Tag Archives: books

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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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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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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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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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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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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Book Club Spotlight – Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Mount Everest against a clear blue sky

It’s hard to feel fully in the holiday spirit when it’s supposed to be 52 degrees and raining on Christmas Day- so to get us in the “Let it Snow” mood, let’s visit a place where the weather is genuinely “frightful”. Standing at the China-Nepal border, at a ridiculous height of 29,031 feet 8 ½ inches, Mount Everest reaches airplane cruising height and skims into the stratosphere. Most of the year, monsoon winds and far below-freezing temperatures blast the peak, and with only about 33% of the oxygen level you’d find at sea level, it sounds like a reasonable place to visit! And one such visitor, journalist and mountaineer Jon Krakauer (author of Into the Wild, and Under the Banner of Heaven), ended up smack dab in one of the definitive tales from Mount Everest. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster is Krakauer’s first-hand account of the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster that would claim 8 lives before the night was through, the highest death count in a single day (at the time)

Lauded and controversial, Into Thin Air follows Krakauer as he joins the ill-fated 1996 Everest Expedition on behalf of Outside Magazine. As a journalist, his mission was to report from basecamp on the growing commercialization and traffic on Mount Everest, its toll on the Sherpa people and the environment, and the mountain’s unimaginable death rate. But as a mountaineer, the thrall of the peak was too strong, and he convinced his editor to let him make a push for the top. Joining an expedition team led by veteran climber Rob Hall, Krakauer notes due to the technical ease of the climb and the tireless (and thankless) work from the Sherpa guides, the over-commercialized ascent at times felt more like “paying someone to climb for me.” After summiting, Krakauer is waylaid on his descent, stuck in a traffic jam of climbers as they make their way to the top, far past the regarded safe time slot. As his descent continues, tragedy strikes. Small mistakes add up, while the egotism and greed of the expedition leaders and climbers lead to horrifying ends as a blizzard encapsulates Everest, trapping the enthusiasts and Sherpas in the Death Zone. Remember, reaching the summit is only half the journey.

“There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act—a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.”

Jon Krakauer 

Despite its great expense (anywhere from $30k – $60k) and the very real possibility of death- the mesmerizing top of the world worms its way into the minds of everyone from skilled climbers to middle managers who want a taste of beating the nearly impossible odds. Into Thin Air is breathtaking in that it even exists; very few people from Krakauer’s team survived, and he is lucky to be one of them. I find Mount Everest to be endlessly fascinating, and what is it about the human condition that drives people to climb it not for the sake of discovery or exploration- but for personal gain? Appropriate for Book Club Groups, Adults and Young Adults alike who don’t mind peril, Into Thin Air, and the enormity of Mount Everest can provide endless discussions into ethics and morality. What happens to a marvel of Earth and human achievement when it too falls to overconsumption and exploitation?

Excerpt from the article: Everest a Year Later: False Summit (May, 1997)

Krakauer: I don’t know why this tragedy has grabbed people with such force and won’t let go. Part of it’s the Everest mystique and part of it’s the absurdity and even perversity of people spending this kind of money chasing this kind of goal, throwing prudence and common sense to the wind. But in the final analysis I really don’t get it. I’m a victim and a beneficiary of it all at the same time. Everest has turned my life upside down. Nothing will ever be the same. Why did I end up climbing the mountain on that particular day, with those particular people? Why did I survive while others died? Why has this story become a source of fascination to so many people who ordinarily would have no interest in mountain climbing whatsoever?

I guess maybe we should think of Everest not as a mountain, but as the geologic embodiment of myth. And when you try to climb a chunk of myth – as I discovered to my lasting regret- you shouldn’t be too surprised when you wind up with a lot more than you bargained for. 

Further Readings: 

The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest by Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston Dewalt

  • Another account of The 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster a critical response to Into Thin Air

To Watch:

Everest- IMAX Film (1998) (Free on Vimeo)

  • IMAX movie, filmed during the events of the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster. Narrated by Liam Neeson. 

Dark Side of Everest (Free with ads or a lower quality is available on YouTube)

  • Follows the fated South African expedition that survived the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster, and their push on the summit shortly after

Death Zone (Free with ads)

  • “The dramatic self-documented story of 20 elite Nepali climbers who venture into the ‘Death Zone’ of Mount Everest to restore their sacred mountain and the contaminated water source of 1.3 billion people.” Narrated by Patrick Stewart

If you’re interested in requesting Into Thin Air for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 17 copies and 1 Large Print available. (A librarian must request items)

Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air. Anchor. 1997.

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Friday Reads: The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan

Growing in a small town, I had romantic notions of what it might be like be a farm kid. I would grow pumpkins, sweet corn, and strawberries.  I could have as many animals as my heart desired, and not be limited by a tiny backyard or city codes. Over time, these longings waned, yet I still find myself curious about people that take that leap and bravely (or sometimes naively) switch up their life completely and follow a big dream. In Hilarie Burton Morgan’s case that meant trading city life for Mischief Farm in upstate New York.  

