Books

A president, a pilot, and a memoir of Kansas

After several "list" columns, it's back to discussing some recently or about-to-be published Kansas books. " Eisenhower 1956: The President's Year of Crisis — Suez and the Brink of War" by David A. Nichols (Simon & Schuster, 286 pages, $28)

Nichols' previous book on Eisenhower, "A Matter of Justice," explored the 34th president's role in the civil rights movement. This time, the Eisenhower scholar and former Southwestern College history professor delves deeply into one year of Eisenhower's term, the year of the Suez Crisis in the Middle East.

Starting with a quick background of Eisenhower's foreign policy and the global situation leading up to the crisis, Nichols takes readers through a detailed, highly readable account of 1956, as the increasingly unstable situation in the Middle East and the machinations of U.S. allies intertwined with Eisenhower's campaign for a second term and the health problems he was facing. Nichols never gets bogged down, yet nothing feels light or glossed-over in this fast-paced history.

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"Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart" by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, 110 pages, $18.99, ages 8-12)

Plenty has been written about Amelia Earhart, but this book provides a fresh take for middle readers on Kansas', and perhaps the world's, most beloved aviator. The author alternates chapters of straightforward biography — supplemented with photos, newspaper clippings, maps and fun historical details like a timeline of aviation and how Morse code works — with short, suspenseful chapters on the last days of Earhart's doomed around-the-world flight, including some recently released information about people who claimed to have heard Earhart's final distress calls in 1937.

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"My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas" by Tracy Seeley (University of Nebraska Press, 178 pages, $15.95 paper)

Seeley begins her deeply personal, lyrical memoir not in Kansas but in San Francisco, probably the U.S. city closest to the antithesis of Kansas. Happy in California, and then suddenly not, she decides to take a trip back through her Kansas childhood, starting in Goodland and ending in Wichita (where her father was a TV news anchor for a few years), with a lot of places and back roads in between.

She rediscovers the beauty of the plains and explores the history of the state — the heritage of the American Indians and the turbulence that came with the white settlers — and in doing, connects with her own past and develops a better sense of her present. "Driving the long straight roads or the hilly crooked one," she writes, "I settle into the comfort of knowing and belonging, slowly losing my fear of the plains' empty reaches and relishing the texture of the wind."

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