Getting Wisconsin down on paper
Thanks to some great publishers that really focus their energies and efforts on getting Wisconsin down on paper, there seems to be a never-ending stream of quality literature – fiction and non – about the Badger State.
Here are some recent titles that tell a portion of the Wisconsin story...
Craig Schreiner's slim but attractive hardcover, "One Small Farm: Photographs of a Wisconsin Way of Life," was born from a photo gallery Schreiner started while he worked as a Wisconsin State Journal photographer.
Spending more than a year with the Lambert family near Pine Bluff, Schreiner captures the rhythms of modern farm life and the generational chain that marks many Wisconsin farms.
The book, published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press, is a reflective one and one that rewards time spent gazing at its images.
Though I'm not nearly as big a fan of department store history as Boswell Book Co. owner Daniel Goldin – who might be classified as obsessed – I really enjoyed Michael Leannah's "Something for Everyone: Memories of Lauerman Brothers Department Store," published in hardcover by Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
What struck me most was how Lauerman's success, from its start in 1890, mirrored the lumber boom fortunes of Marinette; Leannah's familial and personal ties to the long-lived store; and Lauerman's late-era trajectory and closing, which reads much like similar stores' stories across the country.
Loaded with interesting photographs, "Something for Everyone" is textbook hyperlocal history.
When researching my family history in the Italian region of Piedmont, I've always been intrigued by the phenomenon of the "vije" – the winter evenings spent together in a group in barn doing winter work while singing songs, telling stories and passing culture down from generation to generation.
Jerry Apps looks into the Wisconsin version of this phenomenon in "The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters," published in a handsome hardcover edition that cries out "keepsake." Across its 160 pages, Apps recalls his childhood in Waushara County in the years between the Depression and World War II, when winters were a time for planning for the spring, a time for reflection and a time for catching up on work that filled the months when the fields were covered in ice and snow.
The newly revised edition of Ken and Barb Wardius' "Wisconsin Lighthouses: A Photographic and Historical Guide," published in paperback by Wisconsin Historical Society Press, arrived at the perfect time for me, having just visited the Milwaukee Breakwater Light a few weeks earlier.
First published in 2000, this illustrated guide is packed full of lighthouse and lighthouse keeper history and images, but also has practical information – directions, current status, etc. – for visiting Wisconsin's best beacons.
Nine pages of the book focus on Milwaukee's North Point, Breakwater and Pierhead lighthouses, and there's also a lot about lights nearby, like the ones in Wind Point and Grafton, making it a great guide to quick daytrips, too.
Also in paperback from Wisconsin Historical Society Press is a new edition of the publisher's bestselling title, "Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal," by Patty Loew.
Another heavily illustrated book, this one not only documents, but also celebrates, the richness of tribal culture, history and tradition in Wisconsin. The new edition features updated information on Native communities and the social, economic and environmental changes in them.
On Wednesday, Oct. 9, you can meet Jesse Gant and Nicholas Hoffman, authors of "Wheel Fever: How Wisconsin Became a Great Bicycling State," at a 7 p.m. book talk and signing at the Chudnow Museum, near the Marquette campus.
The paperback from Wisconsin Historical Society Press (who else?!) kicks off with the velocipede craze of 1869 and pedal their way through a century and a half of two-wheeled Wisconsin history, from high-wheels and 19th century amateur cycling clubs to the wheel fever of the 1890s and professional cycle racing at the turn of the century.
Local sportscaster Jessie Garcia shares the story of her career as one of the first women in her field in the Midwest in her memoir, "My Life With the Green and Gold: Tales from 20 Years of Sportscasting," out now in paperback from Wisconsin Historical Society Press. The perfect gift, perhaps, for the Packers fan, local TV news junkie or aspiring broadcaster on your shopping list.
Last but not least, Madison author Jennifer Chiaverini has a new novel. "The Spymistress" is a historical novel based on the life of Virginia secessionist Lizzie Van Lew who risked her life as a Union spy, gathering information for Lincoln's army during the Civil War.
The book follows Chiaverini's bestselling historical novel, "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker." She will visit Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave., at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, to read from and sign copies of the book.
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