KC Unbound

For a fictional look at the immigrant experience in the United States, check out one of these novels.

Related event:
Joseph O’Neill discusses Netherland, Sept. 22, 2009

By Joseph O’Neill
O’Neill delivers a mesmerizing novel about a man trying to make his way in post-9/11 New York City, and the unlikely occurrences that pull him back into an authentic, passionately engaged life.

The Namesakebook jacket

The Namesake
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Expanding on her signature themes of the immigrant experience, the clash of culture, and the tangled ties of generations, Lahiri brings to her poignant first novel remarkable powers of emotion and insight.

These nonfiction books tell the stories of individuals faced with legal battles against large corporations or local governments.

Related event:
Jeff Benedict discusses Little Pink House, Sept. 15, 2009

Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage
By Jeff Benedict
When Suzette Kelo refused to sell her home to make way for a pharmaceutical plant, her city decided to exercise its power of eminent domain and launched one of the most extraordinary legal cases of modern times. An award-winning investigative journalist details how one woman led the charge to take on corporate America.

Moving Mountains book jacket

Moving Mountains: How One Woman and Her Community Won Justice from Big Coal
By Penny Loeb
Moving Mountains recounts the struggle of Trish Bragg and other ordinary West Virginians for fair treatment by the coal companies that dominate the local economies of southern West Virginia.

These nonfiction books explore the history of and contemporary issues facing conservatives in American politics.

Related event:
Thomas Frank discusses The Wrecking Crew, Sept. 15, 2009

The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
By Thomas Frank
In this book, Frank provides an investigation of the decades of what he considers deliberate – and lucrative – conservative misrule.

From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism
By Joseph E. Lowndes
The South’s transition from Democratic stronghold to Republican base has frequently been viewed as a recent occurrence, one that largely stems from a 1960s-era backlash against left-leaning social movements. But Lowndes argues this rightward shift was not necessarily a natural response by alienated whites, but rather the result of the long-term development of an alliance between Southern segregationists and Northern conservatives.

From traffic jams to road rage, these nonfiction books take a look at how we drive and why.

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do
By Tom Vanderbilt
In this lively and eye-opening investigation, Tom Vanderbilt examines the perceptual limits and cognitive underpinnings that make us worse drivers than we think we are. He demonstrates why plans to protect pedestrians from cars often lead to more accidents. He uncovers who is more likely to honk at whom, and why. He explains why traffic jams form, outlines the unintended consequences of our quest for safety, and even identifies the most common mistake drivers make in parking lots. Traffic is about more than driving: it's about human nature.

These books explore Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign and the initial days of his presidency.

Related event:
Richard Wolffe discusses Renegade, Sep. 9, 2009

Renegade: The Making of a President
By Richard Wolffe
With exclusive access to Barack Obama and his inner circle, veteran political reporter Wolffe portrays a historic candidate and his inscrutable character and campaign in stunning detail.

A Long Time Coming book jacket

A Long Time Coming: The Inspiring, Combative 2008 Campaign and the Historic Election of Barack Obama
By Evan Thomas
In this compelling narrative, Newsweek editor Thomas shares the inside stories from one of the most exciting elections in recent history, illuminating the personalities and events that have influenced the outcome, and taking stock of the key players and key issues for the new administration.

These nonfiction books tell the personal stories of Holocaust survivors and their rescuers in Poland.

They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland during the Holocaust
By Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn
This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. Tammeus and Cukierkorn traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. The duo unfolds gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter.

The Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) helped define America and American literature by supporting literary talent during the Great Depression. These books include explorations of the history of the FWP, writings and narratives from the FWP, and a select list of writers who worked for the FWP.

Federal Writers’ Project | FWP Writings | FWP Writers

Related events:
Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story series of events, Sep. - Oct. 2009

Learn all about John Brown, the abolitionist who rose to fame during the Bleeding Kansas years in the mid- to late-1850s, was executed for his raid on the armory at Harpers Ferry, and elevated to legend in the years that followed.

Books | Documentaries

Related event:
Meet the Past: John Brown, September 1, 2009


John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights
By David S. Reynolds
This biography by the prize-winning cultural historian brings to life the controversial anti-slavery martyr who used terrorist tactics against slavery and single-handedly changed the course of American history.

Just in time for football season, these books examine high school football teams and the small towns they played in.

