From the Shelves

[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.

Best of the Best 2017: Young Adult Fiction

by Amanda on December 24th, 2017

ICPL BEST YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOKS OF 2017

 

A lot of critics think that the Harry Potter series revitalized the Young Adult genre in 1997. Since then, the genre has exploded! We love the huge variety of experiences, perspectives, and stories available in YA fiction today. It’s safe to say that YA is here to stay!

  • Antisocial by Jillian Blake
  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  • Renegades by Marissa Meyer
  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2017: Fiction

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 23rd, 2017

The Iowa City Public Library is pleased to present our favorite reads of 2017.

Employees were asked to submit the titles they read and loved this year with all nominations divided into eight categories: fiction, young adult, children’s, mystery, science fiction/fantasy, autobiography/biography/memoir, non-fiction, and graphic novel. The only rule was that the book had to be released in 2017. Any book that was nominated by more than one staff member made our 2017 Best of the Best list.

We’ll share our Best of the Best list on the last day of 2017. Until then, here are the Library’s top fiction books for 2017. Keep checking back to see what made the cut in our other categories.

ICPL BEST FICTION BOOKS OF 2017

  • The Address by Fiona Davis
  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
  • Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
  • The Good People by Hannah Kent
  • Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  • Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
  • The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
  • Lincoln at the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
  • The World to Come by Jim Shepard
  • Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (published in Britain in 2016; released in US in May of 2017)
  • Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
  • Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
  • Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth

What was your favorite fiction read of 2017?

Video Staff Picks: Unique Holiday Recommendations with Terri

by Bond Drager on December 20th, 2017

Join Terri for some great suggestions of materials to enjoy around the holidays, including some that you may not have considered.

Items mentioned include:

The Stories of John Cheever

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Bell, Book and Candle

The Homecoming: A Christmas Story

The Family Stone

Christmas Cocktails

A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector

A Rock’n’Roll Christmas

Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra

Christmas Sing-Along with Mitch Miller

The Gathering

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!)

 

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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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 »