Dates set for 2017 Iowa City Book Festival: Oct. 8-15

While we still are hearing from people who had transformative experiences at the 2016 Iowa City Book Festival, we already are hard at work planning the 2017 fest. Get the dates on your calendar now: Oct. 8-15, 2017.

We will feature another mix of authors, events, and themes, and will again be working with several partners to offer a wide variety of programs. These will include the 2017 One Community One Book author, G. Willow Wilson (presented in partnership with Hancher Auditorium); the Examined Life conference and more. Of special note: 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, and we will have several events that celebrate that milestone for this amazing program.

Are you interested in participating as an author, presenter, vendor, volunteer or in some other role? Let us know at

Irish poets visit the Book Festival

PIRThree Irish poets will visit this year’s Iowa City Book Festival in a partnership with Poetry Ireland, an organization based in the Dublin City of Literature.

We will be joined by Nell Regan, Afric McGlinchey, and Jim Maguire. McGlinchey and Maguire, are featured in “The Rising Generation,” an issue of the Poetry Ireland Review, a publication of Poetry Ireland.

The three will appear twice at the festival. They will do a joint reading at 11:30 a.m. in the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, and will appear at 2:30 p.m. at the downtown Java House as part of the panel “Iris-American Cultural Connections.”

“We are pleased to welcome another contingent of poets from our fellow City of Literature,” said Iowa City of Literature director John Kenyon, noting that a similar partnership brought Irish poets to the 2012 festival. “Such projects allow us to take full advantage of our designation.

Regan is a poet and non-fiction writer based in Dublin. She has published three collections of poetry, most recently One Still Thing, Enitharmon Press (London, 2014) She has been a Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and a Fulbright Scholar at UC Berkeley.

McGlinchey’s well-received debut, The lucky star of hidden things (Salmon Poetry, 2012), was translated and published in Italy by L’Arcolaio. Nominated for the Pushcart and Forward prizes, her work has appeared in journals worldwide and been translated into five languages. Her second collection, Ghost of the Fisher Cat, was nominated for the 2016 Forward prize

Maguire has received several awards for his work, including the Strokestown International Poetry Prize (2012), the Brendan Kennelly Prize and an Arts Council of Ireland Literature Bursary. His book, Music Field (Poetry Salzburg), was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish poet in 2014.


2016 Book Festival: Build your own theme

Two years ago, we had the great fortune of presenting an Iowa City Book Festival featuring two Pulitzer-winning authors with strong Iowa ties in Marilynne Robinson and Jane Smiley. An attendee at the Smiley event remarked, “You obviously had an Iowa theme to this year’s festival. What will the next theme be?”

Our theme that year was actually something closer to “amazing authors with new books out who said ‘yes’ when we asked them to appear,” but we took the compliment in stride, and wondered about the next year’s festival. We stuck with that theme, and again presented a festival that attendees said they thought would be difficult to top.

This year, we again sought out a mix of writers who would be able to speak on a number of different topics and who represent various styles and genres.

However, we seem to have stumbled onto the theme first articulated by that attendee two years ago, because our schedule is full of authors with Iowa ties — writers who live here, teach here, studied here and moved on, or who write about our state.

We have another Pulitzer winner with local ties in novelist Robert Olen Butler, a University of Iowa graduate who went on to write many critically acclaimed novels. His latest is Perfume River.

On the other end of the experience spectrum is Nathan Hill, whose The Nix is one of the best-reviewed debut novels in recent memory, with theNew York Times saying he has “talent to burn” and likening him to Thomas Pynchon and John Irving. Hill worked as a reporter in the Gazette’sIowa City office more than a decade ago.

We have Iowa-based poets in Jennifer L. Knox,Ryan Collins and Anais Duplan, Iowa fiction writers in John Domini and Kali VanBaale, and mystery novelists with Iowa ties in beloved former northeast Iowa Sheriff’s Deputy Donald Harstad and Minneapolis-based UI grad Allen Eskens.

