Tag Archives: Reading

Book Club Spotlight – Hector’s Bliss

A unique aspect of our Book Club Collection here at the Commission is our focus on Nebraska authors, settings, and stories, housing the hidden gems of Nebraska literature and history! Today’s pick for the Book Club Spotlight, in particular, focuses on a relatively unknown part of Nebraska’s Black History. While we know the story of white pioneers and homesteaders, there was also the incredible journey of formerly enslaved people who became landowners, farmers, and a community in the Sandhills. Hector’s Bliss: Black Homesteaders at Goose Lake, Nebraska, by Dennis Vossberg, is a historical fiction novel based on the incredible history of Black Homesteaders, who, under false pretenses, persevered in the harsh farmland until drought and the Dust Bowl overcame the whole region.

In the late 1800s, at the height of legalized racial segregation, just south of O’Neil, Nebraska, there was the short-lived story of Bliss, and the Black community members who called it home. During the economic downturn caused by the end of the Civil War, the newly freed people were looking for a reliable place to land. As newly married Hector and Julia Dixon were floundering in a small mining town, land promoters arrived, falsely promising flourishing farmland and untapped coal veins awaited them in the far reaches of the Nebraska Sandhills. The Dixons and 13 other families unknowingly move to the desert-like plains to start anew. Besought by harsh conditions, poverty, and rural isolation, their community works hard to create a solid foundation for the future despite the conditions. As one of the more educated residents, Hector Dixon finds himself wearing many hats in Bliss, as a farmer, the integrated school’s teacher, the justice of the peace, and eventually a milk road delivery man, all to support his growing and tenacious family. Striving to find a balance between the life his children dream of and the one he has worked so hard to build.

He took a lingering gaze over the peaceful countryside, thinking of how transient were the human inhabitants of this land, and how triumphantly enduring was the land itself

Dennis Vossberg

Hector’s Bliss is a moving historical fiction crafted with love and respect for the subjects, and Book Club Groups will find value in learning about this little-known Nebraska history. They may even be encouraged to learn more. Covered in the Nebraska Public Media story, “Looking for Bliss,” the story of the Dixons and Bliss is virtually unknown. Hector’s Bliss brings to light Black history that has been erased from cultural memory, revealing a more full and beautiful world. We won’t really ever know how the Black Homesteaders were treated by their white compatriots as those details have been lost to time. So, while prejudice and racism are addressed, Vossberg chooses to focus the limited peril on the indomitable human spirit and the life these people worked to build after slavery. 

If you’re interested in requesting Hector’s Bliss for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 4 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Vossberg, Dennis. Hector’s Bliss. Morris Publishing. 2006

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Friday Reads & #BookFaceFriday: The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel 

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.

Mark Weiser

Virginia Postrel’s The Fabric of Civilization begins with the dawn of human history, with the first fibers twisted into string, and ends with modern innovators creating new fibers and types of fabrics. The book is sectioned into seven chapters, each covering a certain step in the fiber-to-textile life cycle: Fiber, Thread, Cloth, Dye, Traders, Consumers, and Innovators. Postrel’s core thesis: fabric was among our first technologies, and it was also our most crucial and defining technology — and it still is. “We hairless apes co-evolved with our cloth,” Postrel writes. “From the moment we’re wrapped in a blanket at birth, we are surrounded by textiles.”     

This book was absolutely fascinating. As a knitter, crocheter, and now a beginning spinner, part of my awe for the fiber crafts comes from their long-stretching history: from me, to my grandmother, to endless generations past. The way I spin yarn from wool, sitting on my couch in front of the TV in 2024, uses the same motions that would be familiar to someone in ancient history. Fibers spun into thread were necessary for the cloth needed for sails, clothing, blankets, political functions, military uniforms, and religious/cultural rituals. My burgeoning love of spinning is likely why Chapter 2: Thread was my favorite. Postrel’s breakdown of how long it would take spinners and their spindles from different eras to produce the thread that was so crucial for exploration, competition, commerce, and general livelihood was incredibly thorough. Take a moment to think about all the fabric around you right now. That fabric is composed of woven threads or knitted yarns. Today’s modern factories use heavy machinery to spin fibers into miles and miles of that thread for jeans, cotton shirts, and wool coats. For much of history, however, that process needed to be done entirely by hand. Much of the rest of the world’s economy could not work until the spinners did, and the quest to expedite the process drove inventions and innovations that had far-reaching effects on industries beyond that of textiles.     

At times, Postrel’s overview and analysis bottlenecks into myopia, and the occasional – but thankfully brief – insertions of her own personal experiences with the textile process were jarring. Postrel occasionally falls into a columnist’s cadence, sacrificing the distance of academic de rigueur for a more conversational tone. Another reader might appreciate the first-person connections and exposé-esque sections – a la How It’s Madeand I can certainly understand the reasoning behind her choice, but I did not find that these added much to the book.  

