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Stories of Imagination

by on November 28th, 2015

On March 12, 2015, one of my favorite authors died. On November 23, 2015, I finished reading the last book of his most famous series.

I’m a bit at a loss.

I’m speaking, of course, about the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett and his marvelous Discworld books, the last of which was published posthumously and I just finished reading it. There aren’t going to be any more of them ever. I will never find out about Moist von Lipwig’s next big challenge, or see if anyone ever tries to overthrow Lord Vetinari. I won’t see Young Sam grow up or see Sam Vimes retire from the Watch. I won’t know what happens with the witches, if Tiffany Aching and Preston finally settle down in the same place. It’s all a bit devastating.

But, I can always go back and visit them. Terry Pratchett left behind great stories of imagination, one of the most lasting legacies one can have. I can always go back to the Disc and visit my friends, and there are 41 novels, so I can stay there as long as I want.


A great reading guide from Krzysztof Kietzman

Now, discworld is an intimidating series to start. There are 41 books! But, there are a couple of ways that you can approach the series. You can read them chonologically, starting with The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic or you can start with any of the starter novels in the lovely graphic provided by an avid Pratchett fan.

I read them (mostly) chronologically, because that’s the way I roll, but you really don’t have to. Discworld is more of a universe in which stories take place instead of just a series. They are hilarious and they poke fun at everything from commonly used fantasy tropes to racism. As Terry Pratchett said “G.K Chesterton once said that the opposite of ‘funny’ is not ‘serious’; the opposite of ‘funny’ is ‘not funny’…” And that rings very true in all of his writing.

Included in the purple blobs in the lovely graphic is my favorite series within Discworld, the Tiffany Aching books. Tiffany grew up reading fairy tales and knew she could never be a princess since she was practical, and had brown hair and brown eyes, so she decided to become a witch. The Shepherd’s Crown, the very last Discworld book is a Tiffany Aching book, and it doesn’t tie up loose ends or end happily ever after. That isn’t Pratchett’s style. It ends like stories end in real life, with tons of unanswered questions of where to go next.

Check out Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series in Science Fiction on the first floor and the Tiffany Aching books in YA.

ICPL Arts and Craft Bazaar Dec. 5

by on November 27th, 2015

Just in time for the holidays, the Iowa City Public Library will host the Fourth Annual Arts & Crafts Bazaar and Winter Book Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5.

The craft bazaar will be held in meeting rooms A, B and C at the Library, 123 S. Linn St. The used book sale will take place in the hallway outside Meeting Room A.

Thanks to the generous donations of local artists and crafters, shoppers will find a wide selection of unique gifts from quilts and knitted items to jewelry, holiday ornaments, and more. For every $10 spent at the bazaar, shoppers receive an entry for amazing door prizes. Winners do not need to be present to win.

A children’s craft will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon in Meeting Room D.

Proceeds from the Arts & Crafts Bazaar benefit the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation, which supports the Summer Reading Program and other Library programs and collections.

Both Library events coincide with the Eastside Artists Annual Show at the Masonic Building, 312 College St., and Iowa City Downtown District Holiday Open House. Make a day of your trip downtown and get a head start on your holiday shopping.

For more information, please call the Library at 319-356-5200.

Gas prices – how low will they go?

by on November 25th, 2015

How low will the price of gas drop this year?  Iowa City recorded a low of $1.99 the first part of January 2015 and while the cost of filling your car has gone up since then,  prices are trending down tgas pricehe last week in November at $2.09 a gallon.  According to a Iowa City Press Citizen article on January 3, 2015, the under $2.00 price was the lowest since May 2009.  The Federal Energy Administration maintains a website of gas prices in the United States but not for Iowa specifically. The United State Department of Energy Fuel Economy also doesn’t have Iowa information but provides links to a number of commercial sites that track the price of gas by week for cities in Iowa.  To track current prices I used the Iowa Gas Prices from  AAA also provides a very useful information for the past year and the highest recorded fuel price.  However, it doesn’t include Iowa City.

What causes fuel prices to vary so greatly?  There are a number of factors that determine the cost of gas.  They are the cost of crude oil, the refining costs and profits, the distribution and marketing costs and profits and taxes.  The cost of crude oil is the major factor in the cost of fuel.  The expansion of  oil production in North America is main reason the price is dropping. If you are looking for apps to help you find the lowest gas prices here are a few suggestions from CNN Money.

