Tag Archives: books

New Summer Book Available on BARD!

“Jack and Noah’s Big Day: The Summer When Everything Happened Just Like No One Had Imagined” by Jay Patrick Slagle has been recorded by our Talking Book and Braille Service and is perfect for summer!

Best friends Jack and Noah are facing what promises to be a long boring summer. They decide that Jack needs the world’s greatest birthday party, for which they will need to raise a lot of money. As fundraisers, they start a summer camp, staff a slushie stand, and try to sell glow-in-the-dark necklaces at the city’s July 4th fireworks show. Along the way, a house is blown up; there are visits by police, foremen, and news reporters; and an elephant marches down the driveway.

TBBS borrowers can request “Jack and Noah’s Big Day,” DBC01984, 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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Friday Reads: Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee

Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee

What is American cuisine? Should we use the term “authentic” to describe a recipe or cuisine? These are just two of many questions that Edward Lee explores in his book Buttermilk Graffiti. Much like American cuisine, Buttermilk Graffiti is an amalgamation. Although the book is part memoir and part cookbook, it primarily focuses on the culinary traditions and stories of immigrants. At times it has the feel of a Bourdain-like food travel show, mixed with history and self-reflection. Lee explores the history of place, migration stories, and the personal histories of individuals whose culinary traditions started across the globe. As much as Lee attempts to better understand the vastness of American cuisine, he also explores his own place in American food culture, and shares fifty recipes inspired by the foods he encounters.

If you are unfamiliar with Edward Lee, he is a chef and restaurateur from Louisville, Kentucky. His culinary style has many influences, including his Brooklyn childhood, his Korean heritage, and the two decades he has lived in Kentucky. He entered the television realm by competing on Top Chef in 2011, and was featured on The Mind of a Chef in 2014. Lee published his first cookbook and memoir, Smoke and Pickles, in 2013. His Louisville restaurant 610 Magnolia boasts a modern approach to southern cooking.

Lee is a compelling storyteller and approaches people and their food cultures with curiosity and empathy. As part of this project he visited more than a dozen cities and explored many food traditions and cultures: Nigerian, Vietnamese, German, Scandinavian, Peruvian, Chifa, Cambodian, Uyghur, Arabic, a Kosher deli, and Louisville soul food. He often came away with more questions than answers and will leave you with many things to ponder:

  • Does our education in global food depend on global tragedies that bring immigrants to this country?
  • Is there some other way that we can honor the foods of other nations without the tragedy?
  • When looking for the “authentic” food of a specific culture, are we looking for a nostalgia that doesn’t exist?
  • Is cooking the food of others appropriation or learning?

“I wonder if in 100 years Americans will eat bibimbap without knowing where it came from. Isn’t that already happening to foods such as tacos and pizza? Or can we go back and recalibrate these beloved foods every time a new wave of immigrants comes to America?”

Lee reveals the complexity of food traditions and cultures and shows that there is no monolithic or “authentic” version of any particular food. Each chef’s personal story makes their recipe unique. At the same time, he shows connections between individuals and their traditions. The elder Scandinavians he meets in Seattle value the nostalgia of certain foods much like his own father, who was a Korean immigrant.

“You have your own story and your own history, and your own connections to make. There is good food to be discovered everywhere. All it takes are an adventurous palate and an inquisitive mind. You can link both to the foods that sit in your memories.”

At times Lee’s personal stories seem to fall into a familiar pop culture stereotype for chefs, focusing on what’s supposed to be edgy or rebellious. As Buttermilk Graffiti progresses, however, the reader gets a fuller picture of Lee’s life as a son, husband, and father, and what has shaped him as a chef.  He shares vulnerable stories and does a lot of personal reflection, including sharing how he has pushed back against what a man of Korean ancestry in America is supposed to be.

Lee is a compelling writer who believes in the power of stories. If you are a fan of food writing and food culture, I think you will find many of these stories powerful and thought provoking as well.

Lee, Edward. Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine. Artisan, 2018.

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Book Club Spotlight – The Namesake

Book cover for The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. A small vine with two leaves arches across the bottom left.

We’re diving right into celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by spotlighting The Namesake by Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri! Raised in America by Bengali immigrants, Lahiri was expected to embrace her heritage from an early age. And Lahiri’s writing draws on her experiences as a first-generation Indian-American focusing on the immigration experience and the effect of cultural displacement. Mostly known for writing collections of short stories, The Namesake was her first novel and received the New Yorker Debut of the Year award and the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Spanning a total of 35 years, we open in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where newlywed and newly American immigrant Ashima Ganguli awaits for the birth of her son. She is nervous about giving birth in a foreign country, far away from her family in Calcutta. Even though Ashima’s arranged marriage to Ashoke Ganguli is going well, she is often left to navigate the unfamiliar world and culture on her own. Like most immigrant parents, Ashima and Ashoke raise their American-born children with the hope of keeping a piece of home alive through them. The family eats Indian food, celebrates Hindu holidays with other Bengali families, and takes yearly trips home to Calcutta. But Calcutta is not their children’s home, and it’s certainly not Gogol’s. As he grows, we follow their son, named after Russian writer Gogol, as he tries to find his place in the world, ideally independent of his Indian-American label. Despising the name its foreignness, he attempts to cut all ties with it and beings to go by the writer’s first name, Nikolai, instead. In changing his name to something less noticeable, he hopes to obfuscate his Indian upbringing and heritage. But his problems are more complex and follow him through young adulthood. When his father dies suddenly, Gogol, now legally Nikolai, has to reckon his love for his family and culture with his attempts to push it away and assimilate. He must find a way to reconcile both his cultural and self-identity together, honoring both but not letting either completely take over. 

“Pet names are a persistent remnant of childhood, a reminder that life is not always so serious, so formal, so complicated. They are a reminder, too, that one is not all things to all people.”

Jhumpa Lahiri

This family saga follows the Ganguli family, as each member experiences their immigrant experience differently in attempts to find that perfect balancing act between childhood and independence. Lahiri emphasizes this struggle in The Namesake through the meaning and strength we have in our names. She discusses how in India, each person has two names, a “pet name” the family uses and a “good name” fit for school and formal occasions. And how these family names can be a home and culture in themselves, making Gogol’s hatred of his name a dismissal of his parents’ culture and, to a lesser extent, themselves. A thoughtful read for any adult book club, Lahiri writes a beautiful and quiet portrait of the Indian immigrant experience in a way universally understood by anyone who has felt as if they have been pulled in two separate directions by what’s expected of him and what they aspire to become.

