about nancy

NANCY RIPS is the Book Maven of the Midwest. She’s a longtime bookseller and book reviewer who has always loved the Jewish holidays. She began collecting High Holiday stories after her first book Seder Stories was so successful. Her passion for books, reading, libraries, and the Jewish tradition are infectious. In addition, she’s a force of nature when it comes to her regular review segments on radio and Omaha’s CBS-TV affiliate. In her free time, predawn, between 5:00 and 6:00 AM, you can find her at the gym lifting weights.


nebraska's book maven, nancy rips

American Bookseller's Association

Warren Buffett may be the Oracle of Omaha, but Nancy Rips is Omaha's very own Book Maven. Over the past few decades, Rips has discovered and developed unique ways to bring books to people and people to books.

Rips sells books in the conventional ways -- currently she is on the staff

of The Bookworm in Omaha -- but she also advocates passionately for libraries; reviews books regularly on radio and television; speaks extensively in schools, to various groups, and at fundraisers; and organizes an annual book-themed New York City tour for Nebraskans.

At this year's BookExpo America, Rips participated in a panel on Bookselling this week
Bookstore Tourism, where she explained how she partnered with a local travel agent to create memorable tours for book lovers. This fall will mark the third trip and will include bookstore browsing, a literary landmarks walking tour, a special tour of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, tickets to a Broadway show, a dinner cruise around Manhattan, and an author brunch sponsored by The New York Times.

The tours are the most recent addition to the rich book culture fostered by Rips, since she began selling books about 30 years ago when her children were small. She was hired by B. Dalton, she told BTW, in the days when job applicants "had to take a three-page test, matching titles with authors." She passed with flying colors, worked there for 15 years, and then moved to Read All About It, an Omaha independent. When that store closed in May 2001, she joined the staff of The Bookworm, which is owned by Phil and Beth Black.

The Bookworm, Rips said, "is a great full-service bookstore. People on the staff are very experienced. We know books, and we service our customers."

Rips' handselling extends beyond the store's four walls. She regularly reviews books for a weekly book feature on KMTV, Omaha's CBS affiliate, and she has talked about books up and down the radio dial, including segments on Radio Disney and a monthly hour-long call-in book program on KKAR-AM. In addition, Rips teaches adult education classes at the local community college, appears often as a storyteller, and leads book discussions for many organizations.

Her involvement with the Omaha Library System is the stuff of legend: Long an active member of several library boards, in 2004 she spearheaded efforts to save the Swanson Library Branch, which was threatened with complete closure for budgetary reasons. Rips recruited volunteers and organized rallies and a public relations campaign that resulted in complete victory. The city reversed its decision, appropriated funds to keep Swanson open, and eventually restored reduced hours at all library branches.

When the Omaha library director fielded a call from an Omaha juvenile judge four years ago, she immediately put Rips in touch with him. Judge Douglas Johnson, Rips told BTW, believes that reading books will help children stay out of trouble. He requires that each child who appears before him in court sign up for a library card. Johnson wanted help from the public library to keep his courtroom filled with books. Thus Rips developed the book giveaway program for Omaha's Juvenile Court system. Like the judge, Rips believes that books are at the core of a successful life. "If children learn how to read, they can be anything they want to be," she told BTW. While accomplishing all of the above, Rips is also working on a book of her own about the celebration of Passover, a major holiday for many Jewish families.

Rivkah Sass, executive director of the Omaha Public Library, told Omaha's weekly Jewish Press, "Nancy Rips is more than a woman who loves books and reading. She is a force of nature. If we could bottle Nancy's essence, the literacy rate in the country would be 110 percent." -- Nomi Schwartz


press release

Nancy Rips, noted author, bookseller, and book reviewer, has been elected President of the Omaha Public Library Board of Trustees. She has served on the board, by appointment of Mayor Jim Suttle since 2007, and was Vice President last year. Serving with her will be Stuart Chittenden, Vice President, and Mary Helms, Secretary.

Ms. Rips is a bookseller at the Bookworm in Countryside Village and is a regular segment contributor talking about new books on KMTV, KGOR-FM, and KCOR-AM. She has also done spots on Radio Disney and KKAR-AM.

