Author Archives: Lisa Kelly

Friday Reads: The Perfect Passion Company by Alexander McCall Smith

This book may be the first in another new series and released in time for Valentine’s Day since it features a matchmaking business.  Katie Donald agrees to leave her job at a London gallery to run the Perfect Passion Company in Edinburgh while the proprietor, Katie’s Aunt Ness, takes an adult gap year in Ontario, Canada. Katie has no formal training in this business and receives only brief but basic instructions.  Ness introduces Katie to William, the handsome Australian knitwear designer who lives in a flat adjacent to the agency office. William, along with the accountant, will be all the support Katie receives as she begins interviewing and introducing hopeful, love-seeking clients who would rather not use dating apps.

Her first client is a retired airline pilot turned farmer, who is looking for someone to cook for him. Her second client has struggled with relationships due to an overbearing mother. A third client is a verbose woman whose list of requirements for a man is lengthy and unattainable. Katie sends the first client to cooking school, the second client receives an introduction to a very strong-willed and assertive woman, and the third client is introduced to a man who wears adjustable hearing aids. Mostly successful and humorous results all around.

What makes Smith such a reliable author for me are his charming characters in delightful settings with clever dialog. This book is set in Edinburgh in the New Town area, the same neighborhood used for the 44 Scotland Street Series. In this book Katie is a level-headed, self-confident woman who is an excellent problem solver. Often, Katie is able to hold back words in a conversation she would like to say, but realizes in the moment, perhaps another comment would be more acceptable. Her interior thoughts are funny and relatable, unfortunately, her own success in love is lacking. William possess common sense, artistic talent, and tact although he has a few blind spots when it comes to his own love life. Smith rounds out the cast with hyperbolic and amusing characters. Having been to Edinburgh, I am familiar with the setting and am always happy to visit again.

Finding nonfiction to read is never difficult, but more recently, fiction has been a challenge.  Alexander McCall Smith will always be a go to author for me.

Smith, Alexander McCall. The Perfect Passion Company. Vintage. 2024

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

New Postal Rates

New prices for Library Mail from the USPS went into effect on January 21.  The new rates, which represent about a 6% increase, can be found here. The Library Mail rates are scheduled to increase again in July 2024.

In July 2023 the USPS introduced a new product line entitled USPS Ground Advantage.  For libraries that need to ship heavier items in a non-time sensitive manner, but would like the items to be insured, this may be a good alternative to FedEx or UPS, as all Ground Advantage packages are automatically insured for $100 at no extra charge, with tracking included. Click for the new rates

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Friday Reads, Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Many times, I have selected audio books for their length but this time I selected for the narrator, Meryl Streep. Eleven and a half hours still left me wanting more. When it ended, I wondered, what will I do now? How can I follow that?  Meryl’s voice is maternal, comforting, and restorative. Her delivery assures you everything will be all right. Even the author recommends listening to the book rather than reading the text.

The book is told through the voice of Lara, wife to Joe, and mother to 3 grown daughters and that makes it especially wonderful for Meryl to read. Set during the pandemic, all of her girls have returned home to the family orchard in northern Michigan. In the days of weeks of being sequestered, the girls encourage and cajole their mother to tell the stores of her young life when she shared the stage and a romance with a now famous actor, Peter Duke, in a summer stock theater called Tom Lake.

Time travels from the present to the past in the form of Lara recalling her youth mostly for the girls but also through interior thoughts shared only with the reader. For anyone who has lost young love and looks back, this is a familiar theme. Hindsight without nostalgia can bring clarity. Love during different ages of life and appreciating mature love.

This is a novel without drama or angst. One friend who read it agreed with me in calling the novel a warm hug. A bucolic story read to you by Meryl Streep. What are you waiting for?

Patchett, Ann. Tom Lake. Harper. 2023

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Nebraska Public Media Book Club Kit Inspired by the new Ken Burns documentary The American Buffalo

In partnership with Nebraska Public Media, the Nebraska Library Commission has added 30 copies of Great Plains Bison to our book club collection. Book club kits with 10 copies are also owned by: Bellevue Public Library, Kearney Public Library, Lincoln City Libraries, and the Regional Library Systems

This book club kit explores the themes of conservation, restoration and respect. What can we learn from the stories of bison and the Pawnee seed keepers? How can conservation be practiced today?
The book club guide includes:
Discussion questions
Additional reading suggestions and organizations to explore
Two recipes from Chef Anthony Warrior

Great Plains Bison, written by buffalo rancher Dan O’Brien (also featured in The American Buffalo), traces the history and ecology of this American symbol from the origins of the great herds that once dominated the prairie to its near extinction in the late 19th century and the subsequent efforts to restore the bison population. A project of the Center for Great Plains Studies and the School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska; published by Bison Books.

