Category Archives: Kentucky Books

ReadUP for Earth Day Weekend!

Earth Day is this weekend, and today we’re highlighting our best new reads to celebrate conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable living.


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Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving

Saving seeds to plant for next year’s crop has been key to survival around the globe for millennia. However, the twentieth century witnessed a grand takeover of seed producers by multinational companies aiming to select varieties ideal for mechanical harvest, long-distance transportation, and long shelf life. With the rise of the Slow Food and farm-to-table movements in recent years, the farmers and home gardeners who have been quietly persisting in the age-old habit of conserving heirloom plants are finally receiving credit for their vital role in preserving both good taste and the world’s rich food heritage.

Kentucky Heirloom Seeds is an evocative exploration of the seed saver’s art and the practice of sustainable agriculture. Bill Best and Dobree Adams begin by tracing the roots of the tradition in the state to a 700-year-old Native American farming village in north central Kentucky. Best shares tips for planting and growing beans and describes his family’s favorite varieties for the table. Featuring interviews with many people who have worked to preserve heirloom varieties, this book vividly documents the social relevance of the rituals of sowing, cultivating, eating, saving, and sharing.

Purchase Here.


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Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence

In light of concerns about food and human health, fraying social ties, economic uncertainty, and rampant consumerism, some people are foregoing a hurried, distracted existence and embracing a mindful way of living. Over the course of four years, A. Whitney Sanford visited ecovillages, cohousing communities, and Catholic worker houses and farms where individuals are striving to “be the change they wish to see in the world.” In this book, she reveals the solutions that these communities have devised for sustainable living while highlighting the specific choices and adaptations that they have made to accommodate local context and geography. She examines their methods of reviving and adapting traditional agrarian skills, testing alternate building materials for their homes, and developing local governments that balance group needs and individual autonomy.

Living Sustainably is a teachable testament to the idea that new cultures based on justice and sustainability are attainable in many ways and in countless homes and communities. Sanford’s engaging and insightful work demonstrates that citizens can make a conscious effort to subsist in a more balanced, harmonious world.

Purchase Here.


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Water in Kentucky: Natural History, Communities, and Conservation

Home to sprawling Appalachian forests, rolling prairies, and the longest cave system in the world, Kentucky is among the most ecologically diverse states in the nation. Lakes, rivers, and springs have shaped and nourished life in the Commonwealth for centuries, and water has played a pivotal role in determining Kentucky’s physical, cultural, and economic landscapes. The management and preservation of this precious natural resource remain a priority for the state’s government and citizens.

In this generously illustrated book, experts from a variety of fields explain how water has defined regions across the Commonwealth. Together, they illuminate the ways in which this resource has affected the lives of Kentuckians since the state’s settlement, exploring the complex relationship among humans, landscapes, and waterways. They examine topics such as water quality, erosion and sediment control, and emerging water management approaches. Through detailed analysis and case studies, the contributors offer scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and general readers a wide perspective on the state’s valuable water resources.

Purchase Here.


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Mammoth Cave Curiosities: A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats, and Other Subterranean Marvels

Sir Elton John, blind fish, the original Twinkie, President Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service detail, and mummies don’t usually come up in the same conversation—unless you’re at Mammoth Cave National Park! Home to the earth’s longest known cave system, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America.

In this charming book, author and cave guide Colleen O’Connor Olson takes readers on a tour through a labyrinth of topics. She discusses scientific subjects such as the fossils of prehistoric animals and the secret lives of subterranean critters, and she provides essential information on dating in the cave (the age of rocks and artifacts, not courtship). Olson also explores Mammoth Cave’s rich history, covering its use as the world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium as well as its operation as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812, and shares the inspirational story of the park’s first female ranger. Whether you’re visiting the national park, thinking about visiting, or just curious about a place recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, don’t miss this delightful guide to the wild and wonderful subterranean world of Mammoth Cave.

Purchase Here.


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Kentucky’s Natural Heritage: An Illustrated Guide to Biodiversity

Kentucky’s ecosystems teem with diverse native species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Kentucky’s Natural Heritage brings these sometimes elusive creatures into close view, from black-throated green warblers to lizard skin liverworts. The aquatic systems of the state are home to rainbow darters, ghost crayfish, salamander mussels, and an impressive array of other species that constitute some of the greatest levels of freshwater diversity on the planet.

