Category Archives: Books & Reading

Friday Reads: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This book has been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for about a decade. I bought it because a few friends had raved about the life-altering, mind-bending power of this book. Needless to say, I was skeptical.

I didn’t say anything back them, but I suspected the only reason my friends enjoyed the book is because they were already in the middle of changing their own lives when they happen to stumble upon the book. The Alchemist has the ability to pour gas on a lit fire to make the flames explode upward. But it cannot apply spark to the flint over dead leaves.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the story of a young man named Santiago who wants to see the world. He starts out as a shepherd who quietly enjoys what he does. But the endless horizon calls out to him. Thus his journey begins. Along the way, he meets a variety of mystically inclined individual(s) who provide him with endless philosophical advice to drive him towards his own Personal Legend.

He winds up in pursuit of treasure near the pyramids in Egypt. It’s a wild ride. When I tried to read this book the first time, I was turned off by phrases like ‘Personal Legend’, ‘Soul of the World’, and other over-the-top phrases. Ten years later, when the book called to me again, I realized that these are just phrases.  Depending on your own personal beliefs, you can mentally exchange these phrases for words that speak to you. The book was already translated once from the Brazilian author’s native Portuguese.

For me, this book was a way to see myself from a more global perspective. We will all travel through life, meeting different people who will teach us different things. As I learn more about how people in other parts of the world live, I find my own Personal Legend shifting. The small irritations in life don’t seem to matter quite as much. I have food, clean water, access to learning tools, plenty of books, all things necessary to a good life. Why not help those who don’t have access to that already?

If you’re ready to change your life, or are open to seeing other ways of life, this could be a good book. It’s a quick read, and can be a great catalyst for change. As you’re reading your own meaning into the book, keep in mind that sometimes the journey is vastly more important than the end goal.

Maybe I will pick up this book in another ten years and see a completely different story.

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#BookFaceFriday “Very Valentine”

If the shoe fits…

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani is the first book in the Valentine trilogy, and was an obvious choice for the week of Valentine’s Day! Love, travel, and shoes… what more could a girl ask for?

“With its vibrant cast of characters, its magical settings, and handmade shoes to die for Very Valentine is a sumptuous feast, a celebration of love and loss filled with Adriana Trigiani’s trademark heart and humour.” – from the back cover.

This week’s #BookFaceFriday model is Administrative and Communications Staff Assistant Kayla Henzel.

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available at Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#BookFaceFriday “Louisiana’s Way Home”

There’s no place like home for this week’s #BookFaceFriday!

From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are—and deciding who you want to be. Louisiana’s Way Home” by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, 2018) is available in audiobook and Ebook to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 12,407 audiobooks and 24,143 eBooks, with new titles added weekly. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this brand new title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

“For readers who relish thoughtfully constructed plots, well-developed characters, and carefully crafted language, this will be a special treat.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

This week’s #BookFaceFriday model is full of sugar and spice, and hates sitting still! So we’re lucky her mom was able to get this mover and shaker to pause for a second. Ms. Margot is the daughter of our Information Services Librarian, Aimee Owen! She and her family get all the credit for this week’s #BookFace photo!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available at Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!


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Friday Reads: The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession, by Charlie Lovett

Mystery fiction has many subgenres: hard-boiled, cozy, police procedural, etc. One particular subgenre of interest to lovers of books is that of the bibliomystery, and in recent years, I’ve found that I love to read, or listen to, books that fall in this bibliomystery category.  If you do an online search you will find many authors that write bibliomysteries.  My favorites are John Dunning’s Cliff Janeway series, John Grisham’s Camino Island, Bradford Morrow’s Prague Sonata and bibliomysteries by Charlie Lovett, which leads me to today’s Friday Reads post:  The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession, by Charlie Lovett.

Hay-on-Wye, every bibliophile’s dream destination in England, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop.  Nine months after the death of his beloved wife Amanda left him shattered, Peter, a young antiquarian bookseller, relocates from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, he discovers a Victorian watercolor of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amanda.  Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins and braves a host of dangers to follow a trail of clues back across the centuries—all the way to Shakespeare’s time and a priceless literary artifact that could prove, once and for all, the truth about the Bard’s real identity, and definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.



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Book Briefs: New University of Nebraska Press Books at the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse

The Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse receives documents every month from all Nebraska state agencies, including the University of Nebraska Press (UNP).  Beginning today, and each month as we receive them, we will be showcasing the UNP books that the Clearinghouse receives.  The UNP books, as well as all Nebraska state documents, are available for checkout by libraries and librarians in Nebraska.

