In celebration of July Fourth, Printers Row set out to create a reading list of patriotic books. But, how to define "patriotic"? We decided to have each contributing Tribune writer and editor pick a title that corresponds to his or her own definition. Choose a title that matches your own — or one that may expand your view of what it means to be patriotic.
"The Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932-1943)
— Cindy Dampier, Tribune editor
"Travels With Charley: In Search of America" by John Steinbeck (1962)
This land is your land, this land is my land, but nobody wrote about the land like John Steinbeck (1902-1968) did in "Travels With Charley: In Search of America," the Nobel Prize-winning author's crooked valentine to the United States. In 1960 he hit the road in a camper, armed with a poodle named Charlie and a promise to himself: He would dig out the true soul of this complicated nation. You'll never feel more patriotic than you do when reading Steinbeck's rambling, muscular view of our homeland, its highways and its prairies, its rivers and its contradictions. It's tough love, literary-style.
An article published this spring claims that Steinbeck tinkered with the facts of his trip, but the real America has always been at least 75 percent myth, anyway; we're constituted by dreams and ambitions as much as we are by skyscrapers and acreage. Hitch a ride with Steinbeck and Charlie, and you'll wave the flag with more vigor than ever before.
— Julia Keller, Tribune cultural critic
"Design Your Natural Midwest Garden" by Patricia Hill (2007)
Personally, any gardening book that celebrates a region's native plants exemplifies patriotism to me. They celebrate the plants that belong in our landscape, that nourish our birds and bugs (OK, and sometimes help them eat each other) and create sustainable landscapes. One wonderful example among many: "Design Your Natural Midwest Garden" by Patricia Hill, a terrific read with plenty of designs for many garden situations.
— Renee Enna, Tribune editor
"Johnny Tremain" by Esther Forbes (1944)
The first book that comes to mind on the subject of patriotism for me is the classic novel for young readers and 1947 Newbery Medal winner, "Johnny Tremain." Set in Revolutionary War era-Boston, "Johnny Tremain" is the story of a young boy who, after a series of events, goes to work for the Boston Observer, where he is introduced to the world of Boston politics at the height of tensions between Whigs and Torries. The book explores American history, political strife, and life at the time of our country's revolution. It tells stories of the Boston Tea Party, the British blockade, key battles in the Revolutionary War, and Paul Revere and other historical figures in a very human and relatable way that readers young and young-at-heart are sure to find entertaining.
— Amy Guth, Tribune social media manager
"All the President's Men" by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (1974)
This account of the Watergate scandal shows that patriotism can have many faces, and that those who wrap themselves in the flag are often the worst enemies of democracy, truth and freedom.
— William Hageman, Tribune reporter
"Judy" by Gerold Frank (1999)
What could be more American than the life story of Judy Garland, the girl who captured a country's hearts when she sang "Over the Rainbow" in the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz"? This exhaustive biography amply traces the arc of that life: a girl born in small-town Minnesota as Frances Gumm who became a larger-than-life star, then died tragically, of "an incautious self-overdose" of sleeping pills (according to the coroner), just before her 47th birthday. Garland's tempestuous life, which encompassed outsized musical and acting talent, triumphant star turns and heart-wrenching failures, struggles with substance abuse and psychological upheaval, is an apt metaphor for the best — and worst — America has to offer.