Seed Warriors, directed by Rebekka Schlichting (Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska), follows a group of seed keepers in their ancestral homelands of Nebraska as they seek to regain sovereignty over the food system. By reclaiming their sacred corn seeds, they work to return to the healthy, traditional lifeways of the Pawnee people. Learn more at

Produced in collaboration with Nebraska Public Media for the HOMEGROWN: Future Visions digital shorts series. HOMEGROWN: Future Visions is a Co-Production of Firelight Media and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), with funding provided by the CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING (CPB), In Association with PBS

Ken Burns’s newest documentary, The American Buffalo, tells the dramatic story of the near extinction and improbable rescue of America’s national mammal. Premiering October 16 on PBS and the PBS Video App. Learn more at

Posted in Books & Reading, Education & Training | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: So Many Steves: Afternoons with Steve Martin by Steve Martin and Adam Gopnik

This is another Friday listens as this title is only available in audio format. Published by Pushkin Audio  (co-founded by Jacob Weisberg and Malcolm Gladwell) — “Pushkin audiobooks are not your typical author-in-front-of-a-microphone productions. They are immersive — you hear the actual voices of the people being interviewed, archival footage, and beautiful scoring.” I’ve been a Steve Martin fan since his white-suit and arrow-through-the-head days. His SNL skits from Dancing in the Dark with with Gilda Radner to the Festruck Brothers with Dan Ackroyd were legend. Years ago, he loaned a piece of art from his collection  for an exhibit in the Sheldon Museum of Art and I often sat and watched it after my campus walks.  The proximity was oddly thrilling.

This audio-biography is a series of conversations recorded over the course of a year between Steve and long-time friend Adam Gopnik.  The two met in the fall of 1990 at a controversial exhibit Gopnik curated called High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture at the Museum of Modern Art. They shared many conversations since that time and decided to record Adam, asking questions about Steve’s evolution in both his personal and professional life. The topics cover Steve as magician, standup comic, actor, writer, playwright, musician, composer, and art collector. Hence the title, So Many Steves, that was inspired by a poem written by e.e. cummings, So Many Selves.

I saved this book to listen to on the morning of my birthday while I walked. I learned that Steve used Carl Reiner as a personality mentor watching and studying Carl’s ease with people in conversation employing deft humor. When Tommy Smothers said that “talking to Steve Martin is like sitting in a room alone” – you understand, Steve knew he needed help overcoming his off stage social ineptitude. The best takeaway was Steve reflecting on his life in the late 80s at a time when he began trusting his craft and wondering what was different. There was a Hungarian word for this, Pihentagyú, which means “a relaxed brain.”  It describes a quick-witted person who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions because their mind is at rest. With a relaxed brain, it is easier to think quickly and clearly.  I would credit this to both age and experience, so listening to this while marking another year was especially meaningful.

Of course, I understand the value of print, and I am a long time audio book listener, but these hybrid audio presentations are exactly what I want from an author and performer. A conversational narrative accompanied with a specific soundtrack relevant to the story.  If this sounds like your kind of thing, check out Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon, a finalist for the 2023 audiobook of the year. Audible’s Words+Music recordings with over 35 notable musicians are also something to consider. There’s no shortage of ways to delight your aural senses.

Steve Martin and Adam Gopnik So Many Steves: Afternoons with Steve Martin. Pushkin Industries. 2023.

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | 1 Comment

Friday Reads: The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe by Angela Kelly

Judging a book by its cover is one way to select what to read but I have often judged an audio book by its length. Five hours is perfect for a palette cleanser in between longer tomes. Such is the case with this book.  Also recommending this selection was the phrase: “fully endorsed by Queen Elizabeth II.” Lastly, the author narrated her book and while this can sometimes be a drawback, Angela, a Liverpudlian, who is conscientious of her accent, spends some time in the book discussing her desire for elocution lessons. The Queen herself takes on this task and this memorable conversation shows the kind of friendship she enjoyed with Her Majesty. Kelly’s slow and precise storytelling reveal her character in a way nothing else could.

