Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton
This is probably the very first adult nonfiction title I read as a child. I have always been fascinated by the history of the West, and this book satisfied my desire to read accounts from people who were "really there". My young eyes devoured the horrifying tales of John Brown and Quantrill's raiders, as well as the more mundane stories of everyday life. This collection of first-hand accounts of Kansas' early days is well worth a peak.
The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement by Otto Scott
Otto Scott is one of my favorite historians. I enjoy his blunt style and no-nonsense approach to history. It has been several years since I read this particular volume, so rather than try to dredge up my impressions, I will say only that after I read this, I realized John Brown wasn't the hero I'd thought he was!
The Secret Six is part of the Sacred Fools Quartet, books about men who "created conflagrations but were revered despite their mischief." Here's what Mr. Scott said about John Brown and the subjects of this book:
The more I looked at him, the less there was to write a book about. A low-level swindler was all Brown was -- a Bible quoter, true, but everyone quoted the Bible in his time. The main story turned out to be the six men who put him up to it, who put him on their payroll, who hired him to do what he did. Nobody wrote or talked about that.
Curious? Read the book to find out about some of the origins of the War Between the States, as well as the life of an American terrorist.
And lastly, I recommend an old favorite, Little House on the Prairie, a fictionalized account of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life as a child on the Kansas prairie. I am reading the series to my little brother and discovering again the joy of these masterfully written tales.