Kentucky’s Natural Heritage presents a persuasive argument for conservation of the state’s biodiversity. Organized by a team from the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, the book is an outgrowth of the agency’s focus on biodiversity protection. Richly detailed and lavishly illustrated with more than 250 color photos, maps, and charts, Kentucky’s Natural Heritage is the definitive compendium of the commonwealth’s amazing diversity. It celebrates the natural beauty of some of the most important ecosystems in the nation and presents a compelling case for the necessity of conservation.

Purchase Here.


Visit our website to explore all of our titles in Nature and Environmental Studies

April Tips for Planting and Growing

It’s Earth Week, and late April is the perfect time to start planning your garden!

This year, consider planting heirloom bean and tomato varieties which, according to author and farmer Bill Best, are a more sustainable gardening option and are also an important element of Kentucky’s history and agricultural tradition.

seedsIn his new book, Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving Bill Best provides an evocative exploration of the seed saver’s art and the practice of sustainable agriculture. Writing with Dobree Adams, Best shares tips for planting and growing beans and describes his family’s favorite varieties for the table. Featuring interviews with many people who have worked to preserve heirloom varieties, this book vividly documents the social relevance of the rituals of sowing, cultivating, eating, saving, and sharing.

In this excerpt from Kentucky Heirloom SeedsBill Best gives his top tips for planting, growing, and saving heirloom beans and tomatoes:


Practical Tips for Growing and Saving

We gardeners and farmers love to sit around and tell tales about our successes and sometimes our failures. We are always talking about something we tried this year that worked well, or maybe it didn’t. This is what makes gardening and farming so fascinating and challenging. Every piece of land is different, with different soil and a different orientation to the sun. So what works just great for me may not work so well for someone else. Then, of course, there is always old-man weather. No two years are ever the same. And once gardening has skipped a generation, it is unfortunately necessary to start from scratch: knowledge passed on for hundreds of years has to be relearned, accompanied by trial and error.

The best thing to do is make good notes every year: what you planted, when you planted it, how it grew, what the harvest was, and of course, how it tasted! Here, I offer a few practical tips from my perspective.

Cornfield Beans

BILL BEST AND LEATHER BRITCHES

Author Bill Best with “Leather Britches” (Dried Beans)

With beans, it is good to know that a few things have happened in the last few decades that have forced traditional practices to change. Traditionally, cornfield beans have been planted with corn so the cornstalks could provide the “poles” for the bean to climb. But with the advent of modern hybrid varieties, the cornstalks are too weak to support the bean vines. At best, hybrid cornstalks, both sweet and field, can support only one or two ears of corn and will collapse under the weight of bean vines. Therefore, most people who are serious about growing climbing heirloom beans use poles or a trellis to support the bean vines, or they grow them on heirloom varieties of corn such as Hickory Cane. Trellises should be only as high as you can reach without using a ladder to pick the beans.

Another way to support bean vines is to construct a bean tower made from a stout pole with a bicycle tire rim on top. Strings are attached around the perimeter of the wheel and then attached to the bean vines on the ground. These bean towers need to be at least ten feet tall. You can use a stepladder to reach the beans growing higher than your head. Bean towers are an excellent way to save seeds and “get a start” if you have only half a dozen or so seeds. The tower, allowing for ample vine growth, makes it possible for the maximum number of pods to form and to produce the most seeds from the smallest number of plants.

Cornfield beans need to be planted at a rate of two seeds per eighteen inches. The two seeds help each other break through the soil at germination and then “spread their wings” as side branches quickly develop on the main stem. Virtually all modern seed companies give bad advice when they promote the sowing of bean seeds at a rate of every two inches or so. Mechanical planting devices also space them far too close together. Of course, commercial seed companies are in the business of selling seeds, not promoting good vine growth or growing quality beans.

