The best books about Ohio

27 authors have picked their favorite books about Ohio and why they recommend each book.

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A Country Between

By Michael N. McConnell,

Book cover of A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724-1774

A comprehensive examination of the Ohio Valley native nations during the decades leading up to Dunmore’s War. Though the covering of the actual campaign makes up a small portion of this book, any researcher desiring a balanced view of the conflict for land in the Ohio couldn’t ask for a better resource than A Country Between.


Who am I?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during the 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, particularly those set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultural and world views collided. Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore’s campaign against the Shawnee nation on the eve of the Revolutionary war, culminating in the Battle of Point Pleasant, is a fascinating, complex, and poignant example of the armies and individuals that planned, fought, and resisted the campaign.


I wrote...

Many Sparrows

By Lori Benton,

Book cover of Many Sparrows

What is my book about?

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would... In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year-old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son...especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

The Ohio Frontier, Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830

By R. Douglas Hurt,

Book cover of The Ohio Frontier, Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830

Part of the “History of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier” series, this book presents readers with many entertaining and informative accounts of Ohio life throughout the frontier era. The period covered in this book is just over 100 years, so Dunmore’s War, while given attention, is not explored in detail. Still, I found this book a valued and comprehensive survey that helped me to understand the political and cultural factors that led to the conflict in 1774, as well as what followed after.


Who am I?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during the 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, particularly those set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultural and world views collided. Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore’s campaign against the Shawnee nation on the eve of the Revolutionary war, culminating in the Battle of Point Pleasant, is a fascinating, complex, and poignant example of the armies and individuals that planned, fought, and resisted the campaign.


I wrote...

Many Sparrows

By Lori Benton,

Book cover of Many Sparrows

What is my book about?

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would... In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year-old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son...especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

The Border Wars of the Upper Ohio Valley

By William Hintzen,

Book cover of The Border Wars of the Upper Ohio Valley

Yet another book about the Ohio frontier broader in scope than Dunmore’s War, but a chapter in this book is devoted to it. What sets this book apart is its focus on individual men and women who struggled to survive (and in some instances shaped) the constant wars on the Ohio frontier during the period: Daniel Boone; Chief Logan; the Zane family; Simon Kenton; Lewis Wetzel; the Girty brothers; George Rogers Clark, and more. The examination of their lives and the events they witnessed, lived through, and helped shape, lends a fuller picture of life during this turbulent era.


Who am I?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during the 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, particularly those set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultural and world views collided. Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore’s campaign against the Shawnee nation on the eve of the Revolutionary war, culminating in the Battle of Point Pleasant, is a fascinating, complex, and poignant example of the armies and individuals that planned, fought, and resisted the campaign.


I wrote...

Many Sparrows

By Lori Benton,

Book cover of Many Sparrows

What is my book about?

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would... In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year-old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son...especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Autumn of the Black Snake

By William Hogeland,

Book cover of Autumn of the Black Snake: George Washington, Mad Anthony Wayne, and the Invasion That Opened the West

The bloodiest and most decisive Indian wars occurred not in the American West but in the Ohio Valley shortly after the United States gained its independence. The little known struggles with the formidable tribes of the Midwest opened the way for westward expansion. Autumn of the Black Snake is a scrupulously balanced account of what is sometimes called President George Washington’s Indian War, enhanced with an intriguing recounting of the often dirty policies behind the creation of the United States Army. Author William Hogeland also offers engaging portraits of towering but largely forgotten Indian leaders such as Little Turtle and Blue Jacket and their peoples. Read this book before turning to the Indian Wars in the West.


Who am I?

I am a retired Foreign Service Officer with the U. S. Department of State and, more to the point for the purpose of the topic at hand, the author or editor of eighteen books on the Indian Wars and the Civil War. Among them is the bestselling, multiple award-winning The Earth is Weeping: The Indian Wars for the American West.


I wrote...

Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation

By Peter Cozzens,

Book cover of Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation

What is my book about?

The first biography of the great Shawnee leader in more than twenty years, and the first to make clear that his misunderstood younger brother, Tenskwatawa, was an equal partner in the last great pan-Indian alliance against the United States.

Beloved

By Toni Morrison,

Book cover of Beloved

For a fictional and gut-wrenching take on how the American reliance on oppressed women’s reproductive labor has long put these women in impossible binds (based on a true story!), you have to read Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel, Beloved. I won’t say any more lest I give away the plot. Just read it.


Who am I?

I am Associate Professor of Atlantic World Women’s History at the University of Oxford. The history of race, gender, and childbearing is my passion and my profession. The Dobbs decision pissed me TF off and inspired me to write this list. I hope you enjoy these books, and never stop questioning why women’s reproductive lives are controlled so minutely and why their reproductive labour is unpaid and unacknowledged.


I wrote...