Those writing about Iowa also make up a big part of our lineup this year. Dan Barry, a New York Times reporter who wrote extensively about disabled men forced to work at a processing plant in Atalissa, revisits that story in the acclaimed Boys in the Bunkhouse. Claire Hoffman, a well-respected magazine writer, recounts her time growing up within the sphere of Fairfield’s Maharishi International University inGreetings From Utopia Park. Tom Shroder writes about his grandfather, the Iowa-born MacKinlay Kantor, in The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived, while Julie Rubini writes about the Iowa-born Nancy Drew scribe in Missing Millie Benson.

The list goes on. And that’s not the only list. If you are interested in issues of race, Leonard Pitts, Jr., Roxane Gay, and Crystal Chan are not to be missed. Are international politics and immigration of interest? Come hear Suki Kim and Okey Ndibe. If you love poetry, the aforementioned writers will be joined by a contingent of visiting Irish poets from our fellow City of Literature in Dublin. Medicine? Try Angelo Volandes or Leslie Jamison. Travel? Check out Tom Lutz. Science Fiction? F. Paul Wilson‘s Panacea is a ripping read.

The above only scratches the surface of what is on offer.  With more than 100 presenters in 60 events over six days, you can build your own Book Festival, find your own themes, and curate your own experience. It’s all free and open to the public.

Another one goes in the books!

The 2015 Iowa City Book Festival is complete.; More than 50 events, featuring more than 100 authors and presenters over four days… and so many people helped to make it happen.

Thank you to our sponsors: The City of Iowa City, The Iowa Arts Council, the University of Iowa, the Iowa City Public Library, the Iowa City Sheraton, the Iowa City-Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Knutson Construction, Film Scene, the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council/The Norton Fund, the Tuesday Agency, and the Iowa Writer’s House.

Thank you as well to our partners: The Edible Institute’s “Eating Words” food writing festival, Film Scene, the Iowa City Public Library, the Coralville Public Library and Foundation, the University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums, the University of Iowa Public Policy Center, Little Village, the International Writing Program, the Iowa Writer’s House, the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties, Prairie Lights Books, Iowa Book, the University of Iowa Bookstore, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, and the Geneva Ministries.

Thank you as well to all of our vendors and the many volunteers who made this event so successful.

Last, but certainly not least, thank you to all of the amazing authors and presenters who filled out our schedule and provided us with so many memorable experiences.

The 2016 Festival will be held Oct. 6-9. Mark your calendars and plan to join us!

Little Free Library founder Todd Bol to make Iowa stops on route to festival

Todd BolLike the Johnny Appleseed of small libraries, Little Free Library creator and executive director, Todd Bol, will spread the word about the joy and power of free book exchanges as he makes his way from Hudson, Wis., through four cities in Iowa, ending at the Iowa City Book Festival.

“Since I am heading to the Book Festival to speak, I thought I would use the drive across Iowa to continue working on our goal to get 100,000 Little Free Libraries built across the United States,” says Bol.

For the “LFL Across Iowa Tour,” Mr. Bol will be stopping in Des Moines, Dubuque, Davenport, and Cedar Rapids with his trailer containing notable Little Free Libraries, a mobile Little Free Library with books for the public to take home, plus tools and library kits to donate libraries and help volunteers build libraries for their communities.

  • Des Moines metro area: On Tuesday, Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., volunteers from the Des Moines area will be participating in a Community Build Day at the West Des Moines Public Library. During the event they aim to build 4 donated Little Free Libraries for their community.
  • Dubuque: On Wednesday, Sept. 30, Bol is honored to be the guest at a Community Build Day in Dubuque from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Spark Family Hair Salon, made famous for barber Courtney Williams’ efforts to improve the reading skills of children in his neighborhood by offering free haircuts to kids who read to him — a story recently featured on “Good Morning America” and in People Magazine and USA Today, among others.
  • Between Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City: On Thursday, Oct. 1, Bol will make his way to Davenport. On the following day, Oct. 2, he will head to Cedar Rapids. During his trip he intends to make frequent stops in towns along the way so he can commit what he calls “Random Acts of Library” engagement efforts that include book and coffee mug giveaways designed to spread the word about Little Free Libraries.
  • On Saturday, Oct. 3, Bol will speak at 11:30 a.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library as par t of the Book Festival. In addition, he will host a library building event and promote The Little Free Library Book by Margret Aldrich, which was published by Coffee House Press in 2015. Aldrich will also be in attendance at the Iowa City Book Festival.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization with a mission to build community and promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. They seek to increase the number of Little Free Libraries in the United States from 30,000 in 2015 to 100,000.

