Just Read It is a weekly feature in which the State Journal seeks recommendations from Wisconsin authors, literary enthusiasts and experts, focused on the contributor’s particular genre of expertise.
Jerry Apps started his career as a county extension agent in Green Lake and Brown counties in 1957, then moved on to work as publications editor in the State 4-H Office. Born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, Apps is now the author of more than 30 books, many of them on rural history and country life, and is an emeritus professor at UW-Madison.
Apps suggested three books, one published in 2010, one in 1939, and one in 1854. “I believe all three of them have much to say to us today,” he said.
1. “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, 2010) is World War II story about a track and field star who serves in the military and is captured by the Japanese and survives a POW camp. It is well written, well researched and a true story. The book illustrates the power and strength of the human spirit.
2. John Steinbeck published the “Grapes of Wrath” in 1939. Nowhere is there a more powerful story of the Great Depression and the toll it took on people. The Depression destroyed people and ruined dreams. It’s a reminder of what people sometimes do to other people when they are down and out and have no place to turn. Steinbeck, in graphic detail, reminds us of that which we sometimes would like to forget.
3. Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” came out in 1854 and continues to speak to us today. I first read it in college. I continue reading it. Each reading provides some new insight, some new idea. Thoreau reminds us of the importance of solitude, the power of simplicity, and the need to maintain some wilderness in our over-developed world, and much more. His writing, sometimes ponderous and difficult, speaks to many of the challenges we face today.
— Patricia Simms
Apps is married with three grown children, including State Journal Chief Photographer Steve Apps. His latest work, “Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening,” was published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press this year.