Her myopia, however, is less forgivable. Postrel would have crafted a more solid body of work had she matched the title with the true scope of her endeavor, and called the book The Fabric of Western Civilization. Industrial Revolution-era Europe and New England are centered far more prominently than I would have preferred. Postrel touches briefly on the interaction between the South’s cotton industry and England’s mills — even after the latter abolished slavery — but doesn’t spend as long on that connection, even though I feel it would have bolstered her argument about global commerce and economy. This was an especially disappointing flaw, especially given Postrel’s own definitions of “civilization,” including the fact that it is a cumulative process not bound to one region or culture; in fact, as Postrel does mention, exchange (willing and unwilling) is what drove the evolution of textiles and humanity both.   

Postrel also falls into the trap of rebuttal for the sake of novel arguments, which end up bordering on dismissal of broader historical truths: particularly and most egregiously in her argument about cotton in the Pre-Civil War South, singling out Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2013) and his statement that increased cotton production was caused by ever-intensifying brutality inflicted on enslaved people. Postrel counters that the production increase can be simply explained, instead, by advancements in both cotton stock and processing technologies. However, there is no reason why both cannot be true. The same root issue is also at play when she disregards the low-wages of the pre-industrial (and typically female) spinners as solely a business decision, devoid of the influence of gender and class politics. History is not a field with single-causes and single-effects.  

Part of the appeal of non-fiction to me, however, is actively engaging with the arguments that the author presents. A sense of wonder is important, but I also want to think about the topic and build my own perspective. And so, overall, I enjoyed the book. I listened to the audiobook read by Caroline Cole, but I do plan to check out the print copy from my local library, in order to explore Postrel’s footnotes and bibliography for further reading and learning opportunities.  

You can find “The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World” by Virginia Postrel is available for download on BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service. BARD is a service offered by the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress.

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

Postrel, Virginia. The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World. Basic Books/OrangeSky Audio, 2021.  

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#BookFaceFriday “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hold on to your husbands, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

This week’s BookFace, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel” by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Atria Books, 2017), is a hot ticket in our Book Club Kits Collection. It rarely spends time on the shelf!

Sometimes it can be difficult for book clubs to schedule and secure some of the more popular titles. If this happens to you often, we suggest using our Multiple Month – Year-At-A-Time Request Form. This allows us to help you plan out in advance your book club reads and get you in line for the most coveted titles. This title is available as an eBook and Audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a popular author; NLC has two of her books in our Book Club Kits Collection and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries has seven.

“The epic adventures Evelyn creates over the course of a lifetime will leave every reader mesmerized. This wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet and her tumultuous Tinseltown journey comes with unexpected twists and the most satisfying of drama.”

—PopSugar

Our model this week is a new addition to the Nebraska Library Commission! Welcome to Bailee Juroshek, our new Office Specialist for the Public Information and Communication department. She worked previously as a freelance illustrator and is originally from Ogden, Utah. When it comes to books Bailee said one of her favorite series is “The Kingkiller Chronicle” by Patrick Rothfuss, and that she “loves a detailed fantasy world that you can get lost in.” Outside of reading, her hobbies include playing DND, creating artwork, and singing karaoke. She has three cats that keep her busy at home. “Their names are Coco Bean, Lilith, and Azmo, and they’re all adorable little trouble-makers.” If you get the chance, say hello to Bailee!

Book Club Kits Rules for Use

  1. These kits can be checked out by the librarians of Nebraska libraries and media centers.
  2. Circulation times are flexible and will be based upon availability. There is no standard check-out time for book club kits.
  3. Please search the collection to select items you wish to borrow and use the REQUEST THIS KIT icon to borrow items.
  4. Contact the Information Desk at the Library Commission if you have any questions: by phone: 800/307-2665, or by email: Information Services Team

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

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

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Book Club Spotlight – When Stars are Scattered

Cover for When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Two young Somali boys walk together, shoeless, through a encampment. They are smiling hopefully up at the night sky.

Happy Black History Month from Book Club Spotlight! The theme for 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts,” which honors the incredible contributions of African Americans to culture, music, art, and literature. And what better combination of art and literature is there than graphic novels? So, to wrap up our mini-series, we will follow young Somali refugees displaced by civil war. Where the Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, is based on the childhood of Mohamed, who grew up in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. The list of honors for this book is massive, including being a National Book Award Finalist, the School Library Journal Best Book of 2020, and a 2021-22 Golden Sower Chapter Book Nominee.