Can you recall the lowest price you paid for a gallon of gas?  It might make for interesting Thanksgiving conversation.


The Annotated Little Women / Louisa May Alcott (edited by John Matteson)

by on November 25th, 2015
The Annotated Little Women / Louisa May Alcott (edited by John Matteson) Cover Image

I am always happy when an annotated edition of a work arrives at the library. I love the stories behind the stories, the tidbits, the facts, and the history of a book. We have a number of these editions at ICPL. But I am especially excited about the newly published The Annotated Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) edited by John Matteson. Matteson is known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Eden’s Outcasts, which focuses on the relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her father. In this annotated edition of Little Women, he weaves family and personal information, photographs and illustrations, geographical and historical references, as well as recipes into Alcott’s narrative. There is an 1844 recipe for beef tea, which Jo has to fetch when Mr. March surprises the family when he returns from the war. There are a number of May Alcott’s paintings and drawings throughout, including the Greek figures she drew on the walls of her bedroom at Orchard House. And there is a great deal of background information, from the tensions between the current established society and the new Irish and German immigrants in 19th-century New England to explanations of all the Charles Dickens’ references—and there are plenty.

Aside from Matteson’s annotations, it is also a beautiful edition in its own right. I love the way the publisher’s choose to print “The Pickwick Portfolio” with columns, different typeface, and bordering some of the text, giving it the feel of a 19th-century newspaper. There is also a great biographical essay on how the March family resembles the Alcott family and what events inspired the narrative. If you haven’t read Little Women in a while or would like to read it for the first time, this edition won’t disappoint.

Author Rosemary Wells at ICPL on Dec. 6

by on November 25th, 2015

The Iowa City Public Library and Prairie Lights Books are pleased to welcome children’s author and illustrator Rosemary Wells to the Library at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, in Meeting Room A.

Wells is the creator of many popular children’s book characters, including Max and Ruby, Yoko, and McDuff. She is known for using animal characters rather than humans in her stories, telling the children’s journal Stone Soup that this allows her to “address sophisticated, controversial topics in way children can understand and adults can accept.”yoko

Wells’ presentation at the Library will include a video tour through her studio, as well as her thoughts about reading, writing, and illustrating. There will be a book signing afterwards. Copies of Wells’ books will be for sale at the event and at Prairie Lights Books prior to the event.

This author reading is co-sponsored by the Library and Prairie Lights Books, and will be broadcast live on The Library Channel, Iowa City cable channel 20. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the Library at 319-356-5200.

Great Time to Visit the Library and Downtown Iowa City

by on November 25th, 2015

After you’ve sated yourself on food and football this weekend and you’re looking for a nice place to walk around,  get a little exercise, show your guests some interesting things, and get the kids out from in front of a screen come on downtown.  The Library is closed Thursday, but open from 10-6 both Friday and Saturday, and 12-5 on Sunday.  We have a story time at 10:30 on Saturday, and celebrate C.S. Lewis’ birthday with a variety of crafts on Sunday from 2-4.  Pick up some books to read, DVDs to watch (I haven’t yet indulged in the trend of binge watching TV shows, but we have a wide selection!), or toys for the kids.  Guests to Iowa City often enjoy a visit to the Library. Best of all, many people are out of town, so parking is easy — something we can’t say every day.  The Iowa City Downtown District has a full calendar of events to participate in while you start your holiday shopping including hunting elves, visiting Santa and riding in a horse drawn carriage. Check out their calendar at: l


Graduate from hand-shaped turkeys

by on November 24th, 2015

If Thanksgiving has you fondly remembering the days of making hand-shaped turkeys out of construction paper, we have some new books about sculptural paper crafts that will take those skills to a new, more 3-D level.

papergoodsprojectsIn Paper Goods Projects, Jodi Levine (who has spent two decades on Martha Stewart’s staff) shows how to use ordinary materials like paper plates, cupcake liners, and cereal boxes to make brightly-colored flowers, animal sculptures, masks, cake toppers, mobiles, and more. Her previous book, Candy Aisle Crafts, was also full of inventive ideas suitable for both fun adults and families. In the introduction of Paper Goods Projects, Levine writes that transforming everyday supermarket supplies into whimsical works of art “helps us retain the youthful skill to see the potential in things.”

