Grab a hot drink, some fuzzy socks, and a blanket –
you’re going to want to curl up and get cozy while reading these Wisconsin-themed books! Here are some tips for staying cozy if you need a little inspiration.
When I’m not exploring Wisconsin, you’ll likely find me reading about it. After all, it’s pretty hard to become a Wisconsin expert without reading anything about the state. There are lots of great books out there about Wisconsin history, hikes, and more. If you have some extra time on your hands (see: quarantine & winter), reading is a great way to escape reality. With so many books to choose from, though, it can be daunting to figure out where to start.
Thankfully, I’ve put together a list of some great reads to help you narrow down your search. This Wisconsin reading list includes selections that are helpful for those looking to plan a trip, as well as those who just want to learn more about the Badger State.
Is there a book about Wisconsin that should be added to this list? Send me an email and let me know!
Wisconsin Historical Figures
Aldo Leopold has gone down in history as one of the greatest conservation advocates of all time. His last written work, A Sand County Almanac, is an essential part of any environmental literature curriculum. Inspired by life on his farm in Sauk County, Wisconsin, the book advocates for a land ethic – a healthy relationship between people and nature. It is amazing to note how many of his predictions (made in the 1930s) about the destruction of nature and our relationship with it ring true. If you find yourself moved by the way in which Leopold experienced his property, you can even visit it for yourself and take a tour!
While Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t spend her whole life in Wisconsin, it is where she was born and spent the first few years of her life. Thus, this book is the first in her Little House on the Prairie series. The book was written so that even children could read it, but given the important place the Ingalls family holds in America’s pioneer history, it is an educational read for people of all ages. You can also visit her “little house in the big woods” in real life! The Laura Ingalls Wilder birthplace and museum is typically open to visitors in the summer and is at the top of my Wisconsin bucket list.
When Edward Kuehn started sorting through a pile of his family’s old papers, he found much more than dates and deeds. What started as research into the lives of his grandparents in Ripon, Wisconsin turned into the discovery of who his grandparents really were and how he has come to embrace their history as part of his own. Carl Kuehn and Hulda Bandt came to Wisconsin in the late 1800s from Prussia and created a life for themselves through hard, honest work. Their story reveals what life in the country really looked like during the early 1900s for first generation Americans.
While this book is technically about a Minnesotan who invented water skiing just across the border from Wisconsin on Lake Pepin, he played a big part in shaping our state’s history. Wisconsin is home to the Water Ski Show Capitol of the World and is known for both the professional Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells, as well the world’s largest water ski show tournament held annually in Wisconsin Rapids. It is thanks to Ralph Samuelson that this sport grew to thrive in the Upper Midwest. His is a story of the American dream and includes much more than water skiing. It is a glance back in time at life on the lakes and prairies.
Wisconsin Travel & Outdoor Recreation
When I travel around Wisconsin, I feel like I’m always scrambling to find good hiking trails when there isn’t a state park around. While this book does include a variety of great state park trails, it has even more options than that! The book is sorted by region so you can search within the geographical area of your destination. Each trail conveniently has its distance, estimated hiking time, and difficulty listed right next to its name so you can determine right away whether it could work for you. It also includes a clear trail map for each park, which is an amazing reason to have this book in and of itself! You’ll also find some of the trails they mention in my list of favorite hikes near Milwaukee.
People often ask me what there is to do in “X” town when planning a trip to Wisconsin. I consider myself knowledgeable on Wisconsin travel and can often provide answers, but sometimes it is also helpful to have an entire day’s itinerary planned out. This book is a great way to make the most of your trip, whether it is, in fact, a day trip, or multiple days long. It includes great options for outdoor recreation, museums, tours, landmarks, and more. The book is sorted by theme, as the title suggests, and includes sections like “lighthouses” and “waterfalls,” among many others. You will never run out of things to do with this book!
Like every state, Wisconsin is brimming with beautiful state parks and forests. Unlike every state, however, Wisconsin’s landscape was shaped by the glaciers that expanded and retreated many times during the Ice Age. Given that the state sat along the glacier’s southernmost edge and a historic fault, unique deposits of sediment now define Wisconsin’ topography. Some of the best examples of that geology and natural history can be found in our state parks. Scott Spoolman provides the background knowledge so that we can experience the state parks with a new appreciation. He even notes where to look for different features as you hike along the trails.
If you have a question about Wisconsin, chances are this book can answer it! It is sorted by subject and has fun facts about everything from politics to paranormal activity. Personally, my favorite way to enjoy this book is by opening it up to a random page and seeing what I find. Given its wealth of historic facts and figures, the book is a great way to learn more about various subjects as they relate to Wisconsin. If you have kids at home, this book makes for an easy educational game. Have them find five cool facts a day and quiz each other or you!
Nowhere is life in the Midwest better embodied than Midwest Living, and aptly so. Whether you embrace country life in the forest or prairies, this is a great resource to live well. They offer a variety of recipes and home inspiration, as well as travel recommendations. I also look to this magazine to learn about new attractions, restaurants, and other happenings across Wisconsin and the greater Midwest.
This breathtakingly beautiful magazine is designed by Wisconsinites, for Wisconsinites. Your experience begins on each issue’s front cover, where a carefully selected image showcases a local’s unique capture of Wisconsin’s stunning natural features. You can expect even more engaging content on every page. The magazine is packed with stories from locals who tell the stories of their adventures, childhoods, and more from all across the state. They truly want to hear from everyone – even Amish Wisconsinites have contributed articles for the publication!
History buffs will love this publication, which is produced by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Each issue is packed with new knowledge about people and landmarks that have helped make the great State of Wisconsin what it is today. As one would expect from a history-focused magazine, you can also search the publication archive online to find articles that are a part of the magazine’s own history!