October 2003

Reading Recommendations · A River Runs Through It: Books About the Ohio River

Adult Fiction

The Serpentine Wall

Jim DeBrosse
When a local pornography purveyor dies in a suspicious blaze on the River Queen, his floating nightclub, newspaper reporter Rick Dekker smells a good story. Though he doesn’t start out as your typical hard-boiled detective, Dekker gradually toughens up during his investigation of this ugly case.

Cincinnati, or The Mysteries of the West

Emil Klauprecht
Originally published in 1854, Klauprecht’s absorbing novel is a fascinating portrait of the city at mid-nineteenth century, focusing especially on its German-American citizens and their lives. As both a social novel and an urban mystery novel, this is an important piece of Cincinnati literary history, reprinted in 1996.

Follow the River

Albert Mayer
A Philadelphia schoolmaster narrates this novel about the settlement of Cincinnati in the 1790s. Thomas Morrow’s tale begins with a flatboat trip down the Ohio River, proceeds as he wins the heart of Melissa, through Indian captivity, and the early years of Cincinnati. Mayer’s frontier adventure is rich with historical detail.

The River of My Fear

Linda Lyons
Sam Watson's fearless love of the Ohio River does not transfer easily to his little daughter Annie during their boating adventures on the big river. Later in life, however, with adult children of her own, Annie confronts a family crisis with strength and courage taken from Sam's indomitable spirit and his deep connection to nature and the river. Local author Linda Lyons was born in Bellevue, Kentucky, and resides with her family in Cincinnati.

Follow the River

James Alexander Thom
Kidnapped by the Shawnee in 1755, Mary Draper Ingles is brought to an encampment near Big Bone Salt Lick, where she’s treated well. Eager to return to her family, Mary embarks on the treacherous 600-mile journey, following the Ohio River home. Thom’s exciting historical novel is based on a true story.

Seventeen Blocks from the River

Marylou Vonder Brink
When eight-year-old William’s father has to move south for his health, William goes to live with meatpacker millionaire Lief Miller and his family in a large house in Cincinnati, just seventeen blocks from the river. William grows up a part of the Miller family in this nostalgic glimpse of life in the Queen City during the first half of the twentieth century.

Nonfiction for Adults

The River Book: Cincinnati and the Ohio

Joyce V.B. Cauffield and Carolyn E. Banfield, Co-Editors
977.178 qR621
A selection of articles on the Ohio River and its relationship to Cincinnati. Written by twenty-eight area experts, topics include riverboats, bridges, floods, and pollution.

Here Comes the Showboat!

Betty Bryant
792.022 B599Zb 1994
A colorful memoir of life on a family-owned showboat.

Pilotin’ Comes Natural

Frederick Way, Jr.
917.7 W357p
Captain Frederick Way, Jr. tells his story of becoming a steamboat pilot. Glossary of steamboat terms included at the end.

The River’s in My Blood: Riverboat Pilots Tell Their Stories

Jane Curry
386.35 C976
Based on interviews with over fifty pilots, Curry discusses the piloting profession of rivermen on the Ohio, Mississippi, and tributary rivers.

Mr. Roosevelt’s Steamboat: The First Steamboat to Travel the Mississippi

Mary Helen Dohan
917.7042 D655
An authoritative account of the first steamboat voyage down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Moonlite at 8:30

Alan L. Bates and Clarke C. Hawley
386.22436 qB329 1994
Two riverboat captains tell the fascinating history of excursion boats and the people who worked on them.

Towboat on the Ohio

James E. Casto
387.232097 C354 1995
While this newspaperman’s narrative describes an eight-day trip aboard the towboat Paul G. Blazer, it also relates the history of commerce on the Ohio River.

King & Queen of the River: The Legendary Paddle-wheel Steamboats Delta King and Delta Queen

Stan Garvey
386.22436 qD366Zg 2002
This is the latest edition of a book that details the history of two famous steamboats.

Tales of the Mississippi

Ray Samuel, Leonard V. Huber and Warren C. Ogden
977 qS193
An informative history of steamboats on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Contains over 300 illustrations.

The Keelboat Age on Western Waters

Leland D. Baldwin
977 B181k
The history of river boating on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers before the invention of the steamboat.

River Dwellers: Poems on the Settling of the Ohio River

Jeffrey Hillard
811.54 H649r 1992
A collection of stories and poems that range from 1751 to 1862. Through these works a historical and personal sense of the river unfolds.

