The most recommended books about Kansas

Who picked these books? Meet our 42 experts.

42 authors created a book list connected to Kansas, and here are their favorite Kansas books.
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What type of Kansas book?


Night Song

By Beverly Jenkins,

Book cover of Night Song

Deborah Fletcher Mello Author Of Playing with Danger

From the list on the dark and stormy side of the human spirit.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning, national best-selling author who loves reading as much as I love writing. Combine that with a good, smooth bourbon and it’s a win-win. Like my literary journey, my love for bourbon has been filled with surprises and challenges. Romance writing found me. I didn’t go looking for it. The journey introduced me to great writers and amazing stories and taught me to write better. Distilleries could extol the health benefits of bourbon, but I discovered it can be subtle, soul-searing, and pairs beautifully with a good meal and an even better book. Like my writing, bourbon leaves you feeling like you’ve had a great meal and threw in dessert!

Deborah's book list on the dark and stormy side of the human spirit

Why did Deborah love this book?

Before being published I was very much a romance snob. I was a bookshelf elitist who thought that good literature did not include romance.

When my first book was labeled a romance novel, romance fans quickly let me know that what I’d written wasn’t true romance, but they loved the book. So, I had to learn how to write romance and what better way than to read it.

Night Song was my first foray into historical romance with characters who looked like me. It was life changing and one of the most beautiful tales I had ever read. Lesson learned! The romance genre includes incredible stories, superb writing, and bourbon-sipping storylines and I had been missing out.

By Beverly Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night Song as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Traitorous Heart . . .

Cara Lee Henson knows no soldier can be trusted to stay in one place—and that includes handsome Sergeant Chase Jefferson of the Tenth Cavalry. Dallying with the dashing man in blue could cost the pretty, independent Kansas schoolteacher her job and her reputation. So Cara is determined to repel Chase’s advances—even though her aloof facade barely masks her smoldering desire.

A Blazing Passion . . .

Never before has Chase longed for a woman the way he ached for lovely Cara Lee. The strong-willed ebony beauty, however, will not surrender easily. But with tender…

Book cover of A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming

Kathryn Canavan Author Of Lincoln's Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America's Greatest President

From the list on true crime stories written by insiders and experts.

Who am I?

One of my first newspaper jobs was as a crime writer, covering and discovering crime stories in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There's a lot of chaff among the wheat in the true crime genre. Some books are padded with the author's personal lives. Some have paper-thin plots. The books I've recommended are well-told, well-researched stories that are hard to put down.

Kathryn's book list on true crime stories written by insiders and experts

Why did Kathryn love this book?

When an FBI agent came to Kerri Rawson's house to talk about the BTK killer, she made him show her his badge because her father Dennis Rader had always warned her to do that to be safe. 

When the agent mentioned the BTK killer, Rawson blurted out, "Has something happened to my Grandma? Has my Grandma been murdered?"

She never imagined he was there to tell her that her Dad, a church president and scout leader, was the BTK killer. 

She writes with humor about how her childhood home was sold at a public auction and her life was temporarily derailed due to her father's actions. With her faith and her family's love, she learned to live with it. 

Her humor is evident from the first page to the last. The first chapter title is "Whatever Doesn't Kill You..." At the end there's a handy list of "Eight Things Not…

By Kerri Rawson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Serial Killer's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What is it like to learn that your ordinary, loving father is a serial killer?

In 2005, Kerri Rawson opened the door of her apartment to greet an FBI agent who shared the shocking news that her father had been arrested for murdering ten people, including two children.

That's also when she first learned that her father was the notorious serial killer known as BTK, a name he'd given himself that described the horrific way he committed his crimes: bind, torture, kill. As news of his capture spread, the city of Wichita celebrated the end of a thirty-one-year nightmare. For…

The Sleep of Reason

By E.M. Dadlez,

Book cover of The Sleep of Reason

Raven West Author Of Red Wine for Breakfast

From the list on strong women who succeed in a male-dominated world.

Who am I?