Dressing the queen is, as you can imagine, a time laden and rigorous job. Protocol, tradition, regalia, weather, and every kind of unexpected condition you can imagine, make this job rife with problems to solve. Angela began her position as Personal Assistant and Senior Dresser in 1993 and moved on to increasingly more important and intimate tasks until the Queen’s death in 2022. Working with a battalion of milliners, jewelers, perfectly sighted seamstresses, and other palace staff, she shares various wardrobe stories that are quite charming.

For example, did Her Majesty break in brand new shoes? No, Angela, being the same size broke them in for her. And when a hat was hastily shipped for an occasion without being checked or tailored, Angela unpacked it knowing that it wouldn’t flatter Her Majesty and came up with the brilliant solution for her to wear it backwards. When Prince Philip agreed, the Queen acquiesced and it was a success to everyone but perhaps the milliner. How to clean jewelry at the last minute? Gin and water of course.  According to Angela, one of the Queen’s secret wishes was to have her photograph taken more casually with her hands in her pockets. Angela created an opportunity and designed a dress for this to happen. The Queen’s face says it all.

Unfortunately, I went looking for the back-story on Angela. To no one’s surprise, the new King evicted her from her semi-detached grace-and-favour cottage. There is speculation that Angela was set to write another book about the queen. Perhaps her royally financed new home, not so close to London, came with a signed agreement to say no more.  

After hearing Angela’s story, I can categorically say, this is a job I would not want.  Yet, I found it interesting to hear from someone inside the palace who was given permission to share her story.

Kelly, Angela. (2019). The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe. Harper.

Posted in Books & Reading, General | Tagged | Leave a comment

Demon Copperhead wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Recently, Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. “Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.” We have added 5 copies of Demon Copperhead to our book club collection, click here to make your request.

Barbara Kingsolver is an author whose work “often focuses on topics such as social justice, biodiversity, and the interaction between humans and their communities and environments.” We have several of her titles in our collection for your group to select to create meaningful discussions.

Posted in Books & Reading, General, Information Resources, Programming | Tagged | Leave a comment

Interlibrary Loan makes a difference in Nebraska

The Nebraska Library Commission assists many students in Nebraska by providing interlibrary loan (ILL) services to their schools to help them complete their assignments and research projects. Recently, ILL helped an Ainsworth Middle School student qualify for the National History Day contest. Kara Welch, the Media Specialist at Ainsworth Community School sent us the following:

“We wanted you to know we had one student win 1st place at State NHD this past weekend & qualify for Nationals with her junior individual performance titled “Arbor Day: Greener Frontier in Nebraska’s Environment.” She also won first prize for the NEBRASKAland Foundation Award. This special prize is given for the best use of primary sources to research a Nebraska topic. Without all of your help we would be lost! Thanks for all you do!”

See this story for more information:

Posted in Education & Training, General, Information Resources | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: The Cutting Room and The Second Cut by Louise Welsh

Looking for Scottish authors in preparation for an upcoming trip, Megan at Francie and Finch pointed me to Louise Welsh, a writer and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Both titles are 1 and 2 in a series that feature a promiscuous, gay auctioneer named Rilke, who works for a struggling auction house in Glasgow. For those who like to listen, Scottish actor Alan Cumming narrates this series to perfection. In both books, Rilke’s company is hired to expedite the sale of a considerable estate with complete discretion.

In The Cutting Room, Bowery Auctions liquidates the home of the wealthy and recently deceased Roddy McKindless. Rilke discovers a collection of snuff photographs hidden in an extensive pornography library. The woman featured in the photos is stuck in his memory. Is she alive or dead and how can he put his mind at ease? In The Second Cut, Rilke follows a tip for a questionable estate sale from his friend JoJo, who turns up dead a few days later. There are additional circumstances that create doubt about the legitimacy of the sale, including the missing matriarch, the intended beneficiary of the auction proceeds. Where do you begin to investigate snuff photography and even though JoJo was known to the police for various recreational activities, why is his death not being investigated as a murder? Rilke’s moral compass compels him to find answers.

Unlike busybody sleuths in cozy mysteries, Rilke moves through the seedy underbelly of Glasgow to investigate with more incentive than sheer nosiness. His professional reputation and livelihood are at stake. The deals he makes to barter information with various characters/criminals often put his life in danger.  The cast created by Welsh is colorful, gritty, and uniquely likeable.  Given the amount of time between the two books, I am hopeful Louise continues writing Rilke stories and that Alan continues narrating them.

Welsh, Louise, The Cutting Room. ‎ Canongate Books Ltd. 2003.
Welsh, Louise, The Second Cut. ‎ Canongate Books Ltd. 2022.