If you’re interested in requesting The Namesake for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 15 copies available (A librarian must request items)

To see more of our Asian American/ Pacific Islander Book Club Kits, visit the link here.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Mariner Books. 2004.

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Friday Reads – Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

Simon Sort of Says book cover

Imagine being 12 years old and moving to a tiny Nebraska town with no internet, no TV, and no cell phone service. Heck, imagine being 40 and doing that! In this day and age, it’s almost unthinkable. Now imagine being famous for being the sole survivor of a mass shooting – also unthinkable – and needing a fresh start where no one has heard of you.

Simon and his parents move to Grin And Bear It, Nebraska, a small town set in the National Quiet Zone – a space where radio signals are banned as to not interfere with the operation of radio telescopes used by the astronomers and scientists searching for signs of life beyond our planet. His mother takes over the local mortuary, his father settles in as deacon of the Catholic church, and Simon just tries to resume life as a normal, anonymous kid. So far, so good – no one here can Google him. He can make up whatever goofy story he wants about why his family relocated.

Then disaster strikes. And keeps striking – a rogue squirrel ransacks the church’s communion wafers, a flock of emus get loose, the mortuary’s driver loses a body, a tornado bears down on the town… and someone finds out Simon’s secret. In the midst of his family getting all the wrong kinds of attention, Simon and his friends scheme a way to shift the focus from him to the stars, using a forbidden microwave, a metronome, and a whole lot of math.

Despite the devastating tragedy underlying the story, this was actually one of the most hilarious books I’ve read in a while. The author, originally from Iowa, lived in Nebraska for a time, and is familiar with the state’s geography and love of football. There is so much to love about Simon and his family and friends, as well as the odd little town they find themselves in. If you are looking for an entertaining read that will make you laugh AND cry, Simon says read this book!

Bow, Erin. (2023). Simon Sort of Says. Disney Hyperion.

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Book Club Spotlight – The Loren Eiseley Reader

cover for The Loren Eiseley Reader. Two small kids stand in a forest of sunflowers, pointing towards a silhouette of the Lincoln Skyline

It’s finally the best week of the year- National Library Week! Hosted by the American Library Association, this year’s motto is “More to the Story.” Like we discussed in our last Spotlight, The Reading List, libraries are more than just book depots; they are places for community and social engagement. And today, we’ll look at a different aspect of “More to the Story,” in how a book can be greater than the sum of its parts and live on long past its author. Published posthumously The Loren Eiseley Reader is a collection of essays by celebrated Nebraskan anthropologist and philosopher Loren Eiseley. This collection includes a foreword by his friend and fellow author Ray Bradbury, who closes by musing on the longevity of the written word: “The essays you’ve written and the books that you’ve created are children, so your heritage will go on to the end of this century and to the centuries beyond. You have children, Loren Eiseley, and you will live forever.”

The Loren Eiseley Reader is a collection of short essays and stories taken from Eiseley’s work throughout his life, including his academic work, poetry, and other nonfiction. The essays are organized into three categories: Reflections of a Naturalist, Reflections of a Writer, and Reflections of a Wanderer. A reader can pick up wherever they want and not feel constrained to a linear experience. Even though it’s confined to the first heading, being a naturalist affects all of Eiseley’s work. He saw the Earth as a beautiful mystery and contemplated its meaning and grander scope throughout his writing. Even in the most scientific discussions, such as evacuating fossils, Eiseley takes the reader back in time with him. Not to point out how insignificant we are in the scope of history, but how incredible it is that something came before us and something will come after us.

“I had come a long way down since morning; I had projected myself across a dimension I was not fitted to traverse in the flesh.”

Loren Eiseley

In addition to showcasing Eiseley’s work, The Reader was compiled to introduce secondary students to engaging examples of well-written essays and prose. According to The Loren Eiseley Society, The Reader and its companion Teacher’s Guide can fit seamlessly into any classroom, “Eiseley’s ideas and powerful prose are a perfect fit for students of science, literature, and history, both natural and anthropological. His writing provides profound insight into the workings of the natural world and man’s relationship to that world, and his unique literary style is rich ground for students of literature.” And students might also be excited to learn about the namesake of their local library. A student reader collection might not be your standard book club pick, but there can be a lot of value in reading some naturalist nonfiction as we move into spring and summer, while the Nebraska prairie slowly comes back to life.

If you’re interested in requesting The Loren Eiseley Reader for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 9 copies available (A librarian must request items)

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Book Club Spotlight – The Reading List

I’m sure you’re all as excited for National Library Week (April 23rd-29th) as I am, so I’m giving you plenty of time to get pumped up with today’s Book Club Spotlight, which perfectly captures this year’s theme: “There’s More to the Story.” Libraries are community centers and technology hubs and contain many other resources available for everyone and anyone. And The Reading List, by debut author Sara Nisha Adams, is all about how libraries are much more than what they carry on the shelves.

We follow two reluctant readers: Widower Mukesh, who, upon reading an old library book left by his late wife, finds comfort and solace in the characters who help the memory of his wife live on. Energized by the experience, Mukesh decides to make an effort to connect with his shy granddaughter through her love of books—leading him to a small Wembley library. In the library, we meet Aleisha, a disillusioned but whip-smart teen working in the slowly dying library over the summer to support her sick mother. Aleisha has no particular love for libraries or books until she is handed a mysterious list of books titled “Just in case you need it.” Inexplicably drawn to reading the first on the list, To Kill a Mockingbird, Aleisha encourages Mukesh to read it as well. Soon they are both making their way down the list and are surprised to find how much they want to talk with someone about the books or maybe just to talk with someone at all. Much like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the titular “list” in The Reading List serendipitously makes its way across London, finding people who could use a break or a breakthrough. When tragedy strikes, the group’s bond and the lessons they learned from the mysterious reading list and each other become more important than ever.

“Books show us the world. They don’t hide it.”

 Sara Nisha Adams

New to our collection, The Reading List is the perfect book club pick because it centers around characters who inexplicably find themselves in a far-reaching book club. In the beginning, Aleisha and Mukesh are nervous about discussing the books themselves, feeling like they need to be some sort of expert or have an earth-shattering revelation to be worth sharing. Still, as time goes on, they gain confidence in sharing their ideas. While each book might not be the ideal fit, they still find something to discuss and enjoy. The idea of the modern-day book club started as an avenue to encourage open discussion, and they still play an essential role in expressing that inherent want to connect (but I may be biased). People are always looking for connection and community; reading and hearing others’ stories and struggles makes us more open, compassionate, and self-confident. Unlike other “books about books,” there is no magic library or all-powerful novel in The Reading List. Instead, there is simply the magic and importance of people. And at the end of the day, the people and their community are the most critical asset to libraries.

