KC Unbound

Enjoy the natural beauty of the Midwest and Western U.S. in these collections of landscape photography.

Related exhibit:
Red Desert, Green Prairie, Blue Sky: Photographing the West, July 5 – October 4, 2009

Places of Grace: The Natural Landscapes of the American Midwest
Photographs by Gary Irving; essay by Michal Strutin
This collection of photographs uncovers the mystery and beauty of a part of the country that for most people is hidden in plain view. Places of Grace reveals both the physical splendor and the natural history of a ten-state region encompassing Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. Open Places of Grace and be guided through forest, wetland, and prairie into the heart of the undiscovered Midwest. From the prairie grasses of western Nebraska to the boreal forests of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this volume delights the eye and fires the imagination with unexpected images of lands that yet retain the marks of their primeval origins.

Celebrate Culinary Arts Month in July with these delicious novels – from drama to romance to mystery – which all feature chefs at work.

The School of Essential Ingredients book jacket

Eight people come together for cooking class at Chef Lillian’s restaurant each week in The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. Their stories are told in vignettes tied together by the pleasure of food in this “remarkable debut” (Publishers Weekly).

Kate Jacobs, the bestselling author of The Friday Night Knitting Club, takes on the world of celebrity chefs in Comfort Food. About to turn fifty, Chef Augusta’s TV show “Cooking with Gusto!” ratings are falling and Augusta is forced to make changes that include the much younger Carmen Vega. Augusta must deal with the changes and a possible love interest while suffering a mid-life crisis.

The brutal murder of 14-year old African American Emmett Till in 1955 served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. These books and films examine what happened and discuss its impact.

Books | Documentaries


Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America
By Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson
Speaking out for the first time, Mamie Till-Mobley offers a memoir of the 1955 slaying of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till--the teenager whose murder galvanized the civil rights movement.

Money, murder, sex, and deceit – true crime stories depict the criminal element in society. Read about some of the worst in these books.

The Love Pirate and the Bandit's Son: Murder, Sin, and Scandal in the Shadow of Jesse James 
By Laura James
Sparks flew when gold digger Dr. Zeo Zoe Wilkins and Jesse James, Jr. – the son of America's most legendary outlaw – crossed paths. The result: a tale of sex, deceit, money, and murder, grippingly told by noted true-crime blogger Laura James.


2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. To celebrate, explore our amazing universe through these books and films at the Library.

General | Moon | Sun & Stars | Mars | Comets & Galaxies | Films | Recommended Websites


The New Solar System
Edited by J. Kelly Beatty, Carolyn Collins Petersen, and Andrew Chaikin
A distinguished team of researchers, many of them Principal Investigators on NASA missions, explain the solar system. The book examines the latest research and thinking about the solar system; looks at how the Sun and planets formed; and discusses our search for other planetary systems and the search for life in the solar system. In full-color and heavily-illustrated, the book contains more than 500 photographs, portrayals, and diagrams.

Event: Astronaut Steven Hawley, July 7
Exhibit: Visions of the Universe: Four Centuries of Discovery, July 5-August 30

Born on July 7, 1907, in Butler, Missouri, Robert Heinlein wrote four Hugo Award-winning novels. The Hugo Awards, science fiction’s most prestigious award, are presented annually by the World Science Fiction Society. Pick one of these winners up for a summer read.

Stranger in a Strange Land book jacket

Heinlein’s best known and most influential novel, Stranger in a Strange Land published in 1961, tells the story of a human born and raised on Mars by Martians who returns to Earth as a young man with unique psychic abilities and a complete lack of knowledge about human customs and cultures.

Published in 1956, Double Star follows Lorenzo Smythe, an actor whose career is on the outs, who finds himself on Mars and takes on the role of impersonating a kidnapped politician. Smythe’s life and a potential interplanetary war are at stake.

Explore the life and career of Missouri-born artist Thomas Hart Benton in these books and documentary at the Library.

Related event:
Meet the Past: Thomas Hart Benton, July 14

An Artist in America
By Thomas Hart Benton
In this autobiography, Benton writes about his life and career. It includes descriptions of his boyhood in Missouri and his travels, as well as discussions of specific works of art and other artists.

More recommended reading:
Art in Missouri

Thomas Hart Benton (1989)
Filmmaker Ken Burns profiled Thomas Hart Benton in this PBS documentary. The film uses long-lost footage, interviews, and the art of Benton to tell the bittersweet story of this extraordinary American artist.

Discover the Missouri-born outlaw who became one of America’s most notorious bank and train robbers through these nonfiction accounts of his life, as well as through fiction.

