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Author Archive for Melody Dworak

Books vs. Blogs–what’s good for what?

by Melody Dworak on April 29th, 2014

Back in March, I blogged about how to research information about  houses. As you may guess, it’s hard to think of anything right now except for the new house. One month of owning it and one week of living there, our to-do list is still terribly long. Flooding basements, broken dryers–oh the joys!

Bucket of red paintThe real joys come with sprucing up the place–making it our own. The social media age gives us even more options for planning interior decorating, DIY repair solutions, and general new-home troubleshooting. What tools are best for planning different projects? Read the rest of this entry »

House History Hunting Part 3: A local index like no other

by Melody Dworak on March 28th, 2014

Alright, so in the past two posts, I shared how to find out a property’s recent owners and specs via the Iowa City Auditor’s website, find a thorough history of ownership (and in some cases, renter-ship) through the Polk Directories, and connect familial relationships through obituaries in ProQuest back to 2002. How to search further back? Read the rest of this entry »

House History Hunting Part 2: Raising the dead

by Melody Dworak on March 27th, 2014

Yesterday I took a first look into the history of a property’s owners through the Iowa City Assessor’s website. Today we dig deeper.

The Assessor’s site only listed one sale in 2006, and that sale was code 14—“Exchange, trade, gift, transfer from Estate,” and it includes the names for both the buyers and the sellers. From there, I go to the 2nd floor Page Station’s City Directories to look for a deeper history of ownership. The listing states the house was built in 1963, so I start with the 1963 Polk Directory and look the house up by its address. Hmm. The Directory lists the property under the same family name as the name on the Estate. Could this mean the house was in the same family for 50 years? I grow hopeful. Read the rest of this entry »

House History Hunting Part 1: Good deeds go unpunished

by Melody Dworak on March 26th, 2014

Recently, my partner and I—both well into our 30s—took a step to officially becoming adults that there is no going back from: We bought a house. *Gulp*

Potter house in Godric's Hollow by Rob Young

“Potter house in Godric’s Hollow”–photo courtesy of Rob Young on Flickr.

Read the rest of this entry »

One More Thing by B.J. Novak

by Melody Dworak on February 27th, 2014
One More Thing by B.J. Novak Cover Image

Hi, guys. I made a Storify of people talking about B. J. Novak’s new book One More Thing. Long story short: I loved it, and others did too. Visit this —> Storify post <— to see the buzz this new book is getting.

Reviewed: Constellation of Vital Phenomena

by Melody Dworak on February 5th, 2014
Reviewed: Constellation of Vital Phenomena Cover Image

Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Novel

Anthony Marra, graduate of Iowa Writers’ Workshop


The recommendation came to me from a book group I had been invited to attend, and it happened to be perfect timing. I had just finished Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins and wasn’t yet tempted by the fill-my-head-with-applicable-knowledge nonfiction books I have checked out. So there I was, putting off what I *have* to read for what I *want* to read. What I had heard about the book: it’s sad. You’ll like it if you like the gut-wrenching ones. What I now know about the book: my recommender was right. Read the rest of this entry »

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.