The Rural Diaries book cover

Some of you may know Hilarie Burton Morgan for her acting career. She is best known for roles on One Tree Hill and White Collar. In 2009 she began dating The Walking Dead actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan and they married in 2019. Frankly, and I don’t usually have much interest in celebrity autobiographies unless I’m a fan of their work. I wasn’t familiar with any of Hilarie’s roles, but after recently listening to an interview about her second book, Grimoire Girl, I was intrigued. I found her spirited, smart, and a compelling storyteller. I decided to start with the audio version of her first book, The Rural Diaries, which is narrated by the author.  

On the surface The Rural Diaries could seem like the plot of a cheesy Christmas movie, which is fitting since Hilarie has starred in several Christmas movies in recent years. The book tells of the meeting and evolution of her relationship with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, their decision to buy a cabin in upstate New York, and the couple’s love affair with the small town of Rhinebeck. Every leading actor needs a best friend and, in this case, the Morgans became friends with fellow Rhinebeck residents Paul Rudd and his spouse Julie Yaeger. When the owner of a beloved local candy shop passed away, the two couples purchased it. The Morgans also decided to put down real roots in the community and purchased a larger farm property they dubbed Mischief Farm.

The Rural Dairies is more than idealistic candy shops and romanticized rural life. Yes, they do acquire a menagerie of animals and grow a garden as you might expect, but there are other layers to the story. The farm helps Hilarie reconnect to her Virginia roots and she shares a variety of recipes accompanied by stories. The book also delves much deeper into other parts of Hilarie’s life, including the challenges of relationships and becoming a parent. After struggling with infertility and loss, she discovers meaning in acts of service. She finds solace in community and the deep connections built in their beloved small town.

Overall the book is a compelling mix of humor, heart, and heartbreak. I recommend the audio book as Hilarie’s narration adds emotion and layers to her storytelling. You can hear and get a better feel for her Virginia roots that influence her traditions, world view, and ability to tell a good story. I will definitely be giving her second book a read.

Morgan, Hilarie Burton. The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm. Harper One, 2020.

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Book Club Spotlight – Tell the Wolves I’m Home

Cover for Tell the Wolves I'm Home. An ornate teapot against a green background.

This year’s theme for the 35th Annual World AIDS Day was Remember and Commit, which “pays tribute to those we have lost to HIV/AIDS and emphasizes our collective responsibility to act to end the HIV epidemic.”

Today’s Book Club Spotlight, focuses on Remembering, by taking us to what could be considered the epicenter of the early AIDS crisis- 1987 New York City. Carol Rifka Brunt’s debut novel Tell the Wolves I’m Home was named “One of the Best Books of the Year” by The Wall Street Journal, and also has the distinction of winning the Alex Award in 2013. The Alex Award is presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association to adult novels that have a special appeal to young adults. Spotlight alumnus I’m Glad My Mom Died has also received this award.

Just north of New York City, June Elbus, a romantic at heart, often disappears into the woods after school to pretend she is living in the Middle Ages, wearing medieval boots specially bought by her beloved uncle and famous artist Finn Weiss. June knows Finn is gay; everyone does. But after his death from AIDS, she learns he also had a partner, Toby—the man who is blamed for Finn’s death. In the months that follow, June is torn between jealousy, love and fear, as she forges an unlikely (and secret) friendship with Toby. Reconciling how much of her uncle she really knew until the lines between Toby and Finn begin to blur until she can’t see where one ends and the other begins. All the whileJune’s older sister, Greta, slowly loses herself amid attempts to reconcile their strained relationship. But the secrets between the two sisters are overwhelming and become too much for them to overcome on their own. Not until they start to talk through Finn’s final painting. 

“Because maybe I don’t want to leave the planet invisible. Maybe I need at least one person to remember something about me.”

Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home revels in the language of art, which often goes hand in hand with the Queer experience, and especially the HIV/AIDS Crisis. From Finn and June’s bonding over Mozart’s unfinished Requiem, to Greta starring in the school’s production of South Pacific. The novel uses art and and illness to focus on the absurdity and fear surrounding prejudices and danger they can put people in. Taking place only a few years after the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported, not much is known about the disease, and public panic and demonization of suffering gay men was at an all-time high. Brunt spends a large portion of her book delving into this fear and the vice it had on the public conscience. June’s family loves Finn, but fear turns them to avoiding him, even as they can see him deteriorating before their eyes. Especially for readers who have memories from or connections to the initial HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a great novel for adult Book Club Groups (or mature teens) to discuss prejudices and how they hold up to a modern lens. 

 And for a fitting multimedia experience, I recommend:  



If you’re interested in requesting Tell the Wolves I’m Home for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 5 copies and 1 Large Print available. (A librarian must request items)

Brunt, Carol Rifka. Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Dial Press. 2012.