Paretsky to receive 2015 Paul Engle Prize

Long-running female detective story author Sara Paretsky of Chicago poses for pictures under train tracks in Hyde Park, Thursday, January 12, 2012.    (Alex Garcia/ Chicago Tribune) B581820299Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS,  NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...

Sara Paretsky has been named the fourth recipient of the Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization.

The prize, established in 2011, honors an individual who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.

Paretsky will receive the prize, which includes a one-of-a-kind work of art and $10,000, during a special ceremony as part of the Iowa City Book Festival on Oct. 2. The event is at 7 p.m. at the Coralville Public Library. She will be joined by noted NPR and Washington Post book critic Maureen Corrigan, who will conduct a Q&A with Paretsky. The event is free and open to the public.

Paretsky is best known as the author behind the bestselling Chicago-based V.I. Warshawski mystery series, including the new novel, Brush Back. She revolutionized the mystery world when the series debuted in 1982 withIndemnity Only, a book that challenged the stereotypes of women in fiction as victims or vamps. Over the course of 17 Warshawski novels, Paretsky has crafted a tough, street-smart yet feminine heroine who allows her creator tackle social issues.

The author has spent much of her career opening doors for other writers – particularly women – and assisting those without a voice. That work includes the creation in 1986 of Sisters in Crime, a group that has evolved into a worldwide organization that supports women crime writers. She currently serves as president of the Mystery Writers of America, a post she says she took to help address the issue of diversity in the genre. She has won numerous awards for her writing and for this work, but many of her contributions go unheralded.

Paretsky came to Chicago from her native Kansas in part due to a passion for social justice. She worked as a community organizer during the Civil Rights era, and more recently, served with then-state senator Barack Obama on the board of Thresholds, a group that serves Chicago’s mentally ill homes. She also has mentored teens in Chicago’s most troubled schools, and works closely with literacy and reproductive rights groups.

Speaking about the award, Paretsky said, “We all have one or two fundamental questions about life—about our own lives—that we keep returning to, and trying to sort out. Mine have to do with speech and silence: who gets to speak, who has to listen. When you’re powerless, it can be hard to speak, easy to remain silent.

“I try to understand cruelty, both the petty acts we all do from time to time, and the gross acts, lynch mobs, Auschwitz, Rwanda, that most of us pray we’ll never commit. I’m not interested in reading or writing books that seek to inhabit the minds of torturers. Rather, I want to know the mind of that rare person who steps forward, who speaks.

“Perhaps my biggest fear is that in an extreme situation, I would be neither hero nor villain, but the hidden bystander, the person who watches lynch mobs or thugs dragging my neighbors out of their houses. I keep hoping that if I study Mandela, or Havel, I will become stronger, less willing to take the soft option.

“Receiving the Paul Engle prize is an honor which I’m not sure I deserve—but which I gladly accept. I hope it will help me remember a commitment to high-risk speech.”

Paretsky will appear throughout the Corridor during a visit to the area. More details will be available at

The Paul Engle Prize is made possible through the generous support of the City of Coralville, which is home to 11 permanent sculptures with artistic and literary ties to Iowa. The sculptures all have ties to work found in The Iowa Writers’ Library, housed in the Coralville Marriott, which features about 800 books written by former students, graduates and faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

The Engle Prize itself is a one-of-a-kind work of art created by M.C. Ginsberg in Iowa City. The piece is crafted to reflect the work and impact of the recipient, while tying it to the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

Paul Engle (October 12, 1908 – March 22, 1991), though best remembered as the long-time director of the Writers’ Workshop and founder of the UI’s International Writing Program, also was a well-regarded poet, playwright, essayist, editor and critic. In addition to recognizing a writer, like Engle, makes an impact on his or her community and the world at large through efforts beyond the page, the award is designed to raise awareness about Engle and his works.

