Books and Authors

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Markus Zusak wasn't expecting an enormous response when he published The Book Thief.

"I thought no one would ever read this book, I thought it would be my least successful book. I imagine someone reading it and then trying to convince one of their friends to read it and their friend says, 'Well what's it about?' And what do you say? You've got to say, 'Well, it's set in Nazi Germany, it's narrated by Death, nearly everyone dies, and it's 580 pages long, you'll love it.'"

Conservation Fund

Prairie-chickens once thrived in the prairies of Iowa, but by just after 1900, they were on the verge of extinction.  Today, these beautiful birds with a unique mating ritual can be found in only 9 of Iowa's 99 counties.

Ohio University Press

An immense and untold number of young persons have been devoted to and greatly influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries which first appeared in 1930.   Maybe Iowans don't realize that author "Carolyn Keene" was really Ladora, Iowa native Mildred Wirt Benson, born the daughter of a country doctor in 1905.

Marcinson Press

Tom LaMarr became a dad when he was 48 years old.  Parenting an infant at that age brings with it a host of challenges.  This hour, Charity Nebbe speaks with LaMarr, author of the new book, "Geezer Dad: How I Survived Infertility Clinics, Fatherhood Jitters, Adoption Wait Lingo and Things That Go 'Waaa' in the Night."  LaMarr, a Dubuque native, is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and now lives in Colorado.

Courtesy of Michele Weldon

Michele Weldon is a survivor. She’s raised three kids as a single mother after ending an abusive marriage and has written about her story in her new memoir “Escape Points: A Memoir.”

“I was married, unfortunately, to a charming handsome attorney who was physically abusive about once a year. I kept that secret from my family and my friends, but not from my therapist," she explains. "I ended that marriage in 1995 and wanted to write about the truth and the myths that we have surrounding domestic violence – that it doesn’t happen to smart, educated women.”

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

‘Tis the season for sitting inside, which means it’s a perfect time to pick up a new book. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Kate Rattenborg from Dragonfly Books in Decorah and Barb Stein of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City about the best new books for young readers.

Barb’s List:

Board books:

Close Your Eyes by Kate Banks

“The illustrations are irresistible. They are just wonderful. “

The Napping House Board Book by Audrey Wood

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

On this Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe speaks with Jan Weismiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City and Nancy Simpson-Brice,  associated with Book Vault in Oskaloosa about their favorite books of the year and recommendations for gifts this holiday season.

Paul’s Picks

Finials: A View of Downtown IC by Marybeth Slonneger

Roger Higgins, World Telegram staff photographer

For 65 years Charlie Brown has been getting kites stuck in trees, missing footballs, and getting hit by baseballs.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Karen Johnson, director of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, about why Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang still resonate with audiences, as well as the enduring legacy of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, 15 years after his death.

"He was always authentic," says Johnson about Schulz. "He said to many people, 'To know me is to read the strip; everything I am goes into that strip.'"

Open Road Media

Iowan Ray Young Bear has been publishing poetry since 1968.  His new book, "Manifestation Wolverine" (Open Road Media),  is a comprehensive collection of his work, previously published and new--work that draws on ancient Meskwaki lore and modern popular culture.  He says his poetry is a link to the writings of his grandfathers.

Brittany Stevens / Flickr

Banned Books week was originally conceived around the titular bans. But Maeve Clark, Adult Services Coordinator at the Iowa City Public Library, says, in 2015, there are other issues of intellectual freedom to worry about.

One of those issues is "self-censorship," when librarians choose to solely stock shelves with non-controversial books. One rural librarian in Iowa, who declined to share her name, says rural libraries face different challenges than urban ones.

Terry Gilliam spent the first 12 years of his life in Minnesota, but he would go on to become the one of the most beloved entertainers in British history.

He is one of the founding members of Monty Python and the man responsible for the art and animation that defined the look of the group.  He has a new memoir out, called Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir.

When asked how he feels about imitators, or people who have been inspired by his work, Gilliam says he feels proud.

Courtesy of Live Like Line's Facebook page / https://www.facebook.com/livelikeline

In August of 2011, 17-year-old Caroline Found of Iowa City died in a moped accident. Two weeks later her mother, Ellyn, succumbed to pancreatic cancer. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together, grieved, and became stronger.

"You can't get around your grief, you can't get over it, you can't get under it," says Bill Hoeft, author of Live Like Line, Love Like Ellyn; One Community’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph. "But you can move forward and honor the people that you've lost."

MjZ Photography / Flickr

Rey Junco, an associate professor in the school of education at Iowa State University, believes the long-held wisdom is true--if you want to do well in class, you have to spend time with the material. But with shifty students who might inflate how much time they're spending reading, he's had to get more creative with how he collects data.

"We often identify students who are struggling by their grades--by their poor grades or their poor attendance or something that we can measure. But often by the time we've measured it, it's too late."

Ripley Entertainment

Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the organization that collects and exhibits oddities from all over the world, has a new book Eye Popping Oddities that highlights a few Iowans.

Edward Meyer, Vice President of Exhibits and Archives, has been traveling the world collecting unusual stories and artifacts for more than three decades. 

"If you look at page 230 in the  new book, we have a photo of a guy who collected his fingernail clippings for over 10 years and sent me a paper weight made of them," he laughs. "It's probably buried under paper." 

