Learn About Florida: Recommended Reading
From the Education/Outreach Committee of the Boca Grande Historical Society
Carter Brown, Jr., Henry Bradley Plant – Gilded Age Dreams for Florida and the South
Henry Bradley Plant story explores in enlightening detail its protagonist’s complex blend of driving work ethic, relentless ambition, shameless networking, well timed bribery and corporate scheming which combined to transform the poor, Connecticut widow’s son into a rich transportation titan with international reach and the trust of presidents.
Ann McCuthan, The Life She Wished To Live, a Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Author of The Yearling
McCuthan is a sensitive observer of Rawling’s work and her deeply unconventional life. The book recreates the lush tropicality of north central Florida in the 30’s and 40’s. A vivid portrait of a woman who gave her all to do her best work.
Frank A. Cassells, Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honore Palmer, Her Family, and the Rise of Sarasota, 1910-1982
Bertha Palmer was one of the best known and wealthiest women in America. She was an art collector, women’s rights advocate, business woman, owner of Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel. She made a great deal of money and changed Sarasota forever.
Abbott, Karl P., Open for the Season, includes a chapter on the author’s life as manager of the Gasparilla Inn in its early days.
Bartram, William, Travels of William Bartram, an 18-century writer’s account of traveling in Florida long before it was a state.
Betz, Myrtle Scharrer, Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise: The Story of Caladesi Island, portrait of growing up on a barrier island when it was a natural tropical paradise.
Brown, Loren G., Totch: A Life in the Everglades, a memoir of vanished daysof life in the Ten Thousand Island and the Everglades.
Carlton, Dr. Barbara Castleberry, This Nearly Was Mine: A Journey Through Carlton County, a biography or the author and the pioneers who inhabited Central Florida.
Carr, Archie, A Naturalist in Florida, a series of essays including memorable details and anecdotes about the flora, fauna and people of Florida.
Davis, Jack L., The Gulf, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History as well as others, a beautifully written environmental history.
Douglas, Marjorie Stoneman, Everglades: River of Grass, “the book and the woman who may have single-handedly saved the Everglades.”
Gannon, Michael, Florida: a Short History, written by a lifelong student and masterful teacher of the history of Florida.
Grunwald, Michael, The Swamp, the natural, social and political history of the Everglades from the Ice Age to the present.
Green, Ben, Finest Kind: A Celebration of a Florida Fishing Village, story of Green’s family and friends who founded the fishing village of Cortez.
Kennedy, Stetson, The WPA Guide to Florida and Palmetto Country. Both books include folklore and oral histories collected by the WPA in the 1930’s.
King, Gilbert, Devil in the Grove, 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner about Florida’s orange industry, Jim Crow labor, a rape, the Groveland Boys, the Klan and the involvement of Thurgood Marshall just prior to the Brown vs Education case.
Lord, Ruth du Pont, Henry F. du Pont and Winterthur: A Daughter’s Portrait, a touching memoir of Lord’s father who was a collector of Americana and the founder of the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, DE.
McPhee, John, Oranges, sketches of orange growers, orange botanists, orange pickers and packers, the first orange barons and modern concentrate makers.
Mahler, Carol, Guy LaBree: Barefoot Artist of the Florida Seminoles, biography of the artist who captured the Seminole Indian culture in his paintings.
Monroe, Gary, The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters and Mary Ann Carroll: First Lady of the Highwaymen, two books about Florida’s cultural past and how these artists contributed to dreamy visions of Florida.
Mormino, Gary, Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida, documents how Florida became a megastate of constant social, cultural and economic change.
Noll, Steven and Tegeder, David, Ditch of Dreams, details the plan for a cross-Florida barge canal and the struggle to define Florida’s future.
Orlean, Susan, The Orchid Thief, tells the story of John Laroche and his attempts to steal endangered orchids from the Fakahatchee swamp and clone them to make money for the Seminole tribe and himself.
Rymer, Russ, American Beach: A Saga of Race, Wealth and Memory, recounts the history of the African-American beach community founded in 1935 by America’s first Black millionaire on Amelia Island.
