Tallgrass prairie
Photo of Chase County by FarmerFederico used under a Creative Commons license.

William Least Heat-Moon, PrairyErth (A Deep Map): An Epic History of the Tallgrass Prairie Country (Houghton Mifflin, 1991).
A deep survey of Chase County, Kansas, a relatively unpopulated county on the prairie of central Kansas. Better known for Blue Highways, which chronicled travels around America, with this book Heat-Moon delves into a place. Many people driving through Chase County on I-35 would see empty space — the largest town has fewer than 1,000 residents — but Heat-Moon divides it into quadrangles (as per the U.S.G.S. maps) and finds something compelling in each of them: cottonwood trees, abolitionists, a failed cafe that couldn’t sell farmers on eating alfalfa sprouts.

Google Book Search has an excerpt and more. Anita posts a passage. Here are reviews from Paul Theroux (The New York Times), Kathleen O’Neill (Whole Earth Review), John Skow (Time), Mike Habeck, Tom De Haven (Entertainment Weekly), and Kevin S. Forsyth. Gaia gardener and fdmillar gathered some quotations from the book. Scott Stuckey recommends it. Marshal Zeringue recommends it and other Kansas reads. Don Swaim interviewed Heat-Moon in 1991. Jonathan Miles interviewed Heat-Moon for Salon in 1999. Here is information (including a photo essay) about The Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Chase County. Here’s an article by Verlyn Klinkenborg from National Geographic about the Flint Hills and the Preserve. The book has inspired music and also this chair.

Buy this book at Amazon.com.