Omar and his brother Hassan have been in the Dadaab refugee camp for seven years! Without their parents, the boys live on their own, watched over by an aging foster mother, Fatuma. Having the responsibility of caring for himself and his nonverbal brother, everyday Omar must clean the floorless tent they sleep on, hide any valuables from thieves, and wait. Wait for water, wait for food, wait for his mother to find them, wait for the war to end, and wait to leave the refugee camp. When Omar gets a chance to attend school, he is far behind other children his age, and soon, the pressure of school and chores begins to make him angry and resentful. As he grows and becomes continually frustrated with his situation, he sees how everyone else is stuck just like him—especially the girls, who, like Omar, are burdened with too many responsibilities. With encouragement from his friends and community, Omar grows more confident in his abilities and in Hassan and starts dreaming about a future outside the camp. And one day, Omar’s and Hassan’s names are called for an interview with the UN for a chance to finally leave Dadaab, an exciting and terrifying possibility. 

“It was nice talking like this. Pretending we were normal kids, with normal futures to look forward too”

– Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

Written for middle grades and up, all will be deeply moved by reading this graphic novel. With wars waging worldwide, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and powerless, and listening to stories of those going through these tough times matters. When Stars are Scattered is an excellent representation of the day-to-day life in refugee camps. Maybe your Book Club Group wants to learn more about what life is like for refugees, or your students have questions about what is happening to displaced children like them. Since moving to America, Mohamed has dedicated his life to serving his community back in Dadaab and improving the living conditions of refugees, especially young girls through his nonprofit foundation, Refugee Strong.

“Please take away from the reading of this book an understanding that you should never give up hope. In the camp, we were given courage by our faith to always be patient and to never lose hope. Things may seem impossible, but if you keep working hard and believe in yourself, you can overcome anything in your path. I hope my story will inspire you to always persevere.” 

Omar Mohamed

If you’re interested in requesting When Stars are Scattered for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

To see more of our Black Voices book club titles, visit here.

Jamieson, Victoria & Mohamed, Omar. When Stars are Scattered. Penguin Random House. 2020

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#BookFaceFriday “Main Character Energy” by Jamie Varon

Big #BookFace Energy!

There’s nothing like a good romance in February, especially if it’s all about learning to love yourself. This week’s #BookFace “Main Character Energy: A Novel” by Jamie Varon (Park Row, 2023) is the perfect book for those looking for a feel-good romance. This title is available as an eBook and an Audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! You can find it along with 13,000 other titles in the Romance section on OverDrive. Did you know you can search the entire digital collection by subject, whether it’s as broad as Fiction and Nonfiction, or as niche as Self-Improvement or Mythology?

“Poppy is bright and complicated and utterly enchanting in Jamie Varon’s debut.”

—Ashley Poston, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Dead Romantics

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

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

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Friday Reads & #BookFaceFriday: Houses with a Story, by Seiji Yoshida

Sometimes art imitates #BookFaceFriday

After the holiday frenzy I needed to read something that would serve as a mental palate cleanser–the literary equivalent of a deep, cleansing breath. Houses with a Story, by Seiji Yoshida, fit the bill.

Yoshida, a Tokyo-based artist who works as a professional background illustrator in the game/anime industry, first published Houses with a Story in Japan in 2020. The English translation came out in November 2023. Language isn’t the most important component of this book, however. Instead, detailed illustrations of over 30 imaginative dwellings, along with brief text hinting at a backstory for each, predominate.

Each of Yoshida’s 30+ houses get at least a two-page spread featuring both a street view and a cut-away drawing that lets you see inside the structure’s various rooms. This allows you to view nooks and crannies, furnishings, and basic possessions. Sketched floor plans are also sometimes included.

One of my favorite dwelling/character combos is the Methodical Witch’s House. Her small abode is divided into two rooms by a partial wall, which includes a two-sided hearth designed to heat both. The witch grows herbs and vegetables in an outdoor garden (also depicted), which she then harvests and uses in cooking and medicine. According to a “Concepts and Commentary” section at the back of the book, Yoshida imagines this house existing in mid-nineteenth century Scotland.

As a librarian, I also love Yoshida’s Library of Lost Books. This temple-like compound of unknown origin exists in an imaginary, isolated, Tibet-inspired landscape. According to the accompanying annotation, it supposedly contains “all the books that have been entirely lost to this world.” The lone librarian’s main duty is to comb the shelves for newly lost books that appear daily in order to catalog and organize them—a seemingly unending task.

The publisher of Houses with a Story recommends it for fans of Studio Ghibli, which makes sense given their similar aesthetic. I also think that adults who enjoy looking at architecture, floor plans, and photo spreads of enchanting and unusual living spaces will be enthralled. Finally, if you were a kid who loved poring over Richard Scarry, I Spy, and Where’s Waldo books, this might be a good selection for adult you!

