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Summer Books: For the beach or vacation readers

by Maylon Rice | May 31, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

It is time for a break from the "politics" of the day and focus on some summertime reads.

After the covid pandemic, which has set most small publishers and even university and academic publishing houses on edge, there is finally – after all the even more devastating "shortages" of paper, ink and printing supplies – a full season of books for 2023's summer reading pleasure.

So as always, most titles are available online from the publishers or in person for purchase at local independent booksellers in the region or, of course, at online booksellers.

A throwback or reissue out by the University of Arkansas Press worth reading is a classic Ozarks tale of love, raw emotions and hill justice – 'The Woods Colt: a Novel of the Ozark Hills," by Thames Williamson, edited by Phillip Douglas Howerton. It is a tale first written in 1933 with lots of Ozark dialect built in, set in the beauty of the region of that era. The paperback issue just out is a great vacation read full of romance, coming of age and tragedy.

Another more academic volume out by the UA Press is "Country Boy: The Roots of Johnny Cash," by acclaimed author Colin Edward Woodward. The examination of Cash's life and his meteoric rise to the music scene's highest pinnacles is a great success of this very engaging biography. The state of Arkansas' modern history also comes alive in this book.

For fans of poetry – especially works of really fine women's poetic verse – is "The Daughter of Man," by L. J. Sysko. This descriptive work is divided into five major sections: the Maiden, the Warrior, the Queen, the Maven and the Crone. It is a raw but deeply spiritual journey of women and well worth the reading. The thin 100-page paperback book is a finalist for the 2023 Miller Williams Poetry Prize at the University of Arkansas.

Locally, there are two very exciting books worth reading and reviewing.

"When Fayetteville Moved on Four Hooves," by Denele Campbell of West Fork, is indeed one local history fans should trot to the nearest local bookstore or the Washington County Historical Society to purchase.

The examination of early transportation, wagons, horse and buggy and stagecoaches and where these equine depots and stables were in the region is well documented and discussed. Early champion race horses and even a magnificent mule market was present in early Washington County. To the amateur historian, her biographies of some early settlers and the business of running a stable or hotel in the area for travelers is quite eye-opening.

As the announcement recently of the inclusion of the Butterfield Overland Stage route in the National Parks Service trails section as a historic American trail – this definitive book – "Butterfield's Overland Mail Co., Stagecoach Trail Across Arkansas, 1858-1891," by Bob Crossman, is the best primer on the trail to be found.

Crossman, a stamp collector by trade, stumbled across a letter sent along the Butterfield Trail Stagecoach Lines and that sparked an investigation into the trail, its originator and its short but valuable service to middle America in getting the mail routes established prior to the Civil War. The book is a hand primer to each and every stage stop, hotel and way station along the trail in the state. It is available from Crossman online or in regional independent bookstores.

As always, I will recommend a $20 membership in the Arkansas Historical Association and its four issues of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly each season during the year. Go to for more information.

Locally, a $30 basic membership in the Washington County Historical Society delivers four issues of the Flashback, the historical quarterly about the county's history to ones' mailbox for excellent summer reading. For more information go to:

Maybe more books next week... why not?

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at maylon[email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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