Wrapping up Picture Book Month

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 1st, 2017

November was National Picture Book Month. To celebrate our love for picture books, ICPL staff shared photos of their favorites on social media platform all month long. The result was a list of beloved books, both old and new. If you missed seeing them the first time around, here’s every book we recommend:

Shawna: Mister Bud Wears the Cone by Carter Goodrich

“Carter Goodrich’s stories featuring Mister Bud and his brother Zorro teach some great lessons about pets, siblings, and friends. Also the illustrations are simply adorable and hilarious!”

Erik: The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone- Roach

“I really love the pastel artwork and the bear’s big hungry eyes as he makes his journey to the delectable sandwich! And just prepare yourself for a wonderful twist at the end!”

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Winter crafting inspired by the Bookmobile

by Shawna Riggins on December 14th, 2017

When the weather starts to cool, I brush off my crafting supplies and I know it’s time to get started on hand made gifts. I love to make crafts but some years I am stumped about what to make when it comes time to get started. This year, my crafting choice was made easy when the Feminist Icon Cross Stitch book caught my eye during some down time on the Bookmobile. I made two of the patterns for women in my life and I hope to make one for myself next! A new cross stitch book, Really Cross Stitch just arrived on the Bookmobile yesterday, so now I have even more patterns I am itching to make.


We like to boast that the Bookmobile is filled with the newest and most popular items. To keep that distinction, we are continually adding new books to the collections on the Bookmobile. Recently our Non Fiction section has been expanding with several new crafting books and cook books. The hardest part of my days on the Bookmobile has to be seeing so many great books and knowing that I don’t have time to read them all.

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Our Souls at Night 2.0

by Kara Logsden on December 8th, 2017
Our Souls at Night 2.0 Cover Image

Kent Haruf is one of my favorite authors. His death from lung cancer in 2014 was a tragedy because it meant no more lyrical novels detailing the life and landscape of Eastern Colorado. Haruf was an Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate and drew details from his life experiences to bring his characters to life. Haruf finished writing his final novel, Our Souls at Night, just before his death. I found the lyrical book delightful but haunting – I knew it would be the last Haruf book I would read and I didn’t want it to end.

I was haunted in a different way recently when I finished watching Season 3 of Grace and Frankie on Netflix. I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I am guilty of binge watching on Netflix – they make it so easy. At the end of Grace and Frankie, an ad popped up for a new Netfix Original starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford … Our Souls at Night! I wouldn’t normally recommend watching a Netflix movie over checking one out at the Library, but this was a wonderful movie. It made me want to read the book again.

(PS … Watch the trailer for the movie … you’ll be glad you did!)


Two more weeks to enter the iPad giveaway!

by Melody Dworak on November 30th, 2017
Digital magazines on iDevice

Check out magazines and win!

The Digital Johnson County team has extended the iPad promotion until December 15.

If you haven’t yet given the new RBdigital app a chance, do so now for a chance to win an iPad Mini from your library. Enter the drawing at the Digital Johnson County website, and then head over to the digital magazine collection to sign up for an account. You must check out 5 magazines by December 15 to have your name entered into the drawing.

Need help downloading the app? Our IT manager, Brent, has written up helpful instructions for getting started with the RBdigital app. If you try to set up the app before you create an account on the digital magazine page, you will get an error message.

Looking for inspiration on what to check out? Drool over these Christmas cookie recipes in 5 great magazine options.

What should I bake for a Christmas cookie exchange?

by Melody Dworak on November 27th, 2017

The holiday season is in full swing. It might hit 60 degrees today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn on your oven and bake something delicious. And if you have a Christmas cookie exchange coming up, I have just the recommendations for you. The following digital magazines promise to please your cookie-loving taste buds. Or just have delight in looking at all the lovely food styling photos. I won’t judge!


All Recipes 

All Recipes Dec/Jan 2018

Find new twists on Christmas favorites, like peanut ginger double-deckers and cranberry pistachio spirals. Yum!

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

by Melody Dworak on November 17th, 2017
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Cover Image

I have always loved the title of David Foster Wallace’s book of short stories that was published in 1999. It just clicks. You know instantly these stories will twist your stomach into knots.