ilovepaper_eggsFor something more advanced, check out I Love Paper: Paper-Cutting Techniques and Templates for Amazing Toys, Sculptures, Props, and Costumes by Fideli Sundqvist. Subtle folding, creasing, and layering makes use of shadows to create surprisingly realistic results and elevate the pieces into art. If for any reason you’d like a paper version of a standard eggs-and-bacon breakfast (maybe looking ahead to April Fool’s Day 2016?), Mr. Sundqvist will give you a hand with step-by-step instructions and templates.

papercraftFor the practical crafters out there, try to catch the new Paper Craft book featuring DK’s reliably generous illustrations. With several ideas for accessorizing presents or making customized envelopes, it’s just in time for the holidays. And, if you’re taken by the paper quilling on the cover, you might also like the new Quilled Animals quilledanimalsbook by Diane Boden. Look at that alpaca. Aww.

In the era of 3-D printers, these projects seem especially quaint and honest.  Try your hand at paper sculpture with one of these books published in 2015.

Picture Books and Holiday Survival with On Air: The ICPL Podcast

by on November 24th, 2015

This week we’ve got two great episodes of On Air: The ICPL podcast to share.

In Episode 15, Meredith interviews Casey and Morgan from the Children’s Department about some great picture books for young readers.

Plus, enjoy this special bonus episode, a rerun of one of our favorites: How to Survive the Holidays with ICPL, which originally posted in November, 2014.


You can also get our podcast from iTunes or Stitcher

ICPL announces December Classes for Adults

by on November 24th, 2015

December’s computer classes for adults at the Iowa City Public Library will tackle popular social media sites Facebook and Twitter.

Our Facebook Basics and Beyond class will discuss the Facebook interface, go over privacy settings, and help attendees get a feel for how to connect and stay connected with friends, family and organizations. This class will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3.

Adults who have a Twitter account, or are thinking about getting one, should attend our Twitter Basics and Beyond class from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8. This session will show attendees how Twitter is used by followers and tweeters to stay up on the news, stay current in their career, or simply connect with friends and family. We’ll go over the Twitter interface and privacy settings, too.

All classes for adults are held in the Library’s Computer Lab on the second floor. Classes are free, but space is limited to 15 people per program, so patrons should register early.

Visit to register online. You can also register by calling the Library at 319-356-5200.

It’s the end of the world as we know it!

by on November 23rd, 2015
It’s the end of the world as we know it! Cover Image

Are you prepared for the eventual collapse of society?  I see you slowly backing away from me, but wait!  Let me put away my tin foil hat and explain.  I was recently searching for a new book to read, preferably something non-fiction. (I always make a reading resolution to read more non-fiction, but I never do).  I stumbled upon a book called Lights Out by Ted Koppel.  Koppel wrote about the likelihood of a cyber-attack against the country’s power grid, and how we’re ill prepared for a lengthy blackout.  There would be no running water or means to refrigerate our food.  The smart phones that we use constantly would be useless within days.  Heavy stuff, right?  Also, Koppel investigated the federal government’s planned response for such an attack, and, apparently, there isn’t one.  So…we’re screwed.

I’m actually not all that worried about our impending doom, but it did get me to think about some common sense preparations in the case of a disaster, natural or otherwise.  While the government hasn’t planned for a power grid attack, it does have suggestions for general disaster preparedness.  The Department of Homeland Security created the Ready website to educate us on how to respond to emergencies, and, hopefully, raise the level of preparedness across America.  If you go to the website, you’ll see a “Navigation” link on the left.  If you click on that, it brings up the site’s content including an (almost) exhaustive list of the terrible things that could happen.  Space weather (!) is on this list.  Which–this gave me a chuckle–talks about damage to the electric grid, but not to the level that Koppel is worried about.

FEMA got in on the action (cause it’s their job) and made a Recommended Supplies List.  Honestly, I need to get my act together.  We don’t have most of the stuff on the list, and it definitely isn’t assembled into an Emergency Supply Kit.  Did you look at that list?  It says to consider having household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper in your kit.  Why?  Because if things get super dire, you can use it to treat water to make it drinkable by using 16 drops of  liquid bleach per gallon of water.  I did some checking into this, and that’s basically what city water treatment does.  So, it won’t even taste weird.  Fun stuff!  If I sound like I’m making light of all this, I’m really not.  I think it’s smart to be prepared.  I’m going to start making my kit soon…Tomorrow, probably.  I’m sure I’ll get around to it sometime.