In my freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia I started out as a journalism major. I joined Sigma Kappa where I met my “sister” Anne who worked at KBIA. I worked with her the rest of that year. Back home in Ellenville, NY, I convinced the station manager to hire me. I was the very first female radio announcer and engineer to work at the station. When my best friend was killed in a tragic accident, I needed to heal my loss by using the only method I knew would help; writing. Combining my experiences and passion for radio I wrote Red Wine for Breakfast to honor her memory.

Raven's book list on strong women who succeed in a male-dominated world

Why did Raven love this book?

As the saying goes; “Write what you know” and E.M. Dadlez, a professor of philosophy at the University of Central Oklahoma, certainly puts the saying front and center!

Dadlez takes the reader on a tour of the absurdities of higher education and sprinkles the ride with a corrupt provost and an English department rebellion. Dadlez replaced philosophy with English, Oklahoma with Kansas, and there is no doubt that she is Jane Fairfax and at some time in her career, she has crossed paths with a “Virginia Borensen” type.

Truth and fiction combine in a wonderful read that goes way outside the norm!

By E.M. Dadlez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sleep of Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jane Fairfax is a professor of English at a small college in Kansas, whose department is thrown into turmoil when the chairmanship is usurped by deranged postmodernist Virginia Borensen. Deep in the confidence of the Vice President of Academic Affairs, Borensen promises to aid him in his nefarious plan to streamline the curriculum by eliminating academic departments and replacing required courses with a series of pay-per-view multiple choice exams. The first step in an administrative agenda geared toward the outright sale of baccalaureate degrees, Vice President Flood's long term project relies upon the elimination of Jane's department as a crucial…

A Maiden's Grave

By Jeffery Deaver,

Book cover of A Maiden's Grave

Michael Prescott Author Of Tears for the Dead

From the list on crime thrillers that offer more than just thrills.

Who am I?

Ever since taking a college course in film noir, I've been in love with the cigarette-smoking, fedora-wearing, wisecracking tough guys (and gals) who inhabit the darkest corners of the modern world’s back alleys. The protagonist of Tears for the Dead, Bonnie Parker – named for the distaff half of Bonnie and Clyde – is my modest way of paying homage to this tradition, and incidentally having a lot of fun in the process.

Michael's book list on crime thrillers that offer more than just thrills

Why did Michael love this book?

I might have picked A Maiden’s Grave for the title alone, though you’ll have to read it to learn the subtle double meaning packed into those three words. But of course there’s a lot more to this fast-paced story of a school for the deaf caught in the crossfire of a police standoff. Jeffery Deaver deftly intertwines full-bodied characters, crackling tension, and emotionally affecting backstories. Reading it, I realized that it could have been a pretty ordinary police procedural and that only the author’s determination to add layers of depth and detail lifted it to a new level. 

By Jeffery Deaver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Maiden's Grave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


When a trio of desperate convicts hijack a bus carrying a group of deaf and mute schoolgirls, everyone is braced for a terrible tragedy.

FBI agent Arthur Potter is flown in to negotiate. But he has competition: local police, state troopers, politicians and the media are swarming. Not everyone has the same agenda.

And the killers will murder one innocent child an hour, on the hour, until their demands are met...

'A real chiller, seething with violence and heart-stopping tension' Sunday Telegraph

East of Troost

By Ellen Barker,

Book cover of East of Troost

Jill McCroskey Coupe Author Of Beginning with Cannonballs

From the list on interracial friendship.

Who am I?

Having grown up in segregated Knoxville, TN, I've often wondered what having a black friend as a child would have been like. My MFA thesis, in the 1980s, was a novella about just such a friendship. A small group of my (white) MFA classmates insisted that I could not, should not write about black characters. Although I believed them to be mistaken, I put my thesis away and haven’t looked at it since. About ten years ago, I decided to try again. I took an early draft of a new novel to a workshop with John Dufresne, who encouraged me to continue. The result was Beginning with Cannonballs, which received positive reviews and won the 2021 IPPY Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction. 