Once the beans mature on the vines, it is important to save the seeds at the appropriate time; otherwise, the seeds can be damaged by weather conditions. If the weather is clear and dry at the time of maturity, the bean pods can be left on the vines for several days until the pods become dry, at which point they must be removed from the vines. If it is rainy when the bean pods mature, it is best to remove the pods and spread them out in a dry area to complete the drying process. A greenhouse or high tunnel works well, assuming the pods are spread out on plastic on the ground or placed on greenhouse benches covered with bedsheets or some other cloth.

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Beans and Tomatoes growing in the field (Dobree Adams)

Drying can also be accomplished by spreading the pods over the floor of any dry room in the house or barn. The most important thing is to prevent the pods from getting wet during the drying process, as the seeds will sprout or mold within the hull. If this happens, the seeds will never sprout in the ground and won’t be good to eat either, even as dry beans.

After the seeds have become dry, shelled out, and hard to the touch, it is important to remove the disfigured or insect-damaged seeds from the batch. If some seeds are a different color than the others, these seeds can be planted separately the following year to see if they breed true. If they do, then you might have discovered your own bean variety. This is the process by which we have developed thousands of varieties of heirloom beans.

Heirloom Tomatoes

To achieve good production with a minimum of rot and sunscalding, tomatoes need to be staked or trellised. It is also possible to use cages made from concrete reinforcing wire, fencing wire, or any other wire that can withstand considerable weight. This gets the tomatoes off the ground and provides plenty of shade to pre- vent sunscald of the ripening fruit.

Tomato seeds can be saved in several ways. One of the traditional methods is to let the tomato ripen completely, even to the point of beginning to rot, and then remove the seeds with a spoon and spread them on a piece of cloth or paper to dry. Some people spread them out on a paper towel, let them dry, and then plant the paper towel and seeds together in potting or germinating soil.

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Heirloom red tomatoes are high in acid and are pleasing to a lot of people. Best’s favorite red tomato is the Zeke Dishman, a very large and tasty tomato that often weighs over two pounds. It was developed by Zeke Dishman of Windy in Wayne County over several decades.

A far better way to save tomato seeds is to use the fermentation process. The tomatoes are allowed to overripen to the point of beginning to rot and then quartered or cut up so that the seed cavities can be scooped out and put in a bucket or some other container. You can do this with one tomato or with many, depending on the number of seeds you want to save. The tomatoes are then stirred one or more times per day for three or more days until the mixture is soupy. Fungal growth will appear on top of the mixture as fermentation takes place, but that is no problem. During stirring, the seeds dislodge from the gel and sink to the bottom of the container. Water is then poured into the mixture, allowing the pulp and the bad seeds to rise to the top and ow over the side of the container. The good seeds sink to the bottom. Once the water becomes clear, pour what’s left in the bucket into a finely meshed strainer. Only the seeds will remain in the strainer. Then spread the seeds out on a at surface, such as a slick paper plate, to let them dry. My own preference is to spread the seeds on wax paper and put it under a slow-moving fan until the seeds are dry, which usually takes no more than twenty-four hours. Once the seeds are dry, you can scrape them o the paper with your finger and separate any that might be stuck together. I then put the seeds in a tightly sealed plastic bag, dated and labeled, and store the bag at room temperature, making sure it is not in direct sunlight or in a hot part of the room. Using this method, I have had good luck germinating tomato seeds saved for up to ten years.

When sowing tomato seeds, it is important not to plant them too deep—half an inch is adequate. Keep the soil mixture warm and moist but not wet. Most tomato seeds germinate within four to seven days. They need a lot of sunlight at this early stage to prevent the plants from becoming elongated and weak. Commercial full-spectrum grow lights placed close to the germinating plants work best for producing early transplants. The plants should be ready to transplant within six to eight weeks. As soon as suckers appear on the plants, break them to below the first bloom clusters, which will now mature much earlier. Suckering also keeps most of the foliage off the ground, helping to prevent disease.


Bill Best, professor emeritus from Berea College, is a Madison County, Kentucky, farmer and one of the charter members of the Lexington Farmers’ Market. Widely known as a saver, collector, and grower of heirloom beans and tomatoes, he is the author of Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia.

Dobree Adams is primarily known in the region as a fiber artist and photographer. She gardens and farms on a river bottom of the Kentucky north of Frankfort.