Previous winners of the prize are:

  • James Alan McPherson, a longtime instructor at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author ofElbow Room 
  • Kwame Dawes, a professor at Nebraska University, editor of the journal Prairie Schooner, and author of the recent poetry collection,Duppy Conqueror 
  • Luis Alberto Urrea, a multi-genre author whose works include the novel Into the Beautiful North, the non-fiction work, The Devil’s Highway, and the recent poetry collection, The Tijuana Book of the Dead.

Get your Quixote fix at ICBF and elsewhere this fall


Dozens of volunteers will gather over four days the week of Sept. 28 to give a public reading of the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes as part of the Iowa City Book Festival. The reading is the first event of the festival, starting Sept. 28 and finishing on Oct. 1, the official first day of the festival.

Reading from the recent translation by Edith Grossman, volunteers will read from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 28 and 29, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 30, before wrapping up the classic on Oct. 1 starting at 9 a.m. and going until the book is complete.

The reading will take place on the east steps of the Old Capitol Museum or inside in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber in inclement weather.

Volunteers are needed for this great project: A sign-up sheet will be available at the main entrance to Phillips Hall on Friday, Sept. 18, or on location during the reading. For more information, please contact Anna Barker at

Other Quixote-related events will be held throughout the fall, culminating in the University of Iowa Obermann Center’s conference, “Parody, Plagiarism, Patrimony: Don Quixote in the Age of Electronic Reproduction,” Oct. 22-24. These include:

–“Ingenious Gentlemen: Depictions of Don Quixote and Chivalry,” Aug. 11, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016, UIMA@IMU Visual Classroom, Iowa Memorial Union. A mini-exhibition featuring works by Salvador Dali, Mauricio Lasansky, John Tenniel, and Karl Knaths. The visual classroom also includes a Cubist painting by Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso’s The Dream and Lie of Franco prints, and Goya’s large portrait Don Manuel Garcia de la Prada, on loan from the Des Moines Art Center.

–WorldCanvass: Don Quixote’s Four Century Saga, Sept. 15, 5-6:30 p.m., FilmScene, 118 E. College St., Iowa City. Pre-show social hour from 4-5 p.m. at FilmScene. Free and open to the public.

–The Quest Begins: Opening Reception for Quixote at 400, Sept. 17, 5-7 p.m., Old Capitol Museum. Light refreshments provided by The Bread Garden, with birthday cake at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public

–“Caprice and Influence,” Sept. 12-Dec. 13, Black Box Theatre, Iowa Memorial Union. The exhibition includes Goya’s Los Caprichos and Disasters of War print series.

–“Illustrations of Don Quixote: The Interpretation of Imagination,” Sept. 17, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016, Old Capitol Museum.

–“Influenced by Quixote: Student Artwork From the Harte School of Art,” Sept. 17, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016, Old Capitol Museum Rotunda.

–Film series, Sept. 25-Oct. 16, 3-5 p.m., E105 AJB. Sep. 25: Orson Welles’ Don Quixote. 1992. B&W. 115 minutes. Oct. 2: Un Quijote sin mancha, México, 1969 [Cantinflas]. 100 minutes. Oct. 9: El caballero don Quijote, Gutiérrez Aragón, 2002. 119 minutes. Oct. 16: Don Quixote, G. B. Pabst, 1933, English version. 73 minutes.

–Celebrating Quixote in Music, a concert, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m., IMU Main Lounge. University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, William LaRue Jones, conductor. Will include “Don Quixote” by Richard Strauss (1864-1949), “Don Quichotte e Dulcinee” by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), and “Man of La Mancha” Mitch Leigh (1928-2014). Free and open to the public

–A lecture by filmmaker Terry Gilliam, Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m., at the Iowa Memorial Union.

–Man of La Mancha performance, Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m., Riverside Recital Hall, Josh Sazon, director.

–“Music Is the Word: Spanish culture’s impact on Russian literature and music,” Nov. 4, 7-8 p.m., Meeting Room A, Iowa City Public Library. A conversation about the influence of Don Quixote and Spanish culture on 19th century Russian literature and music with UI adjunct professor Anna Barker and pianist Sasha Burdin.