Here are UNP books the Clearinghouse received in January:

Citizen Akoy: Basketball and the Making of a South Sudanese American

Akoy Agau led Omaha Central High School to four straight high school basketball state championships (2010–13) and was a three‑time All‑State player. One of the most successful high school athletes in Nebraska’s history, he’s also a South Sudanese refugee. At age four, Akoy and his family fled Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War, and after three years in Cairo, they came to Maryland as refugees. They arrived in Omaha in 2003 in search of a better future.  In a fluid, intimate, and joyful narrative, Steve Marantz relates Akoy’s refugee journey of basketball, family, romance, social media, and coming of age at Nebraska’s oldest and most diverse high school. Set against a backdrop of the South Sudanese refugee community in Omaha, Marantz provides a compelling account of the power of sports to blend cultures in the unlikeliest of places.


Come Fly with Us: NASA’s Payload Specialist Program (Series: Outward Odyssey: A People’s History of Spaceflight 

Come Fly with Us is the story of an elite group of space travelers who flew as members of many space shuttle crews from pre-Challenger days to Columbia in 2003. Not part of the regular NASA astronaut corps, these professionals known as “payload specialists” came from a wide variety of backgrounds and were chosen for an equally wide variety of scientific, political, and national security reasons. Melvin Croft and John Youskauskas focus on this special fraternity of spacefarers and their individual reflections on living and working in space. Relatively unknown to the public and often flying only single missions, these payload specialists give the reader an unusual perspective on the experience of human spaceflight. The authors also bring to light NASA’s struggle to integrate the wide-ranging personalities and professions of these men and women into the professional astronaut ranks.


Echo of Its Time: The History of the Federal District Court of Nebraska, 1867-1933

Throughout its existence the Federal District Court of Nebraska has echoed the dynamics of its time, reflecting the concerns, interests, and passions of the people who have made this state their home. Echo of Its Time explores the court’s development, from its inception in 1867 through 1933, tracing the careers of its first four judges: Elmer Dundy, William Munger, Thomas Munger (no relation), and Joseph Woodrough, whose rulings addressed an array of issues and controversies echoing macro-level developments within the state, nation, and world. Echo of Its Time both informs and entertains while using the court’s operations as a unique and accessible prism through which to explore broader themes in the history of the state and the nation. The book explores the inner workings of the court through Thomas Munger’s personal correspondence, as well as the court’s origins and growing influence under the direction of its legendary first judge, Elmer Dundy. Dundy handled many notable and controversial matters and made significant decisions in the field of Native American law, including Standing Bear v. Crook and Elk v. Wilkins. From the turn of the century through 1933 the court’s docket reflected the dramatic and rapid changes in state, regional, and national dynamics, including labor disputes and violence, political corruption and Progressive Era reform efforts, conflicts between cattle ranchers and homesteaders, wartime sedition and “slacker” prosecutions, criminal enterprises, and the endless battles between government agents and bootleggers during Prohibition.

Hearing Voices: Aurality and New Spanish Sound Culture in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz                                  (Series: New Hispanisms)

Hearing Voices takes a fresh look at sound in the poetry and prose of colonial Latin American poet and nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648/51–95). A voracious autodidact, Sor Juana engaged with early modern music culture in a way that resonates deeply in her writing. Despite the privileging of harmony within Sor Juana’s work, however, links between the poet’s musical inheritance and subjects such as acoustics, cognition, writing, and visual art have remained unexplored. These lacunae have marginalized nonmusical aurality and contributed to the persistence of both ocularcentrism and a corresponding visual dominance in scholarship on Sor Juana—and indeed in early modern cultural production in general.  Hearing Voices focuses on these aural conceits in highlighting the importance of sound and—in most cases—its relationship with gender in Sor Juana’s work and early modern culture. Sarah Finley explores attitudes toward women’s voices and music making; intersections of music, rhetoric, and painting; aurality in Baroque visual art; sound and ritual; and the connections between optics and acoustics.  Finley demonstrates how Sor Juana’s striking aurality challenges ocularcentric interpretations and problematizes paradigms that pin vision to logos, writing, and other empirical models that traditionally favor men’s voices. Sound becomes a vehicle for women’s agency and responds to anxiety about the female voice, particularly in early modern convent culture.

