New Books for the 2012 Holiday Season

Nov 28, 2012

“Talk of Iowa” host Charity Nebbe sat down with Jan Wiessmiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City and Harley McIlrath of Pioneer Bookshop in Grinnell to find out their picks for the best new books this holiday season.  


Paul Ingram’s 2012 Book List(Including passages from the books and reviews from Paul)

Paul is a book buyer for Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City


The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilisations, 1600-1675  by Bernard Bailyn


Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks


Gifts of the Crow, by John Marzluff 

Many nature writers sing the praises of brilliant animals, especially dolphins and chimps.  John Marzluff gives us the intelligence of birds, crows in particular, for our amazement, birds we can watch perform their wonders in our back yards.


Elsewhere, By Richard Russo 

One of our greatest novelists takes us to the small upstate New York town where America’s gloves were made for decades.  Women stopped wearing gloves and the town’s economy goes south.  As much a tribute to Russo’s unhappy mother as it is a memoir. One of Russo’s  most poignant books.


A Place in Time by Wendell Berry

A collection of twenty short stories about Port William, a mythical town on the banks of the Kentucky River, populated over the years by a cast of unforgettable characters living in a single place over a long time. A deeply spiritual collection of stories that will keep you coming back.


Suddenly, A Knock on the Door: Stories by Etgar Keret


Orientation, by Daniel Orozco

“Breakfast's boiled egg, the overhead hum of fluorescent lights, the midmorning coffee break--daily routines keep the world running. But when people are pushed--by a coworker's taunt, a face-to-face encounter with a woman in free fall from a bridge--cracks appear, revealing alienation, casual cruelty, madness, and above all a simultaneous hunger for and fear of the unknown.”  Amazing, original short stories.


The Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson


Additional picks from Paul that we didn't get to on the air...


The Absolutist, by John Boyne 

A poignant story of love and friendship in the Great War.  What can be shared in wartime? Huddled together at the greatest risk, what can we learn together.  A gorgeous novel written with the grace of the Irish.  Sad.  Lovely.


End of Everything, by Megan Abbott

There are dozens of missing child novels out there, but none like this.  Told through the eyes of the missing girl’s best friend, who knows nothing.  Many dark characters inhabit Abbott’s pages, but the answers to this deep teenage mystery remain elusive.


Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey

It’s fashionable for novelists to re-write classics, changing a few elements (like adding zombies).  Scottish writer, Margot Livesey, has rewritten Jane Eyre in the 20th Century, and has proven that a great novel often has many beautiful novels contained in it.  You know within a few pages you’re reading  Jane Eyre, but you’re never tempted to stop reading.  Gemma Hardy is a wonderful stand-in for the classic orphan.  You want to know everything about her.


You and Me, by Padgett Powell

This book gives more fun per page than any other novel this year.  Waiting for Godot starring Flatt and Scruggs.  Nothing like it.  Nothing funnier.


Joseph Anton, by Salmon Rushdie

This is the Rushdie book we’ve all been waiting for.  How did he survive the death penalty imposed upon him by the Ayatolla Khomeni for writing The Satanic Verses to which the Muslim right took offense.  A courageous  stand by an artist against political tyranny. 


Visiting Tom, by Mike Perry

The likeable Perry writes small town Wisconsin like no one else.  Perry zeroes in on his elderly neighbor, Tom, who is like Wendell Berry in his encyclopedic knowledge of his world, though a good deal funnier.  Pure reading pleasure, full of heart. 


Swimming Home, by Deborah Levy

“As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe's enigmatic wife allow her to remain?”  Swimming Home is short-listed for this year’s Man Booker Award.



Jan Weismiller’s 2012 Book List

Jan is the co-owner of Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City


Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal  by William H. Chafe


Rising up from Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago  by historian Ann Durkin Keating


My First Guitar:  Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians  edited by Julia Crowe


My Husbands and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey  by Charles Rowen Beye


Elsewhere, a memoir about a 1950's childhood in upstate New York, by Richard Russo


Astray a new short story collection by Emma Donoghue, author of The Room


Phantoms of the Bookshelves, reflections of a bibliomaniac by Jacques Bonnet


My Bookstore:  Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read and Shop edited by Ronald Rice


Additional picks from Jan...


Dear Life, new short stories by Alice Munro


The Middlesteins  a novel by Jamie Atenberg


Louise Gluck  poems from 1962 to 2012


Cezanne:  A Life  by Alex Danchev


The American Way of Eating:  Undercover at Wal-Mart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan




Harley McIlrath’s 2012 Book List

Harley is the assistant manager and book buyer for the Grinnell College Bookstore and the Pioneer Bookshop in Grinnell.  He's also the author of Possum Trot a collection of short stories


Taxes, the Tea Party & Those Revolting Rebels: A History in Comics of the American Revolution by Stan Mack (a reissue, originally released in '94)


How Music Works, by David Byrne


Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity by James Tabor


The Pallet King  by Dave Gibsen


The Fall of Alice K.  by Jim Heynen


HHhH a novel by Laurent Binet


Who Will Hear Your Secrets stories by Robley Wilson