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New Books Available

By John Lilly

West Virginia University looms large in the present and past of Morgantown and the state as a whole. Its medical facilities, sports programs, libraries, press, and research teams affect people across all 55 counties. Two recent releases from West Virginia University Press offer enough information about the history of the state’s flagship university to satisfy the most rabid Mountaineer fan or the most voracious reader.

West Virginia University: Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State is a reissue of a university history originally published in 1982. Written by two university historians - Festus P. Summers, the first WVU historian, who began this project but passed away before the book’s first publication; and William T. Doherty, a professor emeritus of history from WVU who saw the book through to completion - this work traces the origins of WVU from its inception as an agricultural college in 1867 to its expansion and development in the early 1980s. Scholarly and highly detailed, this 404-page hardback volume provides extensive information about people, places, and events; campus buildings; colleges; and academic and sports programs.

Aspiring to Greatness: West Virginia University since World War II, by Ronald L. Lewis, focuses on the modern historical developments that have elevated WVU from a small regional institution to one of national prominence. Weighing in at more than 700 pages, this tome gives nearly a blow-by-blow account of the struggles WVU went through in order to attract the talent, investment, and respect necessary to emerge in the 21st century as the modern and thriving learning and research center it is today.

While both publications appear on the surface to be primarily public relations pieces, they are frank in their discussion of the difficulties the school experienced during its history and honest about the problems and failures that have accompanied success.

These books sell for $39.99 a piece, and are available through WVU Press on-line at; phone 1-800-621-2736.

Like critters? Wild and Wonderful: The Wildlife of West Virginia puts you up close and personal with all the fur, feathers, and scales you could wish for. Steve Shaluta, one of West Virginia’s most respected photographers, has collaborated with GOLDENSEAL contributor Edwin Daryl Michael [see “Friendship Quilts,” by Edwin Daryl Michael; page 16] to introduce readers to 70 living treasures found in the Mountain State. From the common snail to the timber wolf, the book offers clear and colorful photographs and equally concise descriptive paragraphs about insects, fish, reptiles, songbirds, raptors, and mammals found here. The 72-page paperbound book, published 2012 by Quarrier Press, is available from the West Virginia Book Company for $9.95, plus $4.50 shipping (West Virginia residents please add $.60 sales tax), at; phone 1-888-982-7472.

The King of Little Things is the latest from popular author and storyteller Bil Lepp. A five-time winner of the State Liars Contest, Bil has in recent years developed into a prolific author. This book for young readers tells the imaginary tale of the title character and his run-in with King Normous, obviously the man in charge of all things large. Cleverly told, the story is also beautifully illustrated by veteran artist David T. Wenzel.

The 32-page hardbound volume, published 2013 by Peachtree Publishers, sells for $16.95, plus tax and shipping, and is available from the West Virginia Book Company on-line at; phone 1-888-982-7472.

Legendary Locals of Wheeling, part of Arcadia Publishing’s Legendary Locals series, offers a “who’s who” of famous, influential, and familiar faces from the Nail City. Authors Sean Duffy and Brent Carney selected about 150 individuals and a few groups who represent the history of this city from the days of the first white settlers to the present. Filmmaker Ellis Dungan, poet laureate Mark Harshman, country music star Doc Williams, and historian Margaret Brennen are just a few of the luminaries included in the book who have also graced the pages of GOLDENSEAL.

Along the Kanawha River, part of Arcadia’s Images of America series, highlights four communities along the lower stretches of the Great Kanawha River: Buffalo, Winfield, Eleanor, and Nitro. As with other installments in this series, Along the Kanawha River tells its story through vintage photographs and postcards, with generous captions and some introductory text. Author Joseph Phillips is a 26-year-old graduate of WVU, who moved to Putnam County to work as an interpretive specialist for Rivers to Ridges Heritage Trail, a non-profit organization.

Both books are available from Arcadia Publishing on-line at; phone (843)853-2070. They sell for $21.99 each, plus shipping.

Cass Scenic Railroad: Fifty Years a State Park – A Century of Steam on Bald Knob, by Tim Hensley and Bob Withers with Ken Miller, is no doubt the most complete and attractive book on this topic in the past 10 years. Well-organized, smartly designed, and sporting more than 300 photographs – many in color and several unpublished till now - should be required reading for anyone with an interest in West Virginia railroad history.

Founded in 1900 as a logging railway, the railroad at Cass was part of a huge pulp and paper operation, later serving the Mower Lumber Company. In the 1960’s it made a successful transition from industrial to recreational and educational use as the state of West Virginia took it over and turned it into the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. In the past 50 years, it has attracted countless visitors who take advantage of the opportunity to ride in authentic steam-powered trains up some of the most rugged terrain in the eastern United States. Steam engine enthusiasts also appreciate the tremendous effort that goes into restoring and maintaining these fully functional locomotives, work that takes place on-site.

Cass Scenic Railroad describes each of these chapters in graphic detail. The text is highlighted by a wealth of beautiful railroad photographs from both archival sources and contemporary photographers. A joint project of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, Inc., and Pocahontas Productions, this 213-page large-format, hardbound edition sells for $44.95, plus shipping and handling and in-state sales tax, from Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, Inc. – Department PP-C, P.O. Box 393, Huntington, WV 25708; phone 1-866-639-7487.

Former poet laureate Irene McKinney was active and creative right up until she passed away in 2012. A new book, Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet? is a collection of her final works published in 2013 by West Virginia Wesleyan College Press. According to an introduction written by Bruce Weigl, these are “poems that are nothing short of necessary for our well-being.” The book sells for $16, with free shipping and handling. Proceeds benefit the college’s MFA scholarship fund. For further information, write to Jessie van Eerden at WVWC, 59 College Avenue, Buckhannon, WV 26201; e-mail

A West Virginia Sesquicentennial Celebration, from the Buckhannon Upshur Camera Club offers a snapshot – literally – of West Virginia as we celebrate the state’s 150-year anniversary. Compiled and assembled by Al Tucker and John Simons, the 40-page, large-format paperbound book includes more than 200 photographs from approximately 40 photographers. Each of these photographs deserves a full page, but we are fortunate to have them available at least in this reduced size.

A West Virginia Sesquicentennial Celebration sells for $10 and is available on-line at or by phone at (304)472-9061.