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Signed, Sealed, Published: Epistolary Novels

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on July 13th, 2016

pop up displayReceiving a letter in the mail was a big deal when I was a child. It didn’t happen often, so the days I’d come home from school and find an envelope with my name sitting on the kitchen table were treasured. I’d rip it open and start reading before taking off my coat, devouring the words the sender shared with me.

I think it’s my love for mail that launched my love of epistolary novels – books written as a series of documents, such as letters and journal entries. There’s something real about these stories because the reader instantly becomes part of the character’s personal life. Then again, there’s also a thrill that comes from reading another person’s journal – even if they are fictional.

You can check out some of my favorite epistolary novels on the new pop-up display on the Library’s first floor, located near the Help Desk. Choices include everything from young adult fiction, such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboksky, to fiction titles, including Attachments: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell.

Read the rest of this entry »

B.Y.O.Book Upcoming Events

by Candice Smith on July 8th, 2016
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If you’re in the mood for a little reading, eating, and talking, think about joining us at one of our B.Y.O.Book meetups. For the Summer/Fall series, we will be celebrating the exhibition of Shakespeare’s First Folio at the University of Iowa Main Library Gallery (August 29-September 25) by featuring a nonfiction book about Shakespeare’s work and two fiction books that have Shakespearean themes. This will be a very unique opportunity to read a book (or three) by or about one of the world’s most famous and influential writers, while at the same time having the chance to view the first printing of his collected plays.

Tuesday, August 2, 6-7 p.m. at The Mill (120 E. Burlington St.) we will be discussing Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Tuesday, September 20, 6-7 p.m. at Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Bistro (in the Sheraton Hotel) we will be discussing Andrea Mays’ The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio.

Tuesday, October 18, 6-7 p.m. at Northside Bistro (203 N. Linn St.) we will be discussing Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven: a Novel.

There will be a limited number of copies of the books available at the second floor Info Desk in the Library. If you have questions or want more information, please call 356-5200, or email candice-smith@icpl.org or jason-paulios@icpl.org

We hope you can join us!

Nonfiction Graphic Works

by Brent Palmer on June 30th, 2016
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Books of all kinds in graphic format are becoming more and more popular.   The works in this format are not all Japanese Manga and superheroes, though.  The non-fiction shelves are scattered with different forms of serious non-fiction graphic works.  I thought I’d share a few of these I’ve recently discovered Read the rest of this entry »

Not My Father’s Son

by Heidi Lauritzen on June 30th, 2016
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Faced with seven hours of driving in one day, I headed for our collection of nonfiction books on disc and selected a title that has been on my pending list for a while:  Not My Father’s Son, by Alan Cumming.  The print book and the audio version were both published in late 2014, to positive reviews.  I enjoyed it very much, although parts of his story are difficult to listen to (or read, I’m sure).

Cumming weaves together two main story lines in the book.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Sting of the Wild : the Story of the Man who got Stung for Science

by Maeve Clark on June 30th, 2016
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Ouch, ouch, ouch! That hurts, that really really hurts!  Do you want to know why stings and bites hurt and why some insect stings are worse than others?  Then look no further than “The Sting of the Wild”. Schmidt, the “the King of the Sting” and”the Connoisseur of Pain”,  is an entomologist at  Southwestern Biological Institute and is affiliated with the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona and he has written a bitingly good book about insects that inflict pain.  I am attractive to flying insects; mosquitoes, gnats, and black flies – all those annoying little creatures of the air, so I was very interested in why me and not others.  Mosquitoes are attracted to certain blood types more than others, those with Type O being bitten the most frequently.  If you want to know what other factors make a mosquito pick you or ignore you, you’ll have to read the book.

His research area of expertise is insect venom and he is the creator of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.   The Schmidt sting pain index is a 5yellowjacket1-point pain scale, numbered from 0 to 4. An insect that can’t penetrate human skin ranks 0. The most painful stings rank 4 on the index.  I guess five must be death, which is possible with a sting.  Schmidt includes his pain scale as an appendix and it’s fascinating and funny, truly funny.  He gives the name, the range, the description and the pain level of each stinging insect.  There is only one level 4 in North America – the tarantula hawk, but there are many lower pain level insects.  But don’t think it is a tiny tingle if the level is lower, it’s not.  His descriptions read like entries in the “Wine Enthusiast” – Western yellow jacket – Pain Level 2 – Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.  Honey wasp – Pain Level 2 – Spice, blistering. A cotton swab dipped in habanero sauce has been pushed up your nose.

And get this, he based his pain index on experimentation with himself as the subject.    I have been stung by a paper wasp before and it is excrutiatingly painful.  I cannot imagine inflicting all of that agony on myself, but I am glad he was curious and strong enough to do it.  He was interviewed recently on Science Friday and he is in funny in person as he is in writing.