Request The Reading List for your Book Club here. There are 5 copies available (A librarian must request items)

Adams, Sara Nisha. The Reading List. William Morrow. 2022.

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Book Club Spotlight – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

the cover of The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.  A white rat with red eyes sits on top of a tabby cat. Both are staring intently at the viewer.

In my opinion, the best books are about what it means to be a human and humanity as a whole—which are usually best represented through a different species.  And it’s only fitting that fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett would explore this age-old philosophy through rats. Well… educated rats and one amazing cat. In honor of Respect Your Cat Day, today’s spotlight, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, is a stand-alone novel in Pratchett’s expansive Discworld series and the first in the collection written for a younger audience.

Magically gifted with speech and consciousness, a clan of self-dubbed “Educated Rodents” and a con artist cat, the “Amazing Maurice,” travel from town to town with a young piper in tow. They successfully run scams where the rats “infest” a town so the boy can pretend to lead them away à la the Pied Piper. Agreeing to one last job, they arrive in the village of Bad Blintz, only to find that the town already has a massive rat infestation. But they can’t seem to find any of these rats anywhere. Realizing that something sinister is at play, the rats, the boy, and Maurice find themselves in more trouble than they ever imagined. And with more than a payday at risk, the newly self-aware rat clan and Maurice don’t know if they can turn their backs and leave the town to fall into ruin. So what’s a cat to do now that he’s got morals and ethics to deal with? 

“I prefer our way. We are silly and weak sometimes. But together we are strong. You have plans for rats? Well, I have dreams for them.”

Terry Pratchett
Happy Respect Your Cat Day from Mittens!

Pratchett is a widely well-regarded author, and for a good reason, with The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents awarded the Carnegie Award for Children’s Literature. It is one of those rare books written in an accessible manner for younger audiences while still treating them as intelligent and capable of understanding its philosophy. Even though it reads like one, the reader is often reminded that it is not a fairytale and there are dire consequences to be had despite the tap-dancing rodentia. Sure, the book is cute and filled with talking animal shenanigans, but it also shows a grittier side, with rat-on-rat violence, dog-on-rat violence, and laxative-on-man violence. Maurice is perfect for a group of YA readers and beyond who love discussing theories and pondering the Big Questions, such as what comes after death? What would it mean to suddenly have consciousness and a moral code? Can community and strength overcome inherent nature? And what would you do in the face of the Grim Squeaker?

Request The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents for your Book Club here. There are 14 copies available (A librarian must request items)

Pratchett, Terry. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. HarperTrophey. 2001.

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Friday Reads : The Seven Sisters, by Lucinda Riley

Some of you may already know about, and have read this series, but I just recently discovered The Seven Sisters, by Lucinda Riley, and I’m amazed I didn’t know about it sooner. There are currently seven books in the series, one for each sister, whose names are based on the star cluster named the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades in Greek mythology. An eighth and final book is due out in May of this year, telling the story of their adoptive father, Pa Salt.

I have to tell you, I was hooked from the very first book, and am currently listening to and reading book seven. Each sister, her talent, and her story has a connection to a unique person, thing, and piece of history, from all over the world.

Book 1– The Seven Sisters: Maia D’Aplièse and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home–a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva–having been told that their beloved adoptive father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died.

Each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage–a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil . . .

Eighty years earlier, in the Belle Époque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into aristocracy. But Izabela longs for adventure, and convinces him to allow her to accompany the family of a renowned architect on a trip to Paris. In the heady, vibrant streets of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.

Book 2–The Storm Sister: Ally D’Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world’s most perilous yacht races, when she hears the news of her adoptive father’s sudden, mysterious death. Rushing back to meet her five sisters at their family home, she discovers that her father—an elusive billionaire affectionately known to his daughters as Pa Salt—has left each of them a tantalising clue to their true heritage.

Ally has also recently embarked on a deeply passionate love affair that will change her destiny forever. But with her life now turned upside down, Ally decides to leave the open seas and follow the trail that her father left her, which leads her to the icy beauty of Norway….

There, Ally begins to discover her roots—and how her story is inextricably bound to that of a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik, who lived there over a hundred years before and sang in the first performance of Grieg’s iconic music set to Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt. As Ally learns more about Anna, she also begins to question who her father, Pa Salt, really was. And why is the seventh sister missing?

Book 3– The Shadow Sister: Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father – the elusive billionaire, named Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted by him from the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to their true heritage, but Star – the most enigmatic of the sisters – is hesitant to step out of the safety of the close relationship she shares with her sister CeCe. In desperation, she decides to follow the first clue she has been left, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world…

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in the Lake District, living close to her idol, Beatrix Potter, when machinations outside of her control lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious players, Alice Keppel. Flora is pulled between passionate love and duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a game – the rules of which are only known to others, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life…

As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

Book 4–The Pearl Sister: CeCe D’Aplièse has always felt like an outcast. But following the death of her father—the reclusive billionaire affectionately called Pa Salt by the six daughters he adopted from around the globe—she finds herself more alone than ever. With nothing left to lose, CeCe delves into the mystery of her origins. The only clues she holds are a black and white photograph and the name of a female pioneer who once lived in Australia.

One hundred years earlier, Kitty McBride, a Scottish clergyman’s daughter, abandons her conservative upbringing to serve as the companion to a wealthy woman traveling from Edinburgh to Adelaide. Her ticket to a new land brings the adventure she dreamed of and a love that she had never imagined.

When CeCe herself finally reaches the searing heat and dusty plains of the Red Centre of Australia, something deep within her responds to the energy of the area and the ancient culture of the Aboriginal people. As she comes closer to finding the truth of her ancestry, CeCe begins to believe that this untamed, vast continent could offer her what she never thought possible: a sense of belonging, and a home.

Book 5–The Moon Sister: After the death of her father – Pa Salt, an elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from around the globe – Tiggy D’Aplièse, trusting her instincts, moves to the remote wilds of Scotland. There she takes a job doing what she loves: caring for animals on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate, employed by the enigmatic and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird. 

Her decision alters her future irrevocably when Chilly, an ancient gypsy who has lived for years on the estate, tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home to Granada in Spain. 