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: Johnny Carson and Kate Remembered

When I shelved books at Beatrice Public Library, we had a separate room for biographies and all of our comfortable chairs were located there. I always wondered about the patrons that found the lives of others so fascinating, and now, I realize that person is me. Is it just one-step away from reading People magazine at your dentist office or is it something more? Since I have started reading biographies, they have become one of my favorite genres. Here are two biographies I read this summer: 

Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin

I grew up with Johnny Carson reliably making us laugh at the end of the day until his last broadcast in May of 1992 when Bette Midler serenaded him with One More For My Baby. The author is described as Johnny’s “personal legal adviser, fixer, confidant, and close friend.” Carson referred to Bushkin as his best friend.  The book covers their 18-year relationship, which began when the author was 27 years old in 1970. Had the relationship not ended abruptly or acrimoniously, I wonder if Bushkin would have written this book?  The author reveals Johnny’s copious generosity, his inability to be a good husband or money manager, and the psychological damage inflicted on him by his mother from which he never recovered. His mercurial temperament and his grudges were legend. This book pulled back the curtain on an icon that I would have rather left alone but through the eyes of Bushkin, I felt I got closer to the truth or at least one version of it.  Despite it all, nobody hosted a show quite like Johnny and watching old clips of him still brings a smile to my face.

Kate Remembered by A. Scott Berg

I listened to Kate Remembered shortly after it was published in 2003. After I gave copies to my neighbor Mary and to my friend Vern, I thought it was time to have another listen. Incidentally, the book is narrated by the actor Tony Goldwyn who does a fair Hepburn impression. The book focuses on Berg’s friendship with Hepburn that started in 1983 and lasted until her death. Berg was Kate’s chronicler as she lavished stories upon him from her life and some episodes that I suspect she rarely shared.  From the author’s book cover,   “… Miss Hepburn often used our time together to reflect, an exercise in which I don’t think she indulged with anybody else.”  I found Scott’s speculative answer to Kate’s question on why he thought Tracy drank so much fascinating and likely spot on. Learning about Kate through Scott’s writing, and what I hope were direct quotes of Hepburn’s, was worth a first and a second visit. After I finished, I re watched The Philadelphia Story and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner again. Time well spent.

So what is the appeal of biographies? Because there is always more to someone’s life is than meets the eye. Triumphs and tragedies are a human condition no matter your fame or infamy. We are all broken.

Bushkin, Henry. Johnny Carson. Boston, MA; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
Berg, A. Scott. Kate Remembered. New York, NY. Putnam Adult, 2003.

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR by Lisa Napoli

This book was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of NPR. After reading several biographies on Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Gloria Steinem, the gender discrimination incidents presented here were not revelatory; however, the history of each of the four women was worthwhile and interesting.

Their individual journeys to what their male counterparts contemptuously called the "Fallopian Jungle" (the female section of the newsroom) required tenacity and the willingness to work long hours learning on the job.

Unfortunately, one sentence derailed my experience with this book and lead me down a rabbit hole of research. In July 1974, Nina Totenberg, “polled 200 hundred people on the Hill” to write a story called “The Dumbest Congressman.”

“Among the dumb? Sen. Roman Hruska from Nebraska was so dumb he’d actually said that ‘mediocrity deserves a seat on the Supreme Court’ (Napoli, 109). I’m uncertain if this next sentence was in Totenberg’s article or added by Napoli but the charge against Hruska continues “(two strikes: Hruska owned a chain of dirty movie theaters, yet had sponsored an anti-smut bill.)” (109). Regardless who is calling out Hruska’s hypocrisy, what piqued my curiosity was getting to the bottom of the theater question. A Nebraska senator owning what I would interpret as pornographic theaters was something I’d never learned in my Nebraska history. Trust, but verify. A New York Times article  from 1970 titled “Rival Charges Hruska Peddles Smut” reveals there was more to the story:

In what may be the region’s bitterest election contest, Senator Roman L. Hruska of Nebraska, a noted opponent of violence and pornography, has been labeled a smut peddler and glorifier of brutality. The man who seeks to unseat him, former Gov. Frank B. Morrison, says the 66-year old Republican is using the screens of five drive-in movie theaters he partly owns in this area to show horror scenes in such films as The Blood Drinker and lewd situations in such works as Catch 22. Despite Senator Hruska’s continued explanation that he is merely an investor in a chain of Nebraska theaters and does not participate actively in the management (Mr. Morrison) continues to imply the Senator votes against pornography on the Senate floor but peddles smut in his theaters.” (Drummond Ayres Jr.)