Jill's book list on interracial friendship

Why did Jill love this book?

I’d never read a novel like this. The chapters are similar to diary entries, telling the fictional story of a middle-aged white woman who moves into her childhood home. Over the years, due to “city planning,” East of Troost (an actual neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri) has become nearly all-black. Readers will wonder: Why the heck did the narrator decide to move back there? How will she be treated? Will she have any friends? You’ll enjoy finding out. 

By Ellen Barker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked East of Troost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Under the guise of a starting-over story, this novel deals with subtle racism today, overt racism in the past, and soul-searching about what to do about it in everyday living.

East of Troost's fictional narrator has moved back to her childhood home in a neighborhood that is now mostly Black and vastly changed by an expressway that displaced hundreds of families. It is the area located east of Troost Avenue, an invisible barrier created in the early 1900s to keep the west side of Kansas City white, "safely" cordoned off from the Black families on the east side.

When the…

At the Quiet Edge

By Victoria Helen Stone,

Book cover of At the Quiet Edge

Michael Krozer Author Of Looking Through Mirrors

From the list on action oriented books that make you think.

Who am I?

I write in the speculative fiction genre where an overwhelming event, seemingly beyond the control of the main characters, underpins what happens to those characters. Exploring scenarios about how society would change as a result of cyber controlled multiple personality overlays, for example, is a great opportunity for considered thought. I believe that a mind without a question is dead. As a writer, I imbue my characters with this philosophy and then set them free to navigate the vast plane of destiny for themselves.

Michael's book list on action oriented books that make you think

Why did Michael love this book?

In my novels, the quiet depth of character development runs parallel to the action. This is the only way to make fighting for one's life mean anything. Shootings, explosions, high body counts, or a countdown to chaos may hold momentary interest but will not create any lasting memory or take-away useful in real life.  This story spends quite a lot of time on backstory and the emotional well from which the main characters spring. Some might desire a quicker path through this. Some might not. And quite a few false paths are developed as you’d expect in a who-done-it type novel. The story reaches a driving and satisfying conclusion but some might leave wondering about the author’s opinion of law enforcement as is spoken through her protagonist.

By Victoria Helen Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At the Quiet Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A young mother has done everything possible to put the past behind her, but it might not be enough in a gripping novel of suspense by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Jane Doe novels.

Abandoned by her fugitive ex-husband, Lily Brown is rebuilding her life on the edge of a Kansas town that still feels the sting of his crimes. Lily lies low, managing the isolated storage facility where she lives with her twelve-year-old son, Everett, and planning a better future for them both. That requires keeping secrets. Everett has them too.

After breaking into a storage unit,…

One of the Boys

By Daniel Magariel,

Book cover of One of the Boys

Sherry Chiger Author Of Beyond Billicombe

From the list on families affected by addiction.

Who am I?

Having known families affected by substance abuse, I’ve long been fascinated by the resiliency of addicts’ relatives and close friends. Equally compelling to me, as a one-time wannabe psychologist, was how living with substance abusers shaped people’s characters and lives. But while the search for a recovering addict drives Beyond Billicombes plot, the book is also an ode of sorts to North Devon, the area of England where I spent three of the happiest years of my life. Though I now live outside New York City, I haven’t given up hope on being able to move back there someday. 

Sherry's book list on families affected by addiction

Why did Sherry love this book?

Dealing with an addicted child or sibling is traumatic enough; when the addict is your parent, the person who is supposed to protect and support you, the fear and betrayal are ramped up to an unbearable level. One of the Boys captures this in all its harrowing detail. Two barely teenaged boys move with their father from Kansas to New Mexico, where the father’s descent into meth addiction obliterates any sense of responsibility, affection, and decency he might once have possessed. Narrated by the younger son, One of the Boys is more than a realistic depiction of addiction; it also shows how far children will go to gain or retain a parent’s love, which is what makes the story so devastating.

