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Author Archive for Melody Dworak

Book Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by Melody Dworak on December 30th, 2013
Book Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Cover Image

Back in November, I plugged a few books where football was a driving force. I am happy to report that I’ve been able to finish reading two of those books and have good things to follow up with. Here’s one:

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
By Ben Fountain
Published May 2012
Claim to fame: 2012 National Book Award Finalist

This is a book that I can’t stop gushing about. I haven’t read a literary fiction book in years, put off by the genre’s ability to attract authors with the biggest egos. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk feels like Ben Fountain wrote this book for me, the reader, over himself as the writer.  Read the rest of this entry »

Take a Time-Out for These Great Books on Football

by Melody Dworak on November 8th, 2013
Take a Time-Out for These Great Books on Football Cover Image

Fall football season is in full swing. What better way to pregame the night before the big matchup than to grab a hot toddy and a Hawkeye Snuggie and curl up with a great read?  Read the rest of this entry »

Comedy Memoirs: I want to go to there.

by Melody Dworak on September 20th, 2013
Comedy Memoirs: I want to go to there. Cover Image

Saturday Night Live’s season premier is September 28…with host Tina Fey!! Well on her way to being the third woman to join the Five Timers Club (Season 39’s premiere marks appearance No. 4), Fey and her book Bossypants have paved a path for other women in comedy to rise to great heights of success in the field. Women in comedy is as controversial a subject as women in any other male-dominated field—Christopher Hitchens published a notorious piece in Vanity Fair investigating “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” and here at home a local publication’s discussion board blew up when a writer broached the subject.

Despite the vitriol, some of our most checked-out nonfiction books are written by comedians—and comediennes.  Bossypants was on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than a year. Publishers took note, and have picked up several other comedienne memoirs to offer eager readers.

Need to escape from a long day in these light, funny reads? Check one of these out today. Read the rest of this entry »

The Vicarious High of Narcotics in Nonfiction*

by Melody Dworak on June 21st, 2013
The Vicarious High of Narcotics in Nonfiction* Cover Image

Did you enjoy local author Cheeni Rao’s memoir so much that you wondered where you could find more like it? Well you’re in luck, ‘cuz I just cataloged a few recently released drug memoirs. Check them out:

Marijuanamerica by Ryan Nerz, also published April 2, and receiving some pretty favorable reviews on Amazon.

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White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin; A Memoir by Michael W. Cline, published April 2. Read a review from the New Yorker.





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Tripping with Allah by Michael Muhammad Knight, published March 12. Actually as much about a higher power and its construction as it is about getting higher. See what other readers have to say on GoodReads.

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Humoldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier by Emily Brady, published June 18 (I know, I’m jumping the gun on this one a little, but this kind of insider reportage is hard to come by and worthy of note). If you know the reference by the name of the county and enjoy fantasizing about the lush greenery of Northern California, it’s worth your while to spare a few hours and read this book. Get your library card out and place a hold now.




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And for the heartbreaking perspective from the father of an addict, published in 2008, Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, whose new book Clean came out on April 2. Maybe you heard about him on NPR? Listen to the March 27 interview on Weekend Edition or the April 3 one on Fresh Air.





Place a hold on this bookOkay, one more, an oldie but goody from our Writers’ Workshop friend and sometimes visiting speaker, Denis Johnson. This one’s for the fiction lovers in this town who still haven’t read it or seen the movie. Check out Jesus’ Son, and note that Denis Johnson is also a poet. You will see his lyricism in his writing.




*The title Writing on Drugs was taken.

2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners

by Melody Dworak on April 30th, 2013
2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners Cover Image

On April 15, 2013, Columbia University announced the 97th Annual Pulitzer Prizes in journalism, letters, drama, and music. Curious about this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners? Take a look at the following books:

Fiction–The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. From the media release: “an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.” Read the rest of this entry »

Buchenwald Remembered (April 1945)

by Melody Dworak on April 12th, 2013
Buchenwald Remembered (April 1945) Cover Image

We have this little thing by the Reference Desk on the second floor called “In the News.” I am a news junkie and enjoy the opportunities when I get to pick the book that sits under that sign.