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Friday Reads – The Labors of Hercules Beal by Gary D. Schmidt

I do read more age-appropriate books occasionally, I promise. But when my hold for The Labors of Hercules Beal became available, I tossed aside the mystery I was halfway through to dive into this instead. Whodunit? Who cares? Gary D. Schmidt is just that good.

If you have never read one of his middle-grade novels, start with The Wednesday Wars, or Okay for Now (both are available as Book Club Kits here at the Nebraska Library Commission!). If you are more familiar with Schmidt’s writing, this latest book will feel like coming home.

Hercules Beal is about to start 7th grade. But instead of joining his friends on the bus to the local public middle school, he will be walking to the Cape Code Academy for Environmental Sciences. He is not excited about this latest revelation, but not surprised. Over the last 18 months, it’s been nothing but bad news. He lost both of his parents in The Accident. His older brother Achilles reluctantly moved home, leaving his globe-trotting journalism career to run the Beal Family Farm and Nursery. His request for a pet dog was overruled in favor of a pet rabbit named “Honey Bunny.” Oh, and his new teacher this fall is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel. That’s a lot of rotten luck for a kid who hasn’t yet hit his Beal Family Growth Spurt.

But middle school begins, as sure as the sun rising over the dunes of Cape Cod, and Hercules does grow, both in his statute and in his understanding of what great possibilities life still has in store. Lt. Colonel Hupfer gives each student in his class a yearlong assignment based on a mythological topic. Our “hero” is tasked with performing the Twelve Labors of Hercules, or as close to them as he can manage. As he struggles through each labor, he receives help from some unexpected sources. Many things go wrong… so very, very (often hilariously) wrong! But many more go just heart-breakingly right.

That is my favorite aspect of Schmidt’s novels; how wonderfully he captures the ups and downs of adolescent life. He makes me laugh out loud, and then burst into tears in the next chapter. Will he have the same affect on actual adolescents? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe I’m more susceptible to the tear-jerking scenes because I’ve already been through this part of life and I know how it turns out. But even if you are a 13 year old kid and you don’t cry when the [redacted so you can find out for yourself], I hope you can at least recognize that when Schmidt’s characters feel alone, but they are not actually alone; there are people looking out for them, cheering them on, ready to help when things get tough. And if you are well past middle school, as I am, I hope you can remember what those years were like, and keep an eye out for those kiddos that might need a supportive grownup in their corner.

Schmidt, Gary D. (2023). The Labors of Hercules Beal. Clarion Books.

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Book Club Spotlight – Rising Voices

Cover of Rising Voices: Writing of Young Native Americans. A triangle pattern adorns the cover, bringing to mind a quilt

With Thanksgiving finally here, I was pulled toward a recent donation in our collection that I found to be a fantastic and thought-provoking read for closing out Native American Heritage Month. Curated by Arlene Hirschfelder and Beverly R. Singer, Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans is a collection of essays, poems, and stories from the late 1880s to the early 1990s. Hirschfelder speaks of the young authors featured in the collection: “their words bear vivid, often eloquent witness to the realities of their lives over the past hundred years. They have much to tell us”. 

Separated into the categories of Identity, Family, Homelands, Ritual and Ceremony, Education, and Harsh Realities. Each section includes writings that exemplify a part of the youth’s life. From gorgeous descriptions of mesas to warm and comforting home lives, there is also the truth of the hardships and poverty Native Americans were forced into, and many still live in today. The young writers’ strong sense of awareness and personal values ring throughout the collection, especially as we move into modern times.

The Bighorn River flows
through the reservation.
As it goes, it meets the 
Little Bighorn. They are like 
a big brother and a little
brother together.

The sound of it makes
the reservation special.
It seems as if it protects
the reservation with happiness 
And care. The reservation 
knows it has a close friend
and that’s the river.

The river wants to flow
to all the four winds but
knows it can just flow one way 
with the same wind. 

The Bighorn River – Len Plenty, 1988

Rising Voices is a beautiful and unique collection that spans multiple viewpoints and lives of young Native Americans throughout the last century. Readers are treated to breathtaking poetry and heart-wrenching essays that stick with you long after. This collection includes work from elementary schoolers to graduating seniors, making this the perfect selection for any aged Book Club Group. There is a wealth of continued reading and discussions to be had, especially on the different backgrounds and viewpoints of each author. Some have a deep sense of self and justice, while others bask in the love from their families. My favorite reading, If I Were a Pony, is a collaborative poem by Navajo children where the speaker wishes they were a pinto pony so they could run away to live a carefree life out on the mesa. It is a good exercise to delve into what the author’s were feeling, and what purpose does each excerpt serve in this wider narrative created by Hirschfelder and Singer.

For a further example of discussion topics, one particular section that stood out to me was Education—pieces included covered topics from US Indian Boarding Schools that worked to assimilate Native American youth from their culture to more modern school efforts to reintroduce students to what has been lost. 

