Here’s a picturesque scene for you:
In the passenger seat, you’ve got your head tilted to the side, occasionally bumping against the window. You’ve got a pillow propped up behind you, and a handmade afghan in your lap, a gift from your grandmother from when you were a child. You’re on your way through Iowa on the way to visit family, to get away from the house for the weekend, or even just for a breath of fresh air. Lord knows that Iowa certainly has plenty of it.
And there’s a well-worn paperback resting in your fingertips. Every fifty-two seconds, you’re flipping to the next page. Your destination is the same subject as the book in your hands, almost like a coming home gift. You picked it up at a gas station when your husband needed to refuel the car, and you needed to refuel yourself with a cool drink and sandwich from inside.
But what is that book? It’s a fascinating read, much like the lands surrounding you as you drive on toward the place you grew up. Each soft page is a reminder of a childhood memory, and every word is relatable to you. So, what are you reading? The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa by Elizabeth Stuckey-French is what. Written in 2000, this book has had a place in the hearts of Iowa residents since its first publication. It’s lauded for being a book filled with characters and stories that can be easily sympathized and related to, at any possible age. Even the ones that seem bizarre are far too endearing—it’s a book that you simply can’t put down, not even if you get carsick on the way home.
But perhaps you’re in the mood for something a little more classic, a book with age. You’ll be picking out Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa by W.P. Kinsella. This is an anthology of ten stories that spin words together like a pristine spinning wheel. Both books are highly rated on GoodReads, but Shoeless Joe Jackson hits a home-run with everyone who’s come across it, being an easy read thanks to the short story format.
There are immeasurable amounts of fantastic books about the gorgeous state of Iowa, but none of them capture the heart and soul of the communities within as well as these two books do. They’ll have you in stitches, all laughed and cried out before you ever manage to make it back home for the holidays, and you’ll have a hard explaining to everyone why your eyes are red, or why your smile is just that much brighter.
That is, until you had off your finished books to your loved ones, encouraging them to see for themselves what people in Iowa have been enjoying in literature for decades now. Both books make a bookshelf look more down-home any other, and you’ll never regret picking either of them up.
Your memories and experiences in Iowa are important, and when even those outside of the Midwest can read and laugh alongside you, you’ll know that your home state has struck a chord in their heart as well.