About the book

Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps

Local Wonders by Ted Kooser Hardcover edition
Copyright: 2002
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
ISBN-10: 0803227515
ISBN-13: 978-0803227514
158 pages

Paperback edition
Copyright: 2005
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
ISBN-10: 080327811
ISBN-13: 978-080327811
158 pages

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Ted Kooser describes with exquisite detail and humor the place he calls home in the rolling hills of southeastern Nebraska—an area known as the Bohemian Alps. Nothing is too big or too small for his attention. Memories of his grandmother’s cooking are juxtaposed with reflections about the old-fashioned outhouse on his property. When casting his eye on social progress, Kooser reminds us that the closing of local schools, thoughtless county weed control, and irresponsible housing development destroy more than just the view.

In the end, what makes life meaningful for Kooser are the ways in which his neighbors care for one another and how an afternoon walking with an old dog, or baking a pie, or decorating the house for Christmas can summon memories of his Iowa childhood. This writer is a seer in the truest sense of the word, discovering the extraordinary within the ordinary, the deep beneath the shallow, the abiding wisdom in the pithy Bohemian proverbs that are woven into his essays.

Source: University of Nebraska Press

Ted Kooser on Local Wonders

Q: What prompted you to write Local Wonders?
A: I didn’t really intend to be writing a book. I write every morning, sometimes prose, sometimes poetry, and I had been reading a book by Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, in which the entries—former newspaper columns he’d written—were arranged by season. Since I almost always include the weather and setting in my pieces, it occurred to me that perhaps I could arrange all those scraps into a seasonal collection. And that’s what happened. The book was written before I knew I was writing it. —Ted Kooser, interview excerpt, Dec. 28, 2010

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Q: Your book, Local Wonders… it was the first prose that you had written although the language in it is so melodic, it’s almost like poetry. Do you anticipate doing any more of that type of writing?
A: Oh I hope so. I enjoyed that very much. There are poems in that book that are disguised as prose. As a matter of fact, for example, there’s a section about a spring thaw that begins with one drop of water that becomes a flood. That was written as a regular lined-out poem and I changed it back into prose for that book. People are not afraid of prose, but they are afraid of poems. You slip right into prose without any effort at all. —Ted Kooser, Saving Faces: Art and Medicine Speaker Series [pdf], Jan. 26, 2006


  • Winner, 2003 Nebraska Book Award – Non-Fiction Category, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book
  • Finalist, 2003 Society of Midland Authors Award – Adult Non-Fiction Category, sponsored by the Society of Midland Authors
  • Gold Winner, 2002 Book of the Year Award – Autobiographies Category, sponsored by ForeWord Magazine
  • Finalist, 2002 Holiday Discover Award – Non-Fiction Category, sponsored by Barnes & Noble Discover
  • Winner, 2002 Friends of American Writers Literary Award, sponsored by the Friends of American Writers–Chicago
  • 2002 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection

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Praise & reviews

“When you read Ted Kooser’s Local Wonders, you question where he’s been all these years. He’d probably tell you he’s been right here, amidst all of us, working the simplicity of words, the clarity of insights. What he wouldn’t tell you is that he has the quiet ability to sneak beneath your skin and ripple it ever so slightly…. Set back in the hills of southeastern Nebraska—the Bohemian Alps—Kooser’s book doesn’t venture far geographically but travels great distances along the lengths of wisdom…. Kooser is a poet by nature, and his essays have the generous feel of a man who’s rolled up his sleeves, pen in hand, for a long time, choosing words as an act of beauty, and knowing the small things of the world are of great import.” —The Bloomsbury Review
“A quietly eloquent diary of a year in a small town in Nebraska…. This is a heartfelt plainspoken book about slowing down and appreciating the world around you…. Maybe it’s exactly the feeling your friends, even you, are looking for.” —New York Times book critic Janet Maslin on CBS News Sunday Morning
“Eloquent meditations on country pleasures, the rhythms of the seasons and the lingering presence of Czech folk culture in rural Nebraska.” —Dan Cryer, Newsday
“Clear, generous, and imaginative, Local Wonders increases the sum of the world’s best goods.” —Patrice Koelsch, Speakeasy
“Through his eyes we learn to see, then appreciate, the beauty and grace in everyday miracles, the comfort and sanctity in local wonders.” —Booklist
“Kooser forges connections with the past through witty, commonsense proverbs inherited from Czech and German immigrants to southeastern Nebraska. The proverbs lend a poetic folk wisdom to the examination of his rural environs.” —Jeffrey Galbraith, Harvard Review
Local Wonders should be read and reread. It is a treasure, like the ripe wild plums Mr. Kooser, a retired insurance executive, picks along rural Nebraska roadsides.” —Jeffrey Galbraith, Harvard Review