Carlisle Indian School, whose mission was to “Kill the Indian, save the Man,” often published propagandist essays and stories from their students as a way to fundraise and maintain a good social image. One essay titled Opportunity, written by Alvis M. Morrin in 1914, extols the virtue of the off-reservation school. He speaks on famous Native Americans, such as former Vice President Charles Curtis, and shows his reverence towards the perceived landscape of progress while still maintaining his heritage: 

“Our lot is easier than theirs [our forefathers], for race prejudice has been overcome, and a beneficent Government is giving the Indian youth the opportunities which once belonged only to the white man. Open doors to any vocation are waiting for the Indian to enter.”

In stark contrast, a more modern excerpt included from 1996 when Holy Rosary High School in South Dakota introduced a new course called Modern Indian Psychology in an effort to teach their young Lakota students the importance of their history and the cultural values of their people. In Something Really Different, students reported feeling a sense of belonging and pride they had never had before, highlighting the importance that young Native Americans continue to learn about their history.

“Before this course, we didn’t even know that Indians were important or that it was important for us to know Indian history and values.” – Patrick Kills Crow and Mary Crazy Thunder 

 “Now I am glad I am an Indian. Before I was ashamed of it.” – Francis Clifford

How are these student’s voices being used? And are they being promoted for their benefit or someone else’s? And what purpose do they serve in the anthology?

If you’re interested in requesting Rising Voices for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 7 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

To see more of our Native American Voices book club titles, visit the link here.

Hirschfelder, Arlene & Singer, Beverly. Rising Voices. HarperPerennial. 1996.

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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 September and October, 2023.  Included are reports from various Nebraska Legislative Committees, the Nebraska Foster Care Review Board, 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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Book Club Spotlight – Tales of Burning Love

Cover of Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich. A woman dressed in red lays seductively on a bed, her hand resting against her cheek. Her face is obscured by a blue rabbit mask

Today’s Book Club Spotlight is a title from prolific Ojibwe (Chippewa)/ German-American author Louise Erdrich! And I can’t think of a better author to start off Native American Heritage Month with. A Pulitzer Prize Winner, Erdrich was one of the first women admitted to Dartmouth College, later becoming the writer in residence for their Native American Studies Program. Today’s title, Tales of Burning Love, is the 5th in her series Love Medicine, following a community in and around a fictional Ojibwe reservation. 

We are introduced to Jack Mauser on the day he met, married, and lost his first wife. Now, years later, his four other ex-wives gather together after tragedy and find themselves retracing the steps of their predecessor. Dot, the last wife; Candice, the young mother; Marlis, the dentist; and Eleanor, the only one who still loves him. All four women, unable to cut themselves entirely from Mauser, were taken in at one point or another by his earnest but selfish ways. Stuck in Jack’s car during a blizzard, they recall their relationships with the man as wild and passionate as the storm outside. 

“Love is brutalizing, a raw force, frail as blossoms, tough as a catgut wire.”

Louise Erdrich

Tales of Burning Love is about more than just blind, passionate love. It follows the trauma of loss, ruinous devotion, and religious ecstasy. The stories the wives tell intermingle and blow with the raging storm outside. While Jack Mauser may be at the center of each story, his involvement, and true nature shape and lead the women far beyond his reach. Their hopes and aspirations start or end at his feet. For Adult Book Club Groups looking for stories to curl up with as the weather gets colder, Erdrich’s prose and darkly humorous storytelling are enough to keep you burning through any storm.

This is Erdrich’s second time featured in the Spotlight, the other being her children’s book The Birchbark House, following the day-to-day life of young Omakayas in 1847.

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

Erdrich, Louise. Tales of Burning Love. HarperPerennial. 1996.

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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).  Each month 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 September and October, 2023:

Almost Somewhere : Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail, by Suzanne Roberts. Series: Outdoor Lives.

Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award in Outdoor Literature

It was 1993, Suzanne Roberts had just finished college, and when her friend suggested they hike California’s John Muir Trail, the adventure sounded like the perfect distraction from a difficult home life and thoughts about the future. But she never imagined that the twenty-eight-day hike would change her life. Part memoir, part nature writing, part travelogue, Almost Somewhere is Roberts’s account of that hike.

John Muir wrote of the Sierra Nevada as a “vast range of light,” and that was exactly what Roberts was looking for. But traveling with two girlfriends, one experienced and unflappable and the other inexperienced and bulimic, she quickly discovered that she needed a new frame of reference. Her story of a month in the backcountry—confronting bears, snowy passes, broken equipment, injuries, and strange men—is as much about finding a woman’s way into outdoor experience as it is about the natural world Roberts so eloquently describes. Candid and funny, and finally, wise, Almost Somewhere not only tells the whimsical coming-of-age story of a young woman ill-prepared for a month in the mountains but also reflects a distinctly feminine view of nature.

This new edition includes an afterword by the author looking back on the ways both she and the John Muir Trail have changed over the past thirty years, as well as book club and classroom discussion questions and photographs from the trip.