Of One Mind and Of One Government: The Rise and Fall of the Creek Nation in the Early Republic (Series:  Early American Places, and, New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies)

In Of One Mind and Of One Government Kevin Kokomoor examines the formation of Creek politics and nationalism from the 1770s through the Red Stick War, when the aftermath of the American Revolution and the beginnings of American expansionism precipitated a crisis in Creek country. The state of Georgia insisted that the Creeks sign three treaties to cede tribal lands. The Creeks objected vigorously, igniting a series of border conflicts that escalated throughout the late eighteenth century and hardened partisan lines between pro-American, pro-Spanish, and pro-British Creeks and their leaders. Creek politics shifted several times through historical contingencies, self-interests, changing leadership, and debate about how to best preserve sovereignty, a process that generated national sentiment within the nascent and imperfect Creek Nation.
Based on original archival research and a revisionist interpretation, Kokomoor explores how the state of Georgia’s increasingly belligerent and often fraudulent land acquisitions forced the Creeks into framing a centralized government, appointing heads of state, and assuming the political and administrative functions of a nation-state. Prior interpretations have viewed the Creeks as a loose confederation of towns, but the formation of the Creek Nation brought predictability, stability, and reduced military violence in its domain during the era.

One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl’s Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture 

“Sustainable” has long been the rallying cry of agricultural progressives; given that much of our nation’s farm and ranch land is already degraded, however, sustainable agriculture often means maintaining a less-than-ideal status quo. Industrial agriculture has also co-opted the term for marketing purposes without implementing better practices. Stephanie Anderson argues that in order to provide nutrient-rich food and fight climate change, we need to move beyond sustainable to regenerative agriculture, a practice that is highly tailored to local environments and renews resources.  In One Size Fits None Anderson follows diverse farmers across the United States: a South Dakota bison rancher who provides an alternative to the industrial feedlot; an organic vegetable farmer in Florida who harvests microgreens; a New Mexico super-small farmer who revitalizes communities; and a North Dakota midsize farmer who combines livestock and grain farming to convert expensive farmland back to native prairie. The use of these nontraditional agricultural techniques show how varied operations can give back to the earth rather than degrade it. This book will resonate with anyone concerned about the future of food in America, providing guidance for creating a better, regenerative agricultural future.

Standing Up to Colonial Power: The Lives of Henry Roe and Elizabeth Bender Cloud (Series:  New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies)

Standing Up to Colonial Power focuses on the lives, activism, and intellectual contributions of Henry Cloud (1884–1950), a Ho-Chunk, and Elizabeth Bender Cloud (1887–1965), an Ojibwe, both of whom grew up amid settler colonialism that attempted to break their connection to Native land, treaty rights, and tribal identities. Mastering ways of behaving and speaking in different social settings and to divergent audiences, including other Natives, white missionaries, and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, Elizabeth and Henry relied on flexible and fluid notions of gender, identity, culture, community, and belonging as they traveled Indian Country and within white environments to fight for Native rights.  Elizabeth fought against termination as part of her role in the National Congress of American Indians and General Federation of Women’s Clubs, while Henry was one of the most important Native policy makers of the early twentieth century. He documented the horrible abuse within the federal boarding schools and co-wrote the Meriam Report of 1928, which laid the foundation for the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Together they ran an early college preparatory Christian high school, the American Indian Institute.  Standing Up to Colonial Power shows how the Clouds combined Native warrior and modern identities as a creative strategy to challenge settler colonialism, to become full members of the U.S. nation-state, and to fight for tribal sovereignty. Renya K. Ramirez uses her dual position as a scholar and as the granddaughter of Elizabeth and Henry Cloud to weave together this ethnography and family-tribal history.

Words Like Birds: Sakha Language Discourses and Practices in the City                                                   (Series: Borderlands and Transcultural Studies)