By Daniel Magariel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One of the Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A father and his boys have won 'the war': the father's term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave Kansas and drive through the night to their new apartment in Albuquerque. Settled in new schools, the brothers join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. Soon his missteps - the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late-night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters - become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching him transform into someone they no longer recognize.

Set in the stark landscape of New Mexico…

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote,

Book cover of In Cold Blood

Rob St. Clair Author Of Saving Stacy: The Untold Story of the Moody Massacre

From the list on true crime tragedies.

Who am I?

Working as a prosecutor, trial lawyer for defendants, and as a magistrate, I’m always bothered by the misconception most people have of our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, cops are crooked, judges are corrupt, and witnesses lie on the stand. Not everyone, not every day, but more often than you would ever imagine. I write true crime books about cases where the underlying focus is on officials who are incompetent, derelict in their duties, or simply downright corrupt. The cases are always suspenseful, but justice is rarely served, and both the defendant and the public are the ones who lose.

Rob's book list on true crime tragedies

Why did Rob love this book?

This book started a new way on how this genre is written. It’s a fiction novel, where the author adds his imagined dialogue to keep the story flowing.

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, generating both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is timeless, providing insights into the nature of American violence.

By Truman Capote,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked In Cold Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly…

Wisconsin Death Trip

By Michael Lesy,

Book cover of Wisconsin Death Trip

F. Brett Cox Author Of The End of All Our Exploring

From the list on the old (and new) weird America.

Who am I?

Author Greil Marcus’ phrase “the old, weird America” gave me exactly the right words for something I’ve always felt: that there is a specific weirdness to the American landscape, an uncontrollable current of strange that runs beneath the carefully cultivated surface of heroes and neighbors and shared, stable dreams. Of course, as William Faulkner observed, the past isn’t past, and America is as weird as it’s ever been. Maybe weirder. Look at the news. Look out your window. No surprise, then, that I’m drawn to such a perspective when I read other people’s stories, and seldom get completely away from it when I write my own.

F.'s book list on the old (and new) weird America

Why did F. love this book?

A stunning assembly of archival photographs and newspaper clippings from Jackson County, Wisconsin, in the last decade and a half of the 19th century, and the definitive explanation of why nobody in old-time photographs is ever smiling—and, I choose to believe, the real reason the parts of The Wizard of Oz set in Kansas were filmed in black and white. Economic privation, unceasing bereavement, disease both physical and mental—in other words, Tuesday. Was there any joy in Jackson County? Somewhere, I’m sure. What’s documented here is a stark, powerful beauty. The most real book I’ve ever encountered, and one of two on face-out display on my bookshelves.

By Michael Lesy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wisconsin Death Trip as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is about life in a small turn-of-the-century Wisconsin town. Lesy has collected and arranged photographs taken between 1890 and 1910. Against these are juxtaposed excerpts from the Badger State Banner, from the Mendota State (asylum) Record Book, and occasionally quotations from the writings of Hamlin Garland and Glenway Wescott.

Traveller's Trial

By Chikao J,

Book cover of Traveller's Trial

J.J. Thorn Author Of Apocalypse Assassin

From J.J.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author New father & husband Reader Nerd Couch potato

J.J.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did J.J. love this book?

This book hit a lot of the right notes for me in a way that is very hard to explain.

As someone who enjoys action-oriented novels that show apparent progression aspects and extraordinary abilities, I thought this book was an amazing example of a simple story done very well. This book doesn’t redefine a genre but executes a storyline well.

The characterization of the main character is also very interesting. Off-putting, frustrating to follow at times, and likely neurodivergent, the main character’s thought process is interesting to follow as you learn about him and ‘watch’ him interact with what is a very limited cast of characters.

I often like to think that the ‘rule of cool’ is also just as important as a well-executed narrative, and I think this story does that in spades. The uniqueness of the abilities, the execution and creativity, and the confined narrative made this a…

By Chikao J,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Traveller's Trial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Koji Athame left his house for the first time in five years today. When what was supposed to be a quick trip to visit his parents, turns into a deadly crash. Koji finds himself waking up in a realm of danger and wonder beyond his wildest imagination. It doesn’t take long to figure out he’s not in Kansas anymore, after escaping a monster attack and unlocking his new Traveller system, Koji learns that the Trial he and the other survivors are in will only exist for 4 more days, and only the strongest can escape.