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1887-1888, Volume 2, Edited by Michael Anesko and Greg W. Zacharias, and Katie Sommer. Series: The Complete Letters of Henry James

This second volume of The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1887–1888 contains 182 letters, of which 120 are published for the first time, written from late December 1887 to November 19, 1888. These letters continue to mark Henry James’s ongoing efforts to care for his sister, develop his work, strengthen his professional status, build friendships, engage timely political and economic issues, and maximize his income. James details work on The Aspern PapersThe ReverberatorPartial Portraits, and The Tragic Muse. This volume opens with some of James’s social visits, includes the death of longtime friend Lizzie Boott, and concludes with James on the Continent.

Ecologies of Imperialism in Algeria, by Brock Cutler. Series: France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization.

Between 1865 and 1872 widespread death and disease unfolded amid the most severe ecological disaster in modern North African history: a plague of locusts destroyed crops during a disastrous drought that left many Algerians landless and starving. The famine induced migration that concentrated vulnerable people in unsanitary camps where typhus and cholera ran rampant. Before the rains returned and harvests normalized, some eight hundred thousand Algerians had died.

In Ecologies of Imperialism in Algeria Brock Cutler explores how repeated ecosocial divisions across an expansive ecosystem produced modern imperialism in nineteenth-century Algeria. Massive ecological crises—cultural as well as natural—cleaved communities from their homes, individuals from those communities, and society from its typical ecological relations. At the same time, the relentless, albeit slow-moving crises of ongoing settler colonialism and extractive imperial capitalism cleaved Algeria to France in a new way. Ecosocial divisions became apparent in performances of imperial power: officials along the Algerian-Tunisian border compulsively repeated narratives of “transgression” that over decades made the division real; a case of poisoned bread tied settlers in Algiers to Paris; Morocco-Algeria border violence exposed the exceptional nature of imperial sovereignty; a case of vagabondage in Oran evoked colonial gender binaries. In each case, factors in the broader ecosystem were implicated in performances of social division, separating political entities from each other, human from nature, rational from irrational, and women from men. Although these performances take place in the nineteenth-century Maghrib, the process they describe goes beyond those spatial and temporal limits—across the field of modern imperialism to the present day.

Encountering Palestine : Un/Making Spaces of Colonial Violence, Edited by Mark Griffiths and Mikko Joronen. Series: Cultural Geographies + Rewriting the Earth.

Encountering Palestine: Un/making Spaces of Colonial Violence, edited by Mark Griffiths and Mikko Joronen, sits at the intersection of cultural and political geographies and offers innovative reflections on power, colonialism, and anti-colonialism in contemporary Palestine and Israel. Organized around the theme of encountering and focusing on the ways violence and struggle are un/made in the encounter between the colonizer and colonized, the essays focus on power relations as they manifest in cultural practices and everyday lives in anti/colonial Palestine.

Covering numerous sites in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Israel, Encountering Palestine addresses a range of empirical topics—from marriage and queer aesthetics to policing, demolition, armament failure, and violence. The contributors utilize diverse theoretical frameworks, such as hyperreality, settler capitalism, intimate biopolitics, and politics of vulnerability, to help us better understand the cultural making and unmaking of colonial and anti-colonial space in Palestine. Encountering Palestine asks us to rethink how colonialism and power operate in Palestine, the ways Palestinians struggle, and the lifeways that constantly encounter, un/make, and counter the spaces of colonial violence.

Galloping Gourmet : Eating and Drinking With Buffalo Bill, by Steve Friesen.

Galloping Gourmet explores an unfamiliar side of a familiar character in American history, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. In this entertaining narrative Steve Friesen explores the evolving role of eating and drinking in Buffalo Bill’s life (1846–1917). Friesen starts with Buffalo Bill’s culinary roots on the American Plains, eating simple foods such as cornbread, fried “yellow-legged” chicken, and hardtack. Buffalo Bill discovered gourmet dining while leading buffalo-hunting expeditions and scouting. As his fame increased, so did his desire and opportunities for fine dining: his early show business career allowed him to dine at some of the best restaurants in the country.

Friesen examines the creation of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1883, in which Cody introduced his diverse cast of employees to dining that equaled America’s best restaurants. One newspaper reporter observed that “Colonel Cody displays no more care about anything than the proper feeding of horse and man.” Cody opened the first Mexican restaurant east of the Mississippi and introduced American foodways to Europe. Equally comfortable eating around a campfire on the plains or at Delmonico’s in New York City, he also dined with leading celebrities of his day. In the final section Friesen addresses the controversies surrounding Cody’s drinking, his death, and his ongoing culinary legacy. Galloping Gourmet includes an appendix of more than thirty annotated period recipes.

Godfall : a Novel, by Van Jensen. Series: Flyover Fiction.