Stanford, Lee, Last Train to Paradise, page turner about Henry Flagler and the building of his cross-land and water railroad to Key West.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Palmetto Leaves, a memoir and travel guide written when Ms. Stowe lived in Mandarin, Florida.
Ward, Carlton Jr., Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier, with photographs of the men who are the living legacy of the longest living history of ranching in North America.
White, Randy Wayne, The Birth of Big Game Fishing, the ultimate tarpon fishing book.
Cruz, Nila, Anna in the Tropics, the 2003 Pulitzer Prize Drama winner about Juan Julian, a lector who reads “Anna Karenina” to cigar rollers as they work.
Dorsey, Tim, Florida Roadkill, or any of the 22 novels that follows in the series that features Serge Storms. They all take you to weird Florida with a protagonist, a lovable vigilante, who only kills bad guys.
Groff, Laura, Florida, a collection of short stories in which Groff says, “Florida is a damp, dense tangle. An Eden of dangerous things.”
Hiassen, Carl, Tourist Season, the first of more than 30 novels, including Hoot which was made into a movie that was filmed on Gasparilla Island. Hiassen documents today’s Florida.
Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zadie Smith says, “a deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who do not know how to live properly.”
Macomber, Robert, At the Edge of Honor and the Honor Series, follow the life and career of Peter Wake in the U.S. Navy from 1863 to 1901. Some have called this the best historical novel of Florida.
MacDonald, John D., The Deep Blue Goodbye and Condominimum, the Travis McGee series or the story of real estate swindles and political payoffs and the disastrous results when a hurricane undermines a weak foundation.
Mathiessen, Peter, Shadow Country, and three sequels that tell the story of E. J. Watson, Everglades sugar planter and notorious outlaw on the wild Florida frontier at the beginning of the 20th century.
McGuane, Thomas, Ninety-Two in the Shade, where protagonist Thomas Skelton goes to straighten out his life and become a skiff guide only to run head-on into an already dominant Nichol Dance and the results are a deadly rivalry.
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling, tells the story of Jody, an orphaned fawn he calls Flag and Jody’s family’s struggle to survive in the Florida backwoods. Cross Creek is a vivid portrayal of the people, scenery and wildlife of the Florida backcountry.
Russell, Karen, Swamplandia, the island home and gator wrestling attraction of protagonist Ava Bigtree who, after her mother falls ill, sets out through magical swamps to save the family. A New York Times Bestseller.
Shames, Lawrence, Key West Capers Books, that now number 14 capture the essence and diversity of Key West and its many characters be they man or dog.
Smith, Patrick, A Land Remembered, is many people’s favorite Florida novel, having been ranked #1 eight times in a poll by Florida Monthly Magazine. It tells about the rise of the MacIvey family from a dirt-poor Cracker and at the same time, provides a wonderful Florida history.
White, Randy Wayne, Doc Ford Series. There are 26 books in the series set in Sanibel and its environs including mentions of Boca Grande locales like the Temptation Bar and its legendary bartender, Annie Conway.
Children’s Fiction: White, Robb, The Lion’s Paw, a book many read as children and have since shared with their children and grandchildren.
Books Available at the History Center or at the Historical Society Website
Birt, Ken and Pat, Useppa: An Ongoing Journey
Cochran, John, Exploring Boca Grande: A Journey of Renewal
Fuss Jr., Charles M., Phosphate Ships of Boca Grande, 1911-1979
Gibson, Charles Dana, Boca Grande: A Series of Historical Essays
Hensley Jr., Donald R., The Boca Grande Route: The Story of the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway
Johnson, Capt. Carey, Boca Grande: The Early Days – Memoirs of an Island Son
Johnson, Capt. Clem, The Boca Grande Journal, Boca Grande’s first weekly newspaper in 1949
Schneider, Captain Marian, There’s A Captain In You
Schwieterman, Joseph P., When The Railroad Leaves Town
Stevens, Mary Kaye, Images of America: Lee County Islands
Turner, Gregg M., Images of America: Railroads of Southwest Florida
Books make great gifts!
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