You can find “Houses with a Story: A Dragon’s Den, a Ghostly Mansion, a Library of Lost Books, and 30 More Amazing Places to Explore” by Seiji Yoshida and many more in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

This week’s BookFace “model” is a painting by the late Lincoln artist Larry Griffing, which hangs in librarian Lisa Kelly’s home. Thank you Lisa for capturing this photo for us!

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

Yoshida, Seiji. Houses with a Story. Abrams, 2023.

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Book Club Spotlight – Survivors of the Holocaust

Cover for Survivors of the Holocaust

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, today’s Book Club Spotlight, Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children, is a graphic novel that commemorates the Jewish children who were displaced by World War Two. This book will be read in conjunction with next month’s spotlight, When Stars are Scattered, which follows two Somali brothers as they are growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp. While these children all survived, it’s important to remember those who are still being displaced or, worse, by war and apartheid. Survivors of the Holocaust is adapted from a six-part animated interview series, Children of the Holocaust, which won the VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award for Youth Honor. It was edited by Kath Shackleton and illustrated by Zane Whittingham. 

The graphic novel begins with a foreword by Lilian Black, who was the Chair of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. She introduces us to the six storytellers, Heinz, Trude, Ruth, Martin, Suzanne, and Arek, who were all children at the beginning of World War II and were impacted by the Holocaust and its systemic persecution of Jewish people. Split into individual sections, we begin by meeting each child shortly before war breaks out during Hitler’s rise to power. Some are forced to flee with their families, siblings, or all alone. Others are stuck in Germany and manage to survive their time in concentration camps. Their stories are told through evocative and mildly disturbing illustrations that work to bring the sense of terror that Hilter’s reign imposed on their young lives. Sections following the main stories include short paragraphs about each of the children as they grew up outside of the war, a timeline of events, a helpful glossary of terms, and further online resources.

“It is not easy for them to tell their stories. They agreed to because they want people to know what can happen when people are subjected to discrimination and persecution for being seen as “different”. Their dearest wish is that no one should suffer as they did and that people who never again stand by when injustice is taking place.”

Survivors of the holocaust – Foreword: Lilian Black

Appropriate for ages ten and above, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a solid reference point for young readers who are just learning about the Holocaust. As written by The Jewish Book Council: “These accounts rep­re­sent a good cross-sec­tion of expe­ri­ence, since plu­ral­i­ty of expe­ri­ence is vital in pre­sent­ing the Holo­caust to young read­ers. The illus­tra­tions make the iden­ti­ties of the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors clear and the maps used as back­grounds pro­vide geo­graph­ic ground­ing for bor­der cross­ings. Ren­der­ings of pho­tographs and pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments add anoth­er lay­er of under­stand­ing”. However, there are minor inconsistencies that often occur through retellings. From classrooms to adult reading groups, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a multifaceted approach to our continuing Holocaust education and commitment to victims of displacement.

As with many of our Book Club Kits, discussion questions and an Educator’s Guide are available to help teachers and Book Club Group leaders through discussion resources and additional information. 

Other Resources: 

If you’re interested in requesting Survivors of the Holocaust  for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Shackleton, Kath. Survivors of the Holocaust. Sourcebooks Explore. 2019.

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#BookFaceFriday “Rez Ball” by Byron Graves

This #BookFaceFriday is a slam dunk!

Get your game face on, because it’s #BookFaceFriday! If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest in young adult books, check out this week’s episode of NCompass Live, Best New Teen Reads of 2023, presented by NLC’s Coordinator of Children and Young Adult Library Services, Sally Snyder, and Fremont High School librarian, Dana Fontaine. Today’s #BookFace selection, “Rez Ball” by Byron Graves (‎Heartdrum, 2023), was one of the titles featured in Sally’s teen list. Sally does two presentations like this each year on NCompass Live, one on YA books and another on children’s books. “Rez Ball” is a William C. Morris Debut Book Award winner and an American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award winner. You can find it as both an eBook and audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. If you’re looking for more information about NCompass Live or Sally Snyder’s Best Books lists, check out the NCompass Live Archive.

“Debut author Graves, who is Ojibwe like Tre, doesn’t shirk from showing his community’s ugly experiences, but he never languishes in them. Well-paced and exciting—the action of the basketball games is exceptionally well written—this is a solid piece of sports fiction.”

— Booklist

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

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

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Friday Reads: The Indigo Girl

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd, is an exceptional example of historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. In this incredible story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice, an extraordinary sixteen-year-old girl in Colonial South Carolina defies all expectations to achieve her dream.

“The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.

Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return—against the laws of the day—she will teach the slaves to read.

