2022 Selections

June

Readers' Choice

 

July 

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen. Gessen, a contributor to many US periodicals and newspapers, is the Russian born author of our chilling February 2013 selection The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. The recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Carnegie Fellowship, Gessen has lived in both Russia (born to a Jewish family there) and the US. She teaches at Bard College and lives in New York City. She has been sought after of late for her insights into the Ukraine situation.

In The Future (written five years ago) Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy in Russia.   Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own. Gessen charts their paths against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all, and against the war it waged on understanding itself, which ensured the unobstructed reemergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today's terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state.

or

Great Influenza by John Barry. . Study of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

 

August 

The Last Man WHo Knew Everuthing: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age by David N Schwartz. Fermi grew up in Rome in the early 1900s and showed brilliance as a child prodigy. Just prior to the start of WWII, he escaped Italy’s Mussolini with his family for America and soon found himself working on the Manhattan Project. No need to be intimidated by the science, the author whose father is also a Nobel prize winner in particle physics, has written for the general audience.  

or

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. Murder on a glamourous river steamer in Egypt.

 

September 

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. This selection was shortlisted for the 2017 Royal Society Science Book Prize and has since been published in more than twenty languages. As a scuba-diving philosopher of science, he explores the wonder of cephalopods, smart and playful creatures who live outside the brain-body divide. By tracing the question of inner life back to its roots and comparing human beings with our most remarkable animal relatives, Australian Godfrey-Smith casts crucial new light on the octopus mind—and on our own.

or

Lions of 5th Avenue by Fiona Davis. Novel about two women and their experiences with the New York City Public Library.

 

October 

The House of Medidi: Its RIse and Fall  by Christopher Hibbert.  Renaissance Florence had enormous wealth, power and influence funded by trade and banking. The often-bloody political scene was dominated by rich families, the most famous being the Medici. Hibbert begins in the early 1430s with the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, then moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence's slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line. Many familiar names and events appear, but in a new way.

or

Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Strangers meet at Hill House in Georgia, which is rumored to be haunted.

 

November 

The Hear is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Over 80 years ago, this 23-year old’s first novel was published. The title comes from the poem “The Lonely Hunter" by the Scottish poet William Sharp-- “Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still, But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.” It was the first of her works giving voice to those who are rejected, forgotten, mistreated, or oppressed. Set in a small Southern town in the 30’s, McCullers introduces a cast of characters, all fighting isolation in their own ways. From Columbus, Georgia, McCullers, a promising pianist, enrolled in Julliard but could not afford the tuition; instead, she studied writing at Columbia which led to this literary sensation, followed by numerous others in her relatively short life. This work has remained recommended reading through the ensuing decades.

or

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Plane crash with boys left to develop their own social system.

 

 

Book Suggestions from Various Sources

New York Times List

Goodreads Book Club Suggestions

The Guardian, Nonfiction

The Guardian, Fiction

Geekwrapped

 

Other interesting Nebraska possibilities (in addition to those on the NE150 list):

Sharpie: The Life Story of Evelyn Sharp--Nebraskas Aviatrix by Diane Ruth Armour Bartels. In the throes of the Great Depression , amidst the red dust and grasshoppers borne by a wind from the Oklahoma Panhandle, a young girl named Evelyn Sharp grew up in the north central region of the Nebraska Sandhills. It was there she assimilated the values of perseverance and commitment, and acquired a sense of adventure which would clearly define her character.

Moving Out: A Nebraska Woman's Life (Women in the West) by Polly Spence. The autobiography of Polly Spence (1914–98) and an intimate portrait of small-town life in the mid–twentieth century. The descendant of Irish settlers, Polly spent her first fifteen years in Franklin, a village with conservative religious values in south-central Nebraska. Although Polly's relationship with her mother was tense, she loved and admired her newspaperman father, from whom she inherited her love of learning and the English language. In 1927 her family moved to Crawford, a tough but relatively tolerant cow town in northwestern Nebraska. Polly vividly contrasts the cultural differences between Franklin's conservatism and Crawford's more liberal attitudes. 

Selections are subject to change. To suggest a title as an alternative to one listed, please contact Susanne or Carol. We welcome suggestions!

