Category Archives: Books & Reading

‘All the Gallant Men: The first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor’


Donald Stratton, native of Red Cloud, Nebraska, tells the story of how he survived the sinking of the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Stratton was severely burned and survived only by crossing a rope, hand over hand, far above the water to another ship. Stratton was one of the 335 men onboard who survived the attack. Over 1500 sailors were onboard the USS Arizona at the time.

Hundreds and hundreds of books have been written about World War II. This slim book stands out because it tells a personal story, with just enough backstory to put the reader in the time and place but not so much that someone who isn’t a WWII buff wouldn’t enjoy it.

Stratton’s story of grit and perseverance is incredible. After being medically discharged he recovered from his burns and then reenlisted in the Navy. Stratton fought in the first battle of WWII and the last major battle of the war, at Okinawa. Towards the end of the book he warns the reader to not forget lessons learned at Pearl Harbor. As a veteran he is proud of his country, but he sees serious flaws in how the government and the armed services in particular handled information hinting at an impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He encourages leaders to be expedient with passing down information so military leaders can make informed decisions.

“In January 1941, Admiral Kimmel and General Short were advised by the secretaries of the Navy and the Army that Japan might launch a surprise attack against the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. They went on to say the attack would most likely be from the air…Overconfident is too generous a term. The more accurate word is arrogant. We just thought we knew it all.”

Donald Stratton passed away this spring in Colorado Springs. He wanted people to not forget what happened during the attack on Pearl Harbor and he fought for recognition of the sailor who tossed the rope, against orders, that he and his crewmates were able to cross over into the USS Vestal.

You can find “All the Gallant Men” on the biography shelf at the Gering Public Library. We also have a large variety of WWII biographies and more detailed books about the war.

June 21, 2020 |

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Coronavirus forces National Book Festival to shift to online-only format this year

One of Washington’s most cherished events has been felled by the novel coronavirus. The National Book Festival, set to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, will not be held as planned, the Library of Congress announced Thursday.

The literary extravaganza, which in recent years has drawn an estimated 200,000 people to the Washington Convention Center, was scheduled for Aug. 29. But due to the ongoing covid-19 crisis, the presentations by scores of best-selling and award-winning authors will be moved to the weekend of Sept. 25-27 and presented online only.

The news had been expected, but still came as a disappointment. With authors unable to travel amid social distancing restrictions, most major literary festivals this year have been canceled or shifted online.

Appropriately, the theme of this year’s National Book Festival is “American Ingenuity,” a quality that will be required to effectively reimagine the event in a new virtual format. A statement from the library notes that the move online will “serve a global audience and demonstrate how authors and their stories help to connect and illuminate the world.”

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden issued a statement saying, “Although we cannot hold our usual National Book Festival, which attracts more than 200,000 attendees of all ages, I believe this virtual festival has the potential to convey the same spirit of inventiveness and creativity to an even wider book-loving community.”

This year’s list of authors includes novelists, historians, poets and children’s authors such as Madeleine Albright, John Grisham, Colson Whitehead, Melinda Gates, Kate DiCamillo, Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds.

The festival, which was started in 2001 under the direction of then-first lady Laura Bush, has been underwritten in recent years by Washington-area philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.

The Washington Post is a charter sponsor of the festival.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 |

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Upcoming Events

Check out the NCB calendar to see a list of literary events that are coming up this month!

Due to the recent pandemic, some events may have been cancelled, postponed, or shifted to an online format.

Dates, locations, and times are subject to change. Some workshops or events may charge a fee. Contact us to submit your event!

Don’t forget that June is Audiobook Month! Who doesn’t love listening to a good book every now and then? This month is all about celebrating this growing format. Let us know what you’re favorite audiobooks are!

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#NationalPoetryMonth – “Walk on the Prairie” by Twyla Hansen

Walk on the Prairie
by Twyla Hansen

There is mystery here, in the shapes of grass,
in the dim movements of an inland sea,
connections to an earlier time. Wander barefoot,
hypothesize the dance of millennia, the unbearable
carvings of the built environment, this ragtag escape.