When a massive asteroid hurtles toward Earth, humanity braces for annihilation—but the end doesn’t come. In fact, it isn’t an asteroid but a three-mile-tall alien that drops down, seemingly dead, outside Little Springs, Nebraska. Dubbed “the giant,” its arrival transforms the red-state farm town into a top-secret government research site and major metropolitan area, flooded with soldiers, scientists, bureaucrats, spies, criminals, conspiracy theorists—and a murderer.

As the sheriff of Little Springs, David Blunt thought he’d be keeping the peace among the same people he’d known all his life, not breaking up chanting crowds of conspiracy theorists in tiger masks or struggling to control a town hall meeting about the construction of a mosque. As a series of brutal, bizarre murders strikes close to home, Blunt throws himself into the hunt for a killer who seems connected to the Giant. With bodies piling up and tensions in Little Springs mounting, he realizes that in order to find the answers he needs, he must first reconcile his old worldview with the town he now lives in—before it’s too late.

The Grapes of Conquest : Race, Labor, and the Industrialization of California Wine, 1769-1920, by Julia Ornelas-Higdon. Series: At Table.

California’s wine country conjures images of pastoral vineyards and cellars lined with oak barrels. As a mainstay of the state’s economy, California wines occupy the popular imagination like never before and drive tourism in famous viticultural regions across the state. Scholars know remarkably little, however, about the history of the wine industry and the diverse groups who built it. In fact, contemporary stereotypes belie how the state’s commercial wine industry was born amid social turmoil and racialized violence in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century California.

In The Grapes of Conquest Julia Ornelas-Higdon addresses these gaps in the historical narrative and popular imagination. Beginning with the industry’s inception at the California missions, Ornelas-Higdon examines the evolution of wine growing across three distinct political regimes—Spanish, Mexican, and American—through the industry’s demise after Prohibition. This interethnic study of race and labor in California examines how California Natives, Mexican Californios, Chinese immigrants, and Euro-Americans came together to build the industry. Ornelas-Higdon identifies the birth of the wine industry as a significant missing piece of California history—one that reshapes scholars’ understandings of how conquest played out, how race and citizenship were constructed, and how agribusiness emerged across the region. The Grapes of Conquest unearths the working-class, multiracial roots of the California wine industry, challenging its contemporary identity as the purview of elite populations.

The Incarceration of Native American Women : Creating Pathways to Wellness and Recovery Through Gentle Action Theory, by Carma Corcoran. Series: New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies.

In The Incarceration of Native American Women, Carma Corcoran examines the rising number of Native American women being incarcerated in Indian Country. With years of experience as a case management officer, law professor, consultant to tribal defenders’ offices, and workshop leader in prisons, she believes this upward trajectory of incarceration continues largely unacknowledged and untended. She explores how a combination of F. David Peat’s gentle action theory and the Native traditional ways of knowing and being could heal Native American women who are or have been incarcerated.

Colonization and the historical trauma of Native American incarceration runs through history, spanning multiple generations and including colonial wartime imprisonment, captivity, Indian removal, and boarding schools. The ongoing ills of childhood abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and drug and alcohol addiction and the rising number of suicides are indicators that Native people need healing. Based on her research and work with Native women in prisons, Corcoran provides a theory of wellness and recovery that creates a pathway for meaningful change. The Incarceration of Native American Women offers students, academics, social workers, counselors, and those in the criminal justice system a new method of approach and application while providing a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical experiences of Native Americans in relation to criminology.

Nebraska Volleyball : the Origin Story, by John Mabry.

When Title IX was enacted in 1972, the University of Nebraska volleyball program, like many across the country, received a fraction of the funding and attention given to the school’s mighty football program. The players had to organize a run from Lincoln to Omaha to raise money for uniforms. The women were asked to wait their turn to use the weight room. Today the Nebraska women’s volleyball team is one of the sport’s most decorated programs—with more career wins than any other program and five NCAA National Championships—and draws standing-room-only crowds at home games in the 8,000-seat Devaney Center.

Nebraska Volleyball is the first book to recount how volleyball took hold at Nebraska, through Pat Sullivan, the team’s first coach; through such early figures as Cathy Noth, a decorated player and later an assistant coach into the 1990s; through Terry Pettit, who coached the team for twenty-three seasons and led it to its first National Championship in 1995; and through John Cook, who took over as head coach in 2000. John Mabry highlights the small Nebraska towns that have sent some of the best players to the program and helped build statewide support for the team. Public television helped too, with its power to broadcast games early on and thus build a following across the state.

The success of Nebraska’s volleyball program is one of the greatest stories in sports. As Karch Kiraly, head coach for the U.S. National Women’s Volleyball Team, said: “If you want to learn about women’s college volleyball, your first stop has to be Lincoln, Nebraska.”

Of Love and War : Pacific Brides of World War II, by Angela Wanhalla. Series: Studies in Pacific Worlds.