Readers' Suggested Books

Our readers have recommended the following books. Please send your suggestions to the webmaster for inclusion here, and check back soon for updates.

Books for the Mind

The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age by David N. Schwartz, lays bare the enigmatic life of a colossus of twentieth century physics. Fermi truly was the last man who knew everything--at least about physics. He was also a complex figure: Italian Fascist who worked on the Manhattan Project, and a less-than-ideal father and husband .

Man's Fate by André Malraux. Fiction. As a study of conspiracy and conspirators, of men caught in the desperate clash of ideologies, betrayal, expediency, and free will, Andre Malraux's novel remains unequaled.

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig, master anatomist of the deceitful heart, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings.

Iceland’s Bell by Halldor Laxness. At the close of the 17th century, Iceland is an oppressed Danish colony, suffering under extreme poverty, famine, and plague. A farmer and accused cord-thief named Jon Hreggvidsson makes a bawdy joke about the Danish king and soon after finds himself a fugitive charged with the murder of the king’s hangman.

A Personal Matter by Kenzaburō Ōe, a frustrated intellectual in a failing marriage whose Utopian dream is shattered when his wife gives birth to a brain-damaged child.

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima,explores the vicious nature of youth that is sometimes mistaken for innocence.

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, novel of Europe in the years before 1914.

Germinal by Émile Zola. Fiction. Depicts the brutal coal miners' strike in northern France in the 1860s.

Selected Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant. Short fiction.

Germinal by Émile Zola. Fiction. Depicts the brutal coal miners' strike in northern France in the 1860s.

The Doctor’s Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi, about Hanaoka Seishu, the first doctor in the world to perform surgery for breast cancer under a general anesthetic; and the lives of his wife and his mother. 

Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber. Humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods long before the invention of coins or cash. The importance of debt in law, religion, and politics. 

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, exquisite melancholy observations, aphorisms, and ruminations; grapples with eternal questions.

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. Fiction. Widely regarded as one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written, Don Quixote chronicles the adventures of the self-created knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain.

The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. The human story behind the evolution of our financial system, from ancient Mesopotamia to the present day.

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick,story of a pivotal moment in modern history when a group of strange, tormented geniuses—Isaac Newton chief among them—invented science and remade our understanding of the world.

The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of America Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder by Peter Zeihan, a  contrarian assessment of American power.

Legends of the Ancient World: The Life and Legacy of Archimedes by Charles River Editors, 1500 years before Da Vinci, Archimedes ("Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world.") made groundbreaking discoveries in mathematics, physics, engineering, and astronomy — including theorizing, building, and field-testing a functional laser 200 years before Christ. Widely regarded as the greatest mathematician who ever lived.

Descartes' Error by Antonio Damasio, demonstrates how emotions are essential to rational thinking and normal social behavior.

Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto, uncovers the hidden and often surprising connection between not obviously related words. Shows how modern English has been influenced by migration, trade, technology, and scholarship.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, nad War by Nathaniel Philbrick, this electrifying history of the Pilgrims a fifty-five-year epic, at once tragic and heroic, that still resonates with us today.

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 (Newbery Honor Book) by Jim Murphy. 1793, Philadelphia: relates the yellow fever epidemic to the major events of the day. Drawing on first-hand accounts, Murphy spotlights the heroic role of Philadelphia's free blacks in combating the disease, and the Constitutional crisis that President Washington faced when he was forced to leave the city--and all his papers--while escaping the deadly contagion.

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild, haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, and of the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated.

Alone in the Universe: Why our Planet is Unique by John Gribbin, explores what makes our planet unique and why life elsewhere in the universe is so improbable.

The Tunguska Mystery by Vladimir Rubtsov, unbiased account of theories to explain the still-unresolved devastating 1908 explosion in Siberia that exerted a force three thousand times greater than the Hiroshima blast.

George Washingtson's Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade, historically accurate narrative about the six-person spy ring in NYC and Long Island.

The Man Who Loved only Numbers by Paul Hoffman, this masterful biography of Paul Erdos is both a vivid portrait of an eccentric genius and a layman's guide to some of this century's most startling mathematical discoveries.