So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

Based on historical documents, including Eliza’s letters, this is a historical fiction account of how a teenage girl produced indigo dye, which became one of the largest exports out of South Carolina, an export that laid the foundation for the incredible wealth of several Southern families who still live on today. Although largely overlooked by historians, the accomplishments of Eliza Lucas influenced the course of US history. When she passed away in 1793, President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.” [Audible]

This book is set between 1739 and 1744, and Natasha Boyd has done extensive research and masterful writing to form the story of a remarkable young woman whose actions were before her time. I listened to the Audible version, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, and highly recommend this story about a little known piece of American history: the story of The Indigo Girl.

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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 November and December, 2023.  Included are reports from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Nebraska Crime Commission, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, 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.  You can read synopses of the books received from the University of Nebraska Press in the Book Briefs blogposts.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse in 1972 as 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 “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the #BookFace!

Pass the Turkish Delight! There’s nothing like a great series to while away the winter months. This week’s BookFace, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis (HarperCollins, 1994), is the second book in the fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia. This title is available as a Book Club Kit for Nebraska libraries to check out; we have the entire series in the collection. You can also find the series in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. If you’re looking for more information about a book series, check out the Commission’s Books in Series Database. It’s a one-stop shop for information on all the different books series out there!

“Although metaphysical rumblings may disturb adults, this wily symbolism-studded fantasy should appeal to children of an imaginative turn. While exploring an old English mansion, the four children—Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—discover through passing into a wardrobe, the strange land of Narnia, where it is winter without ever becoming Christmas.”

Kirkus Reviews

A big shout-out to this week’s model Mittens and her person Mackenzie Marrow for this week’s Bookface photo! You’re a natural Mittens!

Book Club Kits Rules for Use

  1. These kits can be checked out by the librarians of Nebraska libraries and media centers.
  2. Circulation times are flexible and will be based upon availability. There is no standard check-out time for book club kits.
  3. Please search the collection to select items you wish to borrow and use the REQUEST THIS KIT icon to borrow items.
  4. Contact the Information Desk at the Library Commission if you have any questions: by phone: 800/307-2665, or by email: Information Services Team

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

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

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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).  Every two months we will be showcasing the UNP books that the Clearinghouse has received.

UNP books, as well as all Nebraska state documents, are available for checkout by libraries and librarians for their patrons.

Here are the UNP books the Clearinghouse received in November and December, 2023:

Great Plains Forts, by Jay H. Buckley and Jeffery D. Nokes; Series: Discover the Great Plains

Great Plains Forts introduces readers to the fortifications that have impacted the lives of Indigenous peoples, fur trappers and traders, travelers, and military personnel on the Great Plains and prairies from precontact times to the present. Using stories to introduce patterns in fortification construction and use, Jay H. Buckley and Jeffery D. Nokes explore the eras of fort-building on the Great Plains from Canada to Texas. Stories about fortifications and fortified cities built by Indigenous peoples reveal the lesser-known history of precontact violence on the plains.

Great Plains Forts includes stories of Spanish presidios and French and British outposts in their respective borderlands. Forts played a crucial role in the international fur trade and served as emporiums along the overland trails and along riverway corridors as Euro-Americans traveled into the American West. Soldiers and families resided in these military outposts, and this military presence in turn affected Indigenous Plains peoples. The appendix includes a reference guide organized by state and province, enabling readers to search easily for specific forts.

Making Space : Neighbors, Officials, and North African Migrants in the Suburbs of Paris and Lyon, by Melissa K. Byrnes; Series: France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization

Since the 2005 urban protests in France, public debate has often centered on questions of how the country has managed its relationship with its North African citizens and residents. In Making Space Melissa K. Byrnes considers how four French suburbs near Paris and Lyon reacted to rapidly growing populations of North Africans, especially Algerians before, during, and after the Algerian War. In particular, Byrnes investigates what motivated local actors such as municipal officials, regional authorities, employers, and others to become involved in debates over migrants’ rights and welfare, and the wide variety of strategies community leaders developed in response to the migrants’ presence. An examination of the ways local policies and attitudes formed and re-formed communities offers a deeper understanding of the decisions that led to the current tensions in French society and questions about France’s ability—and will—to fulfill the promise of liberty, equality, and fraternity for all of its citizens. Byrnes uses local experiences to contradict a version of French migration history that reads the urban unrest of recent years as preordained.

Modern Jewish Theology : the First One Hundred Years, 1835-1935, Edited by Samuel J. Kessler and George Y. Kohler; Series: JPS Anthologies of Jewish Thought

Modern Jewish Theology is the first comprehensive collection of Jewish theological ideas from the pathbreaking nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, featuring selections from more than thirty of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the era as well as explorations of Judaism’s identity, uniqueness, and relevance; the origin of ethical monotheism; and the possibility of Jewish existentialism. These works—most translated for the first time into English by top scholars in modern Jewish history and philosophy—reveal how modern Jewish theology developed in concert with broader trends in Jewish intellectual and social modernization, especially scholarship (Wissenschaft des Judentums), politics (liberalism and Zionism), and religious practice (movement Judaism and the struggles to transcend denominational boundaries).