Get your grill on!

by Melody Dworak on June 29th, 2016

grill-878001_960_720Grilling season is well under way and we are having perfect weather here in Iowa City. Not too hot, not too cold, lovely evenings and mornings for walking the dog, taking a jog, or hunting for frogs in the creek.

With this blissful weather upon us, I’ve been on the lookout for digital magazine articles on grilling and outdoor cooking. Here are a few I’d like to share with you today: Read the rest of this entry »

Seeking Maura Murray

by Candice Smith on June 26th, 2016
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I first heard about this missing persons case from the podcast Missing Maura Murray, created and hosted by Lance Reenstierna and  Tim Pilleri. On the evening of February 9, 2004, Maura had a minor car accident on a winding road in New Hampshire; a person who lived nearby came out to offer assistance, but Maura said that she’d called AAA and didn’t need help. When the police showed up a few minutes after being called, they found Maura’s car and many of her belongings, but she was not there. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

In True Crime Addict, author James Renner recounts how he became involved, seven years later, in trying to find out what happened to Maura.  Read the rest of this entry »

10 Cloverfield Lane

by Brian Visser on June 22nd, 2016
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I hated Cloverfield.  Hated.  It.  The 2008 film followed a group of 20-somethings in New York the evening of an attack by a Godzilla-like monster.  All of the characters were terrible, annoying, self-absorbed people.  By the end of it, I was rooting for the monster.  I really wanted them all to be eaten.  Spoilers: They get eaten.  So, when 10 Cloverfield Lane, a sort-of sequel, was announced, I wasn’t interested at all.  But, my curiosity got the best of me, and I watched the first trailer.  I was very intrigued by what I saw.  Besides, it didn’t appear to have anything to do with its namesake.  I watched the movie this weekend, and I am very happy that I didn’t dismiss it out of hand.

Cloverfield was a found footage monster movie, while 10 Cloverfield Lane is a traditionally shot, claustrophobic thriller.  It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle–a woman who wakes up after a car accident to find herself in a bomb shelter.  She’s shocked when she realizes that her leg is shackled to a pipe, and there’s an IV in her arm.  Howard–played by John Goodman–informs her that he saved her after the accident and brought her to his bunker.  He claims that there has been some sort of chemical attack and that it’s not safe to leave.  Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a man who helped Howard build the shelter, is the other occupant.  All three actors do an amazing job, and the movie plays with the audience about whether Howard is telling the truth or is maybe just plain crazy.  I would’ve preferred if they hadn’t connected this to Cloverfield at all, because I think the ending would’ve been a bigger shock.  I highly recommend this to anyone who likes tight, tense movies.

The Summer Before the War

by Heidi Lauritzen on June 14th, 2016
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Helen Simonson’s new novel is a great summer read, and not just because it has “summer” in the title.  The Summer Before the War takes a number of interesting turns with enough suspense to keep you reading when you really should be doing something else.  There are many likeable characters–and a few not-so–and the historical detail, never heavy-handed, illuminates the impact of social class, the looming Great War, and the limited role in society for a young woman.

This is the story of Beatrice Nash, who has been hired to teach Latin to the village children of Rye, England.  She is in her early 20s and grieving the loss of her beloved father who broadened her mind through education and travel.  Teaching is her route to financial independence and the ability to write; probable spinsterhood is embraced as a fair trade-off for a life of her choosing, of reading and writing.

World War I changes everything and everyone, beginning with the village’s acceptance of Belgian refugees and the calls to young men to serve their country.  But even patriotism and military service are subject to societal pressures and questionable ethics, and no family completely escapes heartbreak and loss.

Which characters become Beatrice’s friends and allies, and who emerges to thwart her plans moves the story at a brisk pace.  And as the characters develop there are satisfying transformations from nemesis to friend, and disappointments as those she admires show their true colors.  One of the things I liked best is that no character is perfect; each fails at some point to live up to their own standards and beliefs, or to love generously when it is difficult to do so.

I hated to finish the book, because I had grown quite attached to Beatrice, Hugh, Aunt Agatha, and others in the story.  (I felt the same way about  some of the characters in Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.)  The Summer Before the War was a wonderful first entry on my summer reading program log, and I hope it makes it onto yours.

Memoirs

by Maeve Clark on June 14th, 2016
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I love histories and stories and I enjoy learning about the famous. Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs have been long been written by and about the noteworthy. These books make up a large portion of the library’s nonfiction collection, but recently there has been an increase in memoirs of the not so famous, and that growth is mirrored in the library holdings. It’s their stories, stories of the people who we might know in our everyday lives, which have become a part of the literary world.

“When Breath Become Air” by Paul Kalanithi is the story of a brilliant neurosurgeon diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 36. Kalanithi’s life was on a trajectory for great success. His cancer caused him, with his wife, to evaluate his life and the path he had chosen and refocus on what they could accomplish with the short time he had left. “When Breath Becomes Air” is a deeply moving work. Read the rest of this entry »




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