Between 1942 and 1945 more than two million servicemen occupied the southern Pacific theater, the majority of whom were Americans in service with the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. During the occupation, American servicemen married approximately 1,800 women from New Zealand and the island Pacific, creating legal bonds through marriage and through children. Additionally, American servicemen fathered an estimated four thousand nonmarital children with Indigenous women in the South Pacific Command Area.

In Of Love and War Angela Wanhalla details the intimate relationships forged during wartime between women and U.S. servicemen stationed in the South Pacific, traces the fate of wartime marriages, and addresses consequences for the women and children left behind. Paying particular attention to the experiences of women in New Zealand and in the island Pacific—including Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, and the Cook Islands—Of Love and War aims to illuminate the impact of global war on these women, their families, and Pacific societies. Wanhalla argues that Pacific war brides are an important though largely neglected cohort whose experiences of U.S. military occupation expand our understanding of global war. By examining the effects of American law on the marital opportunities of couples, their ability to reunite in the immediate postwar years, and the citizenship status of any children born of wartime relationships, Wanhalla makes a significant contribution to a flourishing scholarship concerned with the intersections between race, gender, sexuality, and militarization in the World War II era.

Rise Up! : Indigenous Music in North America, by Craig Harris.

Music historian Craig Harris explores more than five hundred years of Indigenous history, religion, and cultural evolution in Rise Up! Indigenous Music in North America. More than powwow drums and wooden flutes, Indigenous music intersects with rock, blues, jazz, folk music, reggae, hip-hop, classical music, and more. Combining deep research with personal stories by nearly four dozen award-winning Indigenous musicians, Harris offers an eye-opening look at the growth of Indigenous music.

Among a host of North America’s most vital Indigenous musicians, the biographical narratives include new and well-established figures such as Mildred Bailey, Louis W. Ballard, Cody Blackbird, Donna Coane (Spirit of Thunderheart), Theresa “Bear” Fox, Robbie Robertson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joanne Shenandoah, DJ Shub (Dan General), Maria Tallchief, John Trudell, and Fawn Wood.

Settler Aesthetics : Visualizing the Spectacle of Originary Moments in The New World, by Mishuana Goeman. Series: Indigenous Films.

In Settler Aesthetics, an analysis of renowned director Terrence Malick’s 2005 film, The New World, Mishuana Goeman examines the continuity of imperialist exceptionalism and settler-colonial aesthetics. The story of Pocahontas has thrived for centuries as a cover for settler-colonial erasure, destruction, and violence against Native peoples, and Native women in particular. Since the romanticized story of the encounter and relationship between Pocahontas and Captain John Smith was first published, it has imprinted a whitewashed historical memory into the minds of Americans.

As one of the most enduring tropes of imperialist nostalgia in world history, Renaissance European invasions of Indigenous lands by settlers trades in a falsified “civilizational discourse” that has been a focus in literature for centuries and in films since their inception. Ironically, Malick himself was a symbol of the New Hollywood in his early career, but with The New World he created a film that serves as a buttress for racial capitalism in the Americas. Focusing on settler structures, the setup of regimes of power, sexual violence and the gendering of colonialism, and the sustainability of colonialism and empires, Goeman masterfully peels away the visual layers of settler logics in The New World, creating a language in Native American and Indigenous studies for interpreting visual media.

The Sonoran Dynasty in Mexico : Revolution, Reform, and Repression, by Jürgen Buchenau. Series: Confluencias.

Two generals from the northwestern state of Sonora, Álvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elías Calles, dominated Mexico between 1920 and 1934, having risen to prominence in the course of the Mexican Revolution. Torn between popular demands for ending the privileges of wealthy foreign investors and opposition by a hawkish U.S. administration and enemies at home, the two generals and their allies from their home state mixed radical rhetoric with the accommodation of entrenched interests.

In The Sonoran Dynasty in Mexico Jürgen Buchenau tells the story of this ruling group, which rejected the Indigenous and Catholic past during the decades of the revolution and aimed to reinvent Mexico along the lines of the modern and secular societies in western Europe and the United States. In addition to Obregón and Calles, the Sonoran Dynasty included Adolfo de la Huerta and Abelardo L. Rodríguez, four Sonorans among six presidents in less than two decades. Although the group began with the common aims of nationalism, modernization, central political control, and enrichment, Buchenau argues that this group progressively fell apart in a series of bloody conflicts that reflected broader economic, political, and social disagreements. By analyzing the dynasty from its origins through its eventual downfall, Buchenau presents an innovative look at the negotiation of power and state formation in revolutionary Mexico.

Ted Kooser : More Than a Local Wonder, by Carla Ketner, illustrated by Paula Wallace.

Long before Ted Kooser won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, served as the U.S. Poet Laureate, and wrote award-winning books for children, he was an unathletic child growing up in Iowa, yearning to fit in. Young Teddy found solace in stories, and one specific book, Robert McCloskey’s Lentil, inspired him to become a writer. As a child and later, while working in the insurance industry, Ted honed his craft and unique style as he wrote about the people and places of the rural Midwest. Ted Kooser: More Than a Local Wonder celebrates the power of stories and of finding oneself through words.