In the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra, Tiggy discovers her connection to the fabled gypsy community of Sacromonte, who were forced to flee their homes during the civil war, and to ‘La Candela’, the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation. From the Scottish Highlands and Spain to South America and New York, Tiggy follows the trail back to her own exotic but complex past. And under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja, she begins to embrace her own talent for healing. 

But when fate takes a hand, Tiggy must decide whether to stay with her newfound family or return to Kinnaird and Charlie…. 

Book 6–The Sun Sister: To the outside world, Electra D’Aplièse seems to be the woman with everything: as one of the world’s top models, she is beautiful, rich and famous.

Yet beneath the veneer, Electra’s already tenuous control over her state of mind has been rocked by the death of her father, Pa Salt, the elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from across the globe. Struggling to cope, she turns to alcohol and drugs. As those around her fear for her health, Electra receives a letter from a complete stranger who claims to be her grandmother.

In 1939, Cecily Huntley-Morgan arrives in Kenya from New York to nurse a broken heart. Staying with her godmother, a member of the infamous Happy Valley set, on the shores of beautiful Lake Naivasha, she meets Bill Forsythe, a notorious bachelor and cattle farmer with close connections to the proud Maasai tribe. But after a shocking discovery and with war looming, Cecily has few options. Moving up into the Wanjohi Valley, she is isolated and alone. Until she meets a young woman in the woods and makes her a promise that will change the course of her life for ever.

Sweeping from Manhattan to the magnificent wide-open plains of Africa, The Sun Sister is the sixth instalment in Lucinda Riley’s multi-million selling epic series, The Seven Sisters.

Book 7–The Missing Sister: They’ll search the world to find her. The six D’Aplièse sisters have each been on their own incredible journey to discover their heritage, but they still have one question left unanswered: who and where is the seventh sister?

They only have one clue – an image of a star-shaped emerald ring. The search to find the missing sister will take them across the globe – from New Zealand to Canada, England, France and Ireland – uniting them all in their mission to complete their family at last.

In doing so, they will slowly unearth a story of love, strength and sacrifice that began almost 100 years ago, as other brave young women risk everything to change the world around them.

Each book is so well written, and each voice performed so well, that I felt like I was really in each sister’s history and location. I’m excited to finish Book 7, and can’t wait for Book 8: Atlas, the Story of Pa Salt. Synopses courtesy of Audible.com and Amazon.com

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Book Club Spotlight – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Cover of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. A young brunette girl sits in her bedroom looking up and out a window.

March, being Women’s History Month (shoutout to women), gives me an excuse to visit a book in our collection that has influenced and consoled countless young girls and women since 1970. Selected as the 1970 New York Times “Outstanding Book of the Year,” listed in Time’s 2010 list of “All-Time 100 Novels”, and in Scholastics’ “100 Greatest Books for Kids/100 Must-Read Books”, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume has carved a legacy and guided our approach to educating young people about puberty. And pioneered middle-grade fiction at a time when books for kids “on the cusp” of puberty were nowhere to be found.    

Eleven-year-old Margaret Simon’s relationship with God has nothing to do with religion. Her parents, one Christian and one Jewish, decided to raise her outside of any faith because of the pressure they received from their own religious upbringings. Even still, Margaret frequently talks to God, whoever he is, about her problems and insecurities, confiding in things she couldn’t tell anyone else. After moving to the New Jersey suburbs, Margaret is tasked with a year-long school project of her choosing. Deciding her project will be to finally find a religion that fits her (much to her parents’ discomfort), Margaret attends Jewish and Christian services, hoping to feel God there the same way as when she talks to him alone. At the same time, she and her group of friends, smartly named “The Pre-Teen Sensations,” wrestle with more down-to-earth issues, like boy problems and bras. All the while eagerly awaiting their first period, deathly afraid that something might be wrong with their bodies when it doesn’t come as soon as other girls in their class. Together, Margaret and her friends face down the scariest enemy of all: the epic highs and lows of being a pre-teen girl.

“I can’t go on being nothing forever, can I?”

Judy Blume

Margaret’s message is still relevant to young girls today. Despite being written over 50 years ago, young readers, alone or in a reading group, can see themselves in Margaret, even the parts they try to hide. Blume’s works encourage open and honest communication, creating a space for community and empathy, which is the foundation of any good book club. To be sincere, to experience new perspectives, and to grow together. All these years later, Judy Blume is still a household name, and for good reason. She created a space where it is easy and necessary to talk about ourselves and our feelings without shame. In school, we giggled and commiserated over her plain and frank depictions of real problems and things happening with our bodies that other adults might have shied away from talking about. But she never did. We’d pull from the advice of Blume to let us know there was nothing wrong with us, we were growing up, and that’s ok.

Amy Weiss-Meyer, a senior editor at the Atlantic, best sums up Blume’s influence and genuine care for nurturing young girls in the article We Still Need Judy Blume: “The letters started right after Margaret. The kids wrote in their best handwriting, in blue ink or pencil, on stationery adorned with cartoon characters or paper torn out of a notebook. They sent their letters care of Blume’s publisher. “Dear Judy,” most began. Girls of a certain age would share whether they’d gotten their period yet. Some kids praised her work while others dove right in, sharing their problems and asking for advice: divorce, drugs, sexuality, bullying, incest, abuse, cancer. They wanted to scream. They wanted to die. They knew Judy would understand.”

The first film adaptation of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret will be released in April 2023, starring Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates, with Judy Blume as a producer. 

If you’re interested in requesting Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 13 copies available (A librarian must request items)

Blume, Judy. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Bradbury Press. 1970.

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Friday Reads: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo is the first book in Mia P. Manansala’s “Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery” series. This cozy mystery follows Lila Macapagal as she moves from Chicago back to her small hometown, trying to recover after a terrible breakup. She works in her family’s Filipino restaurant to help Tita Rosie, her grandmother, and the “calendar crew” – a group of aunties named after the months. One day, as she’s serving a special dessert to a particularly unpleasant food critic (and her ex-boyfriend), he dies…after an argument with Lila…surrounded by witnesses. The local detectives all look to Lila as the main suspect, as the restaurant is shut down and the landlord threatens eviction. Lila, along with her tough grandma and lovable aunties, must do her own investigation to find the truth and save their restaurant. (There’s also a dachshund pup named Longganisa which is adorable.) While Lila isn’t a super sleuth, there are other endearing characters to help her out, and plenty of town gossip.

Along with the restaurant, Lila’s dream is to open her own bakery of some kind, so there are lots of great food descriptions, which might not be helpful if you’re reading this while hungry. There are also a few included recipes in the book, like ube crinkle cookies. This was a good introduction to the series – a light, cozy mystery filled with family and food – a quick and easy read.

