2020 Selections

April 4
Upcoming Books Review + readers'roundtable: most vivid reading experiences


May 2

KWAIDAN (“WEIRD TALES”). Originally published in 1904 by Lafcadio Hearn, also known as Koizumi Yakumo (1850-1904).  Born in Greece to a Greek mother and Irish father, following a very unsettled childhood in several countries, Hearn found himself in the US, and after a few more stops, Japan, which became his adopted country.  Hearn in his short life was a prolific writer as well as a translator.  He collected these simple Japanese tales “Stories and Studies of Strange Things” and published them shortly before his death. ($5.99 thrift books)


UNCOMMON TYPE by Tom Hanks   A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor. ($3.68) 


June 6

THE METAPMORPHOSIS by Franz Kafka   60 pp   First published in 1915. It has been cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is studied in colleges and universities across the Western world. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed (metamorphosed) into a large, monstrous insect-like creature. The cause of Samsa's transformation is never revealed, and Kafka himself never gave an explanation. The rest of Kafka's novella deals with Gregor's attempts to adjust to his new condition as he deals with being burdensome to his parents and sister, who are repulsed by the horrible, verminous creature Gregor has become. ($5.99 Amazon prime)


THE RADIUM GIRLS: THE DARK STORY OF AMERICA'S SHINING WOMAN by Kate Moore  In the early twentieth century one of the best jobs young girls and women in America could have involved something exciting and brand new: radium. Sparkling, glowing, and beautiful, radium was also, according to the companies that employed these young women, completely harmless.  This books tells the story of these young women, seemingly so fortunate, who were poisoned by the jobs they felt so lucky to have. ($3.00) 

July 11
VITA NUOVO by Dante Alighieri (1292-94)--any English translation. Vita Nuova is regarded as Dante's most profound creation. A lyrical prose narrative celebrating and debating the subject of love links the thirty-one poems in this, the first of his major writings. Composed upon Dante's meeting with Beatrice and the "Lord of Love," it is a love story set to the task of confirming the "new life" this meeting inspired. This supreme work has been read variously as biography, religious allegory, and a meditation on poetry itself.  Foreshadows the divine Comedy, set in 1300. Born in 1265 in Florence, from which he was banished in 1302, dying in Ravenna in 1321, Dante set the Divine Comedy in the year 1300, when he was 35 years old and "in the middle of our mortal life". The setting allows him to utilize the past symbolically, exploit the present politically, and anticipate the future in simulated prophecy. Oxford Classics 128 pp, ($1.87 + Amazon)


THE AMERICAN SPIRIT by David McCullough A New York Times Bestseller A timely collection of speeches by David McCullough, the most honored historian in the United States-- that reminds us of fundamental American principles. ($4.14)  


August 1

BONJOUR TRISTESSE by Francoise Sagan   Sagan (1935-2004) was only eighteen when this, her first novel, was published. Internationally beloved story of a precocious teenager's attempts to understand and control the world around her.  Alternate: any of her other works.  ($2.29 Amazon)


THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom  Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house.  ($3.85)  


September 5

THE STRANGER by Albert Camus  Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd." (Prime amazon  $6.31)


MANHATTAN BEACH by Jennifer Egan Set on the Brooklyn docks during World War II, when mobsters ruled, the war loomed, and a young girl dove her way into becoming the first female diver on the squad.  ($3.68)


October 3

THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James 74 pp   Widely recognized as one of literature's most gripping ghost stories.  Without resorting to clattering chains, demonic noises, and other melodramatic techniques, this elegantly told tale succeeds in creating an atmosphere of tingling suspense and unspoken horror matched by few other books in the genre. Or any James short story collection containing The Turn of the Screw.  (Amazon $1.71)


In A SUNBURNED COUNTRY By Bill Bryson -– Bryson has traveled across the world and all the way Down Under to Australia, a shockingly under-discovered country with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. In a Sunburned Country is his report on what he found there--a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity.  ($3.40)


November 7

HAM, EGGS, CORNCAKE by Erastus F. Beadle 130 pp Beadle, born in 1821, left his home in Buffalo, New York, and set out for the territories Specifically, Beadle had a stake in a Land Company, which proposed to build the community of Saratoga just north of Omaha for incoming prospective settlers. In diary pages and letters home, Beadle noted his impressions—the details, anecdotes, and characters that filled his days. Failing to make his fortune, in 1858 he returned to New York, where he prospered as publisher of the popular Beadle's Dime Novels.  ($2.99 Amazon)


