Monthly Archives: March 2020

#BookFaceFriday “Alexander’s Bridge” by Willa Cather

Sit back and relax, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

You know all those classics you always have to lie about having read? Well now’s your chance to really read them! Nebraska OverDrive Libraries just added a huge selection of classic novels, 1,010 classics including this week’s #BookFaceFriday! “Alexander’s Bridge” (Duke Classics, 2012) by Willa Cather just one of many Cather titles available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook and Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 16,670 Audiobooks and 28,473 eBooks, with new titles added weekly. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use.

If your library is a part of it, ask your librarian for more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

From the book jacket

“Construction engineer and world-renowned bridge builder Bartley Alexander has everything in mid-life: wealth, good looks, and fame. Yet he finds himself restless and discontented with life—until he meets a former love from his student days and resumes his relationship with her.
Living a double life, Alexander is torn between Winifred, his American wife—a cold woman with clearly defined standards—and Hilda Burgoyne, his alluring mistress in London who helps him recapture his youth and sense of freedom. Alexander’s affair, which eventually gnaws away at his sense of propriety and honor, proves disastrous.
Willa Cather’s first novel—a fascinating study of a man’s growing awareness of the breach in his integrity—is essential reading for fans of this great American novelist.”
” … exceptionally well-conceived and well written.”—Outlook
” … told with a good deal of charm and skill.”—New York Times Book Review
” … a story of brilliant and unusual power.”—McClure’s

This week’s #BookFaceFriday model is Rod Wagner, the Director of NLC!

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Partnership, Friends, and Gifting Books

by Oliver B. Pollak

We visited Omaha in October 2018 and stayed with Dave, my law partner from 1987 to 2016, and his wife Chris at their Waterloo lake house. We’re all retired. Their study with a sofa bed doubles as a guest room. We felt at home; the duvet and book ends came from our house. The shelves held several books Karen and I gave them for birthdays, the holiday season and other opportune occasions. I purchase several copies of irresistible books for friends. I still have two copies of The Pun Also Rises (2011) by John Pollack who did a reading at the Bookworm, and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (2002) by Poet Laureate Ted Kooser.

I inscribed A Mirror of the World, Three Thousand Years of Books and Manuscripts (2001), acquired at the Schiller-Nationalmuseum, German Literature Archives in Marbach am Neckar, Germany:

July 19, 2002
Dear Chris & Dave
When books matter
And cooking meet
We don’t cook the books
We eat
Love Oliver

The cover of A Mirror of the World is a 1913 galley with Marcel Proust’s corrections of “A la recherché du temps perdu,” (In Search of Lost Time and Remembrance of Things Past). The editor wrote, “Proust was among those writers who continually changed and improved their text, much to the distress of their printers.”

Silent Hills Speak, A History of Council Bluffs, Iowa (2002), by William E. Ramsey and Betty Dineen Shrier, a 7 pound 7-ounce coffee table book, would be heavily out of place in California. I shifted the burden…

To Chris and Dave
This will weigh down your carpet bag
I am sure it has many uses.
Look to the East
And lets all feast.
Love and best wishes

Karen and Oliver
December 14, 2002

Aprons, A Celebration (2001) by Joyce Cheney, A miniature from a UNO exhibition of Aprons.

To Chris 3/30/03.
Here’s to our aprons.

Karen & Oliver

A Year at the Sorbonne, A Proustian Life (2002) by Oliver B. Pollak.

To Chris and Dave Inscriptions, epigrams, epitaphs, epithets, and epitomes. You grow in our estimation daily.

Love, Karen & Oliver 4/7/06

Jim Harrison, The English Major (2008)

To Dave
The curious road ahead
Navigating between
Valentines and rattlesnakes
Seasons greetings
as 2008 turns into 2009


Dave gave a copy to his daughter-in-law Bethany, an Omaha English teacher.

The New World Guide to Beer (1988) by Michael Jackson, another coffee table book.

Dear Chris
Dare we say
Happy Beerthday
All our love

Karen & Oliver
Sept 1, 2016

Moving to California meant downsizing, shedding books. Our retirement home would not house all our books. Storage was out of the question. I sold to Jackson Street Booksellers, students and Lincoln’s Lee Booksellers. We invited Chris and Dave to browse our shelves. Chris picked The Grapes of Wrath. I wrote, September 10, 2016

Dear Chris,
I am so glad you picked this book voluntarily. The book and movie merge in my mind’s memory. It is moving. Class warfare. Climate change. People helping each other. Noble sentiment and deeds. I must have read it in the 1960s. It goes to a new loving home.

Oliver & Karen

My Budapest Diary, In Search of the Motherbook (1997) by Susan Rubin Suleiman and Dinner with Churchill (2011) by Cita Stelzer also graced Dave and Chris’s shelves.

Dave favored me with numerous books, especially at Hanukkah. In December 1995 he supported my interest in George Orwell with the Brothel Boy and Other Parables of the Law (1992) by Morris Norval. It took me until 2015 to read this thoughtful book. I went from my Orwell shelf with gratitude back to Dave in 2016. The gift of Various Positions (1996) a biography of Leonard Cohen, by Ira Bruce Nadel, dramatically expanded my musical tastes. It sits on a shelf in Richmond. Karen and I enjoyed Cohen concerts in Toronto and much closer, in Oakland.