This anthology thus opens to the English-language reader a true treasure house of source material from the formative years of modern Jewish thought, bringing together writings from the very first generations, who imagined biblical and rabbinic texts and modern scientific research would produce a synthetic view of God, Israel, and the world. A general introduction and chapter introductions guide students and nonspecialists through the key themes and transformations in modern Jewish theology, and extensive annotations immerse them in the latest scholarship.

Reading the Contemporary Author : Narrative, Authority, Fictionality, Edited by Alison Gibbons and Elizabeth King; Series: Frontiers of Narrative

Readers, literary critics, and theorists alike have long demonstrated an abiding fascination with the author, both as a real person—an artist and creator—and as a theoretical concept that shapes the way we read literary works. Whether anonymous, pseudonymous, or trending on social media, authors continue to be an object of critical and readerly interest. Yet theories surrounding authorship have yet to be satisfactorily updated to register the changes wrought on the literary sphere by the advent of the digital age, the recent turn to autofiction, and the current literary climate more generally. In Reading the Contemporary Author the contributors look back on the long history of theorizing the author and offer innovative new approaches for understanding this elusive figure.

Mapping the contours of the vast territory that is contemporary authorship, this collection investigates authorship in the context of narrative genres ranging from memoir and autobiographically informed texts to biofiction and novels featuring novelist narrators and characters. Bringing together the perspectives of leading scholars in narratology, cultural theory, literary criticism, stylistics, comparative literature, and autobiography studies, Reading the Contemporary Author demonstrates that a variety of interdisciplinary viewpoints and critical stances are necessary to capture the multifaceted nature of contemporary authorship.

To Educate American Indians : Selected Writings from the National Educational Association’s Department of Indian Education, 1900-1904, Edited by Larry C. Skogen; Series: Indigenous Education

To Educate American Indians presents the most complete versions of papers presented at the National Educational Association’s Department of Indian Education meetings during a time when the debate about how best to “civilize” Indigenous populations dominated discussions. During this time two philosophies drove the conversation. The first, an Enlightenment era–influenced universalism, held that through an educational alchemy American Indians would become productive, Christianized Americans, distinguishable from their white neighbors only by the color of their skin. Directly confronting the assimilationists’ universalism were the progressive educators who, strongly influenced by the era’s scientific racism, held the notion that American Indians could never become fully assimilated. Despite these differing views, a frightening ethnocentrism and an honor-bound dedication to “gifting” civilization to Native students dominated the writings of educators from the NEA’s Department of Indian Education.

For a decade educators gathered at annual meetings and presented papers on how best to educate Native students. Though the NEA Proceedings published these papers, strict guidelines often meant they were heavily edited before publication. In this volume Larry C. Skogen presents many of these unedited papers and gives them historical context for the years 1900 to 1904.

Wallace Stegner’s Unsettled Country : Ruin, Realism, and Possibility in the American West, Edited by Mark Fiege, Michael J. Lansing, and Leisl Carr Childers

Wallace Stegner is an iconic western writer. His works of fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Angle of Repose and Big Rock Candy Mountain, as well as his nonfiction books and essays introduced the beauty and character of the American West to thousands of readers. Wallace Stegner’s Unsettled Country assesses his life, work, and legacy in light of contemporary issues and crises. Along with Stegner’s achievements, the contributors show how his failures offer equally crucial ways to assess the past, present, and future of the region.

Drawing from history, literature, philosophy, law, geography, and park management, the contributors consider Stegner’s racial liberalism and regional vision, his gendered view of the world, his understandings of conservation and the environment, his personal experience of economic collapse and poverty, his yearning for community, and his abiding attachment to the West. Wallace Stegner’s Unsettled Country is an even-handed reclamation of Stegner’s enduring relevance to anyone concerned about the American West’s uncertain future.

**Pictures and Synopses courtesy of University of Nebraska Press.

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Book Club Spotlight – Transcendent Kingdom

cover for Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.  a Black woman faces away from the viewer, her hands and posture in a praying pose. the cover is cut in half slant-ways between black and a pale pink

Reading all the books I feature in the spotlight puts me in a perpetual time crunch of my own making. However, that was not a problem as I read today’s Book Club Spotlight in one day because it was so incredible. Transcendent Kingdom is Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel following the success of her debut, Homegoing. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Gyasi has won the PEN/Hemingway Award for a first book of fiction, the American Book Award for Homegoing, and she was featured not only on the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 list but also the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Born in Ghana and raised in Alabama, Gyasi proves in her novels that the immigrant story is not a monolith, and in Transcendent Kingdom, she tackles the great costs of depression and addiction.