What does it mean to speak Sakha in the city? Words Like Birds, a linguistic ethnography of Sakha discourses and practices in urban far eastern Russia, examines the factors that have aided speakers in maintaining—and adapting—their minority language over the course of four hundred years of contact with Russian speakers and the federal power apparatus.  Words Like Birds analyzes modern Sakha linguistic sensibilities and practices in the urban space of Yakutsk. Sakha is a north Siberian Turkic language spoken primarily in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in the northeastern Russian Federation. For Sakha speakers, Russian colonization in the region inaugurated a tumultuous history in which their language was at times officially supported and promoted and at other times repressed and discouraged.  Jenanne Ferguson explores the communicative norms that arose in response to the top-down promotion of the Russian language in the public sphere and reveals how Sakha ways of speaking became emplaced in villages and the city’s private spheres. Focusing on the language ideologies and practices of urban bilingual Sakha-Russian speakers, Ferguson illuminates the changes that have taken place in the first two post-Soviet decades, in contexts where Russian speech and communicative norms dominated during the Soviet era.  Weaving together three major themes—language ideologies and ontologies, language trajectories, and linguistic syncretism—this study reveals how Sakha speakers transform and adapt their beliefs, evaluations, and practices to revalorize a language, maintain and create a sense of belonging, and make their words heard in Sakha again in many domains of city life. Like the moveable spirited words, the focus of Words Like Birds is mobility, change, and flow, the tracing of the situation of bilinguals in Yakutsk.

Pictures and synopses courtesy of University of Nebraska Press.


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Friday Reads: The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen

This book came to me by way of a recommendation from a book club member who also reads mysteries and series. I have read Nordic Noir authors Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, and Henning Mankell, but I had not read any books from the Department Q Series by the Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. All of the authors have a reputation for their dark descriptions of crime, twisted plots, and grizzled detectives. This book follows a popular recipe for sleuths: troubled personal relationships, inability to get along with co-workers, abuser of substances, and a brilliant deductive mind. The plot goes back and forth between the last week Detective Carl Mørck was a homicide detective and the present, when he is assigned to lead a newly created Department Q – a literal closet in the basement of the police department where the most difficult cold cases reside.

Thinking this is a promotion, Carl soon realizes this position will take him out of action. The first case he selects from boxes and boxes of cold cases involves trying to find a missing politician captured five years ago and assumed by many to be dead. Carl is assigned a staff of one – a man with a mysterious past named Hafez el-Assad. Initially Carl views Assad as not much more than a driver and personal assistant, but Assad makes himself a real partner in solving cases and becomes invaluable to the department.  At home, Carl is separated from his wife Vigga, is a sometimes guardian to his stepson, and is in need of the rent that is paid by his opera-loving lodger to make ends meet. This book will take you on a ride that is sinister and horrifying. Expect that with Nordic Noir.

For those who have Amazon Prime, the first three books in the Department Q series are also films in Danish with subtitles. I found the casting to be spot on and the Danish countryside both beautiful and foreboding.

Adler-Olsen, Jussi,  The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel. New York: Dutton, 2011.

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#BookFaceFriday “Miracle on 49th Street”

This week’s bookface was nothing but net!

Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica is the story of professional basketball player Josh Cameron, who is suddenly confronted by 12-year-old Molly, the daughter he never knew he had. Molly has just lost her mother to cancer, and is shocked to discover that her father is none other than her favorite Celtics’ MVP. Now all she has to do is convince Josh that she’s telling him the truth…

“This novel is . . . an enjoyable read with interesting peeks into the world of professional basketball. It will appeal to young teen sports enthusiasts as well as kids just looking for a good story.” –VOYA

Today’s #BookFace model is an “oldie but a goodie!” Sue Biltoft is back with the NLC as our accountant. Sue returned to us in December after a few years off, and we are very happy she did!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening, by Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive is the memoir of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist who spent time in prison after participating in the 2011 Saudi women’s driving campaign. While the first two and final four chapters focus on her driving activism, the middle eight are a chronological account of her life, beginning on April 25, 1979, the day of her birth. In my view, the real drama of the narrative is in seeing how al-Sharif transforms from a young girl, strictly controlled by Saudi custom and a fundamentalist version of Islam, to a woman who challenges the status quo at great personal cost.

One value in reading an account like al-Sharif’s is the window it provides into the restrictive, brutal nature of Saudi life, especially for women. In Saudi Arabia women are completely dependent on male guardians (usually fathers or husbands) or on mahrams (male relatives whom they cannot marry, such as brothers, uncles, or even sons) to accompany them on any official business. To illustrate her point that in Saudi eyes “death is preferable to violating the strict code of guardianship and mahrams” (7), al-Sharif cites several cases where women died when male paramedics weren’t allowed to treat them because their guardians or mahrams weren’t present. And of course, women couldn’t drive, even if, like al-Sharif, they owned cars and had foreign driver’s licenses. (Note: Authorities finally lifted the ban on women driving on June 24, 2018.) Instead, women relied on, and frequently suffered harassment by, male taxi drivers or “an informal network of men with cars who illegally transport female passengers” (9).

