2018 Selections

April 7
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. The name Genghis Khan often conjures the image of a relentless, bloodthirsty barbarian on horseback leading a ruthless band of nomadic warriors in the looting of the civilized world. Another view is he was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas. Genghis Khan was an innovative leader, the first ruler in many conquered countries to put the power of law above his own power, encourage religious freedom, create public schools, grant diplomatic immunity, abolish torture, and institute free trade. / The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire and dire warning.

May 5
Book of Ages — Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore. Benjamin Franklin and his youngest sister were so close they were called Benny and Jenny. Renowned, world-traveling brother and obscure, homebound sister exchanged loving, newsy, bantering letters for more than 60 years. Most of his were preserved, while three decades’ of hers disappeared. Differences in the siblings’ education, opportunities, and experiences, are a focus as is Jane herself. The most poignant artifact unearthed was Jane’s handmade “Book of Ages,” recording the birth of her 12 children and, excruciatingly, the eventual death of all but one.  Jane’s surviving letters show her a witty, hardworking woman who “loved best books about ideas,” and shared piquant observations of the struggle for American independence. / Miramont's Ghost by Elizabeth Hall. Miramont Castle, built in 1897 and mysteriously abandoned three years later, is home to many secrets. Only one person knows the truth: Adrienne Beauvier, granddaughter of the Comte de Challembelles and cousin to the man who built the castle.  Clairvoyant from the time she could talk, Adrienne’s visions show her the secrets of those around her.  Her visions begin to reveal dark mysteries of her own aristocratic French family. 

June 2 —Mystery Month, book and movie
Brother Cadfael Chronicles (any of 20) by Ellis Peters. These short books all feature Cadfael who, returning from the Medieval Crusades and world travel, enters the Shrewsbury Benedictine monastery. He pairs a worldly wisdom and an extensive herbalist knowledge to help solve mysteries, even murder. The English Ms. Peters, actually Edith Pargeter who at times wrote as a male, authored many works, especially historical and historical fiction. Cadfael was personified on TV by Derek Jacobi. / Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchetts lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

July 7
Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov. Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short story writer considered to be among the greatest of short fiction. His career as a playwright produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov is often referred to in the birth of early modernism in the theater. Chekhov practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress.”  Read any or all of this collection (496 pp in this paperback) or anything by or about him. / Reader's CHoice, any book written about the 33 Chilean minters trapped underground for two months. Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar is in the library. When the San José mine collapsed outside of Copiapó, Chile, in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. After the disaster, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar received exclusive access to the miners and their tales, and in Deep, Down Dark he brings them to haunting, visceral life. We learn what it was like to be imprisoned inside a mountain, understand the horror of being slowly consumed by hunger, and experience the awe of working in such a place — one filled with danger and that often felt alive.

August 4
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski. C. S. Lewis is the 20th century's most widely read Christian writer and J.R.R. Tolkien its most beloved mythmaker. For three decades, they and their closest associates formed a literary club known as the Inklings, which met every week in Lewis's Oxford rooms and in nearby pubs. They discussed literature, religion, and ideas; read aloud from works in progress; took philosophical rambles in woods and fields; gave one another companionship and criticism; and, in the process, rewrote the cultural history of modern times.  / An American Memory by Eric Larsen (not our familiar Erik Larson). A novel about three generations of a Midwestern family is a powerful and quietly moving narrative revealed in exquisitely rendered fragments. Young Malcolm's childhood takes place on the Reiner family farm in Minnesota where his grandparents, descended from Norwegian pioneer stock, settled, and, like dust, are still settling as Malcolm sifts the evidence of his family's past. Central to this sensitive narrator's search is his father's implicit disapproval; Malcolm is awed by this restless and silently angry man who dominates a room even when asleep. Malcolm must find connections with his family by rummaging through a trunk of relics in the attic, and he comes to know its various members' life stories by observation and deduction, as one might study an overgrown landscape for clues of hidden rocks formations.

September 1 — The Mighty Pen
Reader's Choice, any banned book. Any country, any language, any era. Discuss the circumstances surrounding the ban and subsequent events. Help us explore the poiwer of the written word, so powerful it can prompts those in authority to seek suppression of those words.

October 6
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography deftly illustrates the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed. Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.  Since writing this biography which became the basis for the Broadway musical “Hamilton” (coming to Omaha in 2018-19), Chernow has written a biography of George Washington, profiles of the Morgans and Warburgs, and, most recently, an acclaimed biography of US Grant. / I Know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned. 

Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney. Cheney explores the brilliant and prescient mind of one of the twentieth century's greatest scientists and inventors. Called a madman by his enemies, a genius by others, and an enigma by nearly everyone, Nikola Tesla was, without a doubt, a trailblazing inventor who created astonishing, sometimes world-transforming devices that were virtually without theoretical precedent, far outdistancing his rivals. / Reader's Choice, any book about the Tennessee Childrens Home Society Scandal such as Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Based on one of America's most notorious real-life scandals — in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country — Lisa Wingate's riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong. 

December 1
A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote. Three short holiday stories/novellas/memoirs.  Read any or all. We are already invited to discuss Capote at a Christmas Party at Sandra’s house, complete with food, festivities, and our very own Christmas memories.


2019 Selections

January 5
Books we gave, got, wished we got for Christmas

February 2
Reader's Choice, any book made into a movie


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 .

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.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford , from tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed, this brilliant work is nothing less than the epic story of how the modern world was made.

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

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore, revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin's youngest sister Jane, whose obscurity and poverty were matched only by her brother’s fame and wealth but who, like him, was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator.

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 Invention of Nature:Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf, reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humboldt, the visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world—and in the process created modern environmentalism.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, group formed a literary club known as the Inklings which discussed literature, religion, and ideas; read aloud from works in progress; took philosophical rambles in woods and fields; and gave one another companionship and criticism.

Tesla: Man Out of Time Margaret Cheney explores the man variously called a madman by his enemies, a genius by others, and an enigma by nearly everyone. Gifted, flamboyant, and neurotic, Tesla's discoveries radically changed his world and ours.

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.

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 Available with Kits

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
16 copies
BKMT Reading Guide
Book Reviews
Discussion Questions


The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
19 copies
Interview with the Author
Reading Guide Questions
Reading Guide with Discussion Questions
Time Magazine Article about the Author


A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
14 copies / 1 book on cassette
Big Read Book Club Guide
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
Oprah's Book Club Information
Reading Group Guide


At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
12 copies
#1 in the Mitford Series
Author biography and interview
Author interview about the end of the series
Discussion Questions


Books for the Heart

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Novel about about a young girl's coming of age at the turn of the century.

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.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne, historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West. Centers on Quanah Parker, the Quahada Comanches' last and greatest chief.

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

The Round House by Louis Erdrich, novel exploring justice with an Ojibwe Indian protagonist

Canada by Richard Ford, novel about innocence lost and reconciled

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

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.