Gifty, a neuroscience doctoral student, is studying the reward-seeking behavior in mice, especially as it relates to depression and addiction. Once the mice are hooked on Ensure, she looks for the lengths addicted mice will go to reach their reward and how to dissuade that neurological impulse. While she tries to keep it a secret from her peers, Gifty has a deep connection with addiction and depression. Her older brother, Nana, lost to opiate addiction. And her mother, torn apart by grief, is sleeping in her daughter’s bed. Gifty’s parents moved to the United States from Ghana when Nana was young, only for her father to leave them for the homeland when she was very young. Left to fend for themselves all alone, the family never quite recovered. And Gifty, fueled by ambition focused on nothing but proving herself over and over again. If she was the best, if she did the hardest thing, she’d have a place to rest. Reconciling with the past as a means to her future, Gifty spends her energy trying to understand the problem that tore her family apart while keeping what’s left of it together. 

I want everything and I want to want less.”

Yaa Gyasi

Focusing on Gifty’s relationship with her family as it transforms and her time in her “motherland” of Ghana, Transcendent Kingdom, is not plot-driven but purpose-driven. To know the story is to understand Gifty and all the little disjointed areas of her life that came together to make her whole. There is no magical solution to her problems, only a continued forward motion. An integral part of Transcendent Kingdom is the struggle between the spiritual and the scientific mind- knowing deep in ourselves that if we can figure out the mechanics of why something happens or why this person is who they are, we can fully understand them and be at peace. Recovering from her anxious evangelical upbringing, Gifty ran to science and only science. But as her questions get more complex and philosophical, she finds herself tentatively reaching out to something more. 

January is Mental Health Awareness Month: 

  • If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.
  • To learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, visit FindSupport.gov.
  • To locate treatment facilities or providers, visit FindTreatment.gov or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).

If you’re interested in requesting Transcendent Kingdom  for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 5 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Gyasi, Yaa. Transcendent Kingdom. Vintage Books. 2020.

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#BookFaceFriday “I’m Going to Build a Snowman” by Jashar Awan

Bundle up it’s #BookFaceFriday!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, because we have access to all the books we could want! No matter the age group or reading level, you can find great books on Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Just like this week’s #BookFaceFriday, a picture book perfect for a snow day, “I’m Going to Build a Snowman” written and illustrated by Jashar Awan (‎‎Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 20231.) It’s a great reminder that just because the building is closed the library still has plenty to offer. It’s available for checkout as an ebook from Nebraska Overdrive Libraries.

“When a little boy wakes up to see a blanket of snow covering the world outside, there’s only one thing to do: make a snowman, and not just any snowman—he wants the best snowman ever. But when his perfectly packed and powdery dreams clash with cold, slushy reality, he realizes the best snowman ever may be out of reach…but he can make his best snowman yet.”

Book Jacket

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

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

 
 

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#BookFaceFriday “The Orphan Collector” by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Take a seat, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

There’s nothing like the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 to put those winter sniffles into perspective. Take your mind off of everything and get lost in a good book. Like this week’s BookFace, “The Orphan Collector: A Novel” by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 2020), a historical fiction novel about German immigrants in Philadelphia. This title is available as a Book Club Kit for Nebraska libraries to check out, and also as an ebook and an audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries.

“Readers will not be able to help making comparisons to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how little has changed since 1918. Wiseman has written a touching tale of loss, survival, and perseverance with some light fantastical elements.”

— Booklist

Book Club Kits Rules for Use

  1. These kits can be checked out by the librarians of Nebraska libraries and media centers.
  2. Circulation times are flexible and will be based upon availability. There is no standard check-out time for book club kits.
  3. Please search the collection to select items you wish to borrow and use the REQUEST THIS KIT icon to borrow items.
  4. Contact the Information Desk at the Library Commission if you have any questions: by phone: 800/307-2665, or by email: Information Services Team

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

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

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Book Club Spotlight – A Salty Piece of Land

Cover for A Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett. A white and red striped light house stands on an empty beach surrounded by crystal blue water

This December 25th, we celebrated the birth of the late great legend, Mr. Jimmy Buffett. The Margaritaville singer-songwriter known for his island lifestyle and escapism passed away this last year on September 1st. So, to celebrate a true icon, we are spotlighting one of his many fiction books: A Salty Piece of Land. Which picks up from Buffett’s short story “Take Another Road” featured in the Tales From Margaritaville collection. A Salty Piece of Land even has its own single to accompany your island-time reading relaxation. 