For the most part, the cultural landscape al-Sharif describes appears quite alien. Occasionally, though, one feels an uncomfortable flicker of familiarity. For example, on the topic of harassment al-Sharif writes “the authorities . . . always blame the woman. They say she was harassed because of how she looked or because of the way she was walking or because she was wearing perfume. They make you the criminal” (11). al-Sharif’s decision to wear a hijab, which left her face uncovered, instead of a niqab, in public was seen by men as an invitation to shout slurs, like “whore” and “prostitute,” at her. The degree of coverage hardly seemed to matter though, as even a woman who left only her eyes exposed was reportedly told by religious police to cover them because they were “too seductive” (234).

So what allowed al-Sharif to reject the shackles of her culture? To achieve a broader perspective on Saudi customs and fundamentalist beliefs? After reading her memoir, I’d say that, in addition to innate curiosity, it was education, internet access, and exposure to people from other parts of the world – exactly the things repressive regimes and conservative religions invested in maintaining the status quo typically fear.

al-Sharif grew up with a mother who prioritized education for both her daughters and her son. And even though the schools al-Sharif attended growing up initially fanned the flames of her extremist religious beliefs, her academic achievements ultimately got her accepted to King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. There, she received a small monthly allowance from the school, which gave her a first taste of financial independence. She also had her radical religious beliefs tested for the first time by fellow students who didn’t follow all the same practices she did. Perhaps most importantly, she signed up for internet access in order to complete and submit her homework. Though her original intent had been to avoid reading anything that might undermine her beliefs, she ultimately couldn’t resist exploring political analysis, world news, and diverse opinions. “Nothing,” she wrote, “did more to change my ideas and convictions than the advent of the Internet and, later, social media” (132-133).

Finally, after graduating, her university degree got her a  good job at Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, where she worked with not only Saudi men, but also foreigners. In 2009, as part a professional exchange program, she got to live and work in the United States for a year. During this time abroad, she learned to drive, got a New Hampshire driver’s license, and rented a car at company expense. She went skiing and skydiving, got a public library card, attended a play in which two men kissed, learned about Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement, took up photography, and befriended a Jewish woman, none of which she could or would have done in Saudi Arabia. Her year in the United States was definitely a turning point for her; though she went back to Saudi Arabia at the end of it, she returned a completely different person. As she writes, “ the true culture shock occurred not when I landed in America, but much later, after I had returned home” (203). This is when her activism began in earnest.

al-Sharif, Manal. Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. Print.

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#BookFaceFriday “The Progeny: A Novel”

Being the descendant of a famous serial killer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

"The Progeny: A Novel" by Tosca Lee, BookFace Photo

The Progeny: A Novel” by Tosca Lee, is the first novel in her Descendants of the House of Bathory series. It’s a thrilling tale that takes you through the underground world of Eastern Europe. Tosca Lee, a New York Times bestselling and Nebraska author, brings a modern twist to the ancient mystery of Elizabeth Bathory, the most notorious female serial killer of all time. This novel is a part of our NLC Book Club Kit collection, make it the next read for your book club today!

“Tosca Lee is a masterful storyteller who has created a rich and engaging tale of adventure, mystery, and loyalty in the face of perpetual betrayal, which kept me on edge from the first page until the last.” (Jobie Hughes, #1 New York Times bestselling author)

This Nebraska author will be make two appearances in Lincoln tomorrow (Jan. 26, 2019)promoting her new book, “The Line Between: A Novel.” Find her at Francie & Finch Bookshop​ (130 S. 13th. St., Lincoln, NE) from 11am-12:30 and at the South Point Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 2:00 pm!

Today’s #BookFace model is relatively new to NLC, meet Kayla Henzel! Kayla started with us in December as an Administrative and Communications Staff Assistant.

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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NCompass Live: Information Literacy and the ESL/ELL Student: Alleviating Library Anxiety

Join us for the next FREE NCompass Live webinar, ‘Information Literacy and the ESL/ELL Student: Alleviating Library Anxiety’ on Wednesday, January 23, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.