  • Homicide and Halo-Halo (2022)
  • Blackmail and Bibingka (2022)
  • Murder and Mamon (2023)
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Book Club Spotlight – I Have Always Been Me

Cover of I Have Always Been Me by Precious Brady-Davis. 

Precious stands front and center in a welcoming pose towards the camera. She is wearing a dress in the colors of the Trans flag.

During Black History Month, we’re showcasing books by some incredible authors to celebrate Black voices in literature. And this week’s highlighted book, I Have Always Been Me by Precious Brady-Davis, is a bold coming-of-age and coming-of-self story set in a familiar locale. Born and raised in Omaha, Brady-Davis serves as the director of communications at the Sierra Club, a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, and an LGBT+ and HIV activist. She was the first publicly out transgender woman on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress and was featured on another TLC show, “My Pregnant Husband: documenting her and her husband’s journey to having a child together as a trans couple.

Precious was often the odd one out in her family and her Omaha community. Assigned as male at birth and growing up being perceived as one, she knew that her innate femininity was leading to bullying and unwanted attention. Being moved around between family members, foster care, and schools, it wasn’t until she started attending UNL that Precious began performing drag and was able to embrace the more authentic side of herself. During her education, Precious found her talent and love for diversity and inclusion advocacy through local programs and support from her peers and teachers. However, she had to reckon with her empathy and love for all people with what she was taught at home and in church. Precious recounts her intimate relationship with religion that shaped her youth and how it led to her continued ostracization by people she felt the closest to due to her gender nonconformity. And her reckoning between these two worlds that seemed so disparate is found to be fundamentally a part of her person. Eventually moving to Chicago to finish school at Columbia College, Precious continued to find and foster her queer identity, finally coming to herself as a trans woman and devoting her life to advocacy work, eventually falling in love and fully cementing her foundation for an incredible future ahead.

“For all of us who have been marginalized, who have been abandoned by those who are meant to love us, who have been damned by those who are meant to bless us, who have been looked at with disgust and told that we are wrong, that we are sinful, that we are abominations, now is the time to go forth and be fierce with clear intent while standing tall, showing that marginalized folks aren’t going anywhere as we activate our power.”

Precious Brady-Davis

I Have Always Been Me is a well-known tale of how a person can desperately search for a community as a child but be turned away at every corner. And it isn’t until they are introduced to the world of unconditional acceptance that they finally have the tools to escape survival mode to grow and flourish. While the subject may be new, the story will feel familiar to members of an adult or mature young-adult book group and can open the floor to discussion on the different ways people can be made to feel like outsiders and how vital community support is for disenfranchised young people. Stories like Brady-Davis’s are pivotal in normalizing and loving trans people, especially Black Trans women in Nebraska. Reading the interpersonal stories of affected people, like with any other minority group, lends a bigger picture to the conversation in ways only literature can and showcases the incredible resilience needed to simply be yourself. 

If you’re interested in requesting I Have Always Been Me for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit 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

Brady-Davis, Precious. I Have Always Been Me. TOPPLE Books. 2021.

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Book Club Spotlight – Long Way Down

The cover of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. 
A grungy elevator centered on the floor number buttons in a straight line. The 1st floor button is lit and a reflection of a young Back boy is shown.

It’s our first Book Club Spotlight of Black History Month, which means this month, we’re showcasing books by incredible authors to celebrate Black Voices in literature. Today’s author, Jason Reynolds, is the recipient of awards such as the NAACP Image Award and multiple Coretta Scott King honors and was the 2020-2022 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Reynolds encourages us not to see the genre of YA as limiting, enjoying the freedom of emotion young people carry to tell good stories. Today’s spotlight, recipient of the Printz and Newbery Honors, Long Way Down, is written in free verse, through snippets of dreams and recollections, as a young boy is visited by the ghosts of his past.

After witnessing his brother’s murder, Will knows what he has to do. Follow The Rules.

1) Don’t Cry 2) Don’t Snitch 3) Get Revenge.

He doesn’t know who created The Rules and when, but he does know that it’s his duty to follow them. Because he knows, or at least he thinks he knows, who killed Shawn. Will finds his brother’s hidden gun, gets on the 8th-floor elevator and presses L. As Will goes further down the elevator, he is visited by those who are gone because of the same Rules he is now going to follow, and he is given a chance to either continue the cycle or break it apart. 

I know you’re young,
gotta get it out
but just remember, when
you’re walking in the nighttime,
make sure the nighttime
ain’t walking into you.”

Jason Reynolds 

For ages 12 and above, Long Way Down skillfully employs free verse to weave together an unforgettable story about the cycle of violence, especially in how it affects urban and Black communities. Reynolds prefers not to shy away from realism and challenging topics in his novels because the kids reading them have experienced or will experience the same situations in real life. Reynolds, himself, almost fell victim to the cycle when he was younger, and he uses his real-life experiences and emotions to cut to the core of why violence like this continues to happen. Much like Will’s elevator ride that only takes sixty seconds, but lasts a whole novel, reading Long Way Down, can be taken at whatever pace is comfortable to the reader’s skill level. And as violence in schools continues to be a constant fear, there will be plenty for young reading groups to discuss as the floors tick by.

If you’re interested in requesting Long Way Down for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 10 copies available (Items must be requested by a librarian)

To read more by Jason Reynolds, check out his Track Series, or, The Boy in the Black Suit (One Book For Nebraska Teens 2019).

Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. Atheneum. 2017.

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Friday Reads: Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss

Book cover, Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss

When the days are short and it’s too cold to spend much time outdoors, what kind of books do you reach for? I often seek out a travel memoir. Those I connect with most inspire me to reminisce about my own travel or pique my interest in learning more about a place I’ve never been. When looking for a new read to get me through the cold and dreary season, Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland jumped out at me. Several people have recently told me about their travels to Iceland and suggested I add it to my ultimate travel wish list, so I decided to download the e-book and learn more.

Names for the Sea isn’t exactly a travel memoir.  It is the story of a British family living and working in Reykjavik during 2009-2010, and the stories of Icelanders met during their stay. Author Sarah Moss, is a British novelist and professor of literature who dreamed of living and working in a foreign country. A temporary position at the University of Iceland caught her eye. After she accepted the position, Sarah and her family put most of their possessions into storage and moved to Reykjavik. Sarah’s husband and two young children joined her on the adventure. The first chapters of the book revolved around arranging schooling for the children and various issues pertaining to parenting, settling into a new teaching job, and setting up a home in an unfamiliar place. The book is not just a memoir of their daily life. It is also peppered with stories of various Icelanders who provide a fascinating window into Icelandic history and culture. The Moss family stories and Icelandic narratives don’t always fit together seamlessly, and Sarah’s negativity is a bit tiresome at times. The book’s strengths are the Icelanders’ stories and the Moss family’s sporadic interactions with the land and environment. 