With time ticking against him…

Still Life With Crows

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child,

Book cover of Still Life With Crows

M. S. Spencer Author Of The Wishing Tree: Love, Lies, and Spies on Chincoteague Island

From M.S.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author World traveler Erstwhile beauty Recovering academic News junkie

M.S.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did M.S. love this book?

While technically a horror story, Still Life with Crows — Book 4 of the Pendergast series — is more a thriller and mystery. A small Kansas town has turned into a killing ground. Is it a serial killer, or the curse of a past massacre coming back to haunt them? Either way, FBI Agent Pendergast—a more eccentric version of the eccentric Sherlock Holmes—must discover where the killer is hiding before he kills again.

Preston and Child never fail to draw me in almost immediately. Whenever I’m bored, at loose ends, or waiting for a galley proof, I can be immediately distracted by one of their books. Still Life with Crows is no exception. It is quite literally an edge-of-your-seat story.

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Still Life With Crows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Medicine Creek, Kansas, an old-fashioned small town where nothing ever changes, the community is terrified after a series of grisly murders takes place. Even more alarming, the bodies are displayed in bizarre tableaus. FBI Agent Pendergast arrives from New Orleans to investigate.

Boarding School Seasons

By Brenda J. Child,

Book cover of Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940

Farina King Author Of The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century

From the list on U.S. Indian boarding school experiences.

Who am I?

My Diné (Navajo) family stories drew me into history including studies of Indigenous experiences in boarding schools. Two of my uncles were Navajo Code Talkers, and I loved asking them about their life stories. My uncle Albert Smith often spoke about his memories of the war. I was struck by the irony that he was sent to a boarding school as a child where the Navajo language was forbidden, and then he later relied on the language to protect his homelands. I then became interested in all my relatives' boarding school stories, including those of my father, which led me to write my first book The Earth Memory Compass about Diné school experiences. 

Farina's book list on U.S. Indian boarding school experiences

Why did Farina love this book?

Child draws strong connections between boarding schools and Native American communities and families through generations in ways that are accessible and clear-cut for every reader. Her work delves into sources that other scholars overlooked such as letters between boarding school students and families. One of the greatest takeaways from Child’s book and other related studies that I also recommend is how boarding school legacies and impacts continue into the present, affecting not only the boarding school students but also their posterity and American society at large.

By Brenda J. Child,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boarding School Seasons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Boarding School Seasons offers a revealing look at the strong emotional history of Indian boarding school experiences in the first half of the twentieth century. At the heart of this book are the hundreds of letters written by parents, children, and school officials at Haskell Institute in Kansas and the Flandreau School in South Dakota. These revealing letters show how profoundly entire families were affected by their experiences.

Children, who often attended schools at great distances from their communities, suffered from homesickness, and their parents from loneliness. Parents worried continually about the emotional and physical health and the academic progress…

While I Was Away

By Waka T. Brown,

Book cover of While I Was Away

Cathy Carr Author Of 365 Days to Alaska

From the list on families, changes, and challenges.

Who am I?

I’ve been a writer a long time and a reader for even longer. But, above all, I’m someone who has always been interested in people. The book universe is filled with fast-moving, plot-driven fiction, but I find myself drawn to stories focused on layered characters and complex relationships. Since I think families are so basic to our experiences as people, I’m always interested in those stories too. What the five books here have in common are big family changes—mostly caused by adults—that challenge the books’ main characters—who are all kids.

Cathy's book list on families, changes, and challenges

Why did Cathy love this book?