Related event:
Joe Drape discusses Our Boys, August 24, 2009

Our Boys: A Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen
By Joe Drape
The football team in Smith Center, Kansas, has won sixty-seven games in a row, the nation’s longest high-school winning streak. Joe Drape, a Kansas City native and an award-winning sportswriter for The New York Times, moved his family to Smith Center to discover what makes the team and the town an inspiration even to those who live hundreds of miles away. His stories of the coaches, players, and parents reveal a community fighting to hold on to a way of life that is rich in value, even as its economic fortunes decline.

Learn all about Charlie “Bird” Parker, the Kansas City-born musician who became one of the most well-known jazz artists in America, with these books at the Library.

Books | Films | Music CDs

Related event:
Meet the Past: Charlie Parker, August 25, 2009


Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker
By Brian Priestley
Priestley offers insight into Parker's career, beginning as a teenager single-mindedly devoted to mastering the saxophone through his death at 34 in such wretched condition that the doctor listed his age as 53.

Visual media, such as posters and photographs, play a significant role in shaping public opinion during war. These books at the library explore that role.

War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communication
By James Aulich
This book features more than 250 full-color illustrations of hard-hitting propaganda and groundbreaking graphic art. It encompasses iconic images such as Alfred Leete's "Your Country Needs You" as well as additional material drawn from the world of advertising and documentary photographs of posters in situ. Covering topics as diverse as advertising in World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, Germany and Occupied Europe in World War II, anti-nuclear campaigns, and Vietnam, the book is comprehensive and highly analytical, yet accessible.

Annie Chambers ran a well-known brothel in Kansas City for nearly 50 years around the turn of the twentieth century. Read more about this local figure or check out a few books about the history of prostitution.

Related event:
Meet the Past: Annie Chambers, August 18, 2009

Annie Chambers

Kansas City Women of Independent Minds
By Jane Fifield Flynn
This book profiles significant women in Kansas City history and includes a two-page biography of Annie Chambers.

Annie Chambers
By Lenore Carroll
This novel was inspired by the life of Annie Chambers. She struggled to earn a living in an ignoble profession, was secretly in love with a respectable man, and enjoyed friendships and solidarity with women like herself who had no place to go.

Biography of Annie Chambers
By Daniel Coleman
This two-page article, prepared by the staff in the Missouri Valley Special Collections, provides a brief overview of Annie Chambers and her life.

Explore some of the many books about the Civil War in Missouri, including warfare along the Kansas/Missouri border, or pick up a few fictional accounts of the Civil War experience in this area.

Nonfiction | Fiction & drama | More resources


The Civil War's First Blood: Missouri, 1854-1861
By James Denny and John Bradbury
The disagreements over states' rights and slavery gradually sharpened across the nation before the Civil War. In Missouri, due in part to the famous "compromise" that bore the state's name, those issues reached the boiling point during the 1850s. As a border state and a slave state surrounded by free neighbors, Missouri became one of the most hotly contested regions in the country. Missourians had strong loyalties to both the North and the South. When the conflict began, families, friends, and neighbors frequently found themselves on opposite sides.

Nell Donnelly Reed, a pioneer in the field of women’s ready-to-wear clothing in the 1920s and 1930s, was largely responsible for making Kansas City one of the largest ready-to-wear clothing manufacturing centers in the world. Learn more about her in these books, films, and articles.

Related event:
Meet the Past: Nell Donnelly Reed, July 28, 2009

Nell Donnelly Reed

Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time (DVD)
Written, produced and directed by Terence Michael O'Malley
This documentary provides a biography of Nelly Don, the Kansas City woman who built a national dress design and manufacturing empire. She fought unions and kidnapping gangsters, married politician James A. Reed, and clothed military women during World War II.

Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time
By Terence Michael O'Malley
This companion book to the DVD tells the dramatic story of Nell Donnelly Reed’s life and includes many photographs and other illustrations.

Frank McCourt
Frank McCourt

Award-winning author Frank McCourt died in July 2009 at age 78. His memoir depicting a harsh childhood in Ireland, Angela’s Ashes, not only won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, but also the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Check out a few of Frank McCourt’s books at the Library or view some documentaries about his family and the feature film adaptation of Angela’s Ashes.

Books by Frank McCourt | Films

Books by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir
By Frank McCourt
This luminous memoir by Frank McCourt depicts his childhood in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy - exasperating, irresponsible and beguiling - does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story.