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine by Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh, examines popular treatments including acupuncture and herbal medicines for their benefits and potential dangers.

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer, reveals the power, danger, and beauty of parasites.

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson by William Stouder

Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution by Rebecca Stott

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

Fur, Fortunes, and Empire by Eric Jay Dolin: the story of how the fur trade influenced events in American history, including Nebraska

The Prize: Daniel Yergin earned a Pulitzer Prize for his thorough research on oil and the politics, history and technology that surround it.

The Five Ages of the Universe: the history of the universe starting with the Big Bang and twisting and turning through until forever

Black Flags: The Rise of Isis by Joby Warrick, traces how the strain of militant Islam behind ISIS first arose in a remote Jordanian prison and spread.

The Upside of Irrationality: In this intriguing work of "behavioral economics," Dan Ariely engages general audiences by analyzing why humanity as a whole tends to self-sabotage.

Marching with the First Nebraska, A Civil War Diary by August Scherneckau

Massacre Along the Medicine Road by Ronald Becher, details the 1864 Cheyenne/Sioux war against white settlers in Nebraska Territory

DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America by Bryan Sikes explores the genetic history, genealogy, and anthropology of Americans

The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton

Lords of the Harvest: Bioech, Big Money, and the Future of Food by Daniel Charles, a refreshingly even-handed journalistic history [up to 2002] of geneticlalhy modified foods: "a story of idealism and conflicting dreams about the shape of a better world."

 

Books for the Heart

 

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Fiction.In 1961 New Bremen, Minnesota, is all quiet and serene. The Minnesota River flows through the countryside, the town barber knows everyone's name, and folks dutifully attend church every Sunday. But serenity is thrown into turmoil as a series of tragic deaths lead some families on a hunt for terrible truths. But at what cost come wisdom? A boy must leave his childhood behind and confront the dark nature of the adult world and its myriad moral questions: What secrets will destroy us? How do we deal with grief:? And what solace is there in the ordinary grace of the world?

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Novel about sixteen-year-old Aza who is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Silvertown: An East End Family Memoir by Melanie McGrath, stories of life in the docks and pubs and dog tracks of London's old East End where Melanie McGrath's grandparents scraped a living.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, interweaving the lives of multifaceted characters during WWII, the author illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer prize winner.

Second Suns: Two Doctors and their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives by David Oliver Relin, gifted ophthalmologists dedicate their lives to restoring sight to some of the world’s most isolated, impoverished people through the Himalayan Cataract Project.

The untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine by Hector Tobar or
33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners by Jonathan Franklin. Harrowing account of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for fourteen weeks in the fall of 2010.

Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner, unusual portrait of boyhood amid pioneering life in Sasketchewan 1914-1920.

Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald an internationally acclaimed multigenerational saga that chronicles the lives of four unforgettable sisters.

The News Sorority by Sheilla Weller, "irrresistible gossip and personal examination" of Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour in cutthroatjournalism.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, portrait of an abrasive junior high school math teacher, plus recurring characters in Crosby, Maine. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009.

Bee Keeper's Apprentice by Laura King. Sherlock Holmes mees a young woman who becomes his apprentice and eventually wife.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce, a passive observer of his own life decides to walk 600 miles across England to save an old friend. One Book, One Lincoln selection for this year; the library has both regular and large print editions.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham, biography

A Dispotition To Be Rich: How a Small Town Preacher’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the US by Geoffrey C. Ward

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, novel about espionage

Canada by Richard Ford, novel about innocence lost and reconciled

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, philosophical novel

Back Street by Fannie Hurst, star-crossed lovers reunite after one has wed another

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron, takes a hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future

Light on Snow by Anita Shreves, a novel about love and its consequences

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, students at a cooking school seek recipes for something beyond the kitchen

Touches the Sky by James C. Schaap - Seen through the eyes of Jan and his wife, Dalitha, a clash of cultures, lifestyle, and ways to know God and practice faith

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, autobiography

The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma, four Nigerian brothers encounter a madman.

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

The Alchemist by Paoli Coelho