From the Shelves

It’s Book Madness Time at ICPL!

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 5th, 2018

It’s Book Madness time at ICPL!

Voting in Round One of our annual literary competition starts today! Stop by the Library before closing time on Sunday, March 11, to see what books are in this year’s competition and submit a vote for your favorite(s). If you want to vote for just one book, you can, or you can choose 32 titles to move forward in the first round; it’s up to you!

Here are the voting dates to remember:

  • First Round: March 5 through March 11
  • Second Round: March 12 through March 18
  • Sweet Sixteen: March 19 through March 25
  • Elite 8: March 26 through April 1
  • Final 4: April 2 through April 8
  • Championship Game: April 9 through April 15

Be sure to check in and vote regularly! The winning book in each bracket will be announced on Monday, April 16.

Bare wall syndrome?

by Candice Smith on July 27th, 2018

Attention all newcomers to Iowa City and new, or soon-to-be, apartment dwellers: do you have the dreaded “bare wall syndrome?” Are you surrounded by unsightly beige expanses? Are your walls freckled with the Spackle from previous tenants and their pictures and posters? Do you long for something to gaze at besides the nondescript shade of white covering the drywall, or the window-view of your neighbors across the street? If so, you need help, now!

Iowa City Public Library has the remedy: our Art-To-Go collection! Take your pick from 400 framed prints and original works of art by local artists! Cardholders can check out two pieces at a time, for two months. All works are framed with wood or metal, and have secure wire hangers ,and covered in Plexi–all you need is a nail, a hammer (or heavy textbook), and a little elbow grease. Transform your walls, brighten up a hallway, turn any room into a very small, private gallery!

Recent acquisitions include:

Edgar Degas’ Swaying Dancer (Dancer in Green)
which captures a young ballerina executing a
graceful turn. Painted during the years of 1877-1879,
Degas’ masterful use of brisk strokes of paint convey a
sense of movement and transience.

 

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Trumpet, painted in 1984, using
acrylic and oil-stick. Basquiat was a young artist with Haitian
and Puerto Rican roots, and he went from spray painting on the
streets of New York City to displaying his works alongside
famous artists in a dizzyingly short amount of time. This work
displays his penchant for bold colors, words and poetry, and an
energy that is both demanding and joyful.

 

William Blake’s Jacob’s Ladder. This pen and ink drawing was
created in 1799-1806 by artist Blake, who was also a poet; he is
widely considered to be one of the foremost artists of the era
of Romanticism. This work depicts the Biblical subject of Jacob,
and the dream he had of the stairway to Heaven, as he fled from
his brother Esau. I believe it also shows a lady who’s sure,
all that glitters is gold.

 

Do Not Disturb! by Yoshitomo Nara. Nara has a knack for
picturing people and animals that are at once young and maybe
a little petulant, as well as wise and somehow at peace. This
sweet little dog reads a book, and his smile conveys the feeling
we all know of being so absorbed in a story, in the world of a
book, that we want nothing to intrude.

Drop by the Library and take in some art; it’s on the first floor, along the red wall between the main room and the Children’s Room. And get those walls fixed!

Welcome, Cities of Literature!

by Stacey McKim on March 30th, 2018

Representatives from the global Cities of Literature will be in town next week for their annual meeting.  While only one event is open to the public (a panel discussion about the cities’ innovative programs on Thursday, April 5 from 5:15-6:00 at Hancher Auditorium), we’re pretty excited about the chance to think about these twenty-eight cities with rich literary cultures.

Check out a book written by someone from another City of Literature off our display.  We have books by writers from most of the cities, including Durban (South Africa), Reykjavik (Iceland), Krakow (Poland), Lviv (Ukraine), and many more.

While you’re at it, learn a little bit about why each city qualified from the nearby map.  For instance, did you know that Cole’s Book Arcade in Melbourne was reputed to be the largest bookshop in the world at the turn of the twentieth century with two million books, and attracted the attention of visitors like Mark Twain?  How about the fact that Norwich was home to the first female to write and publish a book in the English language?  Or that a Krakow bookstore has been continuously in operation at the same address since 1610?