An investor in several drive-in theaters definitely isn’t the same thing as owning a chain of dirty movie theaters. I called Kay Schmid, the director of the Roman Hruska Public Library. She provided the following political advertisement titled “At the Movies with Roman Hruska” published in the Columbus Telegram on October 30, 1970.  The advertisement quotes Jack Anderson of the Washington Post and was paid for The Concerned Citizens of Nebraska:

When Senator Roman Hruska preaches about the evils of violence and pornography, he knows whereof he speaks. He is a partner in a movie chain that has recently featured skin flicks like Girl on a Chain Gang and violence like The Blood Drinker. The pious Nebraskan has sponsored numerous bills against smut and violence but Hruska’s “common decency and good morals” apparently do not impel him when his pocketbook is affected. The senator wouldn’t say how much he gets out of the Douglas Theaters, except that it is “making a profit.” Asked whether he would make a public accounting, the crusader for public morality said, “Heaven’s No! It’s none of the public’s business as long as there is no conflict of interest.” Senator Hruska incidentally voted against a Senate Standards of Conduct Amendment, which would have required Senators to report their sources of income.

However, it was amassed, Hruska’s fortune was enough to have a public library (David City), a federal courthouse (Omaha), and law center (Lincoln), named for him. You can draw your own conclusions about Hruska’s values, but Napoli or Totenberg’s throwaway sentence about “owning a chain of dirty movie theaters” is inflammatory and inaccurate. It left me wondering if Napoli made any other statements that might require fact checking.

Napoli, Lisa. Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR. Blackstone Publishing. 2021.

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

Run, Rose, Run and the accompanying music cd with the same name came out just in time for me to give to my sister for her birthday. She is a big Dolly Parton fan and I was interested in reading and listening to the music at the same time. I was also interested in a book/music combination. The audiobook was read with multiple narrators including Dolly Parton whose voice I love. Unfortunately, the songs performed in the book were spoken as poetry, not sung. Inserting musical interludes in the story as they were performed could have offered a unique and brilliant audio experience. A missed opportunity in my opinion.

Even though this is a typical Patterson thriller, it was the music industry part of the novel and the character Dolly narrated (Ruthanna) that made me interested in listening. Ruthanna is a newly retired country music singer who is ready to stop touring and singing even though her fans want more. AnnieLee (aka Rose) is a young, talented, singer songwriter newly arrived in Nashville, eager to launch her career with nothing but talent, tenacity, and something she needs to leave behind.

Ruthanna takes on AnnieLee as her protégé sharing her band, her recording studio, and business saavy. After reading a romance that was low angst, it is exactly the angst of AnnieLee’s past and her secret that fuel the plot and make her run, repeatedly. Hence the title and the earworm of the song Run.  

For me, the secret was predictable and fueled the finale in a chase across the country. In a thriller, the story begins like a roller coaster clicking up the incline, tick, tick, tick, tick. Then the drop begins, all hell breaks loose, and you race to the end. I read into the night and was glad to know the conclusion which was about what I predicted, almost. When my sister finished, our reactions were very much the same. As readers of mysteries and thrillers, this one didn’t stand out as something either one of us would recommend but we enjoyed talking about it together.  We also enjoyed the music, given more context from the book.  Reading books with one person is my new book group so I was grateful to have an opportunity to share with my sister.

Parton, Dolly and James Patterson. Run, Rose, Run. ‎ Little, Brown and Company. 2022.

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Remembering Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer, age 62, died this past week. He was a man who dedicated his life to improving health care for impoverished people in the world. He came to my attention watching CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend. I want to learn more about him and realized we have a book about him in our book club collection, Mountains Beyond Mountains, written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder. It’s always been on my list of titles to read and I realize it’s time to move it to the top of the list. You may want to consider this selection for your book club’s next read.

Posted in Books & Reading | Leave a comment

Elementary School Book Club reads Refugee by Alan Gratz

Sarah Castillo, media specialist at Logan View Public Schools in Hooper, borrowed copies of Refugee by Alan Gratz for her 4-6 Grade Enrichment Program Students from the Library Commission book club collection. This year students had 3 options to choose from: Book Club, Macrame, or creating Book Soundtracks. She sent us this photo and said “thank you again for supplying the books for us!”

Posted in Books & Reading, Youth Services | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: Celebrating Jolabokaflod

Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood” in English, is the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve and reading into the night. Here are two books I am gifting my friends Vern and Jon for their Christmas Eve reading.