For more information about the Quixote Symposium, including a list of related events, go to

Wake Up Iowa, and help us name our coffee

The City of Literature is teaming up with Wake Up Iowa Coffee to make a special, literary brew. We need your help to come up with a name for our roast. It should be something fun that salutes our community’s love for all things literary.

Post your ideas to the Book Festival Facebook page by Friday, August 21. If your idea is chosen you’ll receive a free bag of coffee!

Enjoy free samples of the new roast at Beer & Books, September 8, 5-7 p.m. at the Mill.

Anyone interested in or involved with the literary life of the Iowa City area is encouraged to check out Beer & Books the second Tuesday of each month for mingling and conversation Meet important contacts, discuss literature, and make new friends. Editors, writers, readers, translators, booksellers, librarians, teachers, students and anyone else who enjoys talking about books and writing is encouraged to attend.



Reich, Stevenson highlight politically focused 2015 Iowa City Book Festival

As Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses fast approach, the Iowa City Book Festival will add to its traditionally strong slate of fiction and nonfiction with a focus on books and authors that explore the realm of presidential politics. The festival will be held Oct. 1-4, 2015.

Authors who address two of the biggest issues facing our country today – the economy and social justice – will headline two major events during the festival. Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, will discuss his forthcoming book, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, at an event on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Englert Theatre. Bryan Stevenson,  executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the New York Times bestselling book, Just Mercy, will appear at the Iowa Memorial Union at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4.

Stevenson will appear at the festival in conjunction the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights One Community One Book project, and the Geneva Lecture Series sponsored by Geneva Campus Ministry.

The festival also has invited every major party presidential candidate who has written a recent book, and expects an event that gives attendees the chance to discuss the ideas raised by these politicians. Because of the fluid nature of presidential campaigns, the size and scope of that event is still to be determined.

Those who come to the festival to hear from some of the country’s best fiction writers need not worry. The lineup boasts many, including:

  • Robert Goolrick, who first came to the festival in 2012 in support of his bestselling novel, A Reliable Wife. He returns with his acclaimed new novel, The Fall of Princes.
  • Sara Paretsky, the Chicago-based author of the bestselling V.I. Warshawski mystery series, will talk about the latest book in that series, Brush Back.
  • Iowa City native Tim Johnston returns to talk about his critically acclaimed new thriller, Descent. 
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell, who attended the festival in 2012 to read from her novel, Once Upon a River, returns in support of her forthcoming book of short stories, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.
  • Stephen Witt will discuss How Music Became Free, a book the New York Times says is “the richest explanation to date about how the arrival of the MP3 upended almost everything about how music is distributed, consumed and stored.”
  • Irish crime master Stuart Neville, author of The Ghosts of Belfast and Ratlines, returns with his new novel, Those We Left Behind.
  • Ryan Stradal will discuss his new novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest, an American Booksellers’ Association “Indie Next” pick for August.

Other authors scheduled to appear include Vu Tran (Dragonfish), John McNally (Lord of the Ralphs), Rebecca Makkai (Music for Wartime), Cate Dicharry (The Fine Art of Fucking Up), Tracy Menaster (You Could Be Home By Now), Matt Bell (Scrapper), Jabari Asim (Only the Strong), Summer Miller (New Prairie Kitchen), Charles Haverty (Excommunicados), Edward Hamlin (Night in Erg Chebbi and Other Stories), Tom Janikowski (The Crawford County Sketchbook) and many more.

Attorney, activist Bryan Stevenson to speak Oct. 4

Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the New York Times bestselling book, Just Mercy, will appear at the Iowa Memorial Union at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4. The event will be free and open to the public.

Stevenson will appear as part of the Iowa City Book Festival, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, in conjunction the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights One Community One Book project, and the Geneva Lecture Series sponsored by Geneva Campus Ministry.

As an attorney, Stevenson has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued six times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

His book, Just Mercy, is the fall 2015 One Community One Book selection, and his appearance will cap a schedule of several events throughout the fall. The book was named by Time magazine as one of the 10 best books of nonfiction for 2014 and has been awarded several honors including a 2015 NAACP Image Award.