Great Plains Book of the Month

Each month the Center for Great Plains Studies features one book as its "Great Plains Book of the Month." We carefully choose books that are accessible and on topics of interest and importance for our region. They may be on any subject, of any genre, published within the last couple of years; occasionally we may feature a book published by or written at the Center. Mainly we want to bring attention to what we consider exceptional works both to learn from and enjoy.

November Book of the Month

Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn

By Catherine Friend

Details: Rural life, Humor, Agriculture

Publisher: Da Capo Press, 2008

“Every time you have livestock, you also have deadstock.” That warning comes across clearly in Friend’s account of starting a farm in Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn. She and her partner make a hasty decision to give up city life and “get back to the land.” While many others have made this switch, few have been able to write about the new life so vividly, and with such humor. Cathy and Melissa embark on a rural odyssey filled with sheep, goats, chicken, llamas, and a host of other natural disasters. Not surprisingly, farming isn’t all it is cracked up to be. The book serves as both a warning to would-be farmers, and a paean to pastoral living.

NOTE: Although Minnesota is not usually identified as part of the Great Plains, our borders are quite fluid, with over 50 different models of what counts as the Plains.

“I'm reading a book now that I ration out 10 pages a day because I'll feel bereft when it's gone: it's a memoir of two women who go into sheep farming in Minnesota and I just really like both of them. And it starts with them attending shepherd school and learning to assess the potency of a ram by holding his testicles. A book that starts with a woman reaching up between a ram's hind legs is a book close to my heart.”

—Garrison Keillor, New York Times Book Review

Hit by a Farm

Past Great Plains Books of the Month:

American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains, Dan Flores

A Chorus of Cranes: The Cranes of North America and the World, Paul Johnsgard

Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, Karen Hansen

Wild Again: The Struggle to Save the Black-Footed Ferret, David Jachowski

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor, Joe Starita

Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota Before the Oil Boom, Richard Edwards

Towards a Prairie Atonement, Trevor Herriot

Walking the Llano, Shelley Armitage

Barnstorming the Prairie, Jason Weems

Homesteading the PlainsRichard Edwards, Rebecca Wingo, Jacob Friefeld

Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology 1867-2017, Edited by Daniel Simon

This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm, Ted Genoways

Grasses of the Great Plains, By James Stubbendieck, Stephan L. Hatch, Cheryl D. Dunn

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, Ann Weisgarber

The Trans-Mississippi and International Expositions of 1898–1899: Art, Anthropology, and Popular Culture at the Fin de Siècle by Wendy Katz

Jewels of the Plains: Wildflowers of the Great Plains Grasslands and Hills by Claude Barr and James Locklear

Chemical Lands: Pesticides, Aerial Spraying, and Health in North America's Grasslands Since 1945 by David Vail

Converting the Rosebud: Catholic Mission and the Lakota, 1886-1916 by Harvey Markowitz

The Sea of Grass: A Family Tale from the American Heartland by Walter Echo-Hawk