Vern was born the same day and year as Stanley Tucci and honestly, there are some passages in Taste that make me believe there could be something to birthday twins being similar. Vern’s husband Jon is a huge Foo Fighters fan, and all the press Dave Grohl’s book, The Storyteller, received made me curious to learn more about this musician’s life.  I think it is helpful (mandatory?) to read a book before you gift it because giving books can be a burden to the recipient — if you don’t believe in the book, why should they? I’m pretty certain I have a sure thing with both titles.

For those who aren’t familiar with Stanley Tucci, he became an internet sensation this past spring for his viral instructional video on mixing a negroni which is, incidentally, the very first recipe in his book. The recipe concludes with the following instructions: sit down, drink it, declaring, “the sun is now in your stomach.” Tucci’s book is a memoir through the lens of food. There are chapters on his Italian parents and their traditions; the family’s year spent living in Italy; restaurants and life in New York as a young actor; food on several film sets and locations; food with his wife, Kate; life in London with his wife, Felicity; and surviving tongue cancer. This book also complements the CNN Series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, which aired earlier this year and is still available for viewing on demand if you missed it the first time around. And good news, there is confirmation of season two!

I devoured this book, and knowing I would be sharing it with Vern I consumed it with anticipatory glee, imagining his reactions. And even though I listened to Tucci narrate the audio edition of his book, I used post it notes to mark certain passages in Vern’s print edition that I hoped would stand out. I predict the New York chapter and the Meryl Streep Julie and Julia chapter will be favorites. I read a review of this audiobook that said “listening to this memoir is not a completely successful experience,” but in my opinion that reviewer is simply wrong. While it’s nice to have the recipes in print, listening to Tucci speak Italian and curse makes the audio preferable to me.  During the pandemic, armchair travel was all many of us could do, and if Italy is on your list? Get Tucci’s book, watch his series, boil some pasta, and you’ll be halfway to celebrating la dolce vita!

As a former musician, I found Grohl’s process of coming to music as a vocation fascinating. Like the Beatles and my personal favorite, James Taylor, Grohl never learned to read music.  Dave taught himself to play by fastidiously listening to music and literally making the drum sounds with his teeth, leading his dentist to wonder what caused his early dental deterioration. Because he couldn’t rely on written music, there was a memorization that made the music a part of him. He does admit to taking one drum lesson where he was told he was holding his sticks wrong, but that was his only formal education. Grohl also described how he experienced music through synesthesia – a process when hearing music makes you see shapes or smell something specific. It is, quite literally, “a neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of your senses.”

The relationship between Dave and his mom is also one to cherish. Her counsel and support to a son who was danger prone (a frequent visitor to the ER) and not driven to scholarly success was affirming to read, especially knowing that it all worked out in the end. As a single mom, he describes her as his best friend. This famous relationship is documented in a book written by Virginia Grohl: From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars .

After reading several memoirs and biographies, I have to comment that Dave’s attention to his relationships lacks details. Describing a particular recording session, he mentions his marriage was falling apart, and unless I missed it there was no prior mention of a marriage. He begins another paragraph with a phone conversation to his mom by saying, “Mom, we’re having a girl.”  It’s possible wives past and present wanted little mention in the book or maybe that’s just the way Dave rolls. The overall takeaway for me is that Dave is driven and deeply introspective in a way that has served him well. I admired his ability to make and maintain friends throughout his life and his tenacious optimism.

And – if you’re wondering what my neighbor Mary is reading? Once I found the very first book in the Mitford Series in her book stacks, she was completely engaged with these characters and the North Carolina setting. She read all of the books in a couple of months. She followed the series by reading the Stanley Tucci book I loaned her and has now started on the Louise Penny Inspector Gamach series.  I gave her a copy of Rosamund Pilcher’s Winter Solstice for her birthday in October and we read it together for the holiday, a book that I learned she had purchased years ago and I located recently, tucked away in her collection. I only brought back to her what she had already found but had forgotten about. Happy Jolabokaflod everyone!

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: Reading with Mary

My dear friend Mary, who lives two floors above me, suffered a television outage last winter. This was catastrophic since her TV is always on, serving as companion, entertainer, and white noise. Out of desperation, Mary–who in recent years earnestly believed she’d lost the concentration needed to read an entire book—picked up the copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer that I’d given her. She read it cover to cover; it reminded her of her home in North Carolina, and she loved it! More importantly, she felt triumphant, proving to herself that she COULD still read books!