The Edinburgh City of Literature website has excellent information about each city, if you want to learn more.

Free access to the New York Times!

by Melody Dworak on March 16th, 2018

New York Times Digital AccessNever hit a paywall again with your Iowa City Public Library card! We are pleased to announce that residents now have free access to the New York Times website anywhere, anytime. From quick news updates to deep dives into a topic, The New York Times keeps you up-to-date on what you need to know.

You will need an access code to use this resource. You must also live in Iowa City, Hills, Lone Tree, University Heights, or rural Johnson County. Further details can be found on the New York Times resource page on the ICPL website. Happy reading!

Edit: This access is available through the Digital Johnson County collections we share with the Coralville Public Library and the North Liberty Community Library. That means that Coralville residents can get free access through the CPL website, using their CPL card, and North Liberty residents use the NLCL website with their NLCL card.

New Urban Fantasy on OverDrive/Libby

by Melody Dworak on February 26th, 2018
New Urban Fantasy on OverDrive/Libby Cover Image

Those of us who use Libby regularly may have noticed that there have been some new fantasy books on the “just added” list. I’m happy to spread the news that our fiction buyer has gotten us several Helen Harper books. Helen Harper is an independent author from the UK who writes excellent series books in the urban fantasy genre. I first learned of her through the podcast Smart Podcast Trashy Books, which is hosted by a popular blog that reviews romance books.

Keeping with urban fantasy tradition, Harper’s books have strong female protagonists, as well as more alpha males than you can shake a stick at. I have yet to read her Blood Destiny series but I have made it through the 3 audiobooks for the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series. I will warn you that she likes bad jokes and puns, and for me that makes the series more lighthearted and fun. Read the rest of this entry »

Books About Fathers

by Heidi Lauritzen on February 21st, 2018

I have just finished two special books about fathers and highly recommend both. I took them home because of the titles: “An Odyssey” (I was a Classics major), and “The Wine Lover’s Daughter” (I do enjoy a glass of wine). While I learned much about Odysseus, and about Clifton Fadiman and wine, mostly I was touched by the relationships between the adult children and their fathers who are the subjects of these memoirs.

Author Daniel Mendelsohn is a classicist who teaches literature at Bard College. “An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and An Epic” is about the semester his 81-year-old research scientist father joins his seminar on Homer’s Odyssey.  The elder Mendelsohn provides commentary in class that often is in stark contrast to that of the young undergraduates–and frequently in opposition to his son’s professorial ideas as well.  After the seminar, the father and son decide to join an educational Mediterranean cruise that traces Odysseus’s homeward journey. The book blends the telling of these two experiences as it takes us through the Odyssey, and is rich in emotion and humor. Their adventure will remind sons and daughters that there likely are many facets of their parents’ lives that are unknown to them, until the circumstances are right to hear the stories. You need not have read the tale of Odysseus to enjoy this book, although if you have studied the Odyssey you will probably come away with some fresh insights about it.

In the book’s introductory chapter, Mendelsohn says “it is a story, after all, about strange and complicated families…about a husband who travels far and a wife who stays behind…about a son who for a long time is unrecognized by and unrecognizable to his father, until late, very late, when they join together for a great adventure…a story, in its final moments, about a man in the middle of his life, who at the end of this story falls down and weeps because he has confronted the spectacle of his father’s old age, the specter of his inevitable passing…”  He is speaking of Odysseus, and his son and father, but we also will learn that it is about something much closer to home.

Anne Fadiman is the wine lover’s daughter, and this is a book about her relationship with her father Clifton Fadiman. Although she is the well-known author of Ex Libris and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, her father perhaps was even more famous in his time: an editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, book critic for The New Yorker, a Book of the Month Club judge for forty years, and emcee of the NBC radio quiz show Information Please. And from an early age, he also educated himself about wine and began creating a wine cellar that ultimately reflected his extensive knowledge and savvy acquisitions. He co-authored two editions of The Joys of Wine.

Clifton Fadiman came to all of this through relentless hard work, and a quest for self improvement that would raise him above his humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York and life with his parents, recent immigrants. He studied how to speak without an accent, how to dress, how to eat, and what to drink. Despite his successes, he never felt entirely comfortable that he had achieved the level of society that he wished for.