“The aurora are unsettling partly because they show the depth of the space, and falsity of our illusion that the sky is two-dimensional, and partly because it’s hard to convince your instinct that something bigger than you and grabbing at the sky isn’t out to get you.”

Sarah had a difficult time settling into Icelandic life. She seemed crippled by various fears including the worry that everyone saw her as a “foreigner,” and that she didn’t fit in. Her fears limited her activities in Iceland, and seemed to impact some of her perceptions. Nevertheless, she had a lot of curiosity about Icelandic history and culture. Her colleagues helped her set up meetings with various people to learn about topics that included elves and ghosts, farm life, culinary history, poverty, politics, Icelandic knitting, and volcanic eruptions. These conversations seemed a bit forced to me, as the interactions didn’t happen organically, and she often centered herself in the stories a bit too much for my liking. The Icelandic stories are fascinating, however, and they piqued my interest in learning more about their culture.

“And when the milk lorry came it would give you three books for that week, and you’d give him the three books that he gave you last week, from the library, and he’d take those to the next farm, so there’d be a continual march of books around the sveit with the milk lorry.”

Sarah heard riveting accounts of previous volcanic eruptions and the Moss family got to experience their own volcanic event with the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. This volcanic eruption is one of the few events that motivated Sarah to travel outside Reykjavik to experience rural Iceland. The family took few opportunities to explore the greater country during their year. Financial constraints were one of the reasons for their lack of exploration. Iceland was in the midst of recovering from a major financial crisis and prices were extremely high. But Sarah also feared driving outside the city and other fears and negativity also seemed to impact her choices. It was not until they decided to leave Iceland and later return for a vacation, that her attitude shifted and she was more willing to explore beyond Reykjavik. Moss seemed much more content in Iceland as a “tourist” rather than trying to fit in as a resident. 

Moss’s attitudes and opinions sometimes seemed self-righteous and she never fully reflected on her own biases. Although she acknowledged that fear and the overwhelming feeling of being “foreign” limited her exploration and participation in Icelandic life, her opinions sometimes appeared to be rooted in the biases of being a outsider who was inexperienced with the climate, culture, and negotiating rural environments. This left me questioning if some of her criticisms were well-researched or were instead impacted by her own fears, biases, and what sometimes seemed like jealousy. I think many travelers or people living in a new place where you don’t speak the language can identify with fears and self-doubt, but there were some things about Sarah Moss that I just didn’t connect with.  For me the book was a good reminder that although visiting a new place can make you grateful for certain things in your own homeland, it’s important to check one’s own biases. Approaching new people and cultures with empathy and being open to try things outside one’s comfort zone make travel a much more enjoyable experience.

Although I didn’t always connect with Sarah Moss, I really enjoyed this book overall. Seeing a new place through the eyes of an author who is also an outsider often encourages me to reflect on my approach to travel. The Moss family’s story kept me reading and interested in how they would navigate different challenges like the short winter days and unfamiliar foods. Overall, this book was also an intriguing introduction into Icelandic culture and history, and I definitely want to learn more.

Moss, Sarah. Names for the Sea Strangers in Iceland. Catapult, 2013.

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Book Club Spotlight – The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Cover for The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth.

Three teens sit in a truck's bed, looking at the camera stoically.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a quiet atmospheric story that takes the reader through the formative years of the titular Cameron as she comes into herself as a person and as a lesbian. Written as the dissertation for her Ph.D. at UNL (co-directed by author Timothy Schaffert and the late Gerald Shapiro), emily m. danforth was inspired by sentimentalist women’s literature, stories of teens being sent to religion-based conversion therapy camps, and her own upbringing in Miles City, Montana. Published three years before the federal protection of same-sex marriage, Miseducation’s impact on normalizing queer culture and issues is phenomenal, especially in how it honestly approaches teens and their families in the discovery and acceptance of their sexuality.

Growing up in early 90s Montana, Cameron Post did her best to keep her head down, not wanting anyone to look further than her “wise-cracking orphan” façade. But, if anyone started to look too closely, they would see she was in hiding. Hiding her feelings for other girls. Detailing her loves and loves lost while fogged in religious guilt pushed on her by her ultra-religious aunt, Cameron learns how to keep her true self out of sight. Betrayed and forced out of the closet, the looming threat of being sent to conversion therapy camp becomes a reality. Cameron must endeavor against those who want to change her and find solidarity amongst the powerless teens also caught up in the mess of religious zealotry and homophobia. Cameron’s story is, of course, a “miseducation” at its core. She isn’t some unachievable, idealized-perfect person, and she shouldn’t have to be. Finding yourself is not easy; you have to be prepared to face what finds you in return.

“When you run into yourself, you run into feelings you never thought you had.”

emily m. danforth

Perfect fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Green, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is appropriate for mature teen and adult book groups. It approaches complex topics with care and empathy. Because it takes place in the 90s, some language is out of date, which opens up room for an interesting group discussion on how we have treated and talked about LGBTQ+ issues and if Cameron’s story would be different if she were a teen today. danforth has the skill to give her characters space to tell their own stories rather than focusing on teaching us a lesson or a hard-hitting moral. Like life, Miseducation revels in its slow pacing. The book is a long scenic road to get where it wants to be. Only a few chapters in, and it feels like you have known Cameron forever.

And if your reading group is interested in a movie night, the 2018 movie adaptation of Miseducation won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for the U.S. Dramatic category. I watched it this weekend, and it was incredible. From a review of the movie in the New York Times: “Miseducation is neither a glib sendup of a less enlightened era nor a pious reckoning with the bygone injustices of the past. It is more interested in how its characters feel than in what they might symbolize, and in how they grapple with the conflicting demands of faith and desire. It’s also about the struggle between earnest young people and the equally earnest, painfully misguided adults who are trying to save their souls”.

To see more of our LGBT+ & Queer book club titles, visit the link here.

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 10 copies available (Items must be requested by a librarian)

danforth, m. emily. The Miseducation of Cameron Post. HarperCollins. 2012.

