From the Shelves

Rick Hall – Rest In Peace – Making Music and Memories – Twenty Feet From Stardom and Muscle Shoals

by Maeve Clark on January 3rd, 2018

I awoke to the news that Rick Hall had died yesterday. Rick Hall was the music producer and songwriter behind the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I learned about him while watching a fantastic documentary on Muscle Shoals,(see below), back in May of 2014.  If you haven’t seen Muscle Shoals, you should.  The library also owns the sound track to the documentary and many other cds produced by the FAME Studio.  And just like back in 2014 – The Iowa City Public Library has a fantastic collection of documentaries. There are documentaries that will make you laugh, some that will make you weep, others that will make you angry. “Muscle Shoals” and “Twenty Feet from Stardom” made me sing out loud.

I really like to watch documentaries. Independent Lens, American Masters, POV are some of my favorite programs on PBS and the documentary track at film festivals is what I find myself not wanting to miss.  I don’t know that I can even explain why I like them so much, but I do and when I watch ones that are really good, I like to talk about them.  And I just watched two that were exceptional.

twenty feetThe first, “Twenty Feet From Stardom”, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2014.  Director Morgan Neville takes us inside the world of backup singers and gives voice to those who sing behind the stars.  Neville  interviews  backup singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear,  Tata Vega and Lisa Fischer about what it was like to sing with artists such as Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones. The singers tell their stories through interviews and clips from five decades of recording history.

The second, “Muscle Shoals“,  explores the creative genius of Rick Hall, the founder of FAMEMuscle-Shoals11 Studios, one of two competing recording studios, (Muscle Shoals Sound is the other), in the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals.  Songs recorded at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound include “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Patches,” “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You,” “Brown Sugar,” “Kodachrome,” “Freebird,” “Mainstreet.”  Hall brought black and white musicians together in the segregated south beginning in 1961.  Through interviews with Hall and recording greats, first-time director Greg Camalier chronicles the sound that formed the backdrop of much of the last half-century.  Camalier weaves the beauty of the region with the magic of music made in this remote southern locale.

The Iowa City Public Library has a fantastic collection of documentaries. There are documentaries that will make you laugh, some that will make you weep, others that will make you angry. “Muscle Shoals” and “Twenty Feet from Stardom” made me sing out loud.


ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2017: Graphic Novels

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 30th, 2017


When you think of graphic novels, the mind often pictures superheroes. While individuals with extraordinary powers certainly are a familiar feature in these colorful tomes, graphic novels introduce us to real life heroes. They are inspirational, yet have the power to challenge how we think. The graphic novels released this year include bigger-than-life stories and illustrated versions of ordinary happenings that speak to everyone.

Our nominations for the Best Graphic Novels of the year include both children and adult titles. Children titles can be found in the Children’s Room.


  • Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis
  • Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Volume 1 by Emil Ferris
  • One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale
  • I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
  • Paper Girls, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn

New offbeat travel memoirs

by Stacey McKim on December 29th, 2017

Are you going anywhere next year?  Start dreaming of your next trip with travel books from the library.  You probably already know about our collection of travel guides for the U.S. and the world (and that we can get other esoteric locations for you on interlibrary loan!), but also look upstairs for niche guidebooks, gorgeous coffee table books, and new memoirs like these.

My favorite way to spend time in a new city is a long, blister-inducing bout of wandering around.  When I first learned the word flâneur (one who strolls around town observing modern life), I immediately knew it described my desire to feel part of the current of a city.  How surprising, then, to come across this book written to disprove an old idea that there are no female flâneurs?  In Flâneuse: women walk the city in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, Lauren Elkin shares her experiences alongside those of famous flâneuses from history such as George Sand and Virginia Woolf.  If this book doesn’t get your feet itching for a long walk, nothing will. Read the rest of this entry »

Best of the Best 2017: Non-Fiction

by Amanda on December 29th, 2017



Our favorite non-fiction books this year are very eclectic! Whether you’re interested in American politics, understanding your mind better, feminism, or world history, we’ve got you covered. A lot of these books deal with overcoming extreme adversity, and would make great winter reads!

  • Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire by Kurt Andersen
  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg
  • Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat
  • We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
  • Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
  • Women and the Land by Barbara Hall
  • Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker
  • Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 by Helen Rappaport
  • The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin

Hey series readers, Libby has a new feature just for you

by Melody Dworak on December 28th, 2017

A new feature in Libby has made finding the next book in that series you’re reading even easier. The biggest improvement is this little icon added to the bottom right of the book cover, making it plain and easy to see which book number that title is. I am notoriously bad at knowing which Harry Potter book is which number, and with this trick, I never have to. Read the rest of this entry »

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2017: Autobiography/Biography/Memoir

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 28th, 2017

Perhaps you’ve seen this phrase on a T-shirt or coffee mug: Careful or You’ll End Up in My Novel. When it comes to writers of autobiographies, biographies and memoirs, that’s 100 percent true!

Here’s a list of people’s stories we had trouble putting down in 2017:

  • You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman
  • David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones
  • The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs
  • Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
  • Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Are there any titles we missed? Let us know!

Best of the Best 2017: Science-Fiction/Fantasy

by Amanda on December 27th, 2017



Science-fiction and Fantasy are both subgenres of Speculative Fiction, but they’re pretty different! Sci-fi is a much newer genre than fantasy, with some critics pointing to Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein as the first sci-fi book. Fantasy, on the other hand, has been around pretty much forever. These genres often push the envelope and can be very subversive!

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
  • All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Best of the Best 2017: Mystery

by Amanda on December 26th, 2017



What do you call a cow murder mystery?

A moo-done-it!

Okay, so that’s pretty bad, but these books are great (and none of them has anything to do with a cow)! Mysteries have surged in popularity lately, and the genre has expanded to include cozy mysteries, hard-boiled mysteries, thrillers, supernatural mysteries, and more.