Through a group active learning activity, and discussion presenters will help attendees empathize with ESL/ELL students’ anxieties about academic libraries, language, and jargon. Grounded in academic research, presenters will then cover how library anxiety specifically affects the ESL/ELL population and describe strategies library staff can take to ameliorate this anxiety. Presenters will also detail how existing information literacy teaching materials were adapted and augmented to address this student population’s specific needs. Attendees will leave with a deeper understanding of the specific needs of the ESL/ELL population and have gained knowledge of specific strategies to employ in their own practice.

Presenters: Claire Chamley, Reference Associate, Criss Library, University of Nebraska at Omaha; Erin Painter, Creativity Library Manger, KANEKO-UNO Library, University of Nebraska, Omaha.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • Feb. 6 – You Make Me Want To Break Out
  • Feb. 13 – What in the World is Emerging Technology?
  • Feb. 20 – Crafting Relevant Community Partnerships Using Archives
  • Feb. 27 – Future Ready Nebraska and the Digital Learning and Ed Tech Plan

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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#BookFaceFriday “Bossypants”

This #BookFace is working for the weekend…

Full of belly laughs and her real life stories,” Bossypants” by Tina Fey, is the perfect choice for your next read. I actually did laugh out loud while reading this book. I started skimming it for this blog post and ended up not being able to put it down. This collection of essays is a part of our NLC Book Club Kit collection. Reserve it for your book club today!

“It’s not every day you read something that makes you laugh out loud every other page. Then again, Tina Fey doesn’t write a book every day. maybe she should. If you’re a fan of the Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock star, famous for her spot-on imitation of Sarah Palin, you will love this collection of autobiographical essays.” – Craig Wilson, USA Today

Today’s #BookFace model is NLC’s Business Manager, Jerry Breazile! Even though he had vowed never to wear a tie to work again, we appreciate him bending to our bookface will just this once.

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: The Reckoning, by John Grisham

I have read many of John Grisham’s legal thrillers dating back to his second book, The Firm (1991). I didn’t read his first, A Time to Kill. I only saw the movie. It is admirable that a writer can publish a new bestseller each year, and sometimes more than one. Grisham’s novels now number 41. In addition, he has published short stories, nonfiction, and young adult books. Grisham is a creative and clever writer. His most recent book, The Reckoning, is, to me, among his best.

The book is set in 1946 in Grisham’s familiar rural Ford County, Mississippi. Grisham’s experiences there, including an early career as a criminal defense attorney and state legislator, offer informed and useful background for his writing. Pete Banning is the book’s central character – a kind and respected cotton farmer from a prominent family with deep roots in the community. Banning is a West Point graduate, a World War II infantry officer, prisoner of war escapee, and war hero decorated for his leadership and accomplishments as a guerrilla fighter in the Philippines. Thought of as killed in action, Banning’s surprise return home after the war was followed by a shocking criminal act that disrupts his family and the entire community. Banning refuses to offer an explanation for his actions. Why would someone so admired, responsible and respected do what he did? The mystery carries through the book to an unexpected and surprising conclusion.

Of the book’s more interesting chapters are those involving Banning’s wartime service with the Army in the Philippines. There is rich, well-researched, detail of the U.S. Army’s actions, the Bataan Death March, prisoner of war experiences, and guerilla warfare. Equally interesting is how Grisham creates his storylines. For The Reckoning, Grisham contends that the story came from those told among state lawmakers, gathered together for evening conversations. Grisham appears not sure whether the Banning story was based on a real or imagined incident. Either way, the story is compelling and will keep the reader turning pages to the surprising ending.

Grisham, John. The Reckoning. New York: Penguin Random House, 2018.

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NCompass Live: 2019 One Book One Nebraska: ‘This Blessed Earth’

Celebrate the joint 2019 One Book One Nebraska and All Iowa Reads selection, This Blessed Earth with Ted Genoways on the next FREE NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, January 16, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.

In this fifteenth year of One Book One Nebraska, we’re partnering with All Iowa Reads to inspire libraries and other literary and cultural organizations to plan activities and events to encourage all Nebraskans and Iowans to read and discuss the same book. Join us to hear more about this dual state reading promotion activity, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Humanities Nebraska, Iowa Center for the Book, State Library of Iowa, and the Nebraska Library Commission.

We are very pleased to announce that our featured guest will be Ted Genoways, author of the 2019 selection, This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm.