The Politics of Reproduction: Race, Medicine, and Fertility in the Age of Abolition

By Katherine Paugh,

Book cover of The Politics of Reproduction: Race, Medicine, and Fertility in the Age of Abolition

What is my book about?

The Politics of Reproduction charts how the management of black women’s reproductive under slavery in the British empire laid the foundation for modern methods for managing women’s fertility. Politicians, slave owners, missionaries, and doctors all attempted to exploit the fertility of Black women's bodies in order to ensure the economic success of Britain’s Caribbean and North American colonies despite the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. This led to new strategies for managing sex and childbearing, such as centralized nurseries, discouragement of extended breastfeeding, and financial incentives for childbearing, that have become commonplace in our modern world. The story of a Barbadian midwife and her family dramatically illustrates the consequences of this obsession with maximizing Black women’s fertility.

Another Hill and Sometimes a Mountain

By Tim Green, Marlayna Glynn (editor),

Book cover of Another Hill and Sometimes a Mountain

You think you had a tough childhood? Meet Tim Green. Born blue into an uneducated, poor, and incestuous family in 1950s Ohio, it's a wonder this child lived at all. However, grit and forces of luck arrived to meet Tim when he needed help. Luck involved the right policemen, care workers, social workers, and foster parents. Grit involved the resolve of Tim himself.

Like Frank McCourt, Tim Green learned early to look on the bright side of life. You'll read the most shocking things you can imagine in this book that will leave you shaking your head at the things people will do. But Tim maintained the idea that not only was he worth something, but so was everyone around him. He learned how to forgive, and that was his rocky path to the fabulous life he lives today. This book is LGBTQ positive.


Who am I?

My first memoir, Overlay, has been called “the very best teenage suicide prevention tool ever created” for which I am eternally grateful. I've been told that it's a miracle I survived my childhood at all, but I don't take credit or satisfaction in that statement. Instead, I've aspired to understand what it is that gives some of us the grit that allows us to power through the unfathomable. Voraciously reading similar stories from my fellow authors continues to inform me that we all have the power to push through the pain of a disadvantaged childhood. Whether it's an inner light, luck, fate, a higher power or some combination of some or all of the above, I don't know. I do know that the children like me who grew up to tell their story with the hope of helping others deserve a read. And sometimes, a good cry.


I wrote...

Overlay: One Girl's Life in 1970s Las Vegas

By Marlayna Glynn,

Book cover of Overlay: One Girl's Life in 1970s Las Vegas

What is my book about?

This award-winning author delivers her addicting breakout novel—a mesmerizing memoir epic destined to become a classic. Set in transient 1970s Las Vegas, Overlay is the fighting-to-come-of-age story of a resilient child born into a cycle of alcoholism and abandonment. The author develops a powerful sense of self-preservation in contrast to the fallen adults entrusted with her care. 

Her profound story explores the characters and events populating her life as she moved from home to home, parent to parents, family to family, ultimately becoming homeless at fourteen. Out of the resources of her remarkable childhood emerges a gripping inner strength that will charm and captivate readers and remain in their consciousness long after the last page of her story has been turned.

Sula

By Toni Morrison,

Book cover of Sula

No other novel is more important to me than this one. A college professor introduced it to me in my sophomore year and, as the third Toni Morrison book I’d read, it just spoke to me in a way no other book has before or since. Sula and Nel grow up in Depression-era Ohio, but limitations on black people’s and women’s lives necessitate their different paths: Sula goes rogue to the big Ohio city while Nel succeeds as a housewife in their all-Black birthplace known as “The Bottom.” You would never know an approximately 150-page book could deliver so much spectacular drama and so many unforgettable characters across three generations in America. When Sula returns to The Bottom after a ten-year absence, she and Nel’s friendship endures the ultimate test.


Who am I?

I’m a Black woman novelist in America who has made it through life with three things: God, great books, and greater friends. Throughout my writing career, friends have encouraged and supported each and every book I could not have written without them. I am also a literary scholar of black women writers in America, a champion of their works, and a soul dedicated to preserving their names in the literary canon. I have two English literature and language degrees from University of Chicago with my M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School. No novel I write is complete without empowering and strengthening relationships between Black women and girls.


I wrote...

Solemn

By Kalisha Buckhanon,

Book cover of Solemn

What is my book about?

Solemn Redvine is a precocious Mississippi girl who senses a nearby baby may be her half-sibling: the outcome of her father’s mistakes with a married woman who lives in their mobile home community. After Solemn witnesses a man drop the baby down a community well, she struggles to understand the event, leaving her forever changed. When her father’s next mistake – a robbery – lands Solemn in a group home for troubled girls, she meets a Chicago delinquent who wants to escape.

The Bluest Eye

By Toni Morrison,

Book cover of The Bluest Eye

This work of historical fiction was Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison’s first novel, published in 1970. I was a newspaper book reviewer at the time, and I read it for my column. I instantly recognized Morrison’s early genius for poetic language and unflinching truth-telling, which blossomed into her mature masterpiece Beloved. The story captivated me, for I ached for the struggles of Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl struggling not only to grow up but to survive racism during the Depression. Most moving to me were her prayers for blue eyes, underscoring how standards of physical beauty can damage a young person’s self-image. 

This is a YA/Adult crossover novel with strong themes of brutality and sexuality, so it is most appropriate for mature youth.


Who am I?

I was born in Georgia but grew up in Florida during Jim Crow. My earliest memory of racism was when my mother took me downtown to buy new school shoes. I grew thirsty, so I went to drink from the “colored” water fountain. My young mind may have been attracted to water that might have been blue or pink or green. Quickly my mother whisked me to the “white” fountain, and it was then that I first began to question the racism that was part of my Southern heritage. I wrote Spite Fences to explore the historical barriers erected against equal treatment for African-Americans. All of those prohibitions are fences, limiting opportunity, begging to be torn down. 


I wrote...

Spite Fences

By Trudy Krisher,

Book cover of Spite Fences

What is my book about?

Maggie Pugh has lived all her young life in Kinship, Georgia. In all that time, almost nothing has changed in her racially divided town. If you are poor, you live on the west side. If you are rich, you live in the north. If you are white, you can sit at the counter at Byer's drugs. If you are black, you have to eat outside.

That's just the way things are in the Jim Crow South. Then something horrible happens, and Maggie is the only eyewitness to this scene of racial injustice. As Maggie’s world explodes, she wonders: Who can she tell? Who would care? Can Black Lives Matter in Georgia in 1961? Read this classic, award-winning work of historical fiction to explore Maggie’s struggle for justice and redemption.

Winesburg, Ohio

By Sherwood Anderson,

Book cover of Winesburg, Ohio

Yes, even at the turn of the Twentieth Century, there were all sorts of goings-on taking place in Clyde, Ohio. As an aspiring writer in my own small town of Illinois, I love following this story of George Willard and the lives of the townspeople he records. I particularly admire the sharp insights into rural people and into the loneliness common to those who are meant to live their lives alone.


Who am I?

I’m the author of the Pulitzer Prize Finalist novel, The Bright Forever, among other books, and I teach in the MFA in Creative Writing program at Ohio State University. I was born in southeastern Illinois, where my father farmed eighty acres in Lawrence County’s Lukin Township. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of ordinary people, particularly working-class folks in small towns and rural communities. I admire their dignity, their directness, and their big hearts. I’ve spent my life writing about them with help from writers like the ones whose books I’m recommending. I want to speak for those whose voices often get overlooked or silenced.


I wrote...

Yours, Jean

By Lee Martin,

Book cover of Yours, Jean

What is my book about?

Yours, Jean portrays the events of September 3, 1952, when one man’s actions reverberate through a number of families in the small towns of Vincennes, Indiana, and Lawrenceville, Illinois. Jean De Belle, the new librarian, is eager to begin the next phase of her young life after breaking off her engagement with her fiancé, Charlie Camplain. She has no way of knowing that in a few hours, Charlie will arrive at the school, intent on convincing her to take back his ring. What happens next will challenge the bonds within the families whose lives intersect with them on that fateful day. Yours, Jean is a novel about small-town manners and the loneliness and the desire for connection that drive people to do things they never could have imagined. 

A Madness So Discreet

By Mindy McGinnis,

Book cover of A Madness So Discreet

Similar to Mas’ work, McGinnis paints a disturbing picture of how medicine treated “hysterical” women in unregulated asylums. The main character in this crime drama is remarkably sane considering the tortures she escapes when a detective recognizes how she can assist his search for a true madman. I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition of criminal psychology with the nonsense used to diagnose the women in the asylum. The delicious suspense and mysteries that follow keep you turning the pages for hours. 


Who am I?

I hold degrees in history and social science with a focus on women’s history at the turn of the century. I’ve studied the hysteria pandemic and its lasting results for over a decade. As someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, and the effects of psychological abuse, I find I know these women all too well. As a writer, I’ve been inspired by other classic gothic novels like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. In addition to writing novels, I’m also a blogger and marketing consultant in southern California where I live with my blind dog, Mr. Magoo.


I wrote...

A White Room

By Stephanie Carroll,

Book cover of A White Room

What is my book about?

At the close of the 19th century, Emeline Evans dreams of training as a nurse, but when her father unexpectedly dies, she must sacrifice her ambitions to marry a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family. He moves her to an unusual Gothic house where her sorrow edges toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, ghosts peer out from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria and prescribes the rest cure, which only drives her deeper into madness. Her salvation arrives only after she pursues an opportunity to nurse the poor and help women in dire circumstances. Unfortunately, to help the needy, she must secretly defy her new husband, who hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed medical practitioners. 

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