For more on growing, eating, and saving heirloom varieties, you can purchase Kentucky Heirloom Seeds HERE.

Mammoth Cave’s Furry Fliers

It’s Bat Appreciation Day! To celebrate, we’re sharing a special excerpt from the newly released Mammoth Cave Curiosities: A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats, and Other Subterranean Marvels by author and cave guide Colleen O’Connor Olson.

olson-cover-for-blogIn this charming book, Colleen O’Connor Olson takes readers on a tour through a labyrinth of topics concerning the earth’s longest known cave system. She discusses scientific subjects such as the fossils of prehistoric animals and the secret lives of subterranean critters, and she provides essential information on dating in the cave (the age of rocks and artifacts, not courtship). Olson also explores Mammoth Cave’s rich history, covering its use as the world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium as well as its operation as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812, and shares the inspirational story of the park’s first female ranger.

Throughout, Olson offers up humorous accounts of celebrity visits and astounding adventures and even includes a chapter dedicated to jokes told in the cave over the years. Whether you’re visiting the national park, thinking about visiting, or just curious about a place recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, don’t miss this delightful guide to the wild and wonderful subterranean world of Mammoth Cave.

In this excerpt from Mammoth Cave Curiosities, Olson shares general bat facts, and information about the furry fliers of Mammoth Cave:


Flying Residents: Bats

About one thousand different species of bats in many genera and families make up the order Chiroptera, which means “hand wing.” Chiroptera has two suborders, Megachiroptera (megabats) and Microchiroptera (microbats). Megabats tend to be bigger than the microbats. All American bats are microbats.

Prior to white-nose syndrome, biologists estimated that two thousand to three thousand bats lived in Mammoth Cave. That’s not many bats for such a long cave, but in the past the cave was a very large bat hibernaculum. Dr. Merlin Tuttle of Bat Conservation International looked at bat stain—dark stains on the limestone where bats hung, similar to the polish where many people touch rocks—in Little Bat Avenue and Rafinesque Hall in 1997 and estimated that as many as nine to thirteen million bats hibernated there in the past.

Bats also live in other caves, trees, and structures in the park.

Echolocation

Contrary to the old saying “blind as a bat,” bats can see. But on dark nights and in caves, they rely on echolocation (sonar) to navigate. In echolocation, a bat uses its mouth or nose to make high-frequency sounds that humans can’t hear. If the sound hits something, it echoes back to the bat. The bat can tell the distance, size, shape, texture, and speed of the object based on the echo and thus can avoid it or eat it.

All microbats have echolocation, but, with a couple exceptions, megabats do not.

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Gray bats hanging out

How Bats Know When It’s Night

Most animals know day from night by the sun. Many bats live in trees or buildings in the summer, so they can see the sun go down, but in the cave it looks like night all the time, so how do cave bats know when it’s dark outside?

Several things may cue the bats that it’s time to get up. The previous night’s meal of insects is digested, tummies are empty, so hungry bats wake up.

Perhaps bats wake up when they’ve had enough sleep. The length of days changes from spring to fall, but bats adjust as nights get shorter or longer.

Colonial bats may rely on social cues. Some bats roost near enough to entrances to see it getting dark. Bats farther back in the cave may hear the entrance-dwelling bats flying or vocalizing, which signals them to get up for dinner. The tricolored bats frequently seen in Mammoth Cave roost solo, so this method probably doesn’t work for them.


Colleen O’Connor Olson has been guiding tours at Mammoth Cave National Park for over twenty years. She is the author of Scary Stories of Mammoth Cave, Nine Miles to Mammoth Cave: The Story of the Mammoth Cave Railroad, Mammoth Cave by Lantern Light, and Prehistoric Cavers of Mammoth Cave.

Purchase her latest book here.

Get Crafted at The Market this Weekend

 

Where can you find some of your favorite Kentucky/Regional books, fine arts and crafts, live music, specialty food, and much, much more? The 35th annual Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2017 will be held April 22-23 at the Lexington Convention Center. Stop Mommy Goose final front coverREV.inddby our booth #102 to check out some of our new titles, and meet Mike Norris, who’ll be signing copies of Mommy Goose, from 12 – 2 pm on Saturday, April 22.

