Books and Authors

Nina Subin

Public radio listeners have been listening to Maureen Corrigan’s advice for decades. Corrigan has been the book reviewer for NPR’s Fresh Air for 27 years, she is literary critic for the Washington Post, and the Jamie and Nicki Grant Distinguished Professor of the Practice in Literary Criticism at Georgetown University.

In this Talk of Iowa interview, she talks with host Charity Nebbe about how she chooses what books to review out of the 200 plus that she receives each week. She also describes her love of reading for work and pleasure.

Lit City Episode Ten: Forgotten by History

Apr 13, 2017
IMDb

Like the title character of her 1933 novel Miss Bishop, Iowa-born author Bess Streeter Aldrich is finally getting the recognition she deserves. Although she wrote 14 novels and countless popular short stories, Aldrich was long forgotten... until recently, that is, when her hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa decided to name an elementary school after her.

Need a New Podcast to Binge? Try IPR's "Lit City"

Apr 7, 2017

The tenth and final episode of the first season of Lit City, Iowa Public Radio’s new book podcast, goes live next Thursday, April 13th. Co-hosted by IPR's Charity Nebbe and UI English Ph.D. student Anna Williams, Lit City revisits author interviews from Talk of Iowa while also exploring the sights and sounds of the United States’ only UNESCO City of Literature – Iowa City.

Beth Jusino / Flickr

It’s not only drugs that can cause addiction. New research shows dependence on your smart phone may produce some of the same addictive brain responses. 

In this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Adam Alter, an associate professor of marketing at New York University and author of the new book IRRESISTIBLE: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.

According to Alter, the definition of the term “addiction” has expanded over the years to include not only substances, but behaviors as well.

University of Iowa Press

Who would think that doing a key word search of a massive newspaper database would turn up a previously unknown short novel by the much beloved 19th century author Walt Whitman?   University of Houston graduate student Zachary Turpin was the detective who uncovered his second Whitman find in an 1852 issue of an obscure New York City newspaper. 

Claudia McGehee / University of Minnesota Press

After children's book author Jacqueline Briggs Martin read an article in the paper about a man who had restored a creek back into a thriving habitat, something about the story struck her.

"It was amazing that the whole ecosystem has restored itself," she says. "How did the frogs, birds, and bugs know to come back? I found it remarkable that the ecosystem could build itself up."

The History Press

In 1908, the Rev. William Lloyd Clark of Davenport wrote: "If I owned Hell and Davenport, I would sell Davenport and keep Hell."  Iowa's largest metropolis along the Mississippi River was called "the worst city in the country" and "the wickedest city in the west" by many people and it was the Bucktown neighborhood on the east edge of downtown that earned Davenport that reputation. 

U.S. Army RDECOM / Flickr

Exhaustion, shock, panic, disease, extreme heat, and horrific noise -  these are some of the less talked about challenges of military combat.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with celebrated science writer Mary Roach about her new book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. In it, she explores the aspects of war no one makes movies about - the quirky but essential science behind staying alive in combat.

A description of Grunt from the publisher, W. W. Morton & Company, Inc.:

In Episode Four of Lit City, we begin with a quest to find the most beloved book in the City of Literature. Then we hear from Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, backstage at the Englert Theatre.  Join us as he talks to Charity about his time teaching middle school, his decision to promote diversity through his books, and the expansion of the Rick Riordan universe.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

John Darnielle grew up in Claremont, California, but at heart, he’s an Iowan. He pulls on the sense of community and a bit of nostalgia he observed while he was living in Colo in the 1990s in his new novel Universal Harvester.

The History Press

The history of Buxton, Iowa, is unique for its times.  Racial integration and harmony existed there at a time when racial tolerance was the exception and not the rule.  Buxton coal mine number 18 lasted only 20 years, 1900-1920, but its impact on Iowa and American remains through books, essays and historical accounts.  This hour, Ottumwa author Rachelle Chase tells us how she has contributed to the history of this fascinating former southern Iowa town, with her new book, "Lost Buxton" (The History Press, Images of America series).

H. Armstrong Roberts / Classic Stock/Corbis

In Episode Three of Lit City, we visit Prairie Lights bookstore and talk with Lauren Haldeman, a local poet who is creating a web app that tracks the footsteps of authors in the City of Literature. Then we'll hear from Erika Janik about her book  Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction. One of those fictional lady detectives, Nancy Drew, was created by Iowa native Millie Benson.

Trinity University Press

Different varieties of the Dogwood tree are found all over the world.  It's said the beautiful ornamental trees got their name because when the wind blows and the branches knock together, it sounds like a dog barking.   The large fragrant blooms are said to bring luck.  Christopher Merrill, a prolific writer and long-time head of the University of Iowa International Writing Program, first fell in love with the Dogwood when he worked in a nursery and garden center in Seattle.

Lit City Episode Two: Doubt and Persistence

Feb 16, 2017
Brandon Chew / NPR

In Episode Two of Lit City, we talk with University of Iowa English Professor Loren Glass about the original site of the experiment known as the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Charity also interviews Ethan Canin, author of  A Doubter's Almanac and F. Wendell Miller Professor of English and Creative Writing at the Workshop. And speaking of doubters, we hear Charity's reaction to Anna's picks for the Lit City theme song.