Today, my “In the News” book searching took me to, which then compelled me to browse through the photo essay “Life Behind the Picture: The Liberation of Buchenwald, April 1945.” (Trigger warning: Concentration camp atrocities are not censored in these photos.) We know the 21st century is not immune to issues of genocide and concentration camps. Last fall, I downloaded the e-Audio book, Escape from Camp 14, and listened in horror to what the narrator had endured throughout his family’s time in a North Korea prison camp. (That is *not* an audiobook meant for bedtime!)

To honor those who endured such suffering and to remember that great liberation 68 years ago this month, the following are recommended reads that you can check out from ICPL.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mission Creek Festival: The Lit List

by Melody Dworak on April 1st, 2013
Mission Creek Festival: The Lit List Cover Image

Since 2006, the Mission Creek Festival (April 2-7) has been bringing together national and local artists for several exciting spring days of music, performance art, and literature. This year, ICPL is joining the festival programming with its teen concert on April 5, featuring Other Band, Conetrauma, and Bass/Drum.

But beyond this new collaboration, I am personally excited to see Mission Creek’s literary fare continue to grow. How can a book-lover not be excited by this literary lineup? A lit crawl, a small-press book fair, and a “broadway-quality” poetry concert? This is hot stuff.

If you are the type to “try before you buy,” consider checking out some of the writers visiting Iowa City for this year’s literary events. We don’t have everything, but the Iowa City Public Library does have works by the following exciting authors and poets:


Aleksandar Hemon

John D’Agata


Michael Zapruder

Kiki Petrosino

Mary Jo Bang

Patricia Smith

Mindy Nettifee


Eileen Pollack

Dina Nayeri


Don’t see the book here you’re most interested in checking out? Let us know through a Purchase Suggestion.

Judging Books By Their Covers

by Melody Dworak on March 6th, 2013
Judging Books By Their Covers Cover Image


I am a cataloger here at ICPL. As such, I get to see many of the books we have before they ever get put on a shelf. I’ve found myself oooh’ing and ahhh’ing at some of these books—often spending a wee bit too much time fawning over the book before I finish working on its catalog record. This week, here are a few that caught my attention and were hard to put down.

Underwater Dogs



Oh my goodness. Dogs. Underwater. High-resolution. Enough said.

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Holy or the Broken: A Book for Earworm* Lovers

by Melody Dworak on March 1st, 2013
Holy or the Broken: A Book for Earworm* Lovers Cover Image

The first thing you notice when you decide to read The Holy or the Broken is that the song “Hallelujah” might be stuck in your head the entire duration you’re reading it. My initial thought when I began to read the introduction? I am about to read an entire book about one song. How is it going to keep my attention?

Thankfully, Alan Light doesn’t have a problem doing exactly that. The progression of the chapters builds nicely–beginning with waxing poetic about a lyric poet/songwriter, the great Leonard Cohen, smoothly transitioning into describing the short but passionate life of the very attractive Jeff Buckley (how many times did I Google image search him while reading? *tugs at shirt collar*), and ending with a comprehensive run-down of the artists influenced by both Leonard Cohen and this, his most well-known song.

One thing books that keep my attention have in common: excellent transitions. I’ve noticed that the books I read from beginning to end were all written by writers with an extensive background in journalism. Journalists write, publish, and workshop their writing with editors frequently, and have been students of the “transition sentence” from the beginning of their writing career.

Alan Light’s career began as an intern for Rolling Stone, and he rose through the ranks as a fact checker and later as a senior writer. He has also held the position of editor-in-chief at both Vibe and Spin. He’s an ideal candidate for writing an engaging book about one song. The library also has his book about the Beastie Boys and Greg Allman’s autobiography, to which Light contributed. If he can engage a reader for 200+ pages on just one song, I wonder what he can do with one iconic rap group and one Southern rock legend.

Still curious? 

Check out reviews for The Holy or the Broken on NPR, New York Times Books, or Goodreads, or check out this interview with Light on Pitchfork’s website.


*Earworm: that song that wriggles its way into your head. See also: catchiness.