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Friday Reads: Toad by Katherine Dunn

I don’t remember how I came to read Katherine Dunn’s cult-classic novel, Geek Love. It is the story of a circus couple and their literally homemade “freak show”; all of their children were purposely subjected to chemicals and drugs in utero in order to produce “show-worthy” birth defects. I was likely still reading The Babysitters Club when it was published in 1989, and while it was being praised by Kurt Cobain and Terry Gilliam, there is little chance it was carried by my small town library. Nonetheless, it eventually popped up on my literary radar and Dunn’s vivid and often grotesque imagery is forever seared into my subconscious. That Tim Burton bought the rights to the book probably says enough.

Geek Love is not the book I’m talking about today. However, without it, I would have probably never given a second glance to Toad.

Toad, published this past fall, 6 years after Dunn’s death, was penned long before she wrote Geek Love. Although she had two previous novels under her belt, this third book was declined by her publisher, and attempts to revise it and shop it around to a new house were unsuccessful. The story is based on Dunn’s experience in 1960s Portland, and having the largely autobiographical work rejected over and over was a blow to Dunn, who eventually shelved the book. She then spent years perfecting her ultimately-acclaimed next project, Geek Love, before submitting it to professional critique. Dunn never did try to find a publisher for Toad again, but after her death, her son Eli was contacted by an editor searching for Dunn’s lesser-known writing and he lent her the manuscript. After she overcame her shock that no one had tried to release the book before her, she helped usher it into print.

Compared to Geek Love, the characters in Toad are almost boringly normal. Sally Dunn, our protagonist, oscillates her narrative between her current life as a near-recluse, alone with her regrets in a small house she pays for with her disability check, and tales of her misspent youth near a college campus in Portland. She tags along after a group of hippie students, with their lofty (often naive) ideals and lack of work ethic, that she seems to simultaneously envy and loathe. She despises them because they come from cushy middle-class backgrounds and choose to live in bohemian squalor, but she despises herself even more for not fitting in, always being the outsider.

There are no heroes in Katherine Dunn’s world – only victims and villains, and they are often one and the same. There is no one to root for, or against, as everyone has the capacity for cruelty, kindness, love, and loss. Sally tells the story, but without the rose-colored glasses through which we often view our good old days. She recognizes that she, too, can be both brutal and benevolent, and that realization is among her reasons for her self-isolation.

At times sad, humorous, honest, and grotesque, Katherine Dunn’s writing is not for everyone. She doesn’t sugarcoat humanity – people can be gross, crass, and annoying. Nonetheless, I’m glad these books crossed my path. Now I need to go wash my hands.

Dunn, Katherine. Toad, ‎ New York, New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022.

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Book Club Spotlight – Prairie Lotus

The Cover for Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park.  A young half-Chinese girl stands on the prairie with her back to a small town. Her hair is blowing in the wind as she holds on to her bonnet. Over laying her shirt are three people walking towards the town, a white man, a young girl, and a Chinese woman.

In today’s spotlight, we will continue our look back to the historic American frontier and the people who shaped it. If you, like me, grew up in the early 2000s, chances are you’ve read a book by Linda Sue Park. Her Newberry Award Winning novel, A Single Shard and Project Mulberry, were some of my absolute favorite books in middle school, and I was over the moon to learn that she is still writing! Our book today, Prairie Lotus, is a new addition to our collection and is the most recent in Linda Sue Park’s bibliography. Being a 2021-22 Golden Sower Novel Nominee, Prairie Lotus has also earned a Children’s Literature Award Honor from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. In addition to being an esteemed author, Park is the founder and curator of Allida Books (a HarperCollins imprint) and a board member for the non-profit We Need Diverse Books and the Rabbit hOle museum project.

At the beginning of Prairie Lotus, Hanna has three goals, graduate from school, become a dressmaker, and make a real friend. As pioneers, she and her father have been traveling across the west for quite some time when they end up in the small Dakota Territory town of LaForge. Hanna is especially excited to live in town so she can finally attend a real school, just like her late mother dreamed of her doing. But, unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Despite being intelligent and resourceful, Hanna is half-Chinese and faces a lot of discrimination from the white settlers who try to stop her from going to school or even running errands. Refusing to give in to their hate, Hanna now has to figure out how to still graduate from school, prepare for the opening of her father’s store, and keep up with her household chores, all the while dealing with the cruelty from the townsfolk. And she has the strong spirit of the American frontier and the strength of her mother in her corner.

 “There were always a hundred reasons for disliking people and not nearly as many for liking them.”

Linda Sue Park

Like The Birchbark HousePrairie Lotus is perfect for young (or adult) readers interested in reading about early American history from a fresh perspective. Exploring life in this pioneer community, we are shown the strength and daily life of the women who settled in the West, and the life of the local Indigenous women, specifically from the Ihanktonwan (Yankton Sioux) tribe. The story purposefully reads similarly to Little House on the Prairie and is heavily influenced by the series (you’ll even see some familiar faces). As a daughter of Korean immigrants, Park says, “Hanna’s story is in many respects a kind of ‘conversation’ with the iconic Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a child, I spent hours imagining that I too lived on the frontier in the 1800s, and that I was Laura’s best friend”. And Park makes no mistake that she wrote the story as a way for her to come to terms with a story she loves while also challenging its more problematic history, which is discussed more in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. 

More by Linda Sue Park: 

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 10 copies available (Items must be requested by a librarian) 

Park, Linda Sue. Prairie Lotus. Harper Collins. 2020

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Book Club Spotlight – Death Comes for the Archbishop

Cover of Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. The cover art is a pencil drawing of a road curving around sand dunes covered in sparse vegitation.

A new year means new books will be entering the public domain! According to copyright laws, works originating in 1927 will now be free for all to share, use, and create new stories with. For example, last year, the original Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne entered the public domain, leading to a new horror movie featuring the characters. So now, in 2023, we have a whole new set of stories to look out for, and today we’ll be talking about one in our very own Book Club collection. Death Comes for the Archbishop is Willa Cather’s re-telling of the lives of Roman Catholic clergymen Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Projectus Machebeuf as they establish a diocese in the U.S. New Mexico Territory in the 1800s. Cather, preferring to call it a “narrative” rather than a novel, wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop as a cluster of vignettes, legends, and stories surrounding the fictionalized Southwest and how the Catholic Church came to shape the region. But don’t let that frighten you; her book isn’t that of religious zealotry but of the people.

