Reading American Books in the UK

I’m an avid bookworm and thanks to the power of Twitter and other internet sites I am able to add to my huge “I’d love to read that” wish list all of the time.

Sometimes I come across American books that I love the sound of so much I can’t stop talking about them, and sometimes I am very lucky in that the book buying team for the 2nd Air Division Library think they’ll be good additions to their stock and I get to borrow them from the library.

In 2015 two books really caught my eye, and although published at different times of the year they did have a common theme – the expansion of the American West.

The first book was the fantastic Annotated Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wider.  I’ve loved the Little House books since I was seven years old and ordered Little House on the Prairie from the school bookshop using my own pocket money.  As an adult I’ve read and re-read the books frequently, along with biographies and histories about Laura and her family.

This book is special however. It takes the original draft of Pioneer Girl, Laura’s first attempt at what became the Little House series, and line by line adds facts, images and wider historical contexts to the story.

The book itself is a large, heavy volume but one that I spent hours poring over and while I thought I thought I’d exhausted all the information on the family it kept adding more information and details and really may be the definitive work on Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Pioneer Girl

The second book was also about the pioneer experience but this time in the modern day: The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck.

Buck was always fascinated by stories of the American West and as a child the family did own a horse and wagon in which they spent their vacations.  Rinker decided that the time was right to rebuild an authentic wooden wagon, buy some horses and follow the Oregon Trail across America just as the pioneers of years ago did.

The book is a mix of history, travelogue and family memoir and it reminded me greatly of Billy Bryson when he is at the top of his game.  Rinker, and his fellow travellers, have all sorts of wild and wacky adventures over the summer they are travelling and even though I’ve not visited the areas he travels through the writing was so vivid I felt like I was in the wagon with them – although for some of their adventures I’m glad I wasn’t.

Oregon Trail.jpg

I’m really grateful that we have an American Library in Norfolk and that they do buy such great books – don’t just take my word for it, both of these books ended up in the top 20 History and Biography Books of the Year as voted for by members of!

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Filed under American History, Books

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