More than 200 exhibitors will be on hand at the event, which was chosen as the No. 1 Fair & Festival by readers of AmericanStyle Magazine four years in a row, and also named a top 10 event by the Kentucky Tourism Council and a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Here’s a sampling of some of our new releases that will be available at our booth during Kentucky Crafted:

 

Keepers of the Seeds

seedsSaving seeds to plant for next year’s crop has been key to survival around the globe for millennia. In Kentucky, seed saving emerged as an essential agriculture practice among Native Americans as early as 3,500 years ago, and the seeds traded by these early farmers to European settlers created the basis for the diets of generations of Kentuckians. In the last century, however, commercial seed production by multinational companies aimed to select varieties that would last longer on shelves and that were more suited to the demands of mechanical harvest and long-distance transportation. As a result, many traditional seed varieties, representing generations of meticulous effort spent maintaining flavor and quality, were brought almost to extinction. More recently, farmers and gardeners who have been quietly conserving Kentucky’s heirloom plants are joining a growing movement to preserve the food heritage of the Bluegrass State.

In Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving, Bill Best explores our rich history of saving seeds from the roots of the practice among Native Americans to current efforts aimed at recovering and saving seed varieties that might otherwise be lost. Writing with Dobree Adams, Best passes on his extensive first-hand knowledge of seeds and draws on interviews with veteran members of the seed-saving community to examine the unique challenges of raising heirloom varieties, to celebrate the traditions of the practice, and to expose the enormous cultural impact and social relevance of responsibly and traditionally sourced food.

Best gives practical tips on saving, planting, and growing heirloom beans and tomatoes, and provides easy-to-follow instructions on how to properly collect, ferment, and dry heirloom seeds from season to season. He also shares his favorite varieties for the table, such as the Pink Tip Greasy bean, unique for the pink tip which develops on the end of the pod as the bean matures, and the Aunt Cecil’s Green tomato, which remains bright green even when fully ripe. In addition, Best includes a brief guide to various heirloom Kentucky and Appalachian beans and tomatoes, sketching out the distinctions and virtues of each.

Beyond providing an examination of the processes and history of collecting and cultivating seeds, Best highlights the high price we pay for cheaper produce and the implications of seed saving for the future of sustainable agriculture. In an age when modern technology is used to mass-produce uniformly mediocre fruits and vegetables devoid of nutritional value, Best suggests a return to the time-tested traditions of raising heirloom plants to preserve flavor and quality. While celebrating seed saving as an important element of Kentucky’s history and agricultural tradition, Kentucky Heirloom Seeds also looks to the future, proposing gardening and seed saving as means to regain a more balanced relationship with our foods and food sources.


The Colorful World of Kentucky Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom tomatoes come in many colors, including red, pink, yellow, green-when-ripe, brown, black, and purple. Their various sugar-acid combinations give them distinctive flavors.

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Yellow tomatoes tend to be high in sugars. Although they are thought to have a lower acid content, the sugars simply overpower the acids and give the tomatoes a sweet flavor. Developed by Claude Brown of Pike County, Kentucky, Claude Brown’s Yellow Giant is actually a deep orange color and can weigh three pounds or more.

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Heirloom red tomatoes are high in acid and are pleasing to a lot of people. Best’s favorite red tomato is the Zeke Dishman, a very large and tasty tomato that often weighs over two pounds. It was developed by Zeke Dishman of Windy in Wayne County over several decades.

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Pink tomatoes tend to be high in acids and sugars—what many refer to as “old-fashioned” flavor. The pinks are Bill Best’s personal favorites, and the Vinson Watts tomato is his favorite one of all.

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Best’s favorite green-when-ripe tomato is Aunt Cecil’s Green, a Ken- tucky heirloom with good flavor. This variety develops a yellow tint on the blossom end as it becomes fully ripe. It sells well at farmers’ markets and has a very good flavor but does not have a long shelf life.

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Best’s favorite black tomato (and a favorite of his customers) is the Blackberry, a large and tasty tomato weighing about twelve to sixteen ounces. The original seeds were given to Bill by John Allen of Cartersville, Kentucky.

