2008 Kansas Notable Book List

TOPEKA, Kan. - State Librarian Christie Brandau and Roy Bird, Director of the Kansas Center for the Book at the State Library of Kansas, Tuesday announced the 2008 Kansas Notable Book List.

Fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books all populate the list which is considered to contain the best of the books published by Kansas authors or about Kansas in the preceding year.

“In the past year, 122 books by Kansans or about Kansas were considered for the 2008 Kansas Notable Books List,” said Bird. “We celebrate these titles that are reflective of our state’s diverse historical, literary, and cultural experience.”

The Kansas Notable Book List, a project of the Kansas Center for the Book (KCFB) at the State Library of Kansas, is an annual selection of 15 titles of books written by Kansans or about Kansas published in the previous year. A Kansas Notable Books Committee of the KCFB identifies the titles and forwards a list to the State Librarian for final decision. This year’s Kansas Notable Books selection committee included representatives from an academic library, a public library, a regional library system, booksellers, a publisher, a media representative, and a college children’s literature professor. This is the third annual Kansas Notable Book List compiled by KCFB. In addition, Kansas is only one of two states that choose to promote their authors and stories in such a manner.

The Kansas Notable Book authors will be honored at a reception this summer, and at various book festivals throughout the state.

The list, alphabetical by title and brief synopsis, includes:
1. American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China, by Matthew Polly.
Leaving college behind, Topekan Matthew Polly journeys to the storied temple in China where kung fu is practiced and where he undergoes two years of awe-inspiring physical conditioning. Polly’s greatest aspiration in this book is simply that he wants to feel comfortable in his skin and enjoy the spiritual peace that comes with that. The book makes his exotic quest, highly accessible and pleasurable to read.

2. The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, Brad Sneed, illustrator.
By following the school-age years and beyond of one student named Melvin, this book, illustrated by Kansan Brad Sneed, shows that there is no question too large or unusual that can’t be answered by a reference librarian. At the same time learning is occurring, everyone involved is having fun using programs and resources available at the local public library which are shown to be instrumental in Melvin’s achievements.

3. Can I Keep My Jersey? 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond, by Paul Shirley.
This lively American-abroad story traces the up-and-down basketball career of Paul Shirley, a Kansas farm boy and former starter on the Iowa State basketball team. It’s an insider book about pro-sports, where the author understands how coaches and managers think, and that professional basketball is more about show business than sports. The book reads much like a blog while taking readers inside Shirley’s personal dream to make it someday in the NBA.

4. The Curse of Catunkhamun, by Tim Raglin, author and illustrator.
Feline villains Dr. Mew Man-Chew and his daughter, Princess Mee-Ow, plot to turn all dogs into zombies by the use of sound waves. The adventures of two dogs, Colonel Scott and Dr. West, take them from London to Egypt in an attempt to solve the mystery of the Golden Bone of Catunkhamun (pronounced cat-un-common) and put a stop to these evil schemes.

5. The Farther Shore, by Matthew Eck.
In 1993, the battle of Mogadishu was the most intense combat Americans had engaged in since Vietnam. In this adrenaline-filled debut novel, Matthew Eck puts readers inside the mind of a young man caught in the fog of unexpected attack. When a small unit of U.S. Army soldiers is separated from their command and left for dead, their only option is to keep moving, in hope that they will escape the marauding gangs and clansmen who appear to rule the city.

6. From Emporia: The Story of William Allen White, by Beverley O. Buller.
The life and times of William Allen White and his family are depicted in a colorful, well thought-out reference text. Each page is filled with detailed photos and personal writings of the famous newspaper editor, politician, advocate and father from Emporia, Kansas. This book shares the life of a man who helped shape Kansas history for future generations and should be shelved among all famous Kansan biographies in a children's or school library.

7. Hellfire Canyon, by Max McCoy.
Based upon the life of Branson, MO serial killer Alf Bolin, Hellfire Canyon follows a young man's quest for revenge which makes him desperate enough to go undercover and join Bolin's gang. Max McCoy, award-winning Kansas author and Emporia State University instructor, explores and expands upon the legends and history behind the hard times following the Civil War and a man who couldn't stop killing.