Dave and Chris love camping, first with a trailer and now an RV. They visit national parks including Presidential Libraries. Books need bookmarks, papyrus, leather, or post-its notes. Dave and Chris bought this bookmark at the William J. Clinton Library and Museum in Little Rock.

Dave recalls we occasionally purchased books together, such as On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton University Press, 2005, 68 pages, $9.95), which has been translated into at least sixteen languages.

Giving books at joyous junctures reveals regard for one another, friendship and shared interests; food and drink permeate the titles and inscriptions. These association copies may be on the used book market sooner than mid-century.

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Friday Reads: All the Gallant Men by Donald Stratton (with Ken Gire)

Posted on February 28, 2020 by Rod Wagner

All the Gallant Men is the Nebraska Center for the Book’s 2020 One Book One Nebraska selection. Donald Stratton’s memoir stems from his remarkable experience as a naval seaman serving on the USS Arizona. Stratton was among the survivors from the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The book is the only memoir written by a USS Arizona survivor.

Stratton’s book is not one that I would have selected to read on my own. I read it because of its nomination for the One Book One Nebraska program. It didn’t take many pages before appreciating Donald Stratton’s story. It is remarkable and inspiring. The book is much more than an account of the Pearl Harbor attack. Donald Stratton’s life is chronicled from his early years growing up in Red Cloud, Nebraska, joining the Navy following high school, military experience as a seaman. Later, Stratton traveled the world as a skilled commercial diver in the oil industry.

Stratton was severely burned during the Pearl Harbor attack but managed, along with a few others, to climb hand-over-hand on a rope to an adjacent ship, an astonishing feat considering the 70 feet length and the burned hands of the seamen and the fires burning below. The rope was thrown by Joe George, a sailor from the other ship. The rope throw was a heroic act that was never fully rewarded because George disobeyed an order to cut the lines that tied the two ships. Without the rope, these sailors would have perished. Stratton had a long and painful recovery. Even so, he endured and with determination reenlisted in the Navy. Offered a non-combat post, he instead chose to return to a battleship and rejoin the war in the Pacific. 

Donald Stratton’s story is dedicated to preserving the memory of the men aboard the USS Arizona – those that died and those that survived. In Stratton’s words: “I have tried my best to express what I could about what I experienced that day. It isn’t enough, though, because it is only one side of the story. The other side lies an ocean away. When you read a statistic, like 2,403 dead, it says so little. A statistical death is only the skeletal remains of a life. Without flesh and blood; its beating heart or its winking eye; its quick wit or its contagious laugh.”

I hope that many Nebraskans will read All the Gallant Men and that the book will lead to more stories about the experiences and sacrifices of those who serve and have served.

Ken Gire deserves recognition for his collaboration with Don Stratton to bring Stratton’s story to print. How that came about is an interesting story in itself (see writer’s postscript).

Described by family members as a humble and generous man, Donald Stratton passed away on February 15, 2020.

Donald Stratton and Ken Gire. All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor. HarperCollins. 2016.  

This review was posted on the Nebraska Library Commission blog February 28, 2020, see the original post here:

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Submissions for the 2020 Nebraska Book Awards Sought

Celebrate Nebraska’s rich literary tradition with the Nebraska Book Awards. The Nebraska Book Awards program, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book (NCB), recognizes and honors books that are written by Nebraska authors, published by Nebraska publishers, set in Nebraska, or concerning Nebraska. The Awards competition opens every year on March 1st and entries are due by June 30th. Books published in 2019, as indicated by the copyright date, are eligible for nomination. They must be published, have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and be bound. Books may be entered in one or more of the following categories: Nonfiction, Fiction, Children/Young Adult, Cover/Design/Illustration, and Poetry. Winners of the 2020 Nebraska Book Awards will be honored at the annual Celebration of Nebraska Books on October 17, 2020. The authors, designers and illustrators, and publishers are invited to give a short reading and speak about their winning books. Please visit the NCB website at for more information and to submit your nomination. Submissions can be made on the NCB website or by mail.

The Celebration of Nebraska Books, free and open to the public, will also honor recipients of the 2020 Jane Geske and Mildred Bennett awards. The Mildred Bennett Award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to fostering the literary tradition in Nebraska, reminding us of the literary and intellectual heritage that enriches our lives and molds our world. The Jane Geske Award is presented to a Nebraska organization for exceptional contribution to literacy, books, reading, libraries, or literature in Nebraska. It commemorates Geske’s passion for books, and was established in recognition of her contributions to the well-being of the libraries of Nebraska. Nominations for these awards are accepted year round at

The Celebration of Nebraska Books is sponsored by Nebraska Center for the Book and the Nebraska Library Commission, with support from Humanities Nebraska, and History Nebraska’s Nebraska History Museum. The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Nebraska Library Commission.

As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, “bringing together people and information.”

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