When we meet up with cowboy Tully Mars and his trusty steed, Mr. Twain, as they are on the run from a vindictive poodle ranch owner. The pair hightail it out of the mainland and end up on a shrimp boat headed for the Caribbean. Driftless, and surrounded by the cool, pink sands of Cayo Loco, Tully meets old sea captain Cleopatra Highbourne, who has quite the proposal for him: Fix up the abandoned lighthouse and escape everything he is running from. 

“Life is unpredictable, but there is a lot out there to do and see if you just tune in to the radio.”

Jimmy Buffet 

Interspersed with beautiful Caribbean vistas and colorful characters, A Salty Piece of Land is as chill as Buffett’s music. The characters Tully encounters are as varied and strange as their names but are just as heartfelt and dear. Sprinkled with Buffett’s knowledge of the sea, navigation, and lighthouses, A Salty Piece of Land is escapist literature at its finest. Adult Book Clubs and Parrotheads will enjoy the familiar vibes of Buffett’s prose and that never-ending chase for freedom, eternal youth, and sunshine. 

Fins up!

If you’re interested in requesting A Salty Piece of Land  for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 8 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Buffet, Jimmy. A Salty Piece of Land. Back Bay Books. 2005.

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Friday Reads: Harry Bosch Novels

I started this series by Michael Connelly after watching the first season of the Bosch TV show on Amazon, I was hooked and immediately put the first book in the series, “The Black Echo” (Little, Brown and Company, 1992.) It’s the first in the 24 book series. This series has also inspired the spin offs The Lincoln Lawyer and The Renee Ballard Detective series. I’m currently reading book five, “Trunk Music.”

So if you’re late to the game like I was, let me tell you a little about Harry Bosch. These procedural police novels follow LA homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch as he doggedly pursues cases in Hollywood. A Vietnam vet and a perpetual loner, Harry doesn’t always play well with others, including the top brass. He can’t stand the politics that influence police work, it’s gotten him in trouble and cost him in his profession. But his hard-nosed approach to police work, an innate curiosity, and trusting his gut instincts make him an excellent detective and help him close cases in a department that sometimes has a less than 50% closure rate.

If you like the anticipation of a long series that follows familiar faces through thick and thin, a likable but morally gray protagonist, or a classic detective murder mysteries then this series is for you.

Connelly, Michael. The Black Echo. Little, Brown and Company. 1992.

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#BookFaceFriday “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh

Don’t stress, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

Happy New Year from the Nebraska Library Commission! In our humble opinion, there’s no better New Year’s resolution than the classic “I want to read more books!” Make sure you get the Libby App downloaded on that brand-new Kindle or iPad you got for Christmas; all you need is a library card to read all the amazing books available on Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. One of those great titles is “My Year of Rest and Relaxation: A Novel” by Ottessa Moshfegh, available as an ebook and audiobook. Here at NLC we like to embark on a new year by setting fresh reading goals or starting a new reading challenge! If you’re trying to read a certain number of books this year, the library is the easiest way to make that happen; don’t forget to check out ebooks and audiobooks from Nebraska OverDrive Libraries.

“One of the most compelling protagonists modern fiction has offered in years: a loopy, quietly furious pillhead whose Ambien ramblings somehow wend their way through sad and funny and strange toward something genuinely profound.”

— Entertainment Weekly

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

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

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New Book Available on BARD!

“Take All to Nebraska” by Sophus Keith Winther is now available on cartridge and for download on BARD!

A novel about a Danish family struggling to establish themselves on a rented farm in Nebraska at the turn of the century.

TBBS borrowers can request “Take All to Nebraska”, DBC02009, or download it from the National Library Service BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. If you have high-speed internet access, you can download books to your smartphone or tablet, or onto a flash drive for use with your player. You may also contact your reader’s advisor to have the book mailed to you on cartridge.

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#BookFaceFriday “The Christmassy Cactus” by Beth Ferry

I’m dreaming of a #BookFaceFriday!

We want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays with this week’s #BookFace! And surprise, surprise, books are our preferred way to celebrate the holidays! Reading a fun book all snuggled up on the couch with a hot drink is the perfect tradition, so if your looking for a new book option for the younger readers in your life check out “the Christmassy Cactus” written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by N.A. Kang (HarperCollins, 2023.) This picture book is full of delightful illustrations and a fun story for all ages.

“Little readers will be delighted by the holiday magic …This succulent successfully steals the spotlight from the ever-present evergreens.” —Kirkus Reviews

This title comes from our large collection of children’s and young adult books sent to us as review copies from book publishers. When our Children and Young Adult Library Services Coordinator, Sally Snyder, is done with them, the review copies are available for the Library System Directors to distribute to school and public libraries in their systems.

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

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