Summer of Democracy Reading List: Let’s hear your picks!

Each year, we ask Nebraskans to nominate book titles for all ages. We want to hear your suggestions about what should be included in 2020.


Absent the usual ways we mark the change of season – baseball, prom, graduation – spring 2020 has us feeling a bit off. Even amid a series of Top 10 weather days, we feel an affront to our basic need for ritual. And yet at the same time, many of us are making good use of shelter-in-place orders. Goodreads, which hosts an annual challenge in which readers set goals for how many books they aim to finish that year, saw a nearly 30 percent jump in titles that people marked as “want to read.” The site also saw a big jump in people setting up reading challenges for 2020.

Our evidence is more anecdotal. But during this shelter-in-place era, people seem to be going one of two routes in their reading: Head-first into pandemic literature, or the other way, toward self-help books about keeping calm and being mindful. It reminds us that there’s no right way to go through a global pandemic. And it encourages us, too: While everything else seems upside-down, one thing is still true. A strong democracy’s citizens surround themselves with books.

It’s in that spirit that we open the floor for our yearly ritual: The Summer of Democracy Reading List. Each year, we ask Nebraskans to nominate book titles for all ages that are fun and funny as well as serious and fundamental to our democracy. And we want to hear your suggestions about what should be included in 2020.

Here’s how you can contribute to the Summer of Democracy Reading List:

1) Nominate a book that you think should be included.

Then, in an email, write down a few sentences about it, explaining how the book highlights civic values, promotes how to strengthen communities or advocates for fundamental American rights. As a reminder, here are last year’s selected titles.

2) Nominate big, serious books for adults.

For example, the Reading List will coincide with the release of Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood by Colin Woodard, the author of the influential American Nations. With Union, which is forthcoming in June, Woodard returns to the study of a fractured America, and how a myth of national unity was created and fought over in the nineteenth century, and continues to affect us today. That history certainly affects Civic Nebraska’s program areas – Youth Civic Leadership, Civic Health, and Voting Rights. Union might just make it onto our 2020 list.

3) Nominate fun books for all ages, fiction and nonfiction alike. ​

Consider that there are civic lessons in works of all ages. In both the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, lessons about everything from propaganda to how ordinary people can create and lead positive change in the face of entrenched power are upfront. Sharing a range of titles and genres for readers of all ages will help build engaged Nebraskans from ages 6 to 106. Who knows? Maybe even some of those The Complete Idiot’s Guide to … books might be worth considering. The point is, variety is good.

4) Already know your picks? Let’s hear ’em!

Email your nomination(s) to Steve Smith, Civic Nebraska’s director of communications, by 5 p.m. Friday, May 22. Please include your name and your town or city of residence. If you live outside Nebraska, please let us know how you’re connected to the Cornhusker State. Then, look for the complete Civic Nebraska Summer of Democracy Reading List on Memorial Day. We’ll include links for each title in both print and ebook, whichever you might prefer. The rest is up to you.

We can’t wait to see your picks!

Steve Smith
Director of Communications
Civic Nebraska

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