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  • June 2012
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Rural reads

I grew up in a tiny town in the corn belt where the first kid to ride his tractor to school was not the last. We swam in ponds as often as in pools. The super-spacious Midwestern sprawl and lack of public transport meant that, once I learned to drive, I usually got where I was going with the windows down at…um…a totally legal and safe speed.

That car now is scrap metal, and as summer activities go, Pittsburgh beats the flatlands with no contest!  But gorgeous summer afternoons, grilling with friends, cinema in the park and some of the most ridiculous jams from the 90’s have the power to send me back to my neighborhood with force. These books do the same, and it’s kinda nice!

The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein and Stephen G. Bloom

In 1984, the author set out to photograph everyone in his hometown of Oxford, Iowa, instructing them to “come as you are.” Twenty years later, Feldstein hunted down the same people who had stood in front of his lens the first go-around and published the photographs side-by-side. Each set of photos comes with a brief interview of the participant, and they range from downright wacky to mundane. I’ve never thought of small town life as stunning, but this series of portraits absolutely changed my mind.

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Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Joey was 16 when his mother tragically died and he was shipped from Chicago to rural Iowa to live with a father he barely knew. Living with a near-stranger is hard, but finding out the stink in your shack comes from the graves your dad is robbing? Arguably worse. This takes the small (and big) town mantra “nothing ever HAPPENS around here!” and runs it through the wringer. This book is not for the weak of stomach, but if you enjoy a thoughtfully dark read, you will get what you came for with Rotters.

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Need to get out of the city – if only for a little while? Check out some of these other awesome reads with rural settings.

   

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Whitney, CLP – Main

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