I wanted to keep her reading momentum going so when Nigella Lawson, a favorite food writer of ours, released a new book called Cook, Eat, and Repeat: Ingredients, Recipes, and Stories, I ordered two copies. We kept a running commentary as we consumed the pages. An entire chapter on anchovies? Are they REALLY the bacon of the sea? Saving and cooking with banana peels was a zero waste solution? Not something either of us will try. But her essay on food as a guilty pleasure?  That was worth rereading together.

Nigella’s book made me think of Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life: A Cookbook, and I bought it for Mary and I listened to my copy a second time. This lead to conversations about Ruth’s other books, many of which Mary owned. Just as she’d somehow missed My Kitchen Year, I’d missed For You Mom, Finally, so Mary happily lent me her copy.

I turned to Mary’s own book stacks for my next recommendation, handing her an unread copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer. As a faithful letter writer and a lover of stationary, I had a feeling she would enjoy this epistolary book. She did and was ready for more.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mary-2.jpg
Mary in her eclipse sunglasses, August 2017.
Photo credit: Julee Hammer

After I finished reading Andre Leon Talley: The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, I thought it would be a good fit for Mary knowing she had been a Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue subscriber. An added bonus was Andre’s North Carolina nativity. After reading the first chapter she told me she was purposely taking it slow to make it last. Mary took a reading break to watch Wimbledon but once she was finished with Andre, I handed her I.M.: A Memoir by Isaac Mizrahi because I could tell she was still in the mood for fashion designers and had a penchant for biographies.

We next tackled, The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren, recommended by a coworker. This safe haven for modern, working women was the home to many celebrities including Sylvia Plath, an author Mary had previously researched. We both finished and thought the book was interesting and worthwhile but the finest takeaway was our discussion afterwards.  I was able to ask Mary questions no one had ever asked her before, and she answered them. It was an intimate communion and an evening I will never forget.

Floundering over what to offer Mary next, I ended up loaning her my copy of The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, continuing with the theme of female solidarity. Mary initially greeted this selection with reticence because she grew up in a house with hired help. However, because I’d earned her trust with my previous recommendations, she acquiesced and agreed to try it. She was hooked from the first page! When she finished it a week later, she returned it with high praise and a heartfelt thank you note I will treasure forever.

Having spotted two Rosamunde Pilcher paperbacks in Mary’s collection, I gave her a copy of the The Shell Seekers, confident she would appreciate Penelope, the bohemian protagonist, and the English locations. She finished in a week, sad for it to be over and sharing that she usually skips over description but she read every word in this book. She then expressed concern that she was now spending too much time reading, but she also wanted more Pilcher books!

Most recently–and just in time for the U.S. Open Tennis tournament–I presented her with the new Billie Jean King autobiography, All In. The next day she told me she stayed up way too late the night before, using the index to cherry pick stories, and that she really needed to get more sleep! My copy of All In is on hold at the library, and I’m eager to read it so we can discuss this amazing icon of tennis and gender equality.

I have never experienced this kind of simpatico with another reader. Whatever aligned for us to enjoy so many of the same books at the same time has been a luxury. Our discussions have been a respite from the pandemic and the news, but the biggest gift is learning more about each other and deepening our friendship. It has been such a pleasure to plot Mary’s reading through these last several months, and I must say I’m so grateful Mary’s television stopped working!

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | 8 Comments

Friday Reads: Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes by Ira Rosen

Who hasn’t heard of 60 Minutes, the iconic show that begins with the sound effect pronouncing Sunday night more effectively than any other time-keeping device ever could?  Ira Rosen, a longtime producer, pulls back the curtain on his years working with the famed newscasters. If you don’t want to know the dirt on these storied men, and it was all men at the beginning, this may not be the book for you. But I think you’ll want to know.

This iconic news program debuted in 1968, created by Don Hewitt and Bill Leonard. The now familiar magazine style newscast pioneered many techniques of investigative journalism including hidden cameras and “gotcha journalism”, the now infamous ambush visits to a home or office of an investigative subject.

Ira Rosen survived 25 years working behind the scenes of 60 minutes and was first assigned to Mike Wallace who said to Rosen “I know what I can do for you. What can you do for me?”  I shouldn’t have been surprised by the description of the smoke-filled, misogynist work place Rosen described. Oversized egos lead to thieving stories and unforgivable, sometimes inhumane behavior. With story after story, what is clear is that Mike Wallace was a horrible man with tremendous journalistic skills.