In my experience, a truly unique book is rare, and I’m always excited to find one that stands apart because of premise and setting. Waka is happy in her sixth-grade class in Kansasuntil her parents notice she’s losing her Japanese language skills and decide to take action. They send Waka to Tokyo to spend several months living with her grandmother and attending a local public school. In Japan, Waka struggles with reading and writing kanji, feels awkward around her reserved grandmother, and can’t figure out the social scene at school. Japan may be her parents’ birth country, but in Tokyo, Waka is an outsider. Where is Waka’s real home, and who will she be once she figures that out? An unforgettable memoir with lots of fun 1980s flavor. 

By Waka T. Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked While I Was Away as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of New York Public Library's Best Books of the Year!

The Farewell meets Erin Entrada Kelly's Blackbird Fly in this empowering middle grade memoir from debut author Waka T. Brown, who takes readers on a journey to 1980s Japan, where she was sent as a child to reconnect to her family's roots.

When twelve-year-old Waka's parents suspect she can't understand the basic Japanese they speak to her, they make a drastic decision to send her to Tokyo to live for several months with her strict grandmother. Forced to say goodbye to her friends and what would have been…

Bleeding Kansas

By Nicole Etcheson,

Book cover of Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era

James Traub Author Of What Was Liberalism?: The Past, Present, and Promise of a Noble Idea

From the list on the run-up to the American Civil War.

Who am I?

I am a journalist and NYU professor whose primary field is American foreign policy. As a biographer, however, I am drawn to American history and, increasingly, to the history of liberalism. I am now writing a biography of that arch-liberal, Hubert Humphrey. My actual subject thus appears to be wars of ideas. I began reading in-depth about the 1850s, when the question of slavery divided the nation in half, while writing a short biography of Judah Benjamin, Secretary of State of the Confederacy. (Judah Benjamin: Counselor To The Confederacy will be published in October.) It was the decade in which the tectonic fault upon which the nation was built erupted to the surface. There's a book for me in there somewhere, but I haven't yet found it.

James' book list on the run-up to the American Civil War

Why did James love this book?

Americans experienced a kind of practice round of the Civil War when both Southern and  Northern settlers flocked into Kansas--the first determined to make it a slave state, the second, a free one. The savage political and military conflict left both sides convinced that the nation could not, in fact, survive half slave and half free. Bleeding Kansas, though a work of serious scholarship, draws heavily on the letters and diaries of those settlers to depict an irreconcilable clash of rival ideologies, ambitions, characters; you would not want to be caught in a bar with the drunken lowlifes who poured across the border from Missouri to rig elections on behalf of slave-owners.

By Nicole Etcheson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bleeding Kansas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few people would have expected bloodshed in Kansas Territory. After all, it had few slaves and showed few signs that slavery would even flourish. But civil war tore this territory apart in the 1850s and 60s, and "Bleeding Kansas" became a forbidding symbol for the nationwide clash over slavery that followed.

Many free-state Kansans seemed to care little about slaves, and many proslavery Kansans owned not a single slave. But the failed promise of the Kansas-Nebraska Act-when fraud in local elections subverted the settlers' right to choose whether Kansas would be a slave or free state-fanned the flames of war.…

Moon Over Manifest

By Clare Vanderpool,

Book cover of Moon Over Manifest

Kathleen Wilford Author Of Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt

From the list on the American prairie.

Who am I?

I’m a former high-school and middle-school English teacher and a current instructor in the Writing Program at Rutgers University. I live in hilly New Jersey, but I’ve always been fascinated by the flat, treeless American prairie and the people who have lived there, from the Native American tribes of the Great Plains to the early homesteaders. I believe that to understand where we are, you need to understand where we’ve been, which is why I love to read and write historical fiction.

Kathleen's book list on the American prairie

Why did Kathleen love this book?

I fell for this book because of the main character’s voice, which is earthy, believable, and funny. “Hard times are a penny for plenty,” Abilene says after hopping off the train in dusty Manifest, Kansas in 1936. “They call it a Depression, but I’d say it’s a downright rut and the whole country’s in it.” Carrying her daddy’s compass and not much else, Abilene boards with a preacher with a “jigsaw life” and seeks to discover her missing daddy’s past. Following her quest, I learned about things like bootlegging, the flu epidemic of 1918, the Great Depression, xenophobia—and a bit about magic elixirs.  