DIMESTORE by Lee Smith Set deep in the mountains of Virginia, the Grundy of Lee Smith’s youth was a place of coal miners, tent revivals, mountain music, drive-in theaters, and her daddy’s dimestore.  Dimestore’s fifteen essays are crushingly honest, wise and perceptive, and superbly entertaining. Together, they create an inspiring story of the birth of a writer and a poignant look at a way of life that has all but vanished. ($3.99)


December 5
One Selection supplemented by additional stories, poems, recipes, remembrances of our members

THE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS EVE by Nikolai Gogol 60pp Russian classic, originally published 1832, by the author of Dead Souls.   A short story about a young man trying to win the affections of a beautiful girl by promising to fetch her the slippers of the Tsaritsa. ($3.90 Amazon) 



January 2
Books we gave, got, wished we got for Christmas


February 6 
KIM by Rudyard Kipling 240 pp   Prize-winning author Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) set his final and most famous novel in the complex, mystery-shrouded India of the mid-19th century where an exotic landscape teems with natives living under British colonial rule.  ($.91 Amazon)


THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes A team of women deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library and become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.  These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention.  They’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives. ($1.99)   


March 6
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD by Christopher Lascelles 276 pp  2014 A clearly written, remarkably comprehensive guide to the greatest story on Earth - man's journey from the earliest times to the modern day.  (3.99 + Amazon)


WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens   The story follows two timelines that slowly intertwine. The first timeline describes the life and adventures of a young girl named Kya as she grows up isolated in the marsh of North Carolina from 1952–1969. The second timeline follows a murder investigation of Chase Andrews, a local celebrity of Barkley Cove, a fictional coastal town of North Carolina.  ($2.99) 


April 3
THE FACE OF WAR by Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) original hardcover (1959) 254 pp updated version 2018 352 pp.  Gellhorn was a journalist, investigative reporter, author, and war correspondent for many decades, through many wars, and in many countries. Read the collected essays in The Face of War or anything else written by her.  ($7.51 Amazon)


LAST HOPE ISLAND by Len Olson A groundbreaking account of how Britain became the base of operations for the exiled leaders of Europe in their desperate struggle to reclaim their continent from Hitler. ($4.25)


May 1
HUNGER by Knut Hamsun 144 pp   One of the most important writers of the 20th century, Norwegian Hamsun made literary history with the 1890 publication of this powerful autobiographical novel recounting the abject poverty, hunger and despair of a young writer struggling to achieve self-discovery artistic expression. Hamsun influenced many of the major 20th-century writers who followed him, including Kafka, Joyce and Henry Miller. ($1.96 + Amazon)


NEWS SORORITY: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour--and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV Newsby Sheila Weller  Drawing on exclusive interviews with their colleagues and intimates from childhood on, The News Sorority crafts a lively and exhilarating narrative that reveals the hard struggles and inner strengths that shaped these women and powered their success.  ($3.79)  


Book Suggestions from Various Sources

New York Times List

Goodreads Book Club Suggestions

The Guardian, Nonfiction

The Guardian, Fiction



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

Uncategorized Omaha Book Clubs Reading List

Killing Kennedy by  Bill OReilly – the end of Camelot
The Warmth of Other Suns , the story of Americas Great Migration - by Isabel Wilkerson – Pulitzer Prize winner the epic story of black citizens who fled the south
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin – a novel – historic fiction of a solitary orchardist who provides helter to 2 runaway teen girls in the untamed West
The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly – a novel set in Burma about a man who was in solitary confinement for 7 years.
One True Thing by Anna Quindlen – a novel about a mother, a daughter, and a choice
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom – a novel set on a tobacco plantation, an Irish orphan
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum – a novel about life in Germany during WW II
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalain – a novel set in 1915, a nurse in Syria
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin – a novel based on the lives of Charles Lindberg and Anne Morrow
The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland – historic fiction – life of a modern female artist
Six Years by Harlan Coben – love story of waiting for love of life
Mudhound by Hillary Jordon – set in 1946 – families return from war
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory – Henry VIII / Mary and Ann Boleyn
Appetite for America by Stephen Fried – story of the founding father of America's service industry
Orphan Master’s Son  by Adam Johnson – a novel set in No. Korea prison – Pulitzer Prize
Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Shoemaker’s Wife by Adiana Trigian – historical fiction set in Italian alps, multigenerational
The Swerve (How the world became modern) by Stephen Greenblatt – history of civilization and culture
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – 3 sisters go home to eccentric parents
Lost in Shangri-La by Michell Zuckoff – true story of  survival om WWII
Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Slides 1 – the greatest rescue of WW II
This Bright River – by Patrick Sommerville – a novel of a fractured family who goes home to Wisc.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – a novel of “ordinary” English lives – he walks 600 miles to visit a friend in hospice.