The love he showed his children is evident however:  he nurtures the talents in his children, and generously teaches them about wine.  Anne Fadiman’s burden is that she doesn’t really enjoy wine, although she desperately wants to in order to please her father. A fun thread of the book describes her efforts to determine scientifically why she doesn’t like wine. And while there is an element of competition with him in her early writing career, it seems primarily self-imposed and she always credits him with influencing her to be a reader and writer.

And what can be better than books and wine? Fadiman writes “My father had long associated books and wine: they both sparked conversation, they were both a lifetime project, they were both pleasurable to shelve, they were the only things he collected. The Joys of Wine called wine cellars ‘wine libraries’.”

Like Mendelsohn’s book, this also is about an adult child coming to terms with an aging father, learning that father’s full story, and sharing much love and warmth along the way.

 

Fantastic Embroidery Projects and Where to Find Them

by Mari Redington on February 15th, 2018

I have always been a craft dabbler. In high school I learned how to sew when I made Juliet’s dress for my final project during Romeo & Juliet. It was the one of the dresses in the class that looked “mom interference-free.” Collaging in college. I’ve made exactly 1 quilt. I learned how to knit but for me it was not the relaxing pastime advertised.  My latest craft dabble has been embroidery, which was a past hobby revived after I attended embroidery classes offered at the library this past fall. This hobby has seemed to stick longer than most, and I thought I would share some great resources I’ve come across over the past few months. Hand embroidery has recently become modernized and popular again. It translates really well from drawings and paintings and offers lots of options to express sentiments and pop culture references. If it can be drawn or traced, it can be embroidered. Supplies are inexpensive and easy to obtain at craft stores and even second-hand stores. I hand embroidered personalized gift for friends and family for the holidays. Since I’ve started posting pictures of works-in-progress and finished pieces on Instagram, a lot of my friends have told me that I have inspired them to pick up the hobby.

Getting Started:

There are over 200 different kinds of embroidery stitches, but most projects only require knowledge of the basics. Craftsy has a great tutorial offering instructions with pictures of the top ten most commonly used stitches.

My favorite way to learn a new stitch is to watch a YouTube video and stitch along. That way I can pause, start over, and repeat until I have the stitch mastered. The YouTube channel I frequent the most is Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread. Her videos show the stitch clearly, at a good pace, and she offers tips as she goes. 

 

 

 

 

A great place to start for patterns is DMC.com. They offer over 250 free patterns with tutorials ranging from beginner to advanced. DMC is a popular thread company, so you can easily “Buy the Kit” to order the thread needed to complete the pattern. DMC patterns are made from collaborations with artists, and new patterns are added every week. I have close to a dozen patterns saved that I hope to create eventually! Read the rest of this entry »

A Murder of Crows

by Beth Fisher on February 11th, 2018
A Murder of Crows Cover Image

One thing I like most about Facebook is how one comment can lead to a great discussion.  A few days ago a friend commented that she loved seeing “wheeling flocks of birds in the sky.”  Someone then mentioned seeing a murmuration of Starlings on a recent drive from Muscatine to Iowa City. Another friend then asked if a murmuration refers only to Starlings (it does) and what a group of Pigeons would be called?  (Pigeons can be a flight, a flock or a kit.)

British artist, illustrator and author Matt Sewell’s newest book A Charm of Goldfinches And Other Wild Gatherings is a wonderfully illustrated guide to many of the group names humans give to members of the animal kingdom.

In the introduction, Sewell states that many of the phrases he has included in his book are hundreds of years old or older,  many found in The Book of Saint Albans (The Boke of Seynt Albans.) Printed originally in 1486, versions of The Book of Saint Albans were reprinted many times, under many names, over the next 400 years.  The original was reproduced as The Boke of St Albans, with an introduction by William Blades, in 1881.

A Charm of Goldfinches contains more than 50 animal groups, each with Sewell’s beautiful watercolor illustrations and a half-page discussion of how the names came to be.  Sewell lives in Great Britain, so a few of the species listed, such as Lapwings, are not found in North America.