Let its divine simplicity ooze into your pores.
Comb the steel from your hair, blanket your
tongue with orange. Your breathing will slow.
Breathing slow, unbutton the child within.
Give her permission to fly like a kite.

From Prairie Suite: A Celebration, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, 2006.


As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!

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#NationalPoetryMonth – “At the Edge of Town” by Don Welch

“At the Edge of Town”
by Don Welch

Hard to know which is more gnarled,
the posts he hammers staples into
or the blue hummocks which run
across his hands like molehills.

Work has reduced his wrists
to bones, cut out of him
the easy flesh and brought him
down to this, the crowbar’s teeth

caught just behind a barb.
Again this morning
the crowbar’s neck will make
its blue slip into wood,

there will be that moment
when too much strength
will cause the wire to break.
But even at 70, he says,

he has to have it right,
and more than right.
This morning, in the pewter light,
he has the scars to prove it.

From Gutter Flowers, Logan House, 2005.


As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!

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#NationalPoetryMonth – “1926” by Weldon Kees

“1926” by Weldon Kees

The porchlight coming on again,
Early November, the dead leaves
Raked in piles, the wicker swing
Creaking. Across the lots
A phonograph is playing Ja-Da.

An orange moon. I see the lives
Of neighbors, mapped and marred
Like all the wars ahead, and R.
Insane, B. with his throat cut,
Fifteen years from now, in Omaha.

I did not know them then.
My airedale scratches at the door.
And I am back from seeing Milton Stills
And Doris Kenyon. Twelve years old.
The porchlight coming on again.

From The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees, University of Nebraska Press, 1962.


As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!

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#NationalPoetryMonth – “The Story of Ferdinand the Bull” by Matt Mason

“The Story of Ferdinand the Bull” by Matt Mason

Dad would come home after too long at work
and I’d sit on his lap to hear
the story of Ferdinand the Bull; every night,
me handing him the red book until I knew
every word, couldn’t read,
just recite along with drawings
of a gentle bull, frustrated matadors,
the all-important bee, and flowers—
flowers in meadows and flowers
thrown by the Spanish ladies.
Its lesson, really,
about not being what you’re born into
but what you’re born to be,
even if that means
not caring about the capes they wave in your face
or the spears they cut into your shoulders.
And Dad, wonderful Dad, came home
after too long at work
and read to me
the same story every night
until I knew every word, couldn’t read,
                                                           just recite.

From The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013.


As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!

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#NationalPoetryMonth – “Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser

“Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes on a pile of broken dishes by the house; a tall man too, says the length of the bed in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man, says the Bible with a broken back on the floor below the window, dusty with sun; but not a man for farming, say the fields cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves covered with oilcloth, and they had a child, says the sandbox made from a tractor tire. Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole. And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames. It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste. And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard like branches after a storm—a rubber cow, a rusty tractor with a broken plow, a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.

From Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980


As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!

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#BookFaceFriday – “This is Not the Tropics”

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to #BookFaceFriday!

Since it snowed yesterday in much of Nebraska, this title couldn’t be more right. But unlike the fickle ways of Nebraska weather, NLC Book Club Kits never let you down. The Commission’s Book Club Kit service is still running like clockwork, and sending out titles like “This Is Not the Tropics: Stories” by Nebraska author, Ladette Randolph (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.) While many library services have changed, we realize your book club groups may be functioning a little differently right now. But with book pick-ups and online group discussions, book clubs are still going strong. Of course with your health in mind, we strongly encourage you to keep any in-person book club meetings to ten people or fewer.

“Ladette Randolph’s stories sink their teeth into the deep Nebraska Midwest the way that Flannery O’Connor tore into the heart of Georgia. There’s a wonderfully sly, deadpan sweetness at work here, so that it may take a moment to realize how odd and twisty the stories are. Randolph seems like such a nice, earnestly polite young woman—and then suddenly your wallet is missing and she’s driving away in your car! These are beautifully crafty, beguiling stories: witty, wise, and wicked.”—Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me and Among the Missing

This week’s #BookFace model is one of our NLC Commissioners, Lois Todd-Meyer!

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

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#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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