What We’re Reading

February Staff Reading List

UNP staff members are always reading new books, both within our list and outside of what we publish. Here are some of the books where our noses have been buried.




The Sense of an Ending

Julian Barnes

“It is our February book club selection. I have mixed feelings about it—lots of interior dialogue that I lose patience with but the ending is quite jarring. And it was short!” —Donna Shear


assassination vacay

Assassination Vacation

Sarah Vowell

“I’m reading it on the recommendation of one of UNP’s freelance copyeditors, who worked on Murdering the President by Fred Rosen as well as Plotting to Kill the President by Mel Ayton. I’m still reading about Vowell’s investigation into John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. She dives deep. Going as far as the prison on Dry Tortugas where Samuel Mudd was held (who’s that, you ask) as well as the exhibits at gruesome revelation that people dipped handkerchiefs and other things in Lincoln’s blood to keep as a souvenir. It’s an entertaining (and incredibly in-depth) read on not such an entertaining subject.” —Joeth Zucco



Madness in Civilization

From the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine

Andrew Scull

“Scull looks at the term ‘madness’ across time and space to note how different societies and cultures treated and handled their insane citizens. One surprise was the careful treatment of the ‘insane’ by Muslim countries from antiquity to Medieval times. The book resonates with today’s media and pop cultural ignorance of psychosocial and psychiatric disorders, placing those with psychoses at the very bottom of the civil rights revolution, noting a long way for the US to go on these mental health issues.” —Matt Bokovoy





The Life and Times of Michael A.

Danielle Allen

“Just finished reading this memoir of Allen’s 15-year-old cousin’s incarceration as an adult and his murder after his release eleven years later. Throughout the memoir Allen weaves a searing critique of the war on drugs and the American prison system. It’s a lament for the fate of a generation of poor urban kids negotiating endemic violence in their communities and a harsh and biased criminal justice system, and a gripping read.” —Annie Shahan




An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine

“Time evaporated somewhere between the first page and the last sentence, and only then did I remember to breathe normally.  It’s been a long time since I felt so compelled to read through a book in one sitting.” —Heather Stauffer




Leaving the Pink House

Ladette Randolph

“Ladette is a former UNP editor, and I recently ran across a mention of this book somewhere and put it on my to-read list. Half of the book is about their renovations of a country house in 2002, which took me back to our own massive house projects that were taking place at the same time.” —Erica Corwin



The Swan Gondola

Timothy Schaffert

“Erica Corwin recommended it to me and let me borrow her copy. It’s a love story set during the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair. I selected it for my book club’s discussion in March, expecting folks from the area will recognize certain references to Omaha culture & history and get a kick out of those aspects.” —Lacey Losh



american gods

American Gods

Neil Gaiman

“It is about old gods from all over the world that ended up in America because people who believed in them came here in the past.  They are all weak now because very few people believe in them anymore and they are worried the new gods, who I haven’t gotten to yet but seem to be based around modern technology, are going to wipe them out.  The book has kind of a slow pace, but I like it quite a lot.” —Rob Buchanan


do i make myself clear

Do I Make Myself Clear?

Why Writing Well Matters

Harold Evans

“I received this book from a family friend as a college graduation present, and I am just getting around to reading it. Sir Harold Evans is hilarious and an excellent writer, and I have paused several times to read a line aloud or write it down so I can enjoy it again later.” —Margaret Mattern


cannery row

Cannery Row

John Steinbeck

“Steinbeck has a way of describing people like the ocean. They move, they change, but they’re a distinctive part of the landscape. I like that.” —Anna Weir


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