 

 


 

Great War Reads

One hundred years ago today, Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. Four days later, Congress voted in favor of a war declaration and the U.S. formally entered the First World War. In honor of the centennial, we’re featuring some of our favorite releases about WWI, both before the U.S. entrance and after, on the home front and on the western front.


My Life before the World War, 1860–1917: A Memoirpershing4.indd

Few American military figures are more revered than General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing (1860–1948), who is most famous for leading the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The only soldier besides George Washington to be promoted to the highest rank in the U.S. Army (General of the Armies), Pershing was a mentor to the generation of generals who led America’s forces during the Second World War.

Though Pershing published a two-volume memoir, My Experiences in the World War, and has been the subject of numerous biographies, few know that he spent many years drafting a memoir of his experiences prior to the First World War. In My Life Before the World War, 1860–1917, John T. Greenwood rescues this vital resource from obscurity, making Pershing’s valuable insights into key events in history widely available for the first time.

Purchase Here


york.final.inddAlvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne

Alvin C. York (1887–1964)—devout Christian, conscientious objector, and reluctant hero of World War I—is one of America’s most famous and celebrated soldiers. Known to generations through Gary Cooper’s Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 1941 film Sergeant York, York is credited with the capture of 132 German soldiers on October 8, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne region of France—a deed for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At war’s end, the media glorified York’s bravery but some members of the German military and a soldier from his own unit cast aspersions on his wartime heroics. Historians continue to debate whether York has received more recognition than he deserves. A fierce disagreement about the location of the battle in the Argonne forest has further complicated the soldier’s legacy.

In Alvin York, Douglas V. Mastriano sorts fact from myth in the first full-length biography of York in decades. He meticulously examines York’s youth in the hills of east Tennessee, his service in the Great War, and his return to a quiet civilian life dedicated to charity. By reviewing artifacts recovered from the battlefield using military terrain analysis, forensic study, and research in both German and American archives, Mastriano reconstructs the events of October 8 and corroborates the recorded accounts. On the eve of the WWI centennial, Alvin York promises to be a major contribution to twentieth-century military history.

Purchase Here


The Christmas Truce: Myth, Memory, and the First World Warchristmas_truce_final.indd

In ate December 1914, German and British soldiers on the western front initiated a series of impromptu, unofficial ceasefires. Enlisted men across No Man’s Land abandoned their trenches and crossed enemy lines to sing carols, share food and cigarettes, and even play a little soccer. Collectively known as the Christmas Truce, these fleeting moments of peace occupy a mythical place in remembrances of World War I. Yet new accounts suggest that the heartwarming tale ingrained in the popular imagination bears little resemblance to the truth.

In this detailed study, Terri Blom Crocker provides the first comprehensive analysis of both scholarly and popular portrayals of the Christmas Truce from 1914 to present. From books by influential historians to the Oscar-nominated French film Joyeux Noel (2006), this new examination shows how a variety of works have both explored and enshrined this outbreak of peace amid overwhelming violence. The vast majority of these accounts depict the soldiers as acting in defiance of their superiors. Crocker, however, analyzes official accounts as well as private letters that reveal widespread support among officers for the détentes. Furthermore, she finds that truce participants describe the temporary ceasefires not as rebellions by disaffected troops but as acts of humanity and survival by professional soldiers deeply committed to their respective causes.

The Christmas Truce studies these ceasefires within the wider war, demonstrating how generations of scholars have promoted interpretations that ignored the nuanced perspectives of the many soldiers who fought. Crocker’s groundbreaking, meticulously researched work challenges conventional analyses and sheds new light on the history and popular mythology of the War to End All Wars.

Purchase Here


9780813168012Kentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front

From five thousand children marching in a parade, singing, “Johnnie get your hoe, Mary dig your row,” to communities banding together to observe Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays, Kentuckians were loyal supporters of their country during the First World War. Kentucky had one of the lowest rates of draft dodging in the nation, and the state increased its coal production by 50 percent during the war years. Overwhelmingly, the people of the Commonwealth set aside partisan interests and worked together to help the nation achieve victory in Europe.