RDECOM / flickr

For most of us middle school is the most awkward time of life. Kevin Brockmeier has plunged back into this difficult years with his new memoir, A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade. Today on Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe revisits middle school with Brockmeier.

Later in the program, Director of the Iowa Youth Writing Project, Dora Malech, talks about the importance of getting kids writing, along with some tips and best practices.

Roberto Neumiller

How many people can the Earth sustain? According to author and journalist Alan Weisman, "the planet just seems to be bursting at its seams."

Today on Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe interviews Weisman, who tackles that question in his new book, Countdown: Our Last, Best hope for a Future on Earth? She talks with him about what he learned by traveling the globe and studying different cultures and his vision of the future.

 This program originally aired February 24, 2014.

Denise Krebs / Flickr

When Allan Johnson asked his dying father what he would like to have done with his ashes, his father told him that it made no difference at all.  That answer left Johnson with a lot of questions and was the starting point for a powerful journey.

Running to the Fire

Jul 23, 2015
Waldorf College

Tim Bascom, author of the novel "Squatters' Rights" and the essay collection "The Comfort Trap" is out with a new memoir about his time growing up in the 1970's in Ethiopia, "Running to the Fire: An American Missionary Comes of Age in Revolutionary Ethiopia." (University of Iowa Press)

Penguin Random House

Dr. David Casarett was a skeptic when he set out to write Stoned. But in his quest to determine what medical evidence exists for medical marijuana, the palliative care physician found more questions than answers. Host Ben Kieffer talks with him about the book and the research needed to answer those questions.

Casarett and listeners tell stories of how cannabidiol oil has helped children with seizure disorders.  He explains what science knows about the compounds found in cannabis, and the most effective means of extracting and administering those compounds. 

Jennifer Percy/Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

Iowa novelist Benjamin Percy is branching out into the world of comics. He was asked to author the newest Green Arrow series for DC Comics.

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Percy about the difference between a novel and a comic, Oliver Queen, and his alter ego.

"It’s been a long apprenticeship," says Percy.

"I started as a reader. I can remember distinctly going to the mercantile with my mother, and I was always permitted one issue. I would read all these comics over and over again."

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

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.

Aquarium by David Vann

Lucas Mann lost his big brother to a heroin overdose when he was only 13 years old. He writes about his journey to get to know his late brother in his new memoir Lord Fear.

“Even before I thought of myself as a writer, I would sit down, and his addiction and his presence was always really there in the background. Even in my book Class A which is about baseball, his absence works his way into the book,” Mann explains.

Courtesty of Jane Sutter Brandt

Jane Sutter Brandt remembers when her grandfather’s soda fountain in Burlington was still serving pineapple and cottage cheese for 15 cents and a tuna sandwich for a dime. She writes about the family’s business in her new memoir Sutter’s Sodas Satisfy: a Memoir of 90 Years of Sutter Drug Company.

Jennifer Percy/Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

In novelist Benjamin Percy’s latest vision of the future, a super flu and nuclear fallout have turned the United States into a nightmarish wasteland. The apocalypse begins in Ames, Iowa.

In this episode of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Percy about his latest novel, The Dead Lands.  It takes place about 150 years after life as we know it has ended. Small outposts of humanity, disconnected from one another, struggle to survive in a harsh world.

Jason Hickey / Flickr

We all have those moments in life that we look back on with 20/20 hindsight and wish we could do differently. Author Cate Dicharry aims to make light of these life mistakes and times of regret with a tinge of humor in her new book “The Fine Art of F***ing Up.”

On this segment of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Dicharry about the inspiration for her new novel.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Mary Roach’s first book proposal was the product of a dare on New Year’s Eve. She says she never envisioned herself as the author of several New York Times best-selling books.

“I’d been writing for magazines for 10-15 years. Writing a book seemed daunting, but I worked in an office with a lot of writers. We would make predictions for what we would all do in the coming year. Someone said I would get a book contract, and then it was October, and I figured I needed to get started.”

South Dakota Historical Society Press

Laura Ingalls Wilder completed the original draft of her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, in the spring of 1930. It was never published, but it led to one of the most beloved series of books of all time.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography is finally in print. Editor Pamela Smith Hill has painstakingly researched that original draft, sharing light on the events that Wilder wrote about, and painting a picture about a remarkable family that lived through momentous times.

Steven Semken / Ice Cube Press

Iowa City still has the mark of Howard Moffitt all over. His hobbit-like houses sit intermingled with more traditional houses in many Iowa City neighborhoods to this day.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Dr. Richard DeGowin, author of “House of Moffitt, The First 20 Years – a Memoir”.

One characteristic of the Moffitt houses is that Moffitt built them on the premise that they were to be rented out and bought by low-income tenants.

Raymond Bryson / Flickr

What was it like to saw off dozens of legs a day during the Civil War?

  In the novel My Name is Mary Sutter, author Robin Oliveira explores an entirely new kind of medicine that emerged during the Civil War. She says the idea for the book originally came to her when she was cleaning her house. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Hilda Rupp lived a tough life. She lost her own mother when she was only 17 and helped raised her 10 brothers and sisters through the Great Depression after her mother died. She went on to raise eight children of her own.

Hilda’s daughter, Joyce Rupp, writes about her mother and the lessons she learned from watching her resiliency in her new book Fly While You Still Have Wings and Other Lessons My Resilient Mother Taught Me.

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