Father Jean Marie Latour, a French Jesuit priest, has been sent off to be the Vicar and Bishop of the newly American-owned New Mexico territory. He, with his close childhood friend Father Joseph Vaillant, attempts to serve their diocese, which often descends into disarray with the Mexican and Native American population content to perform religion in their own way due to the prolonged absence of a Vicar. The men, unused to the harsh New Mexico region, but earnest in their faith, meet and grow fond of their parishioners in the American Southwest, painting a knowledgeable and sympathetic portrait of the times and the people. The intelligent and philosophical Father Latour is open-minded about other cultures and finds human love at the root of his faith. At the same time, his abrupt friend Father Vaillant is much more direct in his faith and actions, which often leads to a more closed-minded approach. Because of this, the two, though immensely fond of each other, find themselves at odds in their passions. Vaillant’s often taking him away on evangelical missions, all the while Latour’s passion keeps him close to home, cultivating deeper bonds there but missing his partner. Together and apart, they explore the vast New Mexico territory, expanding their faith and assisting those in their care.

“Where there is great love there are always miracles,”

Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop is a quiet and reflective narrative that celebrates communities and cultures coming together while still holding onto their traditions. Not Catholic herself, Cather shows a gentler depiction of religion than her typical portrayal and how it can build a community of not only faith but trust and security. She does not portray the church or even the priests in the novel as perfect but as humans who want to do their best for their parishioners and God. Father Latour is wholly human, makes mistakes, and has his own prejudice, but he never looks down on another person; he advocates for the rights of the Navajos, Mexicans, and all people in his diocese. While the more brash Vaillant is more prone to prejudice, he has his own deep connections in the community as well. And everyone, especially the women, is treated kindly and with reverence, and any biases the priests may have do not bleed into the narration overall. Of course, being a Willa Cather book, any Nebraska book club will have a great time reading one of her classics. Readers will find discussion topics in the many vignette parables scattered throughout the book. While some phrasing or ideas are old, the novel still holds up in its earnestness and love for all people. Modern audiences and book groups will appreciate the sympathetic acknowledgment of the Native and Mexican people whose homes are displaced by white intruders and see how our modern ideals have or have not changed.

To see this year’s list of copyrighted works entering the public domain, visit the link here!

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 5 copies available (Items must be requested by a librarian) 

Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1927

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#BookFaceFriday – “The Snow Globe” by Sheila Roberts

We’re shaking things up with this week’s #BookFaceFriday!

This winter wonderland is making our holiday books feel right at home! Looking for the perfect Hallmark read, reserve a holiday title like “The Snow Globe” by Sheila Roberts (Piatkus, 2014) for your book club! Take a peek

at all of our holiday-themed book club kits today!

In the collection we have 114 holiday titles, 81 of which have 4 or more copies. If a library is looking to weed some of their holiday titles – they can think of us because we’re always happy to add to this particular collection!

These titles are very popular in November and December, with some book club groups reserving their choices up to a year in advance! NLC staff keep their eyes peeled for holiday-themed books year-round in order to meet the demand come the first snowfall.

“This lighthearted and charming read will appeal to fans of Kristin Hannah’s magical, light romances and readers who enjoyed Roberts’s previous holiday offerings.”

–Library Journal (Starred Review)

This week’s #BookFace model is Kay, she’s a TBBS Readers Advisor.

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 – The Fishermen

Cover for the The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. On a bright red background, four fishing hooks are intertwined and tangled together

While we’re busy getting snowed in this week, you’ll want to hunker down with a good book like this week’s spotlight! During the winter holidays, many of us spend our time around family or loved ones, and The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is, first and foremost, a book about family. Written as a love letter to his brothers, Obioma explores the intrinsic connection between siblings and how easily chaos can sow a rift between them. I love sharing books that have a special connection to Nebraska, and The Fishermen, recipient of the 2016 Nebraska Book Award for fiction, is an excellent example of one such book. Born in Nigeria, Chigozie Obioma is currently the James E. Ryan Associate Professor of Creative writing at UNL. The Fishermen, his debut novel, also won the Inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction, the NAACP Image Awards for Debut Literary Work, and was shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize. 

In 1990s Nigeria, under the dictatorship of Gen. Sani Abacha, there is a family of brothers. Ikenna, the oldest; Boja and Obembe in the middle; and the youngest, Ben as our narrator. When their father moves away for work, the delicate family structure begins to crumble without its leader. In a fit of rebellion, the four boys go behind their mother’s back to fish in a forbidden and polluted river, leaving her clueless, tending to their two youngest siblings. At the river, the boys encounter the town’s prophetic madman, who convinces Ikenna that he will be murdered brutally by one of his siblings. Driven mad by this prophecy, the family suffers the loss of another authority figure, as their eldest brother becomes suspicious, anxious, and even violent toward them. So, the four brothers, like Cain and Abel before them, are plunged into turmoil, testing their bond and loyalty to the bitter end.

“I heard someone say that the end of most things often bears a resemblance- even if faint- to their beginnings”

– Chigozie Obioma

Perfect for an adult book group that enjoys character-driven plots that tell a deeper story, The Fishermen is rife with metaphors and parables from Obioma’s Igbo roots. Described as “an essential novel about Africa with all of its contradictions—economic, political and religious—and the epic beauty of its own culture,” each of the brothers represents the four major tribes of Nigeria and how the political tumult in the country led to unrest between them. Even though the novel is an allegory for and takes place during a dangerous time in Nigeria’s history, this is not a historical war novel. While affected and aware of the situation, the children are more invested in their interpersonal lives rather than politics. This style reminds me of the show Derry Girls in how it isn’t only addressing issues in a political sense but also in a personal sense. And in this book is about strife and torn bonds, Obioma delivers hope for the future resting on the next generation’s unmarred shoulders.

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 20 copies available with large print and audio CD (Items must be requested by a librarian) 

Obioman, Chigozie. The Fishermen. Little, Brown and Company. 2015.

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#BookFaceFriday – “Cold” by Mariko Tamaki

This #BookFace is ice cold!

With the wintery weather all across the state, we couldn’t think of a more fitting book for this week’s #BookFaceFriday! The perfect ebook to cozy up with is “Cold: A Novel” by Mariko Tamaki (Roaring Brook Press, 2022.) A suspenseful teen read about murder in a small town, perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars or One of Us is Lying. And because this title is available as an eBook on Nebraska OverDrive Libraries you won’t even have to leave the house to check it out. Find this title and more winter reads available to Nebraska OverDrive Libraries.

“Sharp and authentic, Cold doesn’t just take its title from the chill of a wintry day but also from the cruelty and isolation of adolescence. Readers who love intense, suspenseful storytelling will devour it in one sitting.”


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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