David J. Bettez provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Great War on Bluegrass society, politics, economy, and culture, contextualizing the state’s involvement within the national experience. His exhaustively researched study examines the Kentucky Council of Defense—which sponsored local war-effort activities—military mobilization and preparation, opposition and dissent, and the role of religion and higher education in shaping the state’s response to the war. It also describes the efforts of Kentuckians who served abroad in military and civilian capacities, and postwar memorialization of their contributions.

Kentucky and the Great War
 explores the impact of the conflict on women’s suffrage, child labor, and African American life. In particular, Bettez investigates how black citizens were urged to support a war to make the world “safe for democracy” even as their civil rights and freedoms were violated in the Jim Crow South. This engaging and timely social history offers new perspectives on an overlooked aspect of World War I.

Purchase Here


Lossberg’s War: The World War I Memoirs of a German Chief of Staffuntitled

General Fritz von Lossberg (1868–1942) directed virtually all the major German defensive battles on the Western Front during the First World War. Hailed as “the Lion of the Defensive,” he was an extremely influential military tactician and, unlike many other operations officers of his era, was quick to grasp the changes wrought by technology.

Now available for the first time in English, Lossberg’s memoir explains how he developed, tested, and implemented his central principles—flexibility, decentralized control, and counterattack—which were based on a need to adapt to shifting conditions on the battlefield. Lossberg first put his theory of elastic defense combined with defense-in-depth into practice during the Battle of Arras (April–May 1917), where it succeeded. At the Battle of Passchendaele (June–November 1917), his achievements on the field proved the feasibility of his strategy of employing a thinly manned front line that minimized the number of soldiers exposed to artillery fire. Lossberg’s tactical modernizations have become essential components of army doctrine, and Lossberg’s War: The World War I Memoirs of A German Chief of Staff will take readers inside the mind of one of the most significant military innovators of the twentieth century.

Purchase Here


More books about military history can be found in our American Warriors  and Battles and Campaigns series

Poetry Month in Kentucky

April marks the celebration of National Poetry Month, and in Kentucky, the poetic tradition runs strong. In recognition, we’re featuring some of our favorite collections from Kentucky Poet Laureates past and present.


From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems 9780813121994

James Still first achieved national recognition in the 1930s as a poet. Although he is better known today as a writer of fiction, it is his poetry that many of his essential images, such as the “mighty river of earth,” first found expression. Yet much of his poetry remains out of print or difficult to find.

From the Mountain, From the Valley collects all of Still’s poems, including several never before published, and corrects editorial mistakes that crept into previous collections. The poems are presented in chronological order, allowing the reader to trace the evolution of Still’s voice. Throughout, his language is fresh and vigorous and his insight profound. His respect for people and place never sounds sentimental or dated.

Ted Olson’s introduction recounts Still’s early literary career and explores the poetic origins of his acclaimed lyrical prose. Still himself has contributed the illuminating autobiographical essay “A Man Singing to Himself,” which will appeal to every lover of the work of Kentucky’s first Poet Laureate.


The Total Light Process: New and Selected Poems

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Nationally acclaimed poet, photographer, filmmaker, and novelist James Baker Hall (Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2001-2002) has long been regarded as one of Kentucky’s most profound artists. Hall’s growing body of work is an essential part of Kentucky’s literary tradition, and yet his poetry in particular transcends the borders of the Commonwealth.

The Total Light Process collects poems spanning Hall’s celebrated career as well as new poems that have never before been published. The subjects of Hall’s poems range from humorous and revealing portraits of his fellow writers and friends Wendell Berry, Ed McClanahan, and Gurney Norman, to the traumatic experience of his mother’s suicide when he was eight years old, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tragic murder of Matthew Shepherd.


The Land We Dreamed: Poems 9780813144580

Weaving together universal themes of family, geography, and death with images of America’s frontier landscape, former Kentucky Poet Laureate (2003-2004) Joe Survant has been lauded for his ability to capture the spirit of the land and its people. Kliatt magazine has praised his work, stating, “Survant’s words sing. . . . This is storytelling at its best.”