Shantyboat Journal

Harlan Hubbard
917.70433 H875 1994
In the mid-1940’s, newlyweds Harlan and Anna Hubbard built a “shantyboat” and spent eight years traveling the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Harlan’s journal delves into the “river way of life” as experienced by he and his wife.

A Journey through the West: Thomas Rodney's 1803 Journal from Delaware to the Mississippi Territory

Thomas Rodney
917.7042 R694 1997
Thomas Rodney (newly appointed land commissioner of Mississippi Territory) documents his 1803 journey from the settled East to the untamed West. It provides a glimpse of life along the unsettled and wild Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Pilgrims on the Ohio: The River Journey & Photographs of Reuben Gold Thwaites, 1894

Reuben Gold Thwaites
977.031 qT548Zt 1997
In 1894, Rueben Thwaites and his family traveled in a rowboat down the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. This work combines journal entries and photographs from that trip with contemporary essays about the Thwaites.

Panoramic Ohio

Thomas R. Schiff
977.10430222 ffS333 2002
Schiff’s panoramic photographs of rural and urban settings in Ohio take the reader on a regional tour of this diverse and beautiful state.

Tall Stacks: A Celebration of America's Steamboat Heritage

J. Miles Wolf
977.178 qW854 1995
A photographic journey through the pageantry and celebration of Tall Stacks.

Queen City Heritage: Cincinnati’s Tall Stacks

386.309771 qQ3 1999
This issue of the Journal of The Cincinnati Historical Society (volume 57, number 2/3), provides articles on Cincinnati river history.

Traveling the Ohio River Scenic Route: Through Southern Indiana including Cincinnati, Louisville, and Owensboro

Douglas Wissing
917.70433 W816 1998
This book takes the reader on a tour of the Ohio River as it flows through Southern Indiana/Northern Kentucky. Highlighting historic, geological, and general points of interest along the way, this book will appeal to armchair travelers and local history buffs.

Thrills of the Historic Ohio River

Frank Y Grayson
917.7 G78 2000
A collection of humorous and informative stories and anecdotes about life on the Ohio River.

The Island Queen: Cincinnati's Excursion Steamer

John H. White
386.22436 qI82Zw 1998
Narrative, illustrations, and photographs provide a detailed account of the sidewheeler that carried Cincinnatians to Coney Island from 1925 through 1947.

The Steamboaters; From the Early Side-Wheelers to the Big Packets

Harry Sinclair Drago
387.24 D759
A comprehensive and interesting look at the steamboat era in the United States. Drago tells the story from a chronological, topical, and geographical point of view.

Come Hell or High Water: A Lively History of Steamboating on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers

Michael Gillespie
386.30977 G478 2001
This history of the steamboating era utilizes first hand accounts from passengers, crew members and journalists to paint a picture of a bygone era in American history. The different viewpoints highlight the multi-faceted activities that collectively defined steamboating in the nineteenth century.

The Fire of His Genius : Robert Fulton and the American Dream

Kirkpatrick Sale
620.0092 F974Zs 2001
This book discusses the life and career of the steamboat inventor. It depicts both the genius and darkness of the man and the “American dream” which spurred him to become a popular hero, while dramatically changing the American landscape.

Down the River : A Collection of Ohio Valley Fiction & Poetry

810.80054 D748 1991
This collection of stories and poems highlights life in the Ohio Valley. Ranging from observations on general life to specific events, this collection puts a personal touch to life in the Valley.

Books for Teens

Earthquake in Cincinnati

Bonnie Hinman
YA fiction
In early nineteenth-century Cincinnati, fifteen-year-old George Lankford’s dreams of creating a steam engine are interrupted when an earthquake hits town.

Underground Man

Milton Meltzer
YA fiction
A brave young man helps slaves escaping from Kentucky in pre-Civil War days.

Second Bend in the River

Ann Rinaldi
YA fiction
Rebecca Galloway, a young pioneer living in the Ohio territory, meets the famous Shawnee Indian, Tecumseh, and develops a strong friendship with him.

Danger Along the Ohio

Patricia Willis
YA fiction
Lost in the Ohio River Valley in 1793, thirteen-year-old Amos, along with his brother and sister, must survive in the wilderness and avoid capture by the Shawnee Indians.

