Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. It feels to me like a time to get out of the city–to go enjoy the pleasures of blue skies, wide open spaces, and the abundant harvest. But country living is not just about beautiful vistas and homegrown food. The individuals and communities living in rural areas are as complex and interesting as the characters that inhabit cities all over the world. These ten books are perfect examples of those complex lives, and they are great choices to add to your “to-be-read” list this fall.
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather: Triumph and tragedy accompany the lifespan of Cather’s heroine, Alexandra Bergson, in this story of the transformation of the American Frontier.
The Living by Annie Dillard: When Native Americans help two struggling pioneer families in Washington, the behavior and attitudes of both groups change.
Whistling Season by Ivan Doig: Hired as a housekeeper to work on the early 1900s Montana homestead of widower Oliver Milliron, the irreverent Rose and her brother, Morris, endeavor to educate the widower’s sons while witnessing local efforts on a massive irrigation project.
So Big by Edna Ferber: After her father’s death, Selina DeJong, a teacher in the High Prairie settlement, marries one of the local farmers.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf: From the unsettled lives of a small-town teacher struggling to raise two boys alone in the face of their mother’s retreat from life, a pregnant teenage girl with nowhere to go, and two elderly bachelor farmers emerges a new vision of life and family as their diverse destinies intertwine.
The Contract Surgeon: a novel by Dan O’Brien: Dr. Valentine MacGillicuddy, a contract surgeon pulled from a prestigious practice to become a U.S. Army surgeon, meets Crazy Horse and the two discover they had met once before. They develop a friendship despite the war surrounding them.
Remembering Laughter by Wallace Stegner: This tale of a love triangle and Iowa farm life is one of the first titles written by Pulitzer Prize winning Wallace Stegner.
An Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling: This title is the first in the “Red River of the North” series about Norwegians immigrants who settle in the Dakota Territory.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: A New England farmer must choose between his duty to care for his invalid wife and his love for her cousin.
The Orchardist byAmanda Coplin: When two feral girls–one of them very pregnant–appear on his homestead, solitary orchardist Talmadge, who carefully tends the grove of fruit trees he has cultivated for nearly half a century, vows to save and protect them.