SOS Home :: State Library :: Wolfner Library :: Recommended Readings

Growing Up in Small Town America

Listen to the bibliography

[ or download the media file ]

To order any of these titles, contact the library by email, mail or phone. You may also request these titles online through our OPAC. Happy Reading!

Life in small town and rural America is depicted in these books selected from the Wolfner collection by Reader Advisor Ginny Ryan. Most are biographical memoirs. Some are fictionalized accounts of the life and culture of small towns.

American Years by Harold Sinclair.
The author recounts events, people, and places, in his hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, which he fictionalizes as Everton. He covers the period from 1830 to the Civil War with the town itself as the main character and the people as the background. Some strong language. RC 29767.

Blooming: A Small Town Girlhood by Susan Allen Toth.
Nostalgic recollections of a young girl growing up during the 1950s in Ames, Iowa, with brief notes on the author's perspectives of the past. Toth asserts that life was good, and relates stories about girlfriends, her first kiss, menial jobs, progressing to a job on the local newspaper, and finally, to the world outside. RC 18946.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.
Evocative novel of childhood set in a small Illinois town during the summer of 1938. A boy marvels at his discovery that he is alive and acutely aware of the life about him. RC 12385.

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel.
Memoir of growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s in a mid-America hamlet of 300. Nicknamed "Zippy" after a fast moving chimpanzee on TV), the author recounts childhood incidents involving her family, best friend Julie, and school. In the process, she describes her community. Haven Kimmel autobiography series, book 1. RC 54946, BR 14575.

The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter.
Memoir of an orphaned boy who was raised in a log cabin by his Cherokee grandparents in Tennessee during the Great Depression. Some strong language. RC 58621.

Farm: A Year in the Life of an American Farmer by Richard Rhodes.
The author, who grew up on a farm, describes a year in the life of a midwestern farm family. Rhodes brings to life the courage and creativity required to survive capricious weather and market prices. He also makes clear the rewards of farming, including the birthing of the calves, the bounty of a good harvest, and the family's feeling of being rooted in the soil. RC 31102.

Homesteading by Percy Wollaston.
A man's memoir of his childhood in Montana, where his family settled under the Homestead Act of 1909. Depicts their hardscrabble life on the Great Plains, their daily struggle to tame the land, and the indomitable spirit that sustained them through hard times. RC 46323.

Life in Prairie Land by Eliza Woodson Burhans Farnham.
An account of everyday life in Illinois by a New Yorker who was to become a leading feminist of her time. The author spent almost five years during the 1830s in the prairie land of Tazewell County and recounts her experiences in this miscellany of frontier adventures, folklore, natural history, and sharply observed manners. RC 29238.

Life Was Simpler Then by Loula Grace Erdman.
Recollections of the author's childhood in a small western Missouri town when Central was an all-knowing operator at the other end of the wire, and harvesting ice or making apple butter was a neighborhood affair. RC 7616.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody.
This account of roundups and auctions, irrigation wars, tornadoes, and family life depicts Western farm life through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy. In 1906 young Ralph Moody and his family moved from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch. Because of his father's failing health, much of the ranch work fell to Ralph. Moody Family biography series, book 1. RC 43671.

A Long Way from Home: Growing Up in the American Heartland by Tom Brokaw.
NBC news anchor reminisces and reflects on his boyhood in South Dakota during the 1940s and 1950s. He examines the northern Great Plains values instilled in him during the formative years before he married and moved away at age 22. RC 55334.

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.
Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature, portrays a small town in a novel that was to become a classic. An educated young woman with a taste for "highbrow" drama and a knack for town planning marries a doctor and begins a crusade against the narrow mindedness of the natives of their midwestern community, Gopher Prairie. RC 42189, BR 63.

Main Street on the Middle Border by Lewis Eldon Atherton.
A cultural and economic history of midwestern country towns from 1865 to 1950. The first half of the book casts a nostalgic look at the small town; the second half considers its decline. RC 12862.

Man of the Family by Ralph Moody.
The adventures of eleven-year-old Ralph, also known as Little Britches, as he earnestly tries to take care of the family when Father dies in 1910. Mother gently and steadfastly keeps Ralph in school and starts a cooking business in their small Colorado town. Sequel to Little Britches (RC 43671). Moody Family, Book 2. Some strong language. RC 43672.

Ohio Town by Helen Hooven Santmyer.
A moving and sometimes hilarious account of a small town's life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries The nonfiction counterpart to the author's novel ...And Ladies of the Club (RC 20922, BR 5849). RC 22720.
Once upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob W. Greene.
The inspirational story of North Platte, Nebraska, a town that served as a brief haven for millions of World War 2 American soldiers. From Christmas Day 1941 until the end of the war, the residents welcomed every troop train with food, drink, magazines, and words of encouragement. RC 54433, BR 14210.

A Painted House by John Grisham.
Arkansas, 1952. Seven-year-old Luke Chandler, who lives with his parents and grandparents in a house that has never been painted, recounts the events during cotton picking season. As Luke faces the daily grind of harvesting, he witnesses a murder, a birth, and a storm that changes their lives forever. Some violence. RC 51331, BR 13239.

Remember When…? Family, Friends, and Recipes by Clara Eschmann.
Eschmann, who has lived in Georgia all her life, reminisces and shares favorite recipes. Beginning with the reopening of school in the fall, she carries the reader through a year of activities such as making pull candy, waiting for Santa, having Valentine's Day parties, choosing Easter dresses, picking wildflowers, and attending church picnics. RC 50461.
The Sangamon by Edgar Lee Masters.
A memoir that depicts the towns, people, and attitudes of central Illinois. Combining prose and poetry, Masters focuses mainly on Menard County. RC 29535.

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg.
Follows town life in Elmwood Springs, Missouri, from the 1940s to the 1990s. Mrs. Dorothy Smith from Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! (RC 47006) continues her radio show. Her son, Bobby, gets involved with the guests, including a blind teenager and a gospel singing family. Elmwood Springs series, book 2. Some strong language.  RC 54819.

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! by Fannie Flagg.
New York TV anchor Dena Nordstrom's career is flourishing, but her private life is not. Then her high stress job, combined with too many nights out on the town, takes its toll, and Dena goes back to her hometown to recuperate. Pondering her past and wondering about her future, she finds unexpected pleasures in the small Missouri town. Elmwood Springs series, book 1. RC 47006.

White Town Drowsing by Ron Powers.
The Pulitzer Prize winning commentator returns to his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, and examines the place he finds and the place he remembers. This is a loving, wary evocation of small town America. RC 25377.

World of Pies by Karen Stolz.
Vignettes of growing up in a small town in Texas, with regional recipes included. In 1962 Roxanne, a baseball playing tomboy, learns how to bake for the pie contest and encounters racial prejudice for the first time. In high school she is embarrassed by her mother's pregnancy. And tragedy strikes the family. RC 50867, BR 13218.

The Year the Lights Came On by Terry Kay.
A nostalgic, humorous remembrance of Colin Wynn's boyhood, which gives way to adolescence in the summer of 1947 when the REA brings electricity and revolutionizes the crossroads community of Emery, Georgia. RC 15380.

600 West Main Street
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Main Office: (573) 751-4936Driving Directions