Related event:
Meet the Past: Jesse James, June 30


Jesse James: The Best Writings on the Notorious Outlaw and His Gang
Edited by Harold Dellinger
From his early days as a Civil War guerilla to his untimely death at the hands of that "dirty little coward" Robert Ford, few figures in American folklore have captured the imagination quite like Jesse James. In these pages, noted James authority Harold Dellinger sifts through the hundreds of published articles and books about James to painstakingly create a compelling collage of character, an extraordinary, multifaceted portrait of one of history's most infamous outlaws.

Learn all about the crucial Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War or pick up a novelist’s take on the events in these books at the Library.


By Stephen W. Sears
Gettysburg, the great Civil War campaign, was the turning point of the war. Sears tells the story in a single volume, from the first gleam in Lee's eye to the last Rebel hightailing it back across the Potomac.

From science fiction to the paranormal to creepy biotechnology scenarios, these books for teens are sure to thrill.

By Faye and Aliza Kellerman
Prism takes us to a slightly alternate universe in which medicine and health care do not exist, and in which sick people are allowed to die without any care. Set in New Mexico and California, the novel features three teens that fall through a cave at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico while on a field trip. They are plunged into a frightening parallel universe – seven weeks in the past, in which their "normal" worlds of family and high school remain the same...except for the fact that no medicine exists and when people die in the street they are picked up and disposed of.

From flappers to Prohibition to the upheaval of the Great Depression, these books explore society and culture of 1920s-30s America.

Related event:
Gary Pomerantz discusses The Devil’s Tickets, June 24, 2009

The Devil's Tickets: A Night of Bridge, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age
By Gary M. Pomerantz
Through larger-than-life characters and a timeless partnership game they played, The Devil's Tickets evokes the last echoes of the Roaring Twenties and the darkness of the pending Depression.

Flapper book jacket

Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern
By Joshua Zeitz
Through the madcap lives of Zelda Fitzgerald, Lois Long, Coco Chanel, Clara Bow, and other Jazz Age luminaries, Flapper tells the fascinating story of the new woman and the making of modern culture.

For National Rose Month this June, pick up some entertaining “rosy” reads at the Library.

The Blue Rose book jacket

Start with a fast-paced mystery. Publishers Weekly states that The Blue Rose by Anthony Eglin “combines just the right amount of horticultural detail with well-drawn characters and an absorbing plot.” In this book, Alex and Kate Sheppard move into a house in the Wiltshire countryside surrounded by a walled garden that contains an impossible, perfect blue rose bush. Death and kidnapping ensue.

Author Leann Sweeney began her Yellow Rose Mystery series with Pick Your Poison. In this novel, the young Texan heiress Abby Rose turns into an amateur sleuth after finding the gardener dead – a victim of murder – in her greenhouse.

These local diet memoirs and urban farming handbooks reveal the best about eating locally.

Plenty: Eating Locally On the 100-Mile Diet
By Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon
Plenty tells the remarkable adventures of a Canadian couple who make a year-long attempt to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment--and learn the simple joys of reconnecting with community and home ground in the process.

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods
By Gary Paul Nabhan
To rediscover what it might mean to "think globally, eat locally," Nabhan spent a year trying to eat only foods grown, fished, or caught within 200 miles of his home--with surprising results. In Coming Home to Eat, Nabhan draws these experiences together in a book that is a culmination of his life's work.

Alice Hoffman, author of Practical Magic and Here on Earth, will discuss her new book The Story Sisters on June 16, 2009 at the Plaza Branch. If you’re a fan of Hoffman’s work, you might enjoy these novels.

By Alice Hoffman

The Story Sisters book jacket

The Story Sisters
By Alice Hoffman
A family is shattered when one of three sisters dies tragically in an automobile accident. How the family survives--separates, reconfigures, and reconciles--is at the heart of this exquisite exploration of the ties that bind.

The Third Angel
By Alice Hoffman
Three mesmerizing tales of love and betrayal, inspiration and despair, survival and hope, brilliantly interact as characters merge from one fictional incarnation to the next.

Andrew Johnson

Learn more about our 17th president, Andrew Johnson – from the challenges he faced to his impeachment and acquittal.

Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy
By David O. Stewart
The author of The Summer of 1787 writes a dramatic re-creation of the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, which became the central battle of the struggle over how to reunite a nation after four years of war.

Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson
By William H. Rehnquist
Published in 1992, then Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist writes about the history and legal precedent set in the two impeachments of the nineteenth century.