The Great Plains is sometimes described by what it lacks: oceans, mountains, skyscrapers, big-city noises and world-class museums. Richard Edwards, director emeritus of Nebraska’s Center for Great Plains Studies, seeks to showcase the region’s abundance of quiet beauty and significant culture.
He developed “Discover the Great Plains,” a series of short paperback books written for a general audience, to highlight different aspects of the region, which stretches from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle.
To date, seven books introduce readers to American Indians, bison, weather, politics, literature, geology and birds. Four more books are in the works. The series, which began in 2016, is a collaboration with the University of Nebraska Press.
“Even people who live in the region don’t necessarily know much about it,” said Edwards, the series editor. “We see this series as a way to inform ourselves and the reading public about the many riches of the Great Plains.”
By encouraging people to explore the Plains, the series promotes greater appreciation of the region’s culture, history and natural environment, a key mission of the Center for Great Plains Studies, which was established in 1976.
Donna Shear, director of UNP, said the series has been popular and is a good fi t for the Bison Books imprint, which shares the history and literature of the American West and Great Plains.
The books’ themes appeal to audiences beyond the region. “Great Plains Birds,” for example, others a meditation on birds popular with birders. “Great Plains Politics” portrays national political figures, such as Wilma Mankiller and Robert Dole, by highlighting their backgrounds as community collaborators.
Accessibility is a key ingredient. Edwards enlists authors both deeply knowledgeable about the topic and able to write in a personal style. For example, in “Great Plains Weather,” Kenneth Dewey, emeritus professor of climatology, explains not only the area’s extreme weather but also how his boyhood interest in it developed.
“There’s a personal element to these books that allows the reader to get carried along with the enthusiasm of the author,” Edwards said.
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