Books and Authors

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. 

Pete Zarria

Even before the Declaration of Independence was signed, the founders of the United States established the post office as the circulatory system of America’s body politic.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times best-selling author Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Apocalypse and romance, mythology and high school, princesses and heroines, heartthrobs and nerds… this is the landscape of young adult literature, and it’s been growing, in numbers and in prominence. Sarah Prineas, Iowa resident and author of Ash and Bramble, says that’s because of the clamor of the audience.

University of Iowa Press

Julianne Couch should have been happy staying in her native Kansas City, or even her adopted Laramie, WY.  But after a drive through Eastern Iowa, she and her husband couldn't resist the charms of a small Mississippi River town in Jackson County.

HarperCollins Publishers

In 2009, 21 men were rescued from the abandoned Atalissa schoolhouse they inhabited since 1974. 

Their lives consisted of working for next to nothing at a turkey plant nearby in West Liberty, living together in the schoolhouse, and taking trips to the Atalissa Mini Mart.

Beacon Press

We all may know the name Nancy Drew but females in detective work go much further than that. From Kinsey Milhone and Vi Warhawski to Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher, female detectives in fiction go back 175 years.  

On this episode of Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with historian and Wisconsin Public Radio Executive Producer Erika Janik author of Pistols and Petticoats, 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction (Beacon Press) about women in detective work.

MellieRene4 / Flickr

When a child loves a book, they can love it with an intensity that few adults can match, and the books children connect with often stay with them their entire life.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion on some of the best of modern children’s literature and how it’s influencing young people. She talks with Ernie Cox, chair of the Newbery Award Selection Committee and school librarian in the College Community District south of Cedar Rapids.

Lindsey Moon

As the weather warms up and school lets out it is time to start making your summer reading list. This hour on Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Jan Weismiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City and Judy Stafford of The Book People in Sioux City about what should be on your reading list this summer.

Paul’s list:

The Dig by John Preston

Till My Baby Comes Home by Jean Ross Justice

Canary by Duane Swierczynski

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Shelter by Jung Yun

New Rivers Press

Who says poetry has to be monotonous and sentimental?  Definitely not the case with Debra Marquart's third poetry collection, "Small Buried Things" (New Rivers Press).  The Iowa State University English professor, who teaches in the M.F.A. program in creative writing, keeps you guessing throughout what her next topic will be. 

Princeton University Press

"Appius Claudius was old and blind, yet he led a household of four vigorous sons, five daughters and many dependents.  He did not lazily succumb to old age but kept his mind taut as a bow."  So writes the great Roman orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero in 44 BC in a short treatise called "De Senectute." Cicero's prose is newly translated by Luther College's Philip Freeman.

courtesy photo

As a country music singer, Liz Carlisle, who grew up in Montana, says she was interested in the poetry and philosophy of farming and rural life.

"I hadn't been involved in sustainable agriculture at all," she says, "I was a country singer. I think I shared a lot of values, but I didn't really know the language of sustainable agriculture and I wasn't, quite frankly, paying enough attention to economics or to science."

Environmental journalist, educator and author, Simran Sethi, says she has written a book about food, but it's really a book about love.  And make no mistake: she loves bread, wine, chocolate, beer and coffee--enough to travel to remote locations in six continents to learn about their origins. 

Ben Kieffer

Since 1967, over 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have taken part in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, often referred to as the “United Nations of writers.”

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with several of this year’s writers who attended a welcome party in Iowa City earlier this week. They share poetry, their hopes for their time in the Midwest, and the struggles and inspiration they have brought with them from their home countries.

Courtesy of Iowa City Public Library

In order to try and encourage more students to read, Sue Inhelder and Susan Fritzell of Marshalltown High School went in search of fun ways to get books in high schoolers' hands. Thus began the Iowa High School Battle of the Books. They hosted their first contest during the 2007-2008 school year for students in their Area Education Association, and then the expanded it to be a statewide program.

See-ming Lee / Wikimedia Commons

According to research by the Gallup organization, North Dakotans are happier than Iowans. Or rather, they have a higher state of well-being.

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