There are some groups that most people are familiar with – a pod of dolphins, a pride of lions, or a murder of crows.  Here are few to test your knowledge:

 

A shiver of ________.

A _______ of crocodiles.

A parliament of ______.

A ________ of foxes.

A cloud of ________.

 

To find the answers you’ll have to check out the book!

 

Help for those suffering gardening withdrawal: Houseplants

by Beth Fisher on February 8th, 2018
Help for those suffering gardening withdrawal: Houseplants Cover Image

February. Even the word is cold. Winter can seem awfully long in the Midwest.  Especially when we get teased by a January thaw.  But there’s no getting around it – it’s still winter, and I’m starting to go through gardening withdrawal.  I’m ready for spring. After 25 years in Iowa however,  I’ve finally learned not to jump the season and just ignore the January thaw. I know I have to wait until at least April or early May for spring and gardening season.  But my hands are still itching to get back in the dirt.

Thankfully there is a way I can curb that itch: Houseplants.  Caring for my indoor plants – including dividing or repotting gives me a little taste of gardening to hold me over.  ICPL has quite a few new houseplant books to help me (and others) get through the winter.  So many in fact, that I’m going to break this into two posts:  Houseplants and Cacti & Succulents.

Houseplants: the complete guide to choosing, growing, and caring for indoor plants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.   This is a great book for anyone with houseplants. A well written easy to follow guide, it begins with a section on the basics of houseplant care.  What I liked most about this book is how the 150+ plant profiles in the second half of the book. She has grouped them into 3 categories: Easy to Grow Moderately Easy and Challenging. Each category starts with multiple pages of thumbnail images to help you figure out what plant you have.  Each plant profile has the common as well as botanical Latin name, a description, the plant’s light and water requirements, propagation methods and cultivars.

 

Happy Houseplants: 30 lovely varieties to brighten up your home written and illustrated by Angela Staehling.  Combining her love of houseplants and illustration, Staehling has created a great beginners guide to 30  of her favorite easy to find and easy-to-grow houseplants. She starts with the tools and materials you’ll need to work with houseplants and follows with plant profiles. From African Violets to Zebra Cactus the 30 plants she as included give beginners a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

How Not To Kill Your Houseplant: Survival Tips for the Horticulturally Challenged by Vernoica Peerless. The title is not just a hook – Peerless has written a great guide for those of us who for one reason or another have no luck with houseplants.  Too much of the wrong kind of love or not enough of the right kind of light – there are many things that lead to plant demise. This book is helpful even If you’re not sure what type of plant you have.  The book begins with close to 200 plant thumbnails to help you figure out what you have.  But what if you’re thinking about buying your first plant?  Read the first few pages of this book first.  She’ll give you things to look for in your potential new plant – plant size, soil and root condition, pests – all the things you should consider before buying a plant.  Then you’ll find quick information about the basics: water, food, light, repotting and pests to watch out for.  Then you get to the wonderful main section of the book – the plant profiles  She breaks it down into the basic care “How Not to Kill It” things to watch out for, and what she calls “Share the Care:” suggestions for one or two other houseplants that have very similar requirements.

 

 

Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart…

by Candice Smith on February 6th, 2018
Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart… Cover Image

and you’re to blame. Yes, you.

Valentine’s Day is coming up, when we remember and give thanks for two early Christians in Rome, both named Valentine, both martyred for their beliefs. You don’t do that? Maybe you write saccharine poetry to the object of your unrequited love? No? Perhaps you buy a card and some candy, make reservations somewhere fancy or make a nice meal, and use the day to test the waters or reaffirm your love. And all of it–the cards, the candy, the poems, the napkins and candles, the ill-advised matching tattoos–is covered in little red hearts. Why?

It seems obvious, right? The heart is the physical seat of our emotions. It’s the tell-tale organ that gives lie to our calm composure, regardless of whether our heart is bursting with the excitement of love, or breaking under corrected expectations. The heart soars, it plummets, it races along, and it aches, all in time with our lives of love. The heart, as symbol of that love, is the OG emoji. How OG? Read the rest of this entry »