Certain parts of this book will make you cheer for journalism the way All the President’s Men and Spotlight did in cinema. That news can be a force for good and actually make a difference is something I often forget. The heart of a good journalist is not about tabloid questions but actually making a difference. In his years in the news business, Rosen and his colleagues did just that.

Rosen, Ira. Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes, New York: St. Martin’s Press 2021,

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny

My colleague Tessa Terry reviewed the Inspector Gamache series in 2018. This book is the latest (#16) in the series and takes place in Paris. It begins with the entire family walking home from a bistro dinner only to witness Armand’s godfather; Stephen Horowitz, violently hit and run over by a van. To Armand’s eyes, this is no accident, but the French Police aren’t convinced.

Series readers love the stability of spending time with beloved characters in a familiar place. This book leaves the usual setting of Three Pines (a small town in Quebec) and takes place primarily in Paris. French names were a challenge, keeping track of who was friend or foe, which was part of the plot twist. Working out of his jurisdiction Chief Inspector Gamache relies upon his librarian wife, Reine-Marie, a local librarian, and his family members to help discover the truth about his godfather’s attacker.

Tessa mentioned the narrator Ralph Cosham in her first review. From Audiofile Magazine: We are saddened that Ralph Cosham passed away in September 2014.  His voice for Gamache is described as one that “combines British intellectual with a Frenchman’s warmth … it’s as if those two got married–and Gamache would be their son.” From Louise Penny’s newsletter: “after this tragic loss, we finally have our new voice for the books … he’s a British actor named Robert Bathurst, best known in North America for his role in Downton Abbey.”  I was delighted that Bathurst recently beat Tom Hank’s in this past year’s Audie Awards for best Male Narrator for his recording of Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind. For a devoted series reader/listener, the narrator is as important as the text. I can personally vouch for both narrators.

If you are looking for some Pandemic reading (or listening), that will take you away from your living room to a small Canadian town with colorful characters, look no further. Here is the series listing if you prefer to read them in order.

Penny, Louise. All the Devils are Here   Minotaur Books. 2020.

Posted in Books & Reading | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dr. Becky Pasco is retiring!

After 23 years as the Director of the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Library Science Education programs, Dr. Becky Pasco is retiring on December 18, 2020 and heading off to new adventures. Dr. Sara Churchill is taking over as the Director of the Graduate School Library Education program at UNO. Erica Rose will continue as the Coordinator for the Undergraduate Library Science Education programs at UNO. Inquiries for information regarding the UNO Library Science Education programs should be directed as follows:

Dr. Sara Churchill
Graduate School Library program

Erica Rose
Undergraduate Library Science programs

Posted in Education & Training, General | Leave a comment

Friday Reads: Break Shot: My First 21 Years by James Taylor

More accurately described – Friday listens, this title is available exclusively from Break Shot was recorded by James in his home studio, TheBarn in western Massachusetts and released in conjunction with his 19th studio album, American Standard. At only an hour and a half, I listened twice, enjoying it even more the second time. It begins with the following: “I’m James Taylor and I’m a professional autobiographer. I usually talk about myself with a guitar in my hand and I have one now.” James explains that the title is an analogy for his tight knit family that eventually split apart “like a break shot in the game of pool … when you slam the cue ball into the fifteen other balls and they all go flying off.”  James and his four siblings were raised with great privilege in North Carolina in the ‘60’s but the family fell apart. Three of the kids ended up in psychiatric hospitals.  Drug and alcohol addiction took their toll.

Despite coming from a family of doctors and lawyers, James wasn’t interested in college. His parents supported his decision to spend tuition money on a flight to London. This trip provided the pivotal moment of his life. Through life-long friend Danny Kortchmar, James met with Peter Asher, the head of A&R (Artist & Repertoire) at Apple Records and played his demo tape.  Peter liked what he heard and recalls calling out,  “is there a Beatle in the house?”  James auditioned for Paul McCartney and George Harrison with the song Something in the Way She Moves. James’ first album James Taylor, was the first recording by a non-British artist released by Apple Records in 1968.

Break Shot didn’t provide a great deal of revelatory information, so much of James’ life is in his lyrics, but the storytelling intertwined with the recorded songs provided an experience you can’t have with a printed book. This audio memoir was for me, a private concert. This recording is part of a new series, Words+Music, Audible’s musical storytelling initiative. With other exclusive music biographies by Tom Morello, Common, St. Vincent, Sheryl Crow, and T Bone Burnett, I hope other audio publishers will begin providing similar recordings.

Posted in Books & Reading, General | Tagged | Leave a comment