The following post, Books That Every West Virginian Should Read, comes from our friends at Weelunk and is written by Emily Torbett.
Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Soon to be made into a Lionsgate film starring Brie Larson, The Glass Castle is Jeanette Wall’s chilling memoir of her turbulent and unconventional childhood at the hands of her star-crossed parents. Her mother, a recklessly free-spirited artist, abhors domesticity and the idea of raising a family, instead preferring that Jeanette and her three siblings care for themselves from birth. Her father, a brilliant electrical engineer with a passion for geology and physics, can’t seem to put down the bottle long enough to keep a job for any substantial length of time. Consequently, the family outruns bill collectors and the authorities by bouncing around from one dusty mining town to another. When they finally decide to move across the country and settle in Welch, West Virginia, their troubles have only just begun. Living in a run down shack without plumbing or electricity and surviving on scraps to eat, the Walls children care for themselves and one another as they plan a way out. The Glass Castle is a beautifully written account of hardship and betrayal that tests the bounds of love and trust within one of the strangest contemporary literary families, and shows its readers what it means to come to peace with a haunting past.
Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas by John Hubner
You won’t find this book on a best-seller list, much less being made in to a major motion picture. It exists as a chilling true account of one of the most bizarre and widely misunderstood crimes in the history of West Virginia. Set in the rural countryside near Moundsville, the Hare Krishna compound of New Vrindaban seemed an idyllic place for religious devotion. The beautiful Palace of Gold attracted practitioners and tourists from all over the world, but none from the outside could see the darkness picture behind closed doors, where one leader exercised almost complete power over the sect’s psychologically damaged devotees. This chilling journalist’s account uncovers true testimony and court documents to shed light on the murder and madness that took place in the late 1980’s at at New Vrindaban and tarnished its reputation forever.
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Newberry Medal winning classic Shiloh has become a beloved children’s classic and staple of elementary school courses across the United States. Shiloh details a young boys experience with an abused dog and was inspired by Naylor’s own emotional encounter with an abused dog in West Virginia. After finding an abused beagle owned by his cruel and brutish neighbor, Judd Travers, 11-year-old protagonist Marty Preston hatches a plan to save him. In defiance of his hometown of Friendly, West Virginia’s unspoken yet rigid policy of not meddling in one another’s business, Marty steals the beagle and names him Shiloh. Marty hides Shiloh in the woods near his family’s home, but Travers soon discovers the theft. When Marty witnesses Judd shooting a deer out of season, he blackmails him into selling Shiloh. Without any money to purchase him, Marty instead goes to work for Judd, doing various chores to pay off the debt and keep his beloved dog. Shiloh is a beautifully written and compelling tale of one boy’s love for a dog and the battle between right and wrong in a small and traditional town.