She speaks at local schools and libraries promoting libraries and books, and does regular story times at schools, libraries, and the Lydia House. She developed a book giveaway program for Juvenile offenders as part of their rehabilitation process, and organized a community rally and effort to save Swanson Library. She also served as past president of the Kripke Federation Jewish Library at the Jewish Community Center, and has been a member of board of the Omaha Public Library Foundation and the Board of the Friends of the Omaha Public Library. She has been honored as Volunteer of the Year at the Jewish Community Center for Jewish Education and the Kripke Library, and for her volunteer work at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home.

This summer her second book, HIGH HOLIDAY STORIES (Frederick Fell Publishers, July 2010), will be released, following her first book SEDER STORIES (Cumberland House, March 2008).



seder stories published March 2008

seder stories, book At many Seder dinners, after the fourth question has been asked and answered, after the table has been cleared, and after the adults have had more than a few drops of wine, the stories begin:
“Bubbe used every chair, piano bench and footstool in the family for all the tushies crowded around her table.”
“Our first Seder together after we were married.”
“Once I was a child who found the afikomen. Now I’m the grandfather who hides it.”
“The Seder I remember best.”
But at most Seders, the hostess encouraging the storytelling isn’t also a bookseller, writer and media personality who promotes books and reading on local radio and television stations, Nancy Rips.

For Nancy, listening to her Seder guests’ stories, an idea started “cooking.” Maybe this could be a book? Yes, maybe it could. For nearly 10 years, Nancy asked friends and acquaintances to tell her their Seder stories. She tracked down total strangers by phone, letter and e-mail. When she opened a conversation with Rabbi Jules Harlow with “Let me tell you about this book that I’m writing.” he said “That’s such a good idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?”

For three years, Nancy searched for a publisher who shared her enthusiasm. She accumulated 117 polite rejection letters in a bright red folder. But one day last July she received a phone call from a publisher who said “yes, we’d like to publish your book, but we’ll need the completed manuscript by September.”

Nancy is known by her friends as a person who never has a paper, crumb, unwashed dish, fleck of dust or unworn shoe out of place. But between July and September she covered every table, chair, couch, corner of floor, countertop and bed with piles and scraps of paper while turning her work-in-progress into a finished manuscript. (All the while keeping up with her regular job at The Bookworm, her scheduled radio and television appearances, and her volunteer commitments at Beth El, the Blumkin Home, Remington Heights Retirement Center and three library boards.)

Now hostess, bookseller, media personality, committed volunteer and tenacious writer
seder stories, book
Nancy Rips accumulated a thick folder of rejection letters, but last July learned her compilation of Seder stories had been accepted for publication. Seder Stories, Passover Thoughts on Food, Family and Freedom will be published this spring. Nancy Rips can add “published author” to her resume.

This year guests at Seder tables may read from the pages of her Seder Stories, Passover Thoughts on Food, Family and Freedom, to be published this spring by Cumberland House, a mid-sized publisher based in Nashville, TN. The book will be available at local bookstores and the Kripke Jewish Federation Library.

Choosing which story, or stories, to read won’t be easy. Guests may read about the “no excuses” Seders of Omaha’s own Bert Lewis. Attendance was mandatory, even if you were hospitalized or dead. About a young Al Abramson musing on whether the Maxwell family, publishers of the Maxwell House Hagaddah used by his family, was Jewish. The 40 cousins at puppeteer Shari Lewis’ family gathering. Young Rabbi Jules Harold Kushner’s preparations for 200 GIs in a Kosher-for-Passover mess hall in Lawton, Oklahoma. Rabbi Harlow leading Sedarim in 1970s Leningrad for a group of young refusniks who had never celebrated Passover before.

There are accounts of Seder meals eaten in Germany, Omaha, Los Angeles, Israel, South Africa, India, Provence, Buenos Aires, Australia, Egypt, Italy, or on a bench in Central Park. Former Omahan Ron Wolfson fondly recalls that his bubbe never sat down at the Seder.

Seder Stories is a small book, but readers won’t want to rush through it. They will want to savor each story, each memory, adding their own, with the care and deliberation prescribed for the rituals of the Seder meal. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before? -- Rita Shelley

Nancy Rips is a force of nature when it comes to promoting books and reading. She is kind of a rock star. Her passion is clear, and, frankly, if the world paid more attention to her passions, the world would be a better place because everyone would be reading more. -- Rivkah Sass, Omaha Public Library Director