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Recommended Reads


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We may not be able to travel much this year, but we can still visit other places in books. We can look into the secret lives of church ladies, take a trip down country roads and start a journey into the past. West Virginia University Press has recent books out from essayists, memoirists, researchers, journalists and poets. To give you some ideas for your to-read list, we’re sharing reviews from booksellers across the country and the staff of WVU Press about their favorites.

Cover of the Secret Lives of Church Ladies book published by WVU Press. The photo has as woman dressed for church seated on a bench.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

Named to the longlist of the 2020 National Book Award for fiction

Written by Deesha Philyaw

“In nine stories, Deesha Philyaw explores the complex inner lives of Black women longing to be seen, heard, touched. Full of humor, grief and desire of all kinds, these stories of women grappling with their relationships to their own bodies and faith — and with their roles as sisters, daughters, mothers and lovers — will make you laugh out loud, possibly cry and definitely want more.”

— Sara, WVU Press


Cover of the Lowest White Boy book by Greg Bottoms published by WVU Press. The cover is of a crowd in the background, with a car in the foreground and a boy in front running toward the camera with an american flag.

Lowest White Boy

Written by Greg Bottoms

“Using a few choice memories and experiences from his childhood, Bottoms honestly (and brutally) assesses how white supremacy has shaped his upbringing, and his family’s history, in Hampton, Va. Along the way, he both employs and destroys traditional structures of memoir. Think a shorter, personal, lyrical The History of White People or White Trash.”

— Anna, White Whale, Pittsburgh


The book cover for The Painted Forest by Krista Eastman and published by WVU Press. The cover has an illustrated tree stump in the center.

The Painted Forest

Written by Krista Eastman

“Krista Eastman, as an essayist of space and place, in The Painted Forest encourages us to simply pay attention to the world around us. To the world and nature we thought we knew, from our childhood, from our homes, from our tramped-over land. To avoid stereotype and regional assumptions and to see the way we reclaim our sense of self through the discovery of colonized, then farmed and finally rewilded natural landscapes.”

— Davis, Union Avenue, Knoxville

Image of the book cover for Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto by Kevin M. Gannon, published by WVU Press. The cover has words: It has never been more difficult to teach in higher education than in our current moment. Other text is obscured.


Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto

Written by Kevin M. Gannon

“March was a tough month for publishers, just like for everybody else, but it was a good time to roll out a book called Radical Hope. Kevin Gannon’s provocative work has catalyzed new conversations about higher education in this difficult moment, encouraging everyone involved with the contemporary university to approach its many problems as opportunities for progressive change. Alongside other titles in WVU Press’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Radical Hope has helped teachers — and all of us who care about colleges and universities — navigate dramatically unfamiliar terrain with confidence and purpose.”

— Derek, WVU Press


This image is the cover for the book Mountaineers are Always Free written by Rosemary V. Hathaway and published by WVU Press. It has an image of a woman Mountaineer mascot and drawings and photos of people who may depict the Mountaineer image.

Mountaineers Are Always Free: Heritage, Dissent, and a West Virginia Icon

Written by Rosemary V. Hathaway

“I am a ‘Morgantown boy,’ and so was my father, who was, among other things, a sports photographer. I have vivid memories of tagging along with him as he patrolled the sidelines at WVU basketball and football games. I remember the ‘old Sunnyside,’ the smell of hot dogs, cigars, aftershave and — in the early 70s — something else? And I remember the way Old Mountaineer Field could be transformed into a slightly unhinged, chaotic environment by a single, perfectly timed shot from the Mountaineer’s musket. Working on the layout of Rosemary Hathaway’s engaging book really changed the way I look at heroes, sports, the college experience, ‘tradition,’ gender roles, and the ways that ‘shared’ history can be so different for each of us. And the pictures are great.”

— Than, WVU Press


The book cover of The Road to Blair Mountain: Saving a Mine Wars Battlefield from King Coal, by Charles B. Keeney and published by WVU Press. The cover is green with a red tied bandana.

The Road to Blair Mountain: Saving a Mine Wars Battlefield from King Coal

Written by Charles B. Keeney

“Through history and memoir, Chuck Keeney lays out a decade-long struggle for historic preservation that demonstrates the perseverance, creativity and coalition-building that social activism demands if it is to be successful after the initial public demonstrations. Beyond lessons for and about Appalachia and the entrenched power of King Coal — those are there, too — The Road to Blair Mountain carries present-day applications for all activists working against the destructive forces of industry, greed and capitalism. Indeed, Keeney challenges readers to look locally and find their own cause. It feels perfectly ripe and right for this particular cultural and historical moment.”

— Sarah, WVU Press

The cover of The Book of the Dead, written by Muriel Rukeyser with an introduction by Catherine Venable Moore and published by WVU Press. The cover is bright yellow with square and other geometric shapes.


The Book of the Dead

Written by Muriel Rukeyser

“One of the foundational engagements of race relations, workers’ rights and environmental disaster in American literature. It tells the tragic story of the thousands of miners, most of them Black, who lost their lives due to unsafe working conditions in 1931.”

— Chris, City Lights, San Francisco