The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #13

13. Medicial Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide by Kelly Kindscher

Before modern medicine, humans would use natural remedies, herbs, and plants to treat illnesses. In the Great Plains of North America, Indigenous peoples had a vast understanding of the types of plants that grew and their medicinal purposes. Ethnobotanist Kelly Kindscher details these plants and their uses in his 1992 book, Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie.

Using information gleaned from archival materials, interviews, and fieldwork, Kindscher describes plant-based treatments for ailments ranging from hyperactivity to syphilis, from arthritis to worms. He also explains the use of internal and external medications, smoke treatments, moxa (the burning of a medicinal substance on the skin), and the doctrine of signatures (the belief that the form or characteristics of a plant are signatures or signs that reveal its medicinal uses). He adds information on recent pharmacological findings to further illuminate the medicinal nature of these plants.

“Kelly Kindscher is the plains version of John Muir. Join him in the journey to discover the great pharmaceutical house on the prairie.” —Wes Jackson

“One of the most important, original contributions to American medicinal plant literature in decades. Combining thoughtful insight with thorough research, this book has broad appeal yet is scientifically sound—a rare blend with lasting value.” —Steven Foster

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

16. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

15. Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide

14. The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #14

14. The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House

David Glantz and Jonathan House deliver a comprehensive understanding of the information and tactics of the Red Army and Hitler’s army on the battlefield in Kursk, Russia. For years, details surrounding this historic event have been discussed. Through an in-depth retelling, the inclusion of maps, and explanations of the battles, The Battle of Kursk aims to uncover why exactly the Soviets won. Glantz and House dive into both Soviet and German sources to uncover the truth behind the Battle of Kursk and how Hitler’s plans were stopped.

Immense in scope, ferocious in nature, and epic in consequence, the Battle of Kursk witnessed (at Prokhorovka) one of the largest tank engagements in world history and led to staggering losses—including nearly 200,000 Soviet and 50,000 German casualties—within the first ten days of fighting. Going well beyond all previous accounts, Glantz and House’s 1999 work offers the definitive account of arguably the greatest battle of World War II.

“The most detailed, authoritative, and thorough analysis of the massive battle that led to the final victory of the Red Army over the Germans. This outstanding book deserves the highest praise.” —Malcolm Mackintosh, author of Juggernaut: A History of the Soviet Armed Forces

 

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

16. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

15. Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #15

15. Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide by Kelly Kindscher

Besides sunflower seeds, what wild plants can you eat? Kelly Kindscher’s 1987 Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie will tell you because it describes the 120 plants that were once used as food by Indigenous peoples and early settlers of the prairie.

Kindscher explains the importance of learning about this early part of history and indigenous culture: “I learned, and am learning more as I work on a new edition, of the depth of use of our native prairie plants by Native peoples. It is even more important to acknowledge the traditional knowledge of Native Americans.”

These plants were not simply used as a snack like many of us today might think; rather, they were substantial parts of everyday meals. As white settlers came to North America, they changed the idea of which plants were acceptable as part of a meal as well as the ecology of the prairie. Kindscher has tried every plant written about in his book, however, the plant he finds most interesting would be “Groundnuts or wild potatoes [to] (Apios americana), for which Topeka is named, and which translates in the Kaw (Kansa) language as ‘a good place to grow potatoes.’ This wild bean plant has tasty tubers like starchy potatoes almost as big as golf balls.”

In his book Kindscher seeks to educate others on the variety of plants that have been lost to our diet and the environment. “My favorite part is finding new clues in the historical literature as to plants that were used. An unusual account, or depth in uses, or recipes related to use—all excite me.”

By writing about the edible flora of the American prairie, Kelly Kindscher provided the first edible plant book devoted to the region that Walt Whitman called “North America’s characteristic landscape” and Willa Cather called “the floor of the sky.” In describing how plants were used for food, Kindscher has drawn upon information concerning tribes that inhabited the prairie bioregion. As a consequence, his book serves as a handy compendium for readers seeking to learn more about the historical uses of plants by Native Americans.

By writing about the edible flora of the American prairie Kelly Kindscher provided the first edible plant book devoted to the region that Walt Whitman called “North America’s characteristic landscape” and the Willa Cather called “the floor of the sky.” In describing how plants were used for food, he has drawn upon information concerning tribes that inhabited the prairie bioregion. As a consequence, his book served as a handy compendium for readers seeking to learn more about the historical uses of plants by Native Americans.

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

16. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #16

16. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado by Elliott West

“This book will change the way the history of the West is taught and understood forever.” —Publishers Weekly

In his 1998 book, Elliot West tells the history of Native Americans and their battles with the incoming white settlers. West highlights the environmental, social, military, and political ramifications of these events in our history, weaving together the threads of society at that time. West discusses the California Gold Rush as a key event in American history, Native American history, and the reformation of the Great Plains. In the 1800’s, thousands of people rushed to California in search of gold, which drastically changed the course of the tribes of people living there and the environment itself.

Through his storytelling and integration of facts and history, West weaves together an important part of this countries past. His book has received high praise across the board. Glenda Riley from the American Historical Review writes, “In a way, Elliot West tells a familiar tale: that of Indians, goldseekers, and the ensuing conflict. But in this case, West is the first to assess the cataclysmic changes that the Colorado gold rush brought to the Great Plains. In addition, rather than casting the story in the usual terms of heartless aggressors and hapless victims, West supplies a large and insightful interpretation that at once softens and increases our understanding of the Anglo disruption of Plains Indian cultures. To understand where western history is now, and is likely to go in the future, one must read this book.”

Exciting and enormously engaging, The Contested Plains is the first book to examine the Colorado gold rush as the key event in the modern transformation of the central great plains. It also exemplifies a kind of history that respects more fully our rich and ambiguous past—a past in which there are many actors but no simple lessons.

The Contested Plains by Elliot West won the Caroline Bancroft Prize, Caughey Award, PEN Center USA West Literary Award in Research Nonfiction, Francis Parkman Prize, and the Ray Allen Billington Prize Choice Outstanding Title.

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

Why the University Press of Kansas Matters

About a year ago, the University Press of Kansas was in turmoil. Our Board of Regents had proposed budget cuts that threatened the future of our press. When word of the potential closure leaked, dozens and dozens of friends came to our defense. In the crowd of our authors and readers, one of the loudest voices came from our friend Danny Caine, owner of The Raven Bookstore here in Lawrence. In February, Danny wrote a moving piece for the Kansas Reflector about why university presses matter and we are proud to share it here…

Here at the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, we felt a sense of deep pride that “Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills” was a huge in-house bestseller. We sold hundreds of copies of this lush coffee table book that artfully illuminates forgotten elements of our state’s history, treating indigenous stories with care and reverence.

Too often when people think “publisher,” they imagine one of a shrinking number of New York City mega-corporations. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to corporate publishing and its ills: the university press. Here in Lawrence, we’re lucky to have one of the best, University Press of Kansas, publishing 50-60 books a year and maintaining a strong sense of scholarly rigor. They publish books that push disciplines forward, and books that tell the history of our region in vital ways — like “Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills.”

Amid KU’s financial crisis, the University Press of Kansas may end up on the budgetary chopping block. Readers and thinkers of Kansas: We cannot stand for this.

A shelf of books published by the University Press of Kansas at the Raven Book Store. (Submitted)

University presses operate on a model different from corporate publishers, and therein lies their value. They are editorially independent of any corporate oversight; these presses operate as nonprofits, and their books are published only after withstanding rigorous peer review. Even their distribution escapes corporate publishing’s reach; many university presses team up to do their own distribution through consortia.

University Press of Kansas takes that independence one step further and distributes its books itself, from a warehouse on the KU campus, creating publishing jobs in a state hundreds of miles from the corporate book world headquarters in NYC. The independence of the university press from corporate oversight, profits and shareholders means their publishing decisions are driven by scholarship above all.

When universities face difficult budget decisions, university presses end up in the crosshairs. After all, the making and distributing of books is increasingly pricey work. But cutting university press budgets is largely symbolic: University Press of Kansas has just 13 full-time employees, and their allocation of funding from the state hasn’t increased in 10 years. Despite operating on a shoestring, university presses are one of the best examples of actually doing the work of the university.

In just the 10 years since they’ve gotten a raise from the state, UPK has published some of the most important books about Kansas ever written. As a Kansas bookseller, I know — many of these books are perennial bestsellers at my store, beloved by booksellers and customers alike. Take “No Place Like Home,” C.J. Janovy’s history of LGBTQ activism in a state that’s unfairly derided as Trump Country in national media. Take “Kansas Trail Guide,” the single best resource for Kansans looking to engage with our state’s natural beauty. Take the sheer mountain of invaluable scholarship about the pre-Civil War era that shaped this state. Nobody has told this story with more nuance and responsibility than the authors of the University Press of Kansas.

I shudder to think what outsiders would make of our Kansas story if it were up to them alone to tell it. Corporate publishing has long held a coastal bias — just count the number of literary novels set in Brooklyn, or just look where the big five publishers (soon to be four) have their offices. The disappearance of the University Press of Kansas would leave a void where there once was a dedicated group of publishing professionals, right here in our state, creating true, important, and nuanced portraits of our region.

We feel a sense of dismay when we see people like Josh Hawley or any number of Trump enablers getting big book deals. Many nonfiction books from big publishers aren’t even fact-checked, and this parade of dangerous books makes us ever more thankful for university presses. These books won’t make national bestseller lists, but they will tell nuanced stories with a scholarly rigor absent in so much corporate nonfiction. This is vital work, and we’d mourn the day it ceases.

Just to drive home the point of how University Press of Kansas serves readers and the greater Kansas community: In Spring 2020, Meg Heriford shut down her Ladybird Diner in downtown Lawrence and converted it into a food pantry serving 200 free meals a day. She wanted to write a book to help fund the free meals. She needed it done fast; people were still hungry and the diner was running out of funds. It would’ve taken years for her to see a cent from a corporate publisher. Within two months of finishing the manuscript, she had books in hand, because the University Press of Kansas printed the book for her.

You guessed it: It was the Raven’s bestselling book of 2021.

 

Ramsey Clark: A Model of Independence and Commitment to the Law

by Alexander Wohl, author of Father, Son, and Constitution: How Justice Tom Clark and Attorney General Ramsey Clark Shaped American Democracy

As part of the research for my dual biography on Supreme Court justice Tom Clark and his son, US attorney general Ramsey Clark, I had the opportunity to spend many hours interviewing Ramsey in his Greenwich Village apartment.

So it was with special sadness that I learned of Ramsey’s death earlier this year at age ninety-three. Through my discussions with him, I was able to go on a fascinating tour through history, and get to know this gracious and pleasant man whose deep commitment to the rule of law and individual rights had shaped his life and the nation.

Clark was the last surviving member of President Lyndon Johnson’s cabinet, so his death marked the end of an era. But, more important, perhaps, it also serves as a reminder of the role the attorney general of the United States can and should play in upholding our nation’s commitment to the rule of law. That approach stands in sharp contrast to the actions taken by the president during the last four years of Clark’s life, and the men who held the office of attorney general during Donald Trump’s presidency, each of whom used the office primarily to advance the president’s political agenda while undermining the independence of the office and weakening or eliminating protections of the law for those who most depend on them.

As attorney general from 1966–1968, as well as in his prior Department of Justice positions in both the Johnson and Kennedy administrations, Clark generally rejected the partisan aspects of the job, even as he understood the enormous political baggage that accompanied it. It was a conflict amplified by the turmoil of the times in which he served and the personality of the president who appointed him.

Lyndon Johnson, the ultimate political animal, at times found Clark’s impractical idealism frustrating. He was particularly confounded by the differences with Ramsey’s father, the more conservative and pragmatic Supreme Court justice Tom Clark, a longtime Johnson friend.

The younger Clark was well aware of the irritation he caused the president (and others). During a meeting with Johnson about a controversial judicial nomination, for example, the frustrated president leaned over to his attorney general and told him, “I wish you could be more like your daddy.” To which Ramsey quickly responded, “Mr. President, a lot of people say that.” Nevertheless, though Clark could exasperate Johnson, the president also greatly respected his attorney general’s intelligence, integrity, and, most of the time, his advice.

But Clark and his father were more similar than their politics revealed on the surface. As I explored in my book, while their political leanings were different—Tom Clark was a conservative who became somewhat more moderate during his lifetime, while Ramsey was a liberal who became more radical—they shared a strong appreciation for, and commitment to, the rule of 1aw.

During his time in government, some of Clark’s colleagues gave him the nickname “the Preacher” due to his expansive theorizing on legal issues and his continuing search for the “right” answer that might combine legal and moral principles.

In both his role as attorney general and in prior positions at the Department of Justice, Clark found those answers in positions he believed represented basic principles of justice. This included opposition to wiretapping and the death penalty as well as fervent advocacy for racial equality—including key official roles in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, government actions to protect the civil rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery, and the desegregation of the University of Mississippi.

As attorney general he also worked to prioritize the development of well-trained police forces and community involvement in policing, issues that remain important today. And, often to his discomfort, his adherence to the rule of law at times led him to enforce or defend government policies that curtailed individual rights, such as the prosecution of Draft protesters or approving surveillance of certain radical groups.

It was largely in his post-government career that Clark gained his more radical reputation as a principled advocate in defense of human rights and the rule of law. He practiced law on the local, national, and international stages, using his standing as a former attorney general to become an outspoken advocate for causes involving equality and justice.

He spoke out against the Vietnam War and supported civil disobedience. One of the first places he embraced this new freedom after leaving the confines of his government position was in the testimony he sought to give during the 1969 trial of the Chicago Seven, a role captured in the recent movie of the same name. (Ramsey also ran twice for the US Senate from New York, something for which his idealistic, uncompromising approach was totally unsuited.)

He continued to move further to the left, gravitating to the outer reaches on the individual rights–government power spectrum and providing defense to a list that included Lyndon LaRouche and dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, work that often confounded many of his former colleagues and allies. But Clark viewed this activity as entirely consistent with his earlier work, with both focused on what he described as helping to avert the distortion of the justice system by preventing government abuse of its extraordinary powers.

The focus of both Ramsey Clark’s and his father’s work during their nearly century-long tagteam in American law and policy involved constant evaluation and balancing of the government’s role in ensuring our democratic freedoms and individual liberties against the protections it should provide for the most vulnerable citizens. It is a debate that continues to be a central source of conflict in our society.

We may disagree with the path that Ramsey Clark took or, for that matter, the positions of many of his clients. For many the approach taken by his more conservative father is equally unsatisfying.

And yet the battles they engaged in involving some of the toughest legal questions of their day are a reminder that the struggle to uphold the rule of law and to support our democratic system and the constitutional standards that underpin our society require an adherence to principle over politics.

At a time when far too many have embraced the January 6 siege on the US Capitol as a legitimate action and continue to use social media to spread the lies (big and little) and disinformation that support it, this message, and the work and lives of the Clarks, has special resonance.

Alexander Wohl is the author of Father, Son, and Constitution: How Justice Tom Clark and Attorney General Ramsey Clark Shaped American Democracy (University Press of Kansas, 2013).

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #17

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

A continuation of his previous book, True Tales of Old-Time Kansas, David Dary delivers more stories, tales, and legends of Kansas’s history. Published in 1987, More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas tells entertaining stories from Kansas’s past, from adventures to natural disasters to tales of outlaws and legends. Dary is able to pull together accounts and facts with carefully skilled penmanship that makes history feel like a story.

Spread throughout the stories are illustrations to help propel the reader further into the exciting history of Kansas. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas brings to life the excitement and adventure of the Old West: the revenge and vengeance of Bloody Bill Anderson and Dutch Henry, the exploits of bank and train robber Bill Doolen, and mayhem in the state’s most violent town. Colorful hermits and trappers, traders and town builders join historical characters such as William Becknell, father of the Santa Fe Trail—whose expedition turned a 2,000 percent profit—and Lizzie Johnson Williams, the first woman to follow the Western Trail.

“Dary is a popularizer, a skilled writer who takes historic facts and legends and weaves them together for the interested general reader. His easy, journalistic style, and determination to tell a good story introduce history to an audience that may not have discovered the fascinating heritage of our remarkable state.—Wichita Eagle-Beacon

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #18

#18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

Published in 1997, Heitz’s spine-tingling collection of stories raps and taps and moans and groans through a wealth of descriptions of infamous Kansas phantoms, as well as disconcerting personal experiences related by former skeptics. Haunted Kansas pulls together a various collection of accounts chronicling Kansas folklore and eerie stories. Kansas’s deep history paves way for some complicated and unsettling accounts. Heitz tells the haunting stories of Kansas as she travels from location to location, uncovering the secrets that Kansas has had buried.

Set in various locations across the Sunflower State, the book aims to relay the haunting stories through Kansas’s history, while also giving a bit of knowledge of each location. Most locations are historical sites and important geological markers, adding more to the eerie quality these tales hold. From the haunted Teddy Bear in Fort Riley to the plethora of spirits walking alongside tombstones in the cemetery to the haunted town of Atchison, Heitz covers a lot of ground in telling the haunted tales of Kansas.

“Prior to the publication of the book, I spent a year researching Kansas legend and lore, traveling around the state to many communities, small and large, visiting museums and libraries for materials on local ghost stories, and interviewing residents,” Heitz explains. “During my travels throughout the state, I not only collected hundreds of stories, but I learned that my home state of Kansas is an endlessly varied, beautiful, and fascinating place. Oh, and spooky—very spooky!”

