State Historical Library book group meets next week
Author William Friedricks to discuss book about John Ruan Oct. 15

For immediate release October 7, 2008


Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Library’s book group kicks off its 2008-2009 schedule at 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, with In for the Long Haul: The Life of John Ruan” by William Friedricks.

“Book Discovery Discussions” explores literature that defines, reflects or captures the history of Iowa. Meetings are free and open to the public at the State Historical Building, 3rd Floor, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Pre-registration is recommended, but not required, by visiting More information is available at 515-281-6897 or by email to Participants are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch.

In for the Long Haul” documents the success story of John Ruan, who overcame childhood hardships to become one of the most successful business leaders in Des Moines and Iowa.

Friedricks’ account of Ruan’s life summarizes a man of tremendous impact in Iowa, the United States and the world. For example, Ruan’s community and charitable efforts include founding the World Food Prize Foundation.

Friedricks, a professor of history at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, also serves as director of the Iowa History Center. He received his Ph.D. in American history from the University of Southern California.

His doctoral dissertation became the basis for his first book, “Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California,” which won the Donald H. Pflueger Award for the best book on southern California history.

After coming to Simpson College in 1988, Friedricks has written extensively about Iowa history, including two other books:

·         “Covering Iowa: The History of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, 1849-1985” (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2000);

·         “Investing in Iowa: The Life and Times of F. M. Hubbell” (Des Moines: The Iowan Books, 2007).

He has also published a number of articles and book reviews and recently served as guest editor for the upcoming edition of The Annals of Iowa.

Below is the rest of the State Historical Library’s “Book Discovery Discussions” 2008-2009 schedule:

Nov. 19, 2008 – 11:45 a.m.
“The Kramer Girls” by Ruth Suckow
A story of love, sacrifice, jealousy and ambition among three sisters in a quiet realistic study of a middle class family. Suckow (1892-1960) was not interested in glamour or movie stars; but in writing about farmers and small town people, the types she encountered in her everyday life.

Dec. 17, 2008 – 11:45 a.m.
“Take the Next Exit: New Views of the Iowa Landscape” by Robert Sayre
This book is a collection of delightful photographs and travel pieces on the essential Iowa, not just the tourist attractions. This book visits small town cafes, hardware stores and churches – the places of history and tradition that make Iowa different from other states and an American ideal.

Jan. 21, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Much Obliged: The Inventive Life of Ray Townsend” by Walt Shotwell
In 1946, former blacksmith Ray Townsend introduced the first Pork Skinner, Townsend Model 27. He followed that original invention with 60 years of innovation and reliability, obtaining 100 U.S. patents and more than 300 patents in countries around the world.

Feb. 18, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Colored Sugar Water” by Venise Berry
The mystery of voodoo mingles with the search for spirituality and faith in the lives of two young women, each facing the challenge of understanding what a meaningful relationship might be in this entertaining novel by Venise Berry, author of the Blackboard bestsellers “All of Me” and “So Good.”

March 18, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“From Six-on-Six to Full Court Press: A Century of Iowa Girls’ Basketball” by Janice Beran
Janice Beran’s book recounts the century of girls’ basketball in Iowa prior to the final conversion to five-player basketball. It is a rich, vibrant history of a sport handed down from mother to daughter that helped sustain community life in small Iowa towns for decades.

April 15, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend” by John E. Miller
Legends have attached themselves to Laura Ingalls Wilder, beloved author of the eight Little House novels. Before this biography, little has been known about her adult years. John E. Miller tracks the evolution of one of America’s most popular children’s writers.

May 20, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“The Rise of Jonas Olsen: A Norwegian Immigrant’s Saga” by Johannes B. Wist
Originally published serially in the Norwegian language newspaper, Decorah Posten, in the 1920s, “The Rise of Jonas Olsen” illustrates an immigrant’s struggle to preserve his identity and heritage while striving to become fully accepted as an American.

June 17, 2009 – 11:45 a.m.
“Chautauqua Summer” by Julie McDonald
This novel takes the reader along with young Lem, a 17-year-old musician plucked from Harlan, Iowa, to travel the Chautauqua circuit with the Royal Serenaders. It is a coming-of-age story heavily sprinkled with historical tidbits of people and places from the early part of the 20th century.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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