Mark Twain: America’s Humorist, Dreamer, Prophet

Clinton Cox
818.409 T969Zcox 1995
Includes quotes from Twain's letters, journals, and memoirs and illustrated with photographs from the time period, this biography presents the humorist's personal life, literary accomplishments, and role as a social critic.

Mark Twain: A Writer’s Life

Milton Meltzer
818.409 C625 Zme
Explores the life of the famous writer, riverboat pilot and humorist.

Robert Fulton: Inventor and Steamboat Builder

James Flammang
623.824092 F974Zf 1999
Black and white photographs, maps and biographical information about the famous inventor. Part of the Historical American Biographies series.

Books for Kids

Little Toot on the Mississippi

Hardie Gramatky
Little Toot finally finds the old steamboats just in time to urge them out of retirement to save the bayou animals from the flooding Mississippi.

Mike Fink: A Tall Tale

Steven Kellogg
Relates the extraordinary deeds of the frontiersman who became King of the Keelboatmen on the Mississippi River.

Tattie’s River Journey

Shirley Murphy
When Tattie's house floats away on a flooded river, she takes in several animals and people and has a wonderful ride.

Shanty Boat

Charles Temple
Relates the life of a happy riverboatman who has since died but can still be seen on the river when the moon is bright.

Steamboat Annie and the Thousand-Pound Catfish

Catherine Wright
An ornery giant catfish that does not like singing causes trouble for the residents of a little town called Pleasant, until Steamboat Annie teaches him a lesson.

Down the Mississippi

Clyde Robert Bulla
j fiction
A Minnesota farmboy gets a much desired opportunity to go down the Mississippi on a raft as the cook's helper. Instead of curing him of his wish to work on the river, as his parents had hoped, it only strengthens his hope to become a riverman.

Great Bamboozlement

Jane Flory
j fiction
The Dowells trade their Pennsylvania farm for a Floating Emporium and set off down the Monongahela River in search of a new home.

Riverboat Adventure Series

Lois Johnson
j fiction
In 1857 twelve-year-old Libby joins her father aboard the Christina and proves that she can be trusted to assist in the escape of a fugitive slave.

Floating House

Scott Sanders
j fiction
In 1815, the McClures sail their flatboat from Pittsburgh down the Ohio River and settle in what would later become Indiana.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain
j fiction
A nineteenth-century boy, floating down the Mississippi on a raft with a runaway slave, becomes involved with a feuding family, two scoundrels pretending to be royalty, and Tom Sawyer's aunt, who mistakes him for Tom.

West by Waterway

Nicholas Nirgiotis
j386.097309 N721 1995
A history of the rivers, canals and boats of many kinds that brought pioneer settlers to the American West.

Steamboat in a Cornfield

John Hartford
j386.22436 qH328
A rhyming text describes an incident on the Ohio River in 1910 in which the steamboat Virginia went aground in a cornfield.

Mississippi Sternwheelers

Pam Zeck
j386.22436 qZ42
Photographs and text describe the origins of sternwheel paddleboats and how they aided in the settling of the interior of the United States. Also included is a look at today's sternwheelers.

Story of Mississippi Steamboats

R. Conrad Stein
j386.224360977 qS819 1987
A brief history of the steamboats which plied the Mississippi River from the early 1800s until the beginning of the age of the railroad later in the century.

Mississippi Steamboatman

Edith McCall
j623.82436 1986
A biography of the riverboatman who, among other achievements, designed and built the first steamboat able to navigate the Mississippi River.

Mark Twain? What Kind of Name is That?

Robert Quackenbush
j818.409 qT969 1998
The life of the famous humorist whose numerous occupations included printer's apprentice, steamboat pilot, gold miner, frontiersman, and reporter.

Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi

Cheryl Harness
j818.409 qT969 1998
Focuses on this American author's connection with steamboats on the Mississippi River while also presenting a history of the craft.

Journeys on the Mississippi

Kay Cooper
The descriptions of seven journeys down the Mississippi between 1948 and 1980 point out how the river and the valley it runs through have changed.

Amazing Voyage of the New Orleans

Judith St. George
j977 S239
Recounts the voyage in 1811 of the “New Orleans”, the first steamboat to travel down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, a trip fraught with dangers including North America's most violent earthquake.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local library and a reference librarian will be happy to assist you.