By Clare Vanderpool,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moon Over Manifest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2011 Newbery Award.

The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her…


By Nell Irvin Painter,

Book cover of Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction

Charlotte Hinger Author Of Nicodemus

From the list on African Americans in the West after the Civil War.

Who am I?

I’m a multi-award-winning novelist and Kansas historian. Through reading letters written by African Americans in Kansas, I realized that black people were a major political force. In fact, with the settlement of Nicodemus, for the first time in American history, enough black people had gathered in one place to dominate political decisions and prevail over the white community. No one had told the story of the three black powerhouses who shaped politics on a county, state, and national level. I was thrilled when University of Oklahoma Press published my academic book. It won second place in the Westerner’s International Best Book contest.

Charlotte's book list on African Americans in the West after the Civil War

Why did Charlotte love this book?

I’m a native Kansan. I have a special appreciation for books about my beloved state. So, finding this superb work about African Americans moved me to tears. Painter writes about the great migration from the South after the Civil War. Kansas was literally regarded as “The Promised Land” due to the Homestead Act and the promise of free land. Painter is unflinching in her telling of the violence that occurred to prevent black people from leaving. The Exodus to Kansas was feverish and dangerous. She tells of heroics required to leave the South, due to black people's “fear of future evil, and their dread of renewed slavery.” 

By Nell Irvin Painter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Exodusters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first major migration to the North of ex-slaves.

Win By Two

By Adam Donyes, Derrick Derrell,

Book cover of Win By Two: A Kansas City Drug Dealer, a Private School Teacher, and the Game That Linked Them Together

John Willkom Author Of Walk-On Warrior: Drive, Discipline, and the Will to Win

From the list on inspiration.

Who am I?

As a former Division 1 basketball player at Marquette University and current ecommerce executive, I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration. Please enjoy my list and send me any comments on what you find inspiring!

John's book list on inspiration

Why did John love this book?

Win By Two is the true story about a Kansas City drug dealer and a private school teacher, bonded together through basketball. This is a powerful story about race, leadership, and what can happen when people get outside of their comfort zones and build bridges in their community. It also challenges our internal biases that we may not even know exist.

By Adam Donyes, Derrick Derrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Win By Two as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A drug dealer, who grew up in the urban core of Kansas City. A private school teacher who grew up in San Diego and dared to hire a convicted felon as his assistant coach. And the game that saved both their lives. A drama so powerful no storyteller would script the details that unfold. It all starts in a crack house on the west side of the Paseo, and in a broken low income home in east San Diego. It unfolds in a private school gymnasium, a state penitentiary, a chapel in downtown Kansas City, the Johnson County Suburbs, and…

Bring on the Blessings

By Beverly Jenkins,

Book cover of Bring on the Blessings

Susan B. James Author Of Time and Forever

From the list on romances with seasoned heroines.

Who am I?

My real name is Susan Berger and I'm a certified bookaholic. I'm also an actor and I love my work. Being older has been very lucky for me. I wrote children’s books as Susan J Berger. COVID closed my publisher and I'm not actively submitting at the moment. I write romance as Susan B James because I didn’t want my children to have to acknowledge that their mother knew anything about sex. Falling in love and living happily ever after is an ageless state. But in romance novels heroines are mostly under thirty. I happen to be chronologically gifted myself. And many of my favorite romances feature older heroines. I think we need more.

Susan's book list on romances with seasoned heroines

Why did Susan love this book?

In 2014 I went to my first Romance Writers of America Conference in New York City. On the first day, a five-author panel discussed the romance genre and read excerpts from their work in a shaded area of the park at the back of the NYC public library. One of the panelists was my favorite author, Susan Elizabeth Phillips (which is why I was at the discussion.) At the time I had never read a Beverly Jenkins book.

When I heard her speak and read an excerpt I knew I wanted to read her books. I bought the two books she had with her. When I got back to the hotel room I was sharing with my editor and her best friend I realized the books were numbers four and five in a series. Bummer.

