2019 Reading Challenge: A Nebraska Author

In 2019, OPL invites patrons to take part in the reading challenge! Each month, OPL will highlight a theme and offer suggestions for titles to read or listen to. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to let us know which read you picked up this month!

It would be fair if at the mention of Nebraska authors you first picture Willa Cather, opens a new window, Mari Sandoz, opens a new window or Ted Kooser, opens a new window. But Nebraska authors run the gamut from Man Booker Prize finalist Chigozie Obioma to young adult literature darling Rainbow Rowell. For this month’s reading challenge, Read a Book by a Nebraska Author,” think outside the Nebraska classics and get to know a couple other authors who have called Nebraska home.

Local History

If you’re interested in local history seen through a fictional lens, check out Timothy Schaffert’s “The Swan Gondola, opens a new window,” centered around the Trans-Mississippi Expo of 1898; Andrew Hilleman’s “World, Chase Me Down, opens a new window,” about Pat Crowe and the Cudahy kidnapping; or Theodore Wheeler’s “Kings of Broken Things, opens a new window,” which takes place during the 1919 Omaha Race Riot.

Memoirs & Essays

New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay was born in Omaha and earned two degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her latest works include “Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, opens a new window,” “Difficult Women, opens a new window” and “Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body, opens a new window.”

Actress Gabrielle Union’s memoir, “We're Going to Need More Wine, opens a new window,” came out in 2017 and includes essays on topics such as women in Hollywood, beauty standards, feminism, fame and her life growing up in Nebraska and California.

A Wealth of Fiction

Before “Eleanor & Park, opens a new window” became a new young adult classic, Omaha author Rainbow Rowell already had several books under her belt. You might try one of her older titles, “Attachments, opens a new window” or “Landline, opens a new window.” She’s also currently writing the new "Runaways", opens a new window series for Marvel Comics.

If you’re interested in reading an author who has true genre range, I hope you’re familiar with Lydia Kang. On top of being a practicing physician, Kang has authored seven books in the last six years (and contributed to several others). Her work includes historical fiction titles “A Beautiful Poison, opens a new window” and “The Impossible Girl, opens a new window,” the dystopian, science fiction series “Control, opens a new window” and the nonfiction title “Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, opens a new window.”

For imaginative retellings of well-known tales, try Chigozie Obioma. Currently an assistant professor of English and creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Obioma was a Man Booker Prize finalist for his 2015 debut novel, “The Fisherman, opens a new window”, a Cain and Abel-esque tale set in 1990s Nigeria. His latest work, “An Orchestra of Minorities, opens a new window,” is a contemporary twist on “The Odyssey.”


Nebraska recently welcomed a new state poet, Omahan Matt Mason. You might check out his latest full-length poetry collection, “The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, opens a new window,” or one of several collected anthologies that include his work, such as “Slamma Lamma Ding Dong: An Anthology of Nebraska's Slam Poets, opens a new window.”

If you want to try out other single-author poetry collections, check out “Like Oysters Observing the Sun, opens a new window” by Brenda Sieczkowski or Sarah McKinstry-Brown’s newly released “This Bright Darkness, opens a new window.”

Hopefully something in this list piqued your interest. If not, you can always stick with those beloved Nebraska classics, opens a new window.