IPR's Summer Book Guide

Jun 11, 2015

If you’ve been searching for a new book to read this summer, look no further. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Paul Ingram and Jan Weismiller of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City and Susan Shaffer of The Book Shoppe in Boone about the best new books out this summer.

Paul's List:

Aquarium by David Vann

This is a fiction novel about a girl, living with a single mom, who goes to an aquarium. This book is beautifully illustrated. It is one of the most powerful and intense novels I have read this year, and I have read it twice now.

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

This pick is a memoir. Forget what you already know by Oliver Sacks. “He was a nationally known motorcyclist and a weight lifter and is gay, though nobody knew it. He taught himself how to play the piano very well. You just can’t believe the stuff in this guy’s life. It makes you want to try stuff that you’ve never tried before.”

Words Without Music by Phillip Glass

This pick is also a memoir. “I give him credit for making contemporary classical music not sound screechy and ugly. If you cannot tolerate Phillip Glass’s music, you won’t like this, but this is a marvelous book.”

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

“It’s about two old people. They are kind of lonely, and this old woman goes over to this old man’s house and says ‘I have a proposition for you… I would like you to come over to my house and sleep in my bed with me.’ It’s not about sex; it’s about having someone to talk to. This one tugs on your heart strings.”

Boo by Neil Smith

This book is about a 13-year-old boy who is kind of a nerdy kid. ”He likes to work on memorizing the periodic table of elements. Every chapter starts with an element, and all of a sudden he wakes up in bed and finds out he’s died and goes to a world of only 13-year-old boys. This is a book for people who think about what happens after death and think about their childhoold.”

The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills

The Vorrh by B. Catling

The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

Most of his books are little memoirs, and he has a voice you just can’t help but laugh at. He’s a funny, warm guy. “The main character is a farmer and then there’s a cow and Jesus Christ.”

I Was a Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan

This pick is a humorous memoir in graphic novel form. “Neither of my parents every exercised – I didn’t know anyone who had parents who exercised.”

Spurious Correlations by Tyler Vigen

Jan's List:

Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Barnett

This is a novel about a woman born in the Jim Crow South. She’s always hiding under the covers and reading and eventually gets a scholarship to an all-black college in Austin and moves to Kansas City to start an all-black newspaper. “It’s a really amazing book; the author actually has a Ph.D. in black journalism. It’s a novel but is also based in fact. You really can get lost in it.”

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

The Book of Aron by Jim Shephard

Tessla: A Portrait with Masks  by Vladimir Pistalo

The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley by Ann Pancake

This is a fictional book of short stories written by a writer in Virginia. “Her voice is what’s really amazing. She’s a really good writer and while some parts are possibly grim, this girl is young and is experimenting.”

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard

This is a Holocaust novel and is incredibly sad but not tragic. It’s redemptive and is getting a lot of attention. “It’s about this group of 200 children who were taken from an orphanage. They meet this man whose life is focused on saving them, and he’s sort of the whole focus of the novel.”

The Shepard’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks

This pick is a memoir. “This guy is part of the lake district and his family has had this land and have been shepards for 600 years. He wanted to be a shepard but then he picked up a book and started reading and got into Oxford. It is really beautifully written and he has a ton of references to amazing literature.”

The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick

This pick would be classified as a type of memoir. “This book is a book that she worked on for a very long time and changed direction while she worked on it. What this really turns out to be is a book about her chance encounters on the street in New York. They are incredibly vivid and resonate with what is rambling around in her mind. It’s like reading a really good essay.”

Hear Charity Nebbe talk with Vivian Gornick here. 

Bettyville by George Hodgman

This pick is a memoir written by an older middle-aged gay man; it’s about a trip he takes to visit his mother. “This guy goes to convince this mom to go into assisted living, but really he wants her to accept him…. It’s really a very moving book but is also very funny.”

The Daemon Knows Literary Greatness and the American Sublime by Harold Bloom

Lord Fear by Lucas Mann
This pick is a memoir about his older brother’s heroin overdose and what his family remembers about it. “This is very moving. It’s about knowing his parents and about knowing his father and his half-brother’s mother’s reaction to this. It’s about celebrating his life no matter what it was.”

Hear an interview with Lucas Mann about his book here.

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The Edge of the World : A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe by Michael Pye

Jackson Pollock’s Mural:  Energy Made Visible by David Anfam

This is a non-fiction book about the famous mural. “This is a catalog to the show in Venice, where the mural is right now. It has more details about the painting than any other book that I’ve read. There are a lot of details about the spaces it’s been seen in. He talks a lot about how it influenced a lot of artists. It’s fast paced and not dull.”

Susan's List:

A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax

This pick is a novel and would be a great beach read. “It’s about three friends who met in NYC and bonded and started going to one of the girls’ cottages on the lake for a week every summer. Then Emma, one of the character’s drops off and then she invites them back – a lot of secrets there.”

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

“This came out in February this year and is told in two parts. It’s about a couple who lives in Texas and is part of a famous BBQ family. They can’t have children, and every time they’ve tried adoption, it’s fallen through. It’s about finding out who you are and where you belong in the world. It makes you think.”

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy

The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

This a young adult book; it’s been very popular at her bookstore and is fantastical. It’s for teenagers who have run out of Harry Potter books and desperately miss them. “None of the humans in this book are doing very well. The younger daughter is the sole provider for the family; it’s kind of a Cinderella thing. When she’s out hunting one day, she kills an enormous wolf and the fairies come after her. She enters a magical realm and falls in love with a fairy lord.”

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Chocolate Chip Murder by JoAnne Fluke

“Hannah Swenson is a post-doctoral student that comes back home to Lake Eden Minnesota. Her father has died recently, and her sister is married to the local sheriff. She opens a bakery, but suddenly her milk delivery guy is found dead and is found with a bag of her chocolate chip crunchies next to him. It’s funny, a lot of small town life.”

The Martian by Andy Weir

This book was originally published on his website, and then there was an electronic version of this. Last year Random House picked it up and published a print version. “It’s about a Mars mission set in the future. It’s got good science in it.”