Lit City: A Debut Episode About a Debut Novel

Feb 10, 2017

Lit City is a new podcast from Iowa Public Radio hosted by Charity Nebbe and Anna Williams. Each episode features some of the best interviews we've done with fiction and nonfiction writers and, along the way, gives listeners a glimpse of Iowa's own City of Literature.

In the first episode we hear from Nathan Hill, Iowa native and debut author of The Nix, which was named a 2016 Notable Book by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Anton Raath / Flickr

In recent weeks, sales of the novel 1984 by George Orwell, first published in 1949, have soared. It climbed to the top of the amazon.com best seller list, and bookstores report that copies are flying off the shelves.

Since so many people are reading or re-reading it right now, on this "book club" edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a conversation about what makes this classic relevant in 2017. 

She starts the hour talking with Andrew Simmons, an English teacher who transforms his classroom into the world of 1984 and Big Brother every October.

The History Press

On Dec. 12, 1934, police raided a canning factory in Cedar Rapids--what they found was an illegal bar and gambling set up.  That incident set off a year-long investigation into graft that reached into all levels of Iowa State government.  It was all driven by Verne Marshall, the editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.  Jerry Harrington, an Iowa City writer of Iowa history, tells the story in his new book, "Crusading Iowa Journalist Verne Marshall: Exposing Graft and the 1936 Pulitzer Prize." (History Press)

The Unnamed Press

This hour, we hear from two women (one an Iowan and the other a former Iowan) who have had their first books published.  Charity speaks with Stephanie Ash, who grew up in Oelwein and attended the University of Iowa and Jen Rouse, who lives in Iowa City.   Stephanie's book is a novel and Jen's is a poetry collection.

Photo by Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Michigan native and Chicago resident Edward McClelland, author of "Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President," has written his first book on language and appropriately has chosen to focus on the Midwest. 

Santiago Alvarez

While young woman are a particularly vulnerable population when it comes to eating disorders, eating disorders affect women and men of all ages.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

'Tis the season for giving. What better gift than a book? During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Barb Stein and Sarah Prineas of Prairie Lights Books, and Jerri Heid of the Ames Public Library about the best new books to give this year. 

Sarah and Barb's List

POETRY, SONGS AND MOTHER GOOSE:

Gray Lantta

It's getting cold outside, and it's getting close to the time of year when we're thinking about giving gifts to family and friends. That makes at least two good reasons to research the best reads of 2016. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Paul Ingram and Jan Weismiller of Prairie Lights Books, as well as Mary Rork-Watson of Plot Twist Bookstore in Ankeny, about their favorite books for adults that were new this year. 

Paul's List

Fiction: 

Who Runs the World? Cats!

Nov 17, 2016
Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

They rule the internet. They rule the alleyways. For many pet owners, they rule the house. With 74 to 90 million pet cats in the United States, they have become one of the most popular pets in human history. Yet many owners would be surprised how few practical benefits they provide.

Why Do We Still Care about Shakepeare?

Nov 3, 2016
Painting by Martin Droushout; Photo by Emery Walker / Wikimedia Commons

Four hundred years and over 35 plays later, William Shakespeare is still a household name. So why does the British playwright’s work continue to be studied, while his contemporaries fall to the wayside?

“Even though it has been 400 years, we still continue to make new discoveries," says Adam Hooks, an Associate Professor in the University of Iowa English Department, and author of Selling Shakespeare: Biography, Bibliography, and the Book Trade.

Karen Roussel / Flickr

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with novelist Benjamin Percy about the elements that combine to create thrilling fiction: suspense, tension, urgency, and violence.

"It’s a way to safely appeal to our base desires, and safely work our way through the dark, the basement, the long drop, the tight space," he says.

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

If you have a child between the ages of nine and fifteen, or if you’re just a fan of mythology, it’s likely that you’ve heard of author Rick Riordan.

The New York Times bestselling author is most famous for his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which follows the adventures of demi-god teens as they navigate the world of the Greek gods, monsters and the challenges of middle school.

Riordan drew his inspiration for the series from his fifteen years as a middle school English and History teacher, as well as from his older son.

William Anderson

Hundreds of millions of people, young and old, have read the words of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the beloved Little House on the Prairie series.

Basic Books

Dan Flores, author of ten books on western U.S. history, calls coyotes "an American original," having evolved in North America over five million years ago.  Many people tried to kill them off as late as the 1960s, but they have bounced back and are now found in all states except Delaware and Hawaii.

The History Press

Murders were uncommon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the 1940s, and especially a murder at the very high-end Roosevelt Hotel, sometimes called the Ritz-Carlton of Eastern Iowa.   On Dec. 15, 1948, a hotel chambermaid found aircraft engineer Byron Hattman dead in room 729.  

When Claire Hoffman was five, she moved to Fairfield, Iowa with her mother and brother, so that her family could follow the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. When Maharishi asked his followers to move to Fairfield, it created quite the rift between his followers and the townspeople. 

"You know in researching this book, I went back and went through the archives of the Fairfield Ledger. And you see this sense of outcry that Fairfield had been invaded," explains Hoffman. 

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