8. Hunger for the Wild: America’s Obsession with the Untamed West, by Michael L. Johnson.
One of the most keen observers of the Western scene, Michael L. Johnson offers a monumental cultural and historical analysis of how ideas of wildness have shaped the ways Euro-Americans have perceived, reacted to, and acted upon the West for nearly 500 years. Whether contemplating the Disneyfied frontier or the Ralphlaurenized range, this University of Kansas English Professor takes readers on an intellectual romp through the wilds of the contemporary West, with its UFO fanatics and post-regional cowgirls.

9. The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems, 1972-2007, by Albert Goldbarth.
Wichita State University Distinguished Professor Albert Goldbarth has created an unmistakable signature style—erudite, copious, hilarious, and heartbreaking—which has spanned an award-winning career of 35 years. The Kitchen Sink brings together his newest work with a selection of earlier poetry, ranging from the brief, flickering lyric to the long, narrative sequence.

10. A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution, by David A. Nichols.
Fifty years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered troops to Little Rock, AR, to enforce a federal court order desegregating the city's high school, author David A. Nichols presents an engrossing narrative that places Ike and his civil rights policies in dramatic new light. This book draws on archival documents neglected by past biographers and scholars, including thousands of pages newly available from the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Nichols, a leading authority on Eisenhower, takes us inside the Oval Office to look over Ike's shoulder as he worked behind the scenes to desegregate the District of Columbia and complete the desegregation of the armed forces. Nichols is a former academic dean at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS.

11. The Middle of Somewhere, by J. B. Cheaney.
Twelve-year-old Veronica (a.k.a. Ronnie) Sparks has plans to shake her little town roots and see the world! But for now she's hitting the road in an RV with her cantankerous, wind-prospector grandfather and her hyperactive little brother. They are on a mission, heading across Kansas in search of a good stiff breeze. Ronnie discovers that there are some things you just can't plan for or seize control of—but sometimes a little chaos is just what a girl needs.

12. The Rest of Her Life, by Laura Moriarty.
We've read the stories in the paper where the parents of a teenager get sued for the actions of the teen. What if that was your child? In The Rest of Her Life, Kansas author Laura Morairty explores the complex moral dilemma, looks at how all families involved cope with a terrible accident, and the tenuous mother/daughter relationship that remains.

13. Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the Deep, by Michael J. Everhart.
As curator of paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History at Fort Hays State University, Michael Everhart plunges readers into the Late Cretaceous oceans of 80 million years ago. This official companion book to the National Geographic film, “Sea Monsters,” explores the relatively unknown world of the monstrous marine reptiles that lived underwater during the same time as dinosaurs roamed the land. The book presents additional information on the sea monsters depicted in the film, the world they lived in, the paleontologists who first discovered and studied their fossils, why the monsters disappeared and the story behind the making of the movie.

14. Storm Chaser: A Photographer’s Journey, by Jim Reed.
The weather once was reported after the news; today, it often is the news. One of America’s most successful and award-winning storm chasers, Jim Reed has created a beautiful picture book about some of the most powerful—and sometimes deadly—phenomena in our world. Reed shares his best images and his experiences as he tracks these storms throughout the country.

15. Writing in an Age of Silence, by Sara Paretsky.
In this collection of essays, Sara Paretsky essentially explores five different periods of her life: the traditions of her childhood and youth in Kansas, the political climate of the 60s, the awakening of her own feminism, the attack on civil liberties, and finally, our obsession with terrorism and biological warfare. This book documents the amazing awakening in her writing, and the pathway to her subjects and characters.

The Kansas Center for the Book is a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. As a program of the State Library of Kansas since 2005, the Center’s role is to promote Kansas books, authors, libraries, booksellers, publishers, and the book community, and to foster awareness of literacy and the literary heritage of the state. For more information, visit our website: http://www.kcfb.info.