  • Paradise Valley by C.J. Box
  • Vicious Circle: A Joe Pickett Novel by C.J. Box
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  • Glass Houses by Louise Penny
  • A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2017: Children’s Books

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 25th, 2017

“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” — Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

We salute all the amazing children’s book writers and illustrators who enrich our lives with their stories. Today, we share with you the children’s book titles that grabbed our attention — and imaginations — in 2017.

  • Pup and Bear by Kate Banks
  • A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker
  • See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
  • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
  • City Moon by Rachael Cole
  • Big Cat Little Cat by Elisha Cooper
  • The Wearle (Erth Dragons No. 1) by Chris d’Lacey
  • Windows by Julia Denos
  • Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
  • Baabwaa and Wooliam: A Tale of Literacy, Dental Hygiene, and Friendship by David Elliott
  • Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey
  • Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
  • A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins
  • Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus
  • A Small Thing … but Big by Tony Johnston
  • Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay
  • We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
  • Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre
  • Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

[LOVE] Biographical Fiction

by Kara Logsden on December 24th, 2017
[LOVE] Biographical Fiction Cover Image

I enjoy reading Historical Fiction and recently have come to appreciate the sub-genre “Biographical Fiction.”

According to Wikipedia, “Biographical fiction is a type of historical fiction that takes a historical individual and recreates elements of his or her life, while telling a fictional narrative, usually in the genres of film or the novel. The relationship between the biographical and the fictional may vary within different pieces of biographical fiction. It frequently includes selective information and self-censoring of the past. The characters are often real people or based on real people, but the need for “truthful” representation is less strict than in biography.”

I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold winter night than curled up with a good book that will sweep me away to another place and time. Biographical Fiction keeps my mind engaged and I often research facts and details of the person’s life while reading. More than once, learning about someone’s life has sent me on a trip to view their art or learn more about their life. Below is a list of some of my favorite Biographical Fiction novels. All are highly recommended.

Author/Title Description
Benjamin, Melanie

 Swans of Fifth Avenue

Melanie Benjamin’s novel features the relationship between Truman Capote and Babe Mortimer Paley with the backdrop of many upper class members of New York City society in the 1960’s. Reading the book made me want to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s!
Benjamin, Melanie

 The Aviator’s Wife

A memorable book about the life of Charles Lindbergh and his family told through the eyes of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the first woman to earn a first-class guider pilot license. She was also a writer and poet, best known for her novel, Gift from the Sea.
Boyle, T.C.

 The Women

Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate T.C. Boyle writes an interesting story about architect Frank Lloyd Wright as told by a fictional narrator about the women Wright had relationships with during his lifetime. Boyle lives in the George C. Stewart house in Southern California, which was designed by Wright.
Davis, Fiona

 The Address

The Singer Sewing Machine company co-founder, Edward Clark, commissioned the building of The Dakota apartment building in 1880 as the first luxury apartment building and one of the first buildings on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Dakota has been the home to many celebrities over the years, including John Lennon who was shot just outside in 1980. Davis’ story brings the building alive, hopping between fictional characters who live at The Dakota and their stories in the 1880’s and 1985.
Horan, Nancy

Loving Frank

Horan tells a compelling story about the lives of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney. I didn’t know a lot about Wright or Cheney before I read the book, and an unexpected plot change sent me to Google and a bit of quick research about the real lives of Wright and Cheney (yes … it’s true). Fascination with the story also sent me on a road trip to Oak Park, IL where I toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio.
Horan, Nancy

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Be ready to be swept away through time and travel in this fictional account of the life of Scottish Lawyer Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife Fanny Van de grift Osbourne. Through travel in Scotland, France, New York, Australia & Samoa and reflection on passion and illness, the story unfolds to help the reader understand the man who created both A Child’s Garden of Verse and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
McLain, Paula

Circling the Sun

An unforgettable story that transports readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920’s and a story based on the real life of aviator Beryl Markham. Markham, abandoned by her mother when a child and by her father when she was a teenager, struggles to find her path. Circling the Sun not only captures what made Beryl Markham famous (horse training and being the first woman to successfully fly across the Atlantic from east to west) but also chronicles her free-spirited childhood, adolescent struggles, happiness, insecurities, and heartbreaks.
McLain, Paula

The Paris Wife

The fictional story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. After a whirlwind courtship the couple marries and moves to Paris so Ernest can pursue his writing career. In Paris the couple is caught up in the fast paced social life and struggle with balance, identities, love and loyalty.
Moriarty, Laura

The Chaperone

Laura Moriarty’s newest novel is a hybrid story about the life of silent-film star Louise Brooks and fictionalized character Cora Carlisle. The story begins in 1922 when 36-year-old Cora Carlisle agrees to chaperone 15-year-old Louise Brooks for a summer in New York City dancing with the Denishawn School of Dance.  Readers learn Cora’s life, just like Louise Brooks’, is not what it appears and the story revolves around Cora’s path of self-discovery and quest for happiness.
Russell, Mary Doria

Dreamers of the Day


Midwesterner, schoolteacher, influenza epidemic survivor, and world traveler, Agnes Shanklin, witnesses the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference where world leaders, including Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence and Lady Gertrude Bell, make a plan to divide the Middle East into the countries of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.
Vreeland, Susan

Clara and Mr. Tiffany


Because of this book, I went to New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other places to see Tiffany Glass. This is the story of Clara Driscoll, who worked with Louis Comfort Tiffany at his New York studio and is possibly the person who conceived the idea for the iconic Tiffany stained glass lamps. Set with the turn-of-the-century New York City backdrop with issues such as the rise of labor unions, women in the workplace, and advances in technology.