The pile-up of news about sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault has brought this book back to my mind again. One only has to read the title to understand this nearly 20-year-old book contains commentary on today’s cultural climate. What is old is new again, as the saying goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier

by Brian Visser on November 16th, 2017
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier Cover Image

On October 17, 2017, Electronic Arts, the largest video game publisher in the industry, announced that it was canceling a highly anticipated Star Wars game and shutting down the developer that had been making it, Visceral Games.  This caused waves with fans, including me, because the brief, early footage of the game had been tantalizing.  Everyone wanted to know what happened.  Why was such a sure thing called off?  Luckily, a couple weeks later, Jason Schreier, a journalist for Kotaku, published The Collapse Of Visceral’s Ambitious Star Wars Game.  Schreier spent time with the former employees of Visceral Games, and they described a game doomed from the beginning.  It was a fascinating article that gave a glimpse into the making of video games that I hadn’t really considered.  At the end of the article, I wanted more, and Schreier mentioned that he had written an entire book about the topic.  So, I went and immediately checked out Blood, Sweat, and Pixels.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels details the development of nine popular video games and one game that was never released.  The commonality is that the games are made by people who are passionate about their jobs, but who have to sacrifice their health and personal lives to work hours upon hours of brutal overtime to finish products.  Also, that games are never really finished, just released.  Honestly, after reading this book, I’m surprised that video games get made at all, let alone that some of them are incredibly entertaining.  Scherier’s writing is straightforward–you can tell that he’s a journalist–and very readable.  The background that he gives on games that I have played, like Destiny, gave new texture to the experience, and it’s a testament to Scherier’s writing that I was engaged during chapters about games that I’ve never played, like Uncharted 4.   I now want to play several of the games featured in this book, but, alas, my time for playing games is limited.  Overall, the book is an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at an industry that doesn’t get serious attention paid to it.  I highly recommend it to gamers and to people interested in making games themselves.

2017 National Book Award winners announced

by Jason Paulios on November 16th, 2017

Last night the 2017 National Book Award ceremony was held and winners were announced in the four categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.  You can check out the winning titles and the authors’ other works from the Iowa City Public Library via the following links:


Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
From the Publisher: Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.


The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
From the Publisher: Hailed for her “fearless indictment of the most powerful man in Russia” (The Wall Street Journal), award-winning journalist Masha Gessen is unparalleled in her understanding of the events and forces that have wracked her native country in recent times. In The Future Is History, she follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own—as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings.


Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart
From the Publisher: Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet’s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us, and inside of us. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche, and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and hunger of our experience.

Young People’s Literature

Far From The Tree by Robin Benway
From the Publisher: Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

by Jason Paulios on November 14th, 2017
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson Cover Image

This was my first experience reading something by Shirley Jackson though I was familiar with her reputation as a modern Gothic horror fiction writer. I haven’t read much in this genre style and was prepared for pure spooky but instead found the story just made me tense. After finishing, I read a Readers Advisory article about the genre from Novelist Plus  (use your ICPL card and password for at-home access) and discovered many of the standard characterizations of the genre were present in this novel :

  • “A naïve heroine trapped in a claustrophobic setting” – check
  • “foreboding progressing into full-blown fear” – yep
  • “melancholia, insanity, mayhem, cruelty, and death” – check, check, check, check, and check!
  • “Narrators can be chronically unreliable and occasionally unhinged” – ha!
  • “Settings are dark and ancient – a decaying manor house…” – right there in the title

This was a very quick read at just over 160 pages. The story takes place in a small town in the aftermath of an arsenic murder that has killed off most of one of the old money families, the Blackwoods. Years later those that remain in the estate are 18-year-old Mary Katherine (Merrycat, a child at the time), her older sibling Constance (found not guilty of the crime), and poor old Uncle Julian. Julian has barely survived the poisoning, he is physically disabled and via his senile ramblings we learn more and more about particulars from the day of the terrible incident. The mostly working class town resents the family and a new generation is growning up with a sort of urban legend regarding the murder, this uneasy history will lead to the novel’s climax. The daily life of the three Blackwoods is oddly tranquil and very routine. Constance has taken up the matriarch mantle and keeps house though never leaves it except to pick from the garden. Julian is forever revising his notes regarding the fateful day’s events leading up to that dessert of blackberries with sugar. Odd Merrycat exists in a feral childlike state, roaming the estate, occasionally sleeping out in a bed of leaves, and casting warding spells against the town’s residents either verbally or through destruction or burial of family objects. Jackson then drops in a visit from a distant Cousin hoping to finagle a fortune and that strange calm over Blackwood estate is ruined.

Video Staff Picks: Biographies & Memoir

by Bond Drager on November 13th, 2017

Items mentioned include:
Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented The Wild West by Candace Fleming

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Mama Tried: Dispatches From the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting by Emily Flake

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer