For some of us, spring seems right around the corner. For others, it seems we may have a ways to go (here’s looking at you, Midwest). But nothing transports you to warmer–or at least different–climes like a book! Our team at the Daily Yonder and the Center for Rural Strategies has shared some of our own favorite rural books, (which you can find split into part one and part two). For this third edition, we’ve asked you, our readers, to recommend your top choices.
But first, a quick PSA:
Are you affiliated with a rural library? You may be interested in joining the Rural Library Network, based out of Berea College in Kentucky. Joining the network is free, and members have access to informational webinars and trainings, as well as an opportunity to connect with practitioners in rural libraries around the country.
Members can also apply to the Rural Library Fellowship, which provides professional development, travel grants for leadership conferences, a stipend to support participants, and a $5,000 award to support grade-level reading initiatives. The current round of fellowship applications is open for one more week, so if you’re interested, get your application in by Friday, March 12.
Now back to the books! Here are some great rural books readers like you recommend:
Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant
“Grant moves to the Mississippi Delta and tells the stories of people he meets. It is like it takes someone from another country to help us understand and appreciate our community. The people are funny and kind and giving, and Grant never stoops to the stereotypes we so often hear about this area of the country.” –Anonymous Daily Yonder reader
“Dispatches from Pluto is a book as unique as the Delta itself. It’s lively, entertaining, and funny, containing a travel writer’s flair for in-depth reporting alongside insightful reflections on poverty, community, and race. It’s also a love story, as the nomadic Grant learns to settle down. He falls not just for his girlfriend but for the beguiling place they now call home. Mississippi, Grant concludes, is the best-kept secret in America.” –Overdrive
Access Dispatches from Pluto on Overdrive.
What I Stand On: The Collected Essays of Wendell Berry, 1969-2017 by Wendell Berry
“In essays both deeply personal and powerfully polemical, Berry speaks for a culture of stewardship and husbandry, for the welfare of rural people often forgotten and marginalized, and for the vital role of sustainable farming in preserving the planet as well as our national character.” –Library of America
Recommended by Joe Belden, from Washington, DC.
Access more works by Wendell Berry on Overdrive.
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
“Based on the life of a faith-inspired man who lived in and traveled throughout the Southwest… Lyrical descriptions of the land, which is a key character in the novel.” –Theresa Grieshaber, Modesto, CA
“Willa Cather’s best known novel is an epic—almost mythic—story of a single human life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert. In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes to serve as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows—gently, all the while contending with an unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness.” —Overdrive
Access Death Comes for the Archbishop on Overdrive.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
“I absolutely loved Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, which takes place in rural west Texas. Her descriptive writing is so well done that you can picture yourself standing there, with the summer sun beating down and the dust blowing through the air.” –Stephanie A. DeVoe
“Written with the haunting emotional power of Elizabeth Strout and Barbara Kingsolver, an astonishing debut novel that explores the lingering effects of a brutal crime on the women of one small Texas oil town in the 1970s.” –Overdrive
Access Valentine on Overdrive.
RELATED STORIES: More Rural Reading
Next of Kin by Sharon Sala (Part of the Rebel Ridge Trilogy)
“Ms. Sala is a wonderful author and writes in many genres. The three books in this romantic suspense trilogy are filled with down-to-earth characters dealing with real life issues and situations that keep you turning pages long after your eyes start to blur. If you’re not reading Sharon Sala, you should be!” –Patricia Shultz, Minneapolis, MN
“Beth Venable has seen too much. Witness to a major mob hit, she’s placed in protective custody until the trial. But after her third safe house is riddled with bullets, she goes underground to save herself. What the FBI can’t do, her kinfolk will. But her homecoming – including her blissful reunion with strong, silent Ryal Walker – is made bittersweet by the fight she’s brought to the clan’s doorstep.” –Overdrive
Access Next of Kin on Overdrive.
Radio Free Vermont by Bill McKibben
“A hopeful, yet snarky tale of rural resistance in a slightly futuristic Vermont. I loved every moment of this book!” –Amanda Worman Holmgaard
“As the host of Radio Free Vermont—’underground, underpowered, and underfoot’—seventy-two-year-old Vern Barclay is currently broadcasting from an ‘undisclosed and double-secret location.’ With the help of a young computer prodigy named Perry Alterson, Vern uses his radio show to advocate for a simple yet radical idea: an independent Vermont, one where the state secedes from the United States and operates under a free local economy…Witty, biting, and terrifyingly timely, Radio Free Vermont is Bill McKibben’s fictional response to the burgeoning resistance movement.” –Overdrive
Access Radio Free Vermont on Overdrive.
Bonus: A Book Written and Recommended by a Daily Yonder Reader
The Point of the Pick: A Novel of the 20th Century by Curtis Seltzer
“The novel opens as two men in a Cadillac are pushed over a cliff in West Virginia — and the reader is off on a wild ride with some wonderful characters, an insider’s sense of detail, a gift for dialogue and a good storyteller’s sense of mystery. Readers who experienced 1968—or those who want to understand its giddy possibilities—will appreciate the novel’s authenticity. A must-read for anyone in Coal Country, or interested in labor history will enjoy the page-turning drama of the Mafia taking over unions and banks. Seltzer’s sense of humor shimmers over the narrative.” –Amazon Reviewer
Access the Point of the Pick on Amazon.
What’s on Your Bookshelf? Add Your Rural Reading Recommendations
Help us keep building out a virtual bookshelf full of great rural stories. Use the form below to share your recommendations and we may highlight your selection in future Daily Yonder coverage.