Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Michigan and the Federal Writers' Program
The American Guide series of books about the then 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states at the time) was produced by the Federal Writers Project under the Works Progress Administration during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The travel guides, from Michigan to Missouri and New York to California, cover history, geography and culture of each state. The idea for the project was to employ writers such as Saul Bellow, John Cheever and Richard Wright to compose articles about the states. The set of books have historic value and although older, contain information that is current today. A complete set may be found in the Reference collection and some titles are in the circulating collection of the Central Library in the travel area.
The Michigan volume highlights many of the cities including Kalamazoo: “The two main business streets are exceptionally wide. The downtown area, centered at Main and Burdick Streets, is composed mainly of two- and three-story structures. The one ‘skyscraper,’ a 15-story bank building, looks down on peddlers hawking celery and peanuts—a sight peculiar to Kalamazoo.” Oh for some crisp celery and hot peanuts today! This history continues and may elicit a chuckle from readers but is invaluable information that should be appreciated by today’s readers as well as future readers.