Join Nebraska Library Commission Director Rod Wagner, Nebraska Library Commission Communication Coordinator Tessa Terry, Christine Walsh, Nebraska Center for the Book President, and Becky Faber, Nebraska Center for the Book Board Member, to:

  • Learn about how to create a successful local reading promotion using Nebraska’s year-long, statewide celebration featuring This Blessed Earth, by Ted Genoways.
  • Brainstorm strategies to read and discuss This Blessed Earth.
  • Find tools to help engage your community in local activities to encourage them to come together through literature to explore this work in community-wide reading programs.
  • Learn about the 2019 Celebration of Nebraska Books, which will celebrate this book, along with the winners of the 2019 Nebraska Book Awards.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • Feb. 6 – You Make Me Want To Break Out
  • Feb. 20 – Crafting Relevant Community Partnerships Using Archives
  • Feb. 27 – Future Ready Nebraska and the Digital Learning and Ed Tech Plan
  • March 20 – Reading Diversely

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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#BookFaceFriday “The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist”

To #BookFace, perchance to dream…

“Poetry is all I have to give. I don’t know any other way to help.” Based on real-life abolitionist Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda (Tula), Margarita Engle’s book of verse tells the story of a brave young woman who fought against her family’s expectations and spoke out against her country’s treatment of women and the practice of slavery. The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionistis a part of our NLC Book Club Kit collection, and is one of many YA selections that we have available. Reserve it for your book club today!

“An inspiring fictionalized verse biography of one of Cuba’s most influential writers… Fiery and engaging, a powerful portrait of the liberating power of art.” – Kirkus Reviews

Today’s #BookFace model is one of our Talking Book & Braille Service reader advisors, Holly!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret

A little while ago, I had just finished reading The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret and I was listening to a story on NPR about music students attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Ironically, the story highlighted current student musicians that were contributing to the music world in a way quite similar to the wrecking crew of the 1960’s and 1970’s. You see, the original wrecking crew was a collection of backup (or maybe background would be a more appropriate word) musicians that played on numerous studio recordings. Like the Berklee music students, the wrecking crew played on jingles, theme songs, film scores, and commercials (the Berklee students have expanded to playing music for podcasts, video games, and other things).

So The Wrecking Crew documents the lives of these studio musicians, how they started and expanded in the business, and their interactions with some of the writers, producers, arrangers, and other notable artists. These include, among others, Brian Wilson, Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, and the Mamas and the Papas. While one of the more well-known members of the crew was Glen Campbell (who also toured as one of the Beach Boys), the book also focuses on drummer Hal Blaine and guitarist Carol Kaye (shown here hilariously giving Gene Simmons a lesson on bass). Incidentally, the name wrecking crew, penned by Hal Blaine, is disputed by Carol Kaye, who mentions that the group of musicians weren’t generally known as such (but sometimes called “the Clique”). Call them whatever you choose, but this set of musicians were the go-to’s when it came to studio recording, and the point is that the work was good enough for them to earn a living doing it. Most of the recorded music you hear from this time has these musicians playing on it instead of the actual bands that toured. And the kicker is that you would never know it; most of the time (if not all of the time) they weren’t credited.

The book also offers an interesting insight into many of the colorful (both in a healthy creative way and sometimes controlling and abrasive) characters in the music world at the time. For the creative but meticulous, think Brian Wilson. For the controlling and abrasive (and sometimes downright crazy), think Phil Spector. The Wrecking Crew offers access into not only these major artists but also those behind the scenes. A documentary film about the Crew, based on the book, may also be of interest (some of the original footage illustrates things in a worthwhile way).

Hartman, Kent (2013). The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret. St. Martin’s Griffin.


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NCompass Live: Graphic Novel Collection and Programming

Join us for the next FREE NCompass Live webinar, ‘Graphic Novel Collection and Programming’ on Wednesday, January 9, 10:00am – 11:00am CT.

Learn new resources to find widely-appealing graphic novel selections for all age groups, toddler through teen. Join Russ Harper, Youth Services Specialist at Omaha Public Library, as he makes core collection recommendations, discusses top sellers, and how to find the hot new thing. Includes programming tips for both American comics and manga fans!.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • Jan. 16, 2018 – 2019 One Book One Nebraska: This Blessed Earth
  • Feb. 6, 2019 – You Make Me Want To Break Out
  • Feb. 20 – Crafting Relevant Community Partnerships Using Archives
  • Feb. 27 – Future Ready Nebraska and the Digital Learning and Ed Tech Plan
  • March 20 – Reading Diversely

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for December 2018.  Included are reports from a variety of Nebraska state agencies:  Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Board of Public Accountancy, Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service,  University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Applied Urban Research, and new books from the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

Most items, except the books from the University of Nebraska Press, are available for immediate viewing and printing by clicking on the highlighted link above, or directly in the .pdf below.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse in 1972, a service of the Nebraska Library Commission. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, and provide access to all public information published by Nebraska state agencies.  By law (State Statutes 51-411 to 51-413) all Nebraska state agencies are required to submit their published documents to the Clearinghouse.  For more information, visit the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse page, contact Mary Sauers, Government Information Services Librarian, or contact Bonnie Henzel, State Documents Staff Assistant.

