Iowa History, Memoirs & Biographies

    • Pioneer Girl
      Laura Ingalls Wilder

      Presents Laura Ingalls Wilder's unedited, and unpublished, draft of her autobiography that was written for an adult audience and eventually served as the foundation for her popular Little House on the Prairie series.

    • A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable
      Dan Gable

      In A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of DanGable, famed wrestler and wrestling coach Dan Gable tells engaging and inspiring stories of his childhood in Waterloo, Iowa; overcoming the murder of his sister as a teenager; his sports career from swimming as a young boy, to his earliest wrestling matches, through the 1972 Olympics; coaching at the University of Iowa from the Banachs to the Brands; life-changing friendships he made along the way; and tales of his family life off the mat.

    • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir
      Bill Bryson

      Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality-a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and of his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. 

    • Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
      Mildred Armstrong Kalish

      Little Heathens offers a loving but realistic portrait of a "hearty-handshake Methodist" family that gave its members a remarkable legacy of kinship, kindness, and remembered pleasures. Recounted in a luminous narrative filled with tenderness and humor, Kalish's memoir of her childhood shows how the right stuff can make even the bleakest of times seem like "quite a romp."

    • Gentlemen Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye, Prohibition, & a Small Town in Cahoots
      Bryce T. Bauer

      During Prohibition, while Al Capone was rising to worldwide prominence as Public Enemy Number One, the townspeople of rural Templeton, Iowa--population just 428--were busy with a bootlegging empire of their own. Led by Joe Irlbeck, the whip-smart and gregarious son of a Bavarian immigrant, the outfit of farmers, small merchants, and even the church Monsignor worked together to create a whiskey so excellent it was ordered by name: Templeton Rye. 

    • Living with Honor: A Memoir
      Salvatore A. Giunta

      A Medal of Honor recipient shares the story of his military career, recounting his deployment to Afghanistan's volatile Korengal Valley and his life-risking efforts to provide medical aid to wounded fellow soldiers during an October 2007 Taliban ambush.

    • Skull in the Ashes: Murder, A Gold Rush Manhunt, and the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in America
      Peter Kaufman

      On a February night in 1897, the general store in Walford, Iowa, burned down. The next morning, townspeople discovered a charred corpse in the ashes. Everyone knew that the store’s owner, Frank Novak, had been sleeping in the store as a safeguard against burglars. Now all that remained were a few of his personal items scattered under the body.  At first, it seemed to be a tragic accident mitigated just a bit by Novak’s foresight in buying generous life insurance policies to provide for his family. But soon an investigation by the ambitious new county attorney, M. J. Tobin, turned up evidence suggesting that the dead man might actually be someone else.

    • Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie
      Beth M. Howard

      When journalist Beth Howard's young husband dies suddenly, she packs up the RV he left behind and embarks on a cross-country journey, during which she used America's quintessential comfort food and the simple act of giving to overcome tragedy.

    • The Sacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story
      Mark Tabb w/the Ed Thomas Family

      Presents a look at the inspirational life of Ed Thomas, a beloved high-school football coach whose murder by a former player sent shockwaves throughout the community he helped to rebuild after an EF5 tornado nearly destroyed it.

    • Growing Up Amish
      Ira Wagler

      One fateful starless night, 17-year-old Ira Wagler got up at 2 AM, left a scribbled note under his pillow, packed all of his earthly belongings into in a little black duffel bag, and walked away from his home in the Amish settlement of Bloomfield, Iowa. Now, in this heartwarming memoir, Ira paints a vivid portrait of Amish life from his childhood days on the family farm, his Rumspringa rite of passage at age 16, to his ultimate decision to leave the Amish Church for good at age 26.

    • The Girls from Ames
      Jeffrey Zaslow

      The Girls from Ames is the story of a group of ordinary women who built an extraordinary friendship. With both universal insights and deeply personal moments, it is a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.

    • Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere
      Lucas Mann

      A chronicle of a year of minor-league baseball in a small Iowa town that follows not only the travails of the players of the Clinton LumberKings but also the lives of their dedicated fans and of the town itself.

    • By the Iowa Sea: A Memoir of Disaster and Love
      Joe Blair

      Recounts the author's transformation from an idealistic, freedom-loving youth to a jaded and financially struggling father of four and how a catastrophic flood helped him to reconnect with the faith and courage of his childhood.

    • Prairie City Iowa: Three Seasons at Home
      Douglas Bauer

      Bauer's book is neither a wistful nostalgia about returning to a simpler time and place nor a patronizing look at those who never leave the town in which they were born. What emerges is an unsentimental yet loving account of life in the Midwest. Not just a portrait of Prairie City, Iowa, but of everyone's small town, everywhere.