Five Books Every Pennsylvanian Should Own

The holiday season is upon us, and people are already making wish lists. In fact, I didn’t even realize the date until my mother asked my sister and I for our own lists. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind!

The question, however, got me thinking about all the material things we often receive that aren’t even used anymore six months later. So I gave my mom a very, very short list: the link to a tea set I’ve wanted for a while, and gift cards for Amazon (books), Barnes N’ Noble and Half Price Books.

Tea and books. Such a mood, am I right?

So I had to wonder: what books would a fellow Pennsylvanian appreciate receiving? One who’s interested in learning this Commonwealth’s history? Or, on the flip side, what would be fun books for someone who just moved to PA like to own? If you’re stumped on what to gift friends or family this year, here are five books I think every Pennsylvanian – or honorary Pennsylvanian – should own.

Pittsburgh Steps by Bob Regan

Perfect for the adventurer in your family, The Pittsburgh Steps is the most accurate “log” (of sorts) of the famous steps that were built over the years to connect Pittsburgh’s many neighborhoods to one another. Walking these steps has become a hobby for many city residents, and there are even blogs out there that chronicle these journeys. Feeling adventurous yourself? Go ahead and pick up a copy of this piece of modern history. From the description:

“Today the City of Pittsburgh has more municipal inclines than any other U.S. city and more city steps and bridges that any other city in the world. Undoubtedly the most unique of these transportation solutions is the city steps. Pittsburgh has hundreds of streets complete with street signs, and often times houses, that are composed entirely of steps.Pittsburgh Steps is part historical record for the armchair climber and part guided for active step trekkers.”

Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains by Dave Hurst

From the description: “Bands of Iroquois, the ill-fated General Braddock and Gilded Age tycoons have all roamed Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains. The rough peaks and dense woods of the Alleghenies were the nation’s first barrier to westward expansion. From frontier skirmishes and daring escapes along the Underground Railroad to the triumphs and tragedies of the Industrial Revolution, local journalist Dave Hurst explores the fascinating history and distinctive culture of the region. He regales readers with tales of fly-fishing, bold outdoorsmen, the legend of Johnny Appleseed and the origins of the banana split to capture the essence of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains.”

While these “mountains” are more of a plateau (in geological terms, of course), this book explores the early history of Pennsylvania and what drew settlers of all kinds to this piece of land. This would be a great introductory book to a budding lover of history.

Supernatural Lore of Pennsylvania by Thomas White

Feeling a little more adventurous? Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, this is still a fun little ditty of lore from across the state. As a Pennsylvanian, I have heard of some of the tales within these pages. Besides, it’s fun to speculate, right? And a lot of lore is based in fact, so that might be a cool idea for a future blog post! From the description:

“Strange creatures and tales of the supernatural thrive in Pennsylvania, from ghostly children who linger by their graves to werewolves that ambush nighttime travelers. Phantom trains chug down the now removed rails of the P&LE Railroad line on the Great Allegheny Passage. A wild ape boy is said to roam the Chester swamps, while the weeping Squonk wanders the hemlock-shrouded hills of central Pennsylvania, lamenting his hideousness. On dark nights, the ghosts of Betty Knox and her Union soldier beau still search for each other at Dunbar Creek. Join Thomas White and company as they go in search of the truth behind the legends of supernatural Pennsylvania.”

The Battle for Homestead by Paul Krause

A rather hefty read, might I suggest this particular book only for the most enthusiast of historians? It is a volume that takes a look at all aspects of the “battle” for Homestead, and not just at the event itself. It explains the events leading up to it, as well as the aftermath. This would also be a good book for those involved in labor law. From the description:

“Paul Krause calls upon the methods and insights of labor history, intellectual history, anthropology, and the history of technology to situate the events of the lockout and their significance in the broad context of America’s Guilded Age.  Utilizing extensive archival material, much of it heretofore unknown, he reconstructs the social, intellectual, and political climate of the burgeoning post-Civil War steel industry.”

The Tycoons by Charles R. Morris

Though not specifically set in Pennsylvania, The Tycoons does highlight individuals who had some dealings in the Commonwealth in one way or another. Even for those who aren’t fans of history, their names would still be recognizable: Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gould and JP Morgan. From the description:

“Acclaimed author Charles R. Morris vividly brings the men and their times to life. The ruthlessly competitive Carnegie, the imperial Rockefeller, and the provocateur Gould were obsessed with progress, experiment, and speed. They were balanced by Morgan, the gentleman businessman, who fought, instead, for a global trust in American business. Through their antagonism and their verve, they built an industrial behemoth—and a country of middle-class consumers. The Tycoons tells the incredible story of how these four determined men wrenched the economy into the modern age, inventing a nation of full economic participation that could not have been imagined only a few decades earlier.”

There you go: five books I think every Pennsylvanian should own. From the fun to the practical to the purely factual, these five nonfiction titles would be great additions to anybody’s library. See one you fancy? Don’t worry — I don’t do affiliate links, and I don’t have an Amazon “store front.” Happy reading!

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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