Rural Book Recommendations from the Dakota Resources Staff

There’s just something about receiving a book recommendation from someone who is as passionate as you are about rural life, so today, the Dakota Resources staff is sharing a small collection of must-reads to add to your summer reading list.

These stories don’t portray rural in the stereotypical way we often see; like the communities we support, these books share about the people, the struggles, and the triumphs that make up the fabric of rural existence. Ready for a literary getaway to rural? Read on!

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Set in Minnesota in 1932, the Lincoln School is where hundreds of Native American children are sent, without their parents, to be educated. The main character of the novel, Odie O’Banion, flees with his brother and two others one summer to find a place they can call home.

In this “big-hearted epic,” as shared by Book of the Month, these four orphans cross paths with countless others who are nomadic as well, from farmers to displaced families and more. The book’s action follows Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy as they traverse the American rural landscape.

Nick Fosheim, Client Relationship Director and Community Coach recommends this book saying, “This book transports you back to a different time in rural life – and is full of challenges and complicated questions for the main characters. The way the author captured the landscapes of the Midwest felt familiar and pulled me into the story.”

Forty Acres Deep by Michael Perry

A floundering farmer named Harold wakes up one day to find a snowstorm on the horizon and his wife dead beside him. For Harold, these are the final straws in the life he once knew, and this novel follows Harold as he attempts to make sense of the sometimes unforgiving nature of a life forged in the midst of rural expanse and bustling cities.

This book, which reviewers call contemplative and philosophical, is slim at 119 pages but the complex subject matter and elevated word choice make it a read worth savoring.

Paula Jensen, Senior Vice President & Community Coach recommends this book saying, “This poetic book addresses the highs and lows of rural life and brings to light the agricultural mental health movement in a serious way with some side-swiping humor – it made me laugh, cry, and feel deeply. You won’t regret reading this book.”

Small-Town Dreams: Stories of Midwestern Boys Who Shaped America by John E. Miller

In this ode to small-town America, John E. Miller profiles young boys, some of whom are well-known and others who are not, and their connection to the rural spaces from which they come.

Considered “a history of middle America,” Miller’s book shares the real life stories of entertainers like Johnny Carson, political figures like Ronald Reagan, and athletes like John Wooden. While their stories and experiences are as varied as their careers, what connects them all is the way their home – particularly in the Midwest – shapes their personal identities and their ambitions.

Kristi Wagner, Director of Organizational Relationships and Community Coach recommends this book saying, “Small-Town Dreams is not just a book about the Midwest; it’s a testament to the power of place in shaping the dreams and destinies of individuals who call it home.”

Deadliest Enemies: Law and Race Relations On and Off Rosebud Reservation by Thomas Biolsi

In this book that’s been called “required reading for everyone living in the United States,” author Thomas Biolsi unpacks racial conflicts in South Dakota between Indians and non-Indians on the Rosebud Reservation.

In his book, Biolsi finds that many of the problems experienced by Native Americans are the result of white privilege, which is exacerbated by federal definitions of legal rights, both in terms of constitutional rights and treaty rights. Biolsi argues, then, that the court system, who upholds these laws, continues to perpetuate racial tension.

Joe Bartmann, President, recommends this book saying, ““This book helped me to better understand how US and Tribal law have and continue to shape conflict and disparity between Native and non-Native people and communities here in South Dakota. It’s an important perspective as I think about how we can support rural community leaders.”

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

A story dedicated to an abandoned kitten may seem like child’s play, but Dewey’s story is not an ordinary one, just like he wasn’t a typical stray cat wandering around an Iowa farm town in the midst of struggle.

Based on a true story experienced firsthand by author Vicki Myron, who also served as the director of the Spencer (Iowa) Public Library, the book follows the adventures of Dewey, who was found nearly frozen to death in the library’s night drop box amidst the farm crisis in the 1980s. After adopting Dewey as Spencer’s resident library cat, Vicki watched as Dewey’s resilience and antics warmed the hearts of the townspeople as Spencer slowly rebounded from a financial crisis.

Ellie Naasz, Director of Impact & Marketing, recommends this book saying, “I love a story about people coming together to face a challenge in a positive way. Dewey is the epitome of that. Who knew a cat could influence and inspire so many, including myself?”

Have a favorite rural-themed book to share? Participate in the discussion on Facebook or LinkedIn!

Published On: June 3, 2024Categories: News & Notes

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!