Washington State Politics and Government, by T.M. Sell. Series: Politics and Governments of the American States.

In the twenty-first century, as many candidates actively campaign against the very government they seek to serve in, and as many people appear to believe their government irreparably broken, T. M. Sell argues that in Washington State, the system works better than most realize. In Washington State Politics and Government Sell explains how the many parts of government function and introduces readers to a diverse array of individuals who work in government, including how they got there and what it is they’re trying to do. Sell covers the three branches of state government, plus county, city, special purpose district, and tribal governments. He explains the state budgets and taxes; the functions of major and better-known state agencies; how policy is made; the political landscape of Washington; and parties, voting, and elections.

Sell discusses economic development, including the importance of high-tech industry, aviation, Amazon.com, and more traditional parts of the state economy, such as timber and agriculture. He also provides a contemporary look at Washington’s elected officials, constitution, judiciary, media, demographics, and political culture and landscape. With this volume, any Washington citizen, student of politics, or specialist in government can gain insight into the state’s current political system.

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

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#BookFaceFriday – “Nothing But Blackened Teeth” by Cassandra Khaw

I wouldn’t want to run into this #BookFace in a dark hallway!

Not to make you lose sleep or anything but this week’s #BookFaceFriday has us keeping the lights on. If you love Halloween and a a good scary read, this USA Today bestseller is perfect for you; check out “Nothing But Blackened Teeth” by Cassandra Khaw (Berkley, 2014.) This title is available as an audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Find this title and other tales of horror in Nebraska OverDrive’s curated collection, “Hallow-Reads: Spooky tales for October nights“! Now if you’re looking for something fun and just a little spooky for the whole family, we also have the curated collection Spooky BOO-ks on our OverDrive Kid’s & Teens pages.

“If Guillermo del Toro directed The Ring, it might play out something like this engaging thriller. Japanese mythological creatures come to life in this dynamic, unique tale that will satisfy horror readers eager for fresh blood.”


Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 189 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 21,696 audiobooks, 35,200 eBooks, and 3,964 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 – Dead as a Door Knocker

Cover of Dead as a Door Knocker by Diane Kelly. An ajar door opens into a house under construction, with a sandy-colored cat sitting on a work bench next to a hammer. An ornate teal skull served as the house's door knocker.

With Halloween a week away, I love to enjoy the spookier books in our collection. But what’s great about Halloween is that there are so many ways for readers to enjoy the season without getting too scared. So, for the scaredy cats this Halloween Season, we’ll be looking at Dead as a Door Knocker by author Diane Kelly. Kelly is a prolific, cozy mystery writer, having (accidentally) worked with white-collar criminals in her former work as a tax advisor and decided to author the criminals herself rather than working with them. She has been awarded the Golden Heart Award from the Romance Writers of America and a Reviewers’ Choice Award.

In the first installment in the House-Flipper Mystery series, we meet 20-something Whitney Whitaker, a property manager living in her parents’ (renovated) pool house with big dreams and a small cat named Sawdust. When a property goes up for sale by the cheapskate Rick Dunaway, Whitney snatches up the deal, thinking it was too good to be true. But she gets more than she bargained for when Rick’s body shows up in her flower bed a few days later! With the help of her best friend Collette, cousin Buck, and Nashville’s newest homicide detective, Collin Flynn, Whitney sets out to catch the killer with her life and the house’s market value on the line.

“Are you going to buy the murder house?”

Diane Kelly

With brief mentions of blood, peril, and, of course, a body, Dead as a Door Knocker is driven by its characters and their relationships, not a murderous fiend. As we tick through the list of potential suspects, there are plenty of stops along the way into the world of house-flipping, rentals, and kitty shenanigans. Cozy mysteries like Dead as a Door Knocker let the more squeamish in your book club groups enjoy the fun of solving a good mystery without all the blood and gore getting in the way.

If you’re interested in requesting Dead as a Door Knocker for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Kelly, Diane. Dead as a Door Knocker. St. Martin’s Press. 2019

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#BookFaceFriday – “The Lesser Dead” by Christopher Buehlman

Something #BookFace this way comes!

If your go-to Halloween activity is watching a horror flick or visiting a haunted house, you probably also love a scary story. This week’s #BookFaceFriday is the perfect way to get your adrenaline flowing; check out “The Lesser Dead” by Christopher Buehlman (Berkley, 2014.) This title is available as an eBook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Find this title and other tales of horror in Nebraska OverDrive’s curated collection, “Hallow-Reads: Spooky tales for October nights“!

“Cormac McCarthy’s The Road meets Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in this frightful medieval epic…Buehlman…doesn’t scrimp on earthy horror and lyrical writing in the face of unspeakable horrors…an author to watch.”

—Kirkus Reviews

Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 189 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 21,696 audiobooks, 35,200 eBooks, and 3,964 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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