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“In this elegiac volume of four chapters, National Poet Laureate Kooser shares with the reader a lifetime of observations about home, family, and land distilled into a series of sometimes sparkling, other times electrifying, and always engaging scenes that read like a poet’s diary.” —Mark Easter, Colorado Review
“Reading Ted Kooser’s Local Wonders, I feel like I’ve wandered into another world, a place where the past endures—broken down a little, it’s true—and where the present contains enough room to pay attention to the people and the countryside around you. This is simple, patient prose, the annotations of living in a wide-open place.” —Verlyn Klinkenborg
“Ted Kooser’s Local Wonders is the quietest magnificent book I’ve ever read.” —Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall
“Kooser claims he doesn’t like to travel, but for someone who stays put, he does an awful lot of sightseeing. Hindsight, foresight, near sight, far sight, insight, out of sight, you name it—Local Wonders takes us both ‘out far’ and ‘in deep’.” —Judith Kitchen, author of Only the Dance: Essays on Time and Memory
“With Thoreaulike reflection and insight, the author artfully engaged this reader in a lyrical embroidery of this neighboring frontier. Weaving images in soothing language, Kooser meticulously captures the nuances of life as it evolves in a country setting in which he is both observer and participant.” —Dan Semrad, Lincoln Journal Star
“What Kooser does in this remarkable book is describe in exquisite—and understated, humorous—detail the place where he lives: the rural area of southeastern Nebraska. Kooser is one of our finest poets and has, over the years, published a series of poems about the rural life in Nebraska that are superb evocations of place. Here, he does the same thing in prose, again and again, discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, the pithy underlying truth of conventional folk wisdom.” —Dan Semrad, Lincoln Journal Star
“Call them stories then. Call them letters from a friend. Call them what you wish, but read them.” —Nebraska Life

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“This small gem of a book matches perfectly the vision of our Heartlands—conveying the beauty and courage of living close and deep.” —Larry Smith, Heartlands: A Magazine of Midwest Life and Art
“Reading…Local Wonders is a bit like running into Lao Tsu and Confucius in line at the hardware store. A Taoist love of country life permeates the book…. It is not nature alone, Kooser’s beautiful book reminds us, but the play of the imagination on nature—the mind that can speculate on the connection between stars and moths—that produces glory and brings insight into life’s inescapable truths.” —Fourth Genre
“Ted Kooser is a travel agent of words. He transports readers to a landscape of old grain trucks and weedsprayers and outhouses. Of country schools and grain elevators and fried pig’s ear crumbled over oatmeal. Of handmade quilts that cost exactly 12.43. His destination? The Bohemian Alps, a cluster of affectionately nicknamed silty clay knolls in southeastern Nebraska. His tourists? Anyone.” —L Magazine: Lincoln’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine
“A graceful memoir that saunters from his boyhood in Ames, Iowa to more recent years living as a writer…. Local readers everywhere will equally rejoice in the discovery of this wonderful and simple book.” —Sean Meehan, Sioux City Journal
“Kooser writes with lovely prose, full of wry humor and affection for the land and its people.” —New West Front Page

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