Nebraska has a rich literary history. Some of America’s most celebrated writers have called the Cornhusker state home. This film celebrates some of those writers, showing the land they loved with some of the lines they wrote.

Dwight Marsh is Professor emeritus of English, Hastings College where he taught Plains literature and Nebraska literature courses.

“Nebraska literature falls into about five categories, ” he says. “The first theme is the frontier story of the pioneers. So many of these adventures are detailed in Nebraska literature that one of our state logos is always the covered wagon with the oxen pulling it. The second major theme  is that of the progressive political movement.  We often find it  embedded in our literature with a  little bit of shame-faced awareness because of the tainted name of William Jennings Bryan who of  was the leader of the great plains progressive movement in the latter part of the 19th century. The third theme is the great plains catastrophe.  Which is when the drought and the depression coincided at the same time from 1929 on through basically 1937. That  time  changed the political spectrum of Nebraska from varied to singular because only the bankers and the land owners were going to end up with (money). A fourth theme crops up and (it)  is a rather frightening one.  The Charlie Starkweather  escapade form the late 1950s. The fifth theme is native American materials where Native Americans have a literature of their own and it’s a little harder to access because it falls largely outside our literary conventions.”

Our Favorite Books by Nebraska Authors

(A partial and ever-growing list)


Bess Streeter Aldrich

  • The Rim of the Prairie (1925)
  • Spring Came on Forever (1935)

Willa Cather

  • O Pioneers! (1913)
  • The Song of the Lark (1915)
  • My Antonia (1918)
  • One of Ours (1922)
  • The Professor’s House (1925)
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
  • Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920, short stories)

Michael Forsberg

  • Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild (2009)
    With Ted Kooser, Dan O’Brien and David Wishart

William Kloefkorn

  • Alvin Turner as Farmer (1972)
  • Platte Valley Homestead (1981)
  • Burning the Hymnal: The Uncollected Poems of William Kloefkorn (1994)
  • Out of Attica (2008)

Ted Kooser

  • Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (essays), University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2002
  • Delights and Shadows: Poems, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 2004
  • Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2005
  • Valentines, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2008
  • Splitting an Order, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 2004

John G. Neihardt

  • Black Elk Speaks (1932)

Joel Sartore

  • Let’s be Reasonable. University of Nebraska Press (2011)
  • Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species (2010)
  • Nebraska: Under a Big Red Sky (2006)

Mari Sandoz

  • Old Jules (1935)
  • Crazy Horse (1942)
  • Cheyenne Autumn (1953)
  • These Were The Sioux (1961)
  • Love Song to the Plains (1961)
  • The Story Catcher (1963)

Karl Shapiro

  • The Bourgeois Poet (1964)

Joe Starita

  • I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice (2009)

Wright Morris

  • The Home Place (with photographs) (1948)
  • Ceremony in Lone Tree  (1960)