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#BookFaceFriday “Songs of the Humpback Whale”

Today we’re giving it our best shot at speaking whale… HhhAaapEEE BooookffAaace FrrrriiiidAAaayyy!

While we didn’t see any whales off the coast of Puerto Rico, we did take advantage of the beach for this week’s #BookFaceFriday “Songs of the Humpback Whale: A Novel in Five Voices” by Jodi Picoult (Washington Square Press, 1992).  This familial drama between a disgruntled wife and her renowned oceanographer husband plays out in a cross country road trip.  This book is a part of our NLC Book Club Kit collection; get it reserved for your book club today!

“Picoult has become a master almost a clairvoyant — at targeting hot issues and writing highly readable page-turners about them . . . It is impossible not to be held spell bound by the way she forces us to think, hard, about right and wrong.” ―Carolyn See, The Washington Post

Today’s #BookFace model is my very accommodating sister, who stared into the ocean for a good long time so I could get this shot.

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of ’80s and ’90s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss

My most vivid memory of second grade was trying to read a Sweet Valley Twins book under my desk during class, only to get caught and kept in from recess. This may have happened multiple times (sorry, Mrs. Wade). From the ages 8 to 12, I heavily favored the sort of books that Gabrielle Moss revisits in her new history of tween and teen fiction from the 1980s and ’90s, Paperback Crush.

Flipping through this book was a fun trip down memory lane, with stops along the way in Stoneybrook, CT, Sweet Valley, CA, and Shadyside, OH. Was it classic literature? Not in the slightest. But I would stalk the shelves of my local library or mall bookstore, just waiting for the latest installment of my series-du-jour.

I was surprised at how many titles/series I had forgotten about over the years. Sleepover Friends and Girl Talk, The Face on the Milk Carton, 2 Young 2 Go 4 Boys; their plots had obviously wormed their way into my subconscious, judging by how many clubs I convinced friends to form and how fascinating the idea of having a twin was to tween-age me.

Moss has broken down the 80s/90s teen fiction genre into 7 broad themes (love, friends, family, school, jobs, danger, and terror) and covers the most popular books for each theme, and the knockoffs they inspired. Teen fiction during this time period certainly had its flaws: lack of diversity, corny plot-lines and cheesy cover art, neatly wrapped up endings, but it also fueled the girl-power movement and sparked a lifelong love of reading for many of us. These girls could do anything – take on the school bully, run for class president, deal with an annoying brother or divorcing parents, fight vampires… Interspersed throughout are interviews with authors such as Rhys Bowen, Caroline Cooney, and Christoper Pike, as well as a timeline of teen lit from the turn of the 20th century until more modern times.

If you ever started your own babysitter’s club, or asked yourself if you were an Elizabeth or a Jessica, I would recommend spending a couple of nostalgia-filled hours with this “totally radical” history book.

Moss, Gabrielle. Paperback Crush. Philadelphia, PA : Quirk Books. 2018.

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Friday Reads: (Another) Year in Review

As we begin the countdown to 2019, the Nebraska Library Commission is looking back at all the great books we’ve reviewed in 2018!

In our weekly blog series Friday Reads, a staff member at the Nebraska Library Commission posts a review of a book every Friday. Spanning all genres, from short stories to celebrity memoirs, young adult to crime fiction, we’ve shared what we’ve read and why we’ve read it.

Former NLC staffer Laura Johnson created this series to model the idea of talking about books and to help readers get to know our staff a little better. Readers advisory and book-talking are valuable skills for librarians to develop, but they are ones that take practice. We hope that our book reviews will start a conversation about books among our readers and encourage others to share their own reviews and recommendations.

The series has been going strong for 4 1/2 years and has produced over 200 reviews, which are archived on the NCompass blog, or you can browse a list of reviews here.

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