I wanted to start reading her right away. I went online and bought the first—…

By Beverly Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bring on the Blessings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bestselling author Beverly Jenkins makes the move to trade paperback with this rich and moving story that introduces us to the beautiful Kansas town of Henry Adams, and the townspeople who make it unique

Bernadine Brown is a woman with money to spend. Henry Adams is a town in desperate need of cash. But after Bernadine puts up the money, she has some ideas about how the town should be run. Will the townspeople be willing to shake up their comfortable lives to share the gift they’ve been given with others who really need it?

One of the few all…

Red Menace

By Lois Ruby,

Book cover of Red Menace

Jeffrey Michael Ruby Author Of Penelope March Is Melting

From the list on middle grade my bookworm daughter got me into.

Who am I?

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life as a journalist, a dining critic, or a humor columnist. But over the past ten years, my reading choices have been influenced less by, say, The New Yorker, than by my daughter, Hannah. As she grew from Knuffle Bunny to Junie B. Jones to Judy Moody, so did I. And when she began reading middle-grade novels, I did too. Then I began writing them. There is something amazing about the endless possibilities of a kid’s imagination before they get cynical and start to care about things like being cool that makes middle-grade the sweet spot for ideas. It’s like Hannah came along and recalibrated my brain—for reading and writing alike.

Jeffrey's book list on middle grade my bookworm daughter got me into

Why did Jeffrey love this book?

Lois Ruby is a YA veteran who has more than 20 books to her name, many of them historical fiction, including the beloved Steal Away Home, which appeared on basically every year-end best list back in 1994. She also happens to be my mom. And her latest book, which takes place during the “red scare” of the 1950s, is among her best. It’s a tense story about a baseball-crazy 13-year-old boy whose parents are accused of being communist sympathizers, turning his life upside down when he’s supposed to be studying for his bar mitzvah. The clock-ticking backdrop, leading up to the notorious execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for supposedly passing on nuclear secrets to the Soviets, gives the whole book terrifyingly high stakes.

By Lois Ruby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red Menace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A suspenseful and heartfelt story about an era whose uncertainties, controversies, and dangers will seem anything but distant to contemporary readers.

If thirteen-year-old Marty Rafner had his way, he'd spend the summer of 1953 warming the bench for his baseball team, listening to Yankees games on the radio, and avoiding preparations for his bar mitzvah. Instead, he has to deal with FBI agents staking out his house because his parents―professors at the local college―are suspected communist sympathizers. Marty knows what happens to communists, or Reds, as his friends call them: They lose their jobs, get deported...or worse. Two people he's…

Maybe Next Year

By Dave Hughes,

Book cover of Maybe Next Year

David S. Pederson Author Of Murder at Union Station

From the list on gay characters navigating difficult life changes.

Who am I?

As a gay writer who has navigated some difficult life changes of my own, including cancer, a gay bashing, and the death of an early love, I always enjoy finding writers whose gay characters must deal with their own challenging life issues. Whether it's a coming-of-age tale, a puzzling mystery, or a suspenseful fantasy, each character comes to terms with accepting who he is in an often hostile world.

David's book list on gay characters navigating difficult life changes

Why did David love this book?

Maybe Next Year, by Dave Hughes, a coming-of-age love story of two young men that touched my heart. It's all about Bryan and Chris, two high school guys that have been best friends for several years, and what happens when they discover their feelings for each other are more than friendship. They come from two very different family backgrounds and will have a lot to navigate.

By Dave Hughes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maybe Next Year as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bryan and Chris are high school juniors who have been inseparable best friends for three years. Now, they are discovering that their feelings for each other run much deeper than mere friendship.

Chris, whose open-minded family is completely supportive, is ready and able to live his life out and proud. For Bryan, whose father is the pastor of a very conservative mega-church in a Kansas City suburb, being gay simply isn’t an option. Bryan hopes that maybe next year when they leave Kansas to go to college together, he will be able to live more openly. In the meantime, they…