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Who’s Your (read: Hoosier) Favorite Author?

April 22, 2020

I am an avid reader, and always have been. The summer between high school and college I read War and Peace…for fun. A couple of years ago, PBS came out with the Great American Read list of 100 books. Since then I have been reading my way through the list, and I’m about half-way there. Noticeably absent in the list are some of the great Hoosier authors of the past. Kurt Vonnegut and John Green, both talented Indiana authors who made the cut along with some others with Indiana ties, but what about the Hoosier authors of old?

I’m thinking along the lines of Lew Wallace, Edward Eggleston, Gene Stratton-Porter, Meredith Nicholson, Booth Tarkington and so many more. I am familiar with these amazing authors, but I haven’t taken the time to read their works. Well, here it is, I am challenging us to read the great Hoosier authors.

Let’s explore some of our options:

Lew Wallace at his Crawfordsville Study. Indiana Historical Society, M0292

Lew Wallace, born in Brookville in 1827, had a much varied career. Depending on your interest in history he may be known to you as a Civil War general, the Governor of the New Mexico Territory who dealt with Billy the Kid, or a diplomat who served as Minister to Turkey. He was also the author of several books, notably The Prince of India, The Wooing of Malkatoon, and the much-acclaimed Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Edward Eggleston. Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

Edward Eggleston, born in Vevay in 1837, was an historian and novelist. Some of his most well-known fiction works were The Hoosier Schoolmaster, The Hoosier Schoolboy, and The End of the World.

Gene Stratton-Porter
Indiana Historical Society, M1235

Gene Stratton-Porter, born in 1863 in Lagro, was a naturalist and author. The Song of the Cardinal, Freckles, and A Girl of the Limberlost are just a few of Stratton-Porter’s many novels.

Meredith Nicholson, born in Crawfordsville in 1866, was a politician, diplomat, and author. Before he became Minister to Paraguay, then Venezuela, then Nicaragua, he was writing novels. He had some national bestsellers with The House of a Thousand Candles, The Port of Missing Men, and A Hoosier Chronicle.

Meredith Nicholson (back right) and Booth Tarkington (front right) pose with two other great Hoosier Authors: James Whitcomb Riley and George Ade. Indiana Historical Society, P0411.

Booth Tarkington, born in Indianapolis in 1869, was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author for his fiction works. Some of his best-known books include The Magnificent Ambersons, Penrod, and Alice Adams. Immensely popular, the IHS Library has copies of his books in fourteen languages!

There are too many great Hoosier authors to highlight here, but for now, I’m getting started with the e-book version of Gene Stratton-Porter’s Freckles borrowed from my local library. Don’t worry if you don’t have a copy of these books. You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to access many of these works. You can borrow them from your local library (e-books for now) or download a copy from Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive to get quick access to many of these authors and their titles.

Not a fan of reading, that’s okay. Look up these great authors and find some of their many works that have been turned into movies.

Amy Vedra

Amy Vedra is the director of reference services. She is currently reading her way through the Great American Reads list.

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