Exploring the pre-Columbian and frontier history of the commonwealth, The Land We Dreamed is the final installment in the poet’s trilogy on rural Kentucky. The poems in the book feature several well-known figures and their stories, reimagining Dr. Thomas Walker’s naming of the Cumberland Plateau, Mary Draper Ingles’s treacherous journey from Big Bone Lick to western Virginia following her abduction by Native Americans, and Daniel Boone’s ruminations on the fall season of 1770. Survant also explores the Bluegrass from the perspectives of the chiefs of the Shawnee and Seneca tribes.

Drawing on primary documents such as the seventeenth-century reports of French Jesuit missionaries, excerpts from the Draper manuscripts, and the journals of pioneers George Croghan and Christopher Gist, this collection surveys a broad and under-recorded history. Poem by poem, Survant takes readers on an imaginative expedition—through unspoiled Shawnee cornfields, down the wild Ohio River, and into the depths of the region’s ancient coal seams.


The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry

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A consummate poet, Jane Gentry (1941–2014) possessed an uncanny ability to spin quietly expansive and wise verses from small details, objects, and remembered moments. Her poetry is deeply rooted in place, exuding a strong connection to the life and land of her native Kentucky. Gentry was also a beloved and influential teacher, as well as serving as Kentucky Poet Laureate from 2007-2008. She served as a mentor to generations of young writers and worked tirelessly to promote new voices.

Gentry and her daughters collaborated with editor Julia Johnson to organize this definitive collection. The result is an important assembly of Gentry’s most celebrated poems alongside new, previously unpublished works. Johnson uses Gentry’s own methodology to organize the book, showcasing the range of the poet’s work an
d the flexibility of her style—sometimes ironic and humorous; sometimes poignant; but always clear, intelligent, and revelatory.

This volume includes two previously published full-length collections of poetry in their entirety—A Garden in Kentucky and Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig. The final section includes Gentry’s unpublished work, from verses written for loved ones to a large group of recent poems that may have been intended for future collections. Alternately startling and heart-wrenching, The New and Collected Poetry of Jane Gentry offers a valuable retrospective of the celebrated poet’s work.


Winter Come: The Ascension of York Walkerjktcomprev3.indd

In the sequel to his award-winning Buffalo Dance, Frank X Walker (Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2013-2015) reimagines Lewis and Clark’s legendary exploration of the American West. Grounded in the history of the famous trip, Walker’s vibrant account allows York—little more than a forgotten footnote in traditional narratives—to embody the full range of human ability, knowledge, emotion, and experience. Knowledge of the seasons unfolds to York “like a book,” and he “can read moss, sunsets, the moon, and a mare’s foaling time with a touch.” During the journey, York forges a spiritual connection and shares sensual delights with a Nez Perce woman, and Walker’s poems capture the profound feelings of love and loss on each side of this ill-fated meeting of souls. As the perspectives of Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and others in the party emerge, Walker also gives voice to York’s knife, his hunting shirt, and the river waters that have borne thousands of travelers before and after the Lewis and Clark expedition. The alternately heartbreaking and uplifting poems in When Winter Come are told from multiple perspectives and rendered in vivid detail. When Winter Come exalts the historical persona of a slave and lifts the soul of a man; York ascends out of his chains, out of oblivion, and into flight.


LyonManyFinal2.inddMany-Storied House: Poems

“The speaker in George Ella Lyon’s smoldering poem, “What Won’t Burn” – in her smoldering new book of poems, Many-Storied House – declares: “I didn’t know / they outlasted / conflagration / like the diary’s / charred metal lock.” Indeed this book, rooted as it is in the reliquary of memory, and the power of words to raise the dead, and absolve the living, is determined to outlast fire. This volume is itself storied, assembled with an architect’s acumen; yet the true craft is commemoration, and the tool is the poet’s heart. Each room, each curio, each haunted nail and joist is catalogued, named, and invested with chiseled language. This house is Lyon’s muse. Within it, she commingles ethnography, archeology and catechism. Many-Storied House is a heartbreaking, yet triumphant, inventory of acquisition, loss, the sacramental offices of love, the vanished beloved, and their shades that forever walk the rooms of recollection.” –Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate