North America’s Sea of Grass

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The Great Plains are a vast expanse of grasslands, stretching from Texas north to Canada. Here are two invaluable reference books that form the heart & soul of the Land Library’s prairie collection.

Recently published, the Atlas of the Great Plains (by Stephen J. Lavin, Fred M. Shelley, & J. Clark Archer) includes over three hundred original full-color maps, accompanied by the authors’ insightful commentary. This atlas explores all aspects of our great North American grasslands, including Native American history, modern settlement patterns, ecological regions, agricultural trends, and much more.

Published in 2004, the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains(edited by David J. Wishart) has already risen to the level of a classic reference work. This thick tome contains over 1,300 entries stretched over 940 pages, with illustrations and photographs throughout.

Both books point to the rich natural and cultural history of the Plains. Clearly, North America’s midcontinent is much, much more than flyover country!

Scanning our new arrival shelf of prairie books, we were struck by how many titles found their inspiration from the flowing grasslands of the Canadian Prairie. Books such as these:

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Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds by Trevor Herriot, River in a Dry Land: A Prairie Passage (an earlier book by Trevor Herriot, and the winner of the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award), and Small Beneath the Sky: A Prairie Memoir from poet Lorna Crozier — full of landscape, family, and stories centered around Crozier’s childhood in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

And here’s two older books, both born north of the border:

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Prairie: A Natural History by Canadian naturalist Candace Savage, and Wallace Stegner’s classic childhood memoir Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier (an absolute favorite of the Land Library’s Book Club!).

Last year, the Land Library published a series of posts on the prairie. Here’s a quick look:

Prairie Voices: Red Cloud and Beyond

The People of the Prairie

The Natural History of the Plains

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4 thoughts on “North America’s Sea of Grass

  1. Wallace Stegner is my favorite “Western” author/chronicler of Colorado. Have you read Angle of Repose?
    I lived in Denver for six years and enjoyed regular visits to the Tattered Cover. I look forward to returning to Colorado and hope to someday visit the Land Library. I admire your vision and applaud your hard work in making the library a reality.

    • So sorry for our slowness after the NYT article. We would love to get you to the ranch! If I remember right, part of Angle of Repose was inspired by Leadville, Colorado — just over the mountains from South Park!

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