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50 years of Arts and Humanities

Appalachian Literature

  • The Wrecking Yard and Other Stories by Pinckney Benedict

    Harvey Diamond says:
    The best book to understand West Virginia. “It has everything: the humor of its people, the strong sense of do-it-yourself justice, obstinate self-reliance in difficult circumstances, the innate urge to help others without hesitation or calculation, and its mountain environment, harboring in its isolated stretches who knows what strangeness, people, spirits.”

  • Riders of The Flood by W. E. Blackhurst

    Recommended by Georgette Plaugher:
    This book presents a pretty realistic view of the early logging operations in West Virginia.

  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    Recommended by Tom Borgia and by Jay Cole, who say:
    “A literary classic, and also has had a significant impact on US-Chinese relations since its publication in 1931.”

  • Tumult On The Mountains by Roy B. Clarkson

    Georgette Plaugher says:
    “My father, father-in-law, brother-in-law and husband all work(ed) in the forestry industry. Without wood, I would not have food, health insurance, a college degree or a place to live. This is a great historically based story”

  • June Bug by Chris Fabry

    Recommended by Amy Keesee. Publishers Weekly says:
    “Fabry's retelling of the world-renowned Victor Hugo tale is a stunning success, and readers will find themselves responding with enthusiastic inner applause."

  • Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina

    Cheryl Brown says:
    “Historical novels are great for learning about West Virginia's history in a fun way since these are not nonfiction and so engage you with the characters while learning history."

  • The Unquiet Earth by Denise Giardina

    Cheryl Brown says:
    “These historical novels are great for learning about West Virginia's history in a fun way since these are not nonfiction and so engage you with the characters while learning history."

  • The Devil Is Here in These Hills by James Green

    Jorge Flores says:
    “This is the history of West Virginia's coal miners and their battle for freedom. This story tells us with great detail how miners won their basic constitutional freedom. These important details have been lost to American memory, primarily because they have been carefully deleted from the high school curriculum."

  • Richard Road Journey from Hate by Lud Gutmann

    Anthony Borgia says:
    “Dr. Gutmann started the neurology department here at WVU. Another great book on escape, survival and triumph."

  • The Blue Cotton Gown by Patricia Harman

    Recommended by Bri Sheppard. People Magazine says:
    “In her sweetly perceptive memoir, Harman reveals how her the exam room becomes a confessional. Coaxing women in thin gowns to share secrets ... she reminds them that they’re not alone."

  • In the Heart of the Hills by Dwight Harshbarger

    Dwight Harshbarger says:
    “A boy and the lives of residents of a southern West Virginia town from World War II until the construction of the interstate, which destroyed the community people had known and loved."

  • Witness at Hawks Nest by Dwight Harshbarger

    Dwight Harshbarger says:
    “A fictional account of the 1930-31 disaster at the Union Carbide Hawks Nest hydroelectric tunnel's construction near Gauley Bridge, W.Va., in which at least 800 and possibly as many as 2,000 workers died of acute silicosis."

  • Valley At Risk by Dwight Harshbarger

    Mike Mays says:
    “A roman à clef about the chemical industry in the Kanawha Valley."

  • Clay's Quilt by Silas House

    Amy Keesee says:
    “About coal miners and mountaintop removal."

  • Last Mountain Dancer by Chuck Kinder

    Tom Sloane says:
    “I went to school with Chuck here at WVU and have admired his life and writing. His character, Grady Tripp, was played by Michael Douglas in “ Wonderboys," and in this book, he writes about the wild as well as the wonderful West Virginia."

  • Aspiring to Greatness — West Virginia University Since World War II by Ronald L. Lewis

    John Kuhlman says:
    “I read this last year, and found it to be very well-written and enjoyable. Dr. Lewis is a WVU professor emeritus."

  • The Bridge to Cutter Gap by Catherine Marshall

    Georgette Plaugher says:
    “This story opens your eyes to the difficulties of living and teaching in 1800s Appalachia."

  • Crum by Lee Maynard

    Recommended by Nigel Clark. Journal of Appalachian Studies says:
    “For all its faults, Crum creates a hilarious, poignant, recognizable picture of a place and time, and of people I've known."

  • Monongah by Davitt McAteer

    Recommended by Judy Matlick. WVU Press says:
    “The tragedy at Monongah led to a greater awareness of industrial working conditions, and ultimately to the federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, which McAteer helped to enact."

  • Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

    Harvey Diamond says:
    “For me, Suttree -- set in Knoxville -- is the great American novel, seen through the dark lens of Appalachian life, its intricate and beautifully plotted language conjuring the apocalypse waiting just over there, calling down biblical retribution upon all it surveys, and yet also full of adventures and humor and compassion for the souls who inhabit its pages."

  • Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales by Ruth Ann Musick

    Recommended by Georgette Plaugher. Southern Living says:
    “A delightfully chilling collection."

  • The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales by Ruth Ann Musick

    Georgette Plaugher says:
    “I love to read ghost stories out of these books every year during October to get me in the Halloween spirit."

  • At Home in the Heart of Appalachian by John O'Brien

    Autumn Kiefer says:
    “This book captures the love/hate relationship that native West Virginians have with the Appalachia label. The author describes the pull of the mountains well, as he talks about his childhood and his own path as an adult."

  • Strange As This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake

    Recommended by Rudy Almasy and Cheryl Brown, who say:
    “It is a novel set in today's West Virginia and deals with current issues in our state. It was published in 2007 and I read it several years ago, but I can't get it out of my mind. It rates up there in my list of most important, best books ever. I have recommended and loaned it to anyone who asks me what to read."

  • West Virginia and the Civil War:: Mountaineers Are Always Free by Mark A. Snell

    Georgette Plaugher says:
    “An accurate account of the Civil War in West Virginia and how we became a state."

  • The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart by M. Glenn Taylor

    Recommended by Valerie Lastinger. The Houston Chronicle says:
    “A stunning, fully realized, unique and ambitious book that proves there’s still passion, fire and brilliance in the American novel."

  • Follow the River by James Alexander Thom

    Georgette Plaugher says:
    “I love West Virginia history, and this is an excellent historically based story that partially takes place in West Virginia."

  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

    Recommended by Daniel Brewster. The New York Times says:
    “Memoirs are our modern fairy tales. ... The autobiographer is faced with the daunting challenge of attempting to understand, forgive and even love the witch.... Readers will marvel at the intelligence and resilience of the Walls kids."

  • The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla

    Front Porch Journal says:
    “A rich and complex novel…[that] lures the reader into a world where magic and serendipitous fortune holds hands with sadness, guilt and family tragedy. There is not a scene rendered that is pale or slim on visual imagery. Each place and talisman is depicted with a vivid sense of color and emotion."

  • Guilt By Matrimony by Nancy Styler with Daleen Berry

    Recommended by Traci Mays:
    “Nancy Styler, a botanist, was falsely arrested, charged with first-degree murder, which is a capital offense in Colorado, and sent to two different county jails for a combined 107 days."

  • Sister of Silence by Daleen Berry

    Recommended by Traci Mays. Kirkus says:
    “Daleen Berry thought she was happy - until Eddie. Berry doesn't present herself as a saint, nor Eddie as a complete monster. A former FBI agent sets the theme: Acquaintance or marital rape is still rape. Berry is an engaging writer, her style fluid, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout. A seldom-seen perspective."