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Time to Destress: Books With a Kansas City Twist

Pandemic Prompts Calls for ‘Bibliotherapy’

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Above image credit: Some experts say the act of guided reading can be therapeutic, almost meditative, and help calm anxiety and stress. (Vicky Diaz-Camacho | Flatland)

In times like these, it’s almost impossible to quiet the mind, take a deep breath or stop doom scrolling on social media. 

The mental toll of the pandemic is another public health crisis, experts warn. One form of therapy they recommend to reduce stress is simply to read a good book

We’re here to help. The Flatland team has curated book recommendations by a local bookstore owner, our own staff and summer interns. 


“Throw Like a Girl” by Sarah Henning. Who knows what the heck football season will look like this year, but one thing is for sure: Sarah Henning’s latest is a charming YA football romance. 

“Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod” by Traci Brimhall. Quarantine is making people have vivid dreams. If that’s the case for you, there’s no better book than Manhattan poet Traci Brimhall’s new dreamlike collection.

“Dead Land” by Sara Paretsky. The 20th entry in Paretsky’s VI Warshawski series finds VI returning to Kansas and sipping cortados at a place that looks suspiciously like the Bourgeois Pig. While you can’t have a cortado there in real life, do it vicariously through Paretsky’s detective.

“The Topeka School” by Ben Lerner. Much of this book is about the harm that modern uses of language can cause. It was a timely read when it came out last fall, and it’s a timely read now. 

Danny Caine, The Raven Bookstore, Lawrence, Kansas


“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. This is one of those crime novels that will have you gripping the covers until the very last page. With a huge twist in the middle of the story, this thriller leaves readers not only entertained but also questioning an age-old trope used in many popular books, movies and TV shows. The story centers on New York couple Nick and Amy Dunne, as they move to North Carthage, Missouri, to take care of Nick’s sick mother and repair their failing marriage. But, after Amy unexpectedly disappears one night, all eyes are on the husband. If you haven’t seen the critically-acclaimed film adaptation, you’ll have to read the book to find out who did it.

Mawa Iqbal, summer intern for Flatland at Kansas City PBS


“No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance” by Shane W. Evans. It was on my bookshelf growing up in Texas (I wonder if my Missouri parents knew he was from their area). It was one of my earliest memories of learning about slavery and might be good for any parents looking for ways to educate their children on Black history.  

Catherine Hoffman, Report for America reporter for Flatland at Kansas City PBS


“River of Doubt” by Candice Millard. If you really want to get away from the here and now, take a harrowing trip with Theodore Roosevelt down the River of Doubt, an unexplored tributary of the Amazon River. Millard has carved out a rich niche in the publishing world surfacing little-known historical stories with the narrative verve of thrillers.

“Mrs. Bridge” by Evan S. Connell. A subtly cutting portrait of a well-to-do Kansas City family between the two world wars, Connell’s 1959 novel explores themes of civil rights and gender equality before it became fashionable. This book and its 1969 sequel, “Mr. Bridge,” were combined into a 1990 film, “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. 

Chris Lester, managing editor, Kansas City PBS | Flatland | 90.9 The Bridge


Zack McDermott’s “Gorilla and the Bird,” subtitled “A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love,” follows a young man discovering and coming to terms with a bipolar disorder diagnosis. The Wichita native’s mother takes him back home after an incident that finds him in a mental hospital in New York, where he works as a public defender. Over time, as McDermott learns more about himself, we’re invited to understand more about the harrowing challenges of mental illness and the triumph found in acceptance. McDermott, “Gorilla,” and his steadfast mother, “the Bird,” are the heroes in a story of “family, class, race, justice, and the spectacular weirdness of Wichita.” (New York Times Book Review).

Anna Gonzalez, development producer, Kansas City PBS | Flatland | 90.9 The Bridge


Prep the coffee and crack open Gregory Kolsto’s “The Art of Oddly Correct.” It’s a diary of sorts that includes art and short stories about the beloved Kansas City third-wave coffee spot on 39th and Main Streets, written by Kolsto, its owner. In case you didn’t know, each bag of Oddly Correct coffee dons its own work of art, and this book is a compilation of those linocut carvings. It’s charming and raw, like a diary. Kolsto calls this a “documentation of the years we have spent together drinking coffee.” Let this book be your escape, your survey through an artist’s mind and journey as a coffee shop owner.

Vicky Diaz Camacho, community reporter for Flatland

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