“My favorite part of writing the book,” Heitz explains, “was piecing together what I like to think of as an interwoven tapestry or quilt of folklore and legend. Each story was compelling and colorful on its own, but woven together into a book, the stories overlay a map of the state with a blanket of intersecting local legends and oral histories.”

Heitz says methods of researching the paranormal have developed in the twenty-five years since working on Haunted Kansas.

“Research in this field, as in all fields, has been radically changed by the internet in the years since the publication of my book,” Heitz says. “My method of research in the early and mid-1990s seems practically antiquated now; very ‘boots-on-the-ground’ and reliant on physical travel, hours spent in libraries and museums, and face-to-face interviews.”

Heitz continues, “I recently have been working on updating some of my research from that time and now, of course, much of the work can be done sitting in front of a computer. It is certainly easier and less time-consuming, and the resources online seem endless and are often invaluable. But there are fewer in-person encounters and interactions, and less physical travel to locations is required, which seems like something of a loss to me. My time spent researching around Kansas allowed me to meet many fascinating people and explore numerous locales, giving me a deep appreciation of Kansans and all things Kansas.”

Researching and writing a book about haunted places isn’t for the weak. Heitz says stories from the book still haunt her.

“From the stories collected in the book, and the numerous additional stories still haunting my files, my favorite tale is undeniably the one I grew up with, in my hometown of Topeka: the legend of the Albino Woman,” Heitz says. “This unusually complex, intergenerational, local legend—the ever-changing, always-morphing tale of a terrifying white-haired, white-robed wraith with glowing red eyes—has haunted the folkloric landscape of Topeka for seventy-five years or more. This shape-shifting figure has stepped out of stories and frightened multiple generations of Topekans, including my young self. And today, sometimes in the guise of one of her most recent iterations—the zombie cannibal known as the Blue Albino Woman—she is still scaring the bejeebers out of avid storytellers and their rapt listeners or readers. And that’s why I love her!”

Heitz continues, “The last paragraph of my story of the Albino Woman is still true more than twenty years later: ‘The Albino Woman legend is quite a bit like the infamous Lady herself: flying through the generations; constantly being re-created out of each individual teller and listener’s fears, sense of evil, and sense of mischief; and wandering the cultural landscape of Topeka as well as the physical landscape of cemetery, creek, woods, roads, and river that she calls home.’”

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #19

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

Published in 1978 by Dudley Cornish, The Sable Arm dives into the history of Black Union soldiers fighting for freedom and liberty during the Civil War. Cornish traces the history of Black men as Union soldiers and how that affected both the fate of Black citizens and their role in the military today and the white Union soldiers who fought alongside them at that time. Told in chapters beginning with an appropriate quotation relating to the subject matter, The Sable Arm takes the reader through the challenges and results of allowing Black soldiers into the Union Army.

A bona fide classic, The Sable Arm was the first work to fully chronicle the remarkable story of the nearly 180,000 Black troops who served in the Union Army. Cornish details the hardships and conditions that these soldiers had to face to pave the way for Black troops today. Cornish traces similarities and outcomes in today’s military system that began with the admittance of these troops.

“One of the one hundred best books ever written on the Civil War.” —Civil War Times Illustrated

“The most valuable book ever written on the topic.” — Herman Hattaway, coauthor of How the North Won

________________________

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

 

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #20

UPK is thrilled to be celebrating our seventy-fifth anniversary, and we’d like to invite our supporters to celebrate along with us. Since our founding in 1946, we’ve published nearly 1,000 books. To celebrate seventy-five years of publishing excellence, we’re counting down our Top 20 best-selling titles. Stay tuned as we make our way to our top seller…

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

Brian McAllister Linn provides a definitive treatment of military operations in the Philippines. From the pitched battles of the early war to the final campaigns against guerrillas, Linn traces the entire course of the conflict. More than an overview of Filipino resistance and US pacification, this is a detailed study of the fighting in the “boondocks.”

In addition to presenting a detailed military history of the war, Linn challenges previous interpretations. Rather than being a clash of armies or societies, the war was a series of regional struggles that differed greatly from island to island. By shifting away from the narrow focus on one or two provinces to encompass the entire archipelago, Linn offers a more thorough understanding of the entire war.

Winner: Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award

“A thoughtful, deeply researched, and well-written work about a war that teaches much about the nature of revolutionary warfare—even today.” —Foreign Affairs

“The definitive study of this often-misunderstood war.” —Parameters