarks and its people shines through. From the backcountry dialect to the intricacies of a century and a half of regional history, it remains – for my money – the best thing ever written about the Ozarks.


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Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks: Schoolcraft's Ozark Journal, 1818-1819

By H. Schoolcraft

Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks: Schoolcraft's Ozark Journal, 1818-1819

Why this book?

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft may have been a condescending, greenhorn Easterner when he ventured through the sparsely settled Ozarks more than two centuries ago, but his descriptions of the terrain he traversed and the frontier settlements he saw are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history and geography of the region. Cultural geographer Milt Rafferty’s maps and annotations put us in the woods and on the streams with Schoolcraft every step of the way. 


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The Upland South: The Making of an American Folk Region

By Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov

The Upland South: The Making of an American Folk Region

Why this book?

If you want to understand the Ozarks, you need to understand the generations of people who leapfrogged from Appalachia to the Ozarks – and sometimes on to the Texas hill country. This underappreciated little book by a top-notch geographer uses a variety of cultural markers to explore the roots and branches of Upland Southerners. It’s a rare thing for a scholar to do, and Jordan-Bychkov did it efficiently and expertly.


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Give Us a Kiss

By Daniel Woodrell

Give Us a Kiss

Why this book?

Woodrell is best known for the ominous, lyrical Winter’s Bone, but I’m such a fan that my favorite Woodrell novel is always the most recent one I’ve re-read. So here’s Give Us a Kiss, his first foray into the wild and rural Ozarks of West Table and Howl County. The novel is also a hard-charging, nuanced look into the life of a mostly unsuccessful writer facing an inner struggle over just how far, if at all, he should get above his raising. It’s a concern for anyone caught between different worlds, and we are fortunate that the autobiographical sinews between author and protagonist were severed before Doyle Redmond spun out of control.


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The Ozarks: An American Survival of Primitive Society

By Vance Randolph

The Ozarks: An American Survival of Primitive Society

Why this book?

It is doubtful that anyone has been more associated with an American region than Vance Randolph is with the Ozarks. Ornery and darkly romantic, Randolph was always attracted to people on the margins. Few were more marginal than the Ozarkers in the early twentieth century. While we must take a lot of Randolph’s “nonfiction” with a dose of salt, The Ozarks, originally published in 1931, was the first book-length documentary take on the region and its people. It set the stage for generations of Ozarks observations to come. 


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