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B.Y.O.Book: Spring dates set, books picked–we just need you!

by Candice Smith on February 26th, 2016
B.Y.O.Book: Spring dates set, books picked–we just need you! Cover Image

B.Y.O.Book, the Library’s books-in-bars group, is ready to welcome the spring–it’s time for a few good books, some good food and drink, and a lot of great conversation! In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize awards, we’ve picked three past winners. We hope you can join us to read and discuss one, or all, of them.

March 22, 6-7 p.m., is our first meet-up; join us at Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Bistro, in the Sheraton to discuss The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz. Winner of the Pulitzer for Fiction in 2008, the book follows Oscar — a Dominican American, an overweight, geeky teenage nerd–as he tries to navigate his everyday life, fulfill his dream of becoming a writer and, more important, finding love — all in the face of a family curse that has haunted the Wao’s for generations.. I think Michiko Kakutani said it best, in a review for The New York Times: “…a wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets “Star Trek” meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West.” Readers, how can you resist?

You can register for the event, and check our catalog for a copy of the book–we’ve got print copies as well as CD, ebook and eaudio. We will also have a bookclub kit at the Info Desk soon, so give us a call to see if there are any available copies.

Future dates and titles are April 26 (Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, at Northside Bistro) and May 24 (The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss, at the Mill). We hope to see you there!



The Millionaire and the Bard

by Heidi Lauritzen on February 23rd, 2016
The Millionaire and the Bard Cover Image

I always wondered why the Folger Shakespeare Library is in Washington DC, and not in England; now I know. The Millionaire and the Bard is a fascinating read about Henry and Emily Folger, a husband-and-wife team who spent their married life researching and acquiring Shakespeare’s works, and then built a library to house them.

There’s something for everyone: the history of the publication of Shakespeare’s works; the cut-throat competition in the acquisitions race for the limited number of copies of the plays; the philosophical question of where Shakespeare’s works should reside—in their home country or abroad; how the Folgers decided what the building that housed their collection should look like.

Henry Clay Folger worked his way up in the Standard Oil companies, and eventually became chairman of the board of Standard Oil of New York. He and his wife lived humbly, though, and funneled all of their financial resources into collecting printed editions of Shakespeare’s works. They were largely self-taught book collectors, and nurtured alliances with antiquarian booksellers and collectors. Emily Folger kept detailed records of their acquisitions, and when the collection outgrew their home, they began storing the documents in warehouses.

The Folgers were especially interested in the First Folio, the first collection of Shakespeare’s plays which was published seven years after his death. Today it is believed that 233 copies exist of the approximately 700 copies that were printed in early 1600s. The Folgers acquired 82 First Folios, along with thousands of other manuscripts, books and art about Shakespeare and ephemera such as playbills and prompt books.

The Millionaire and the Bard is great background reading in advance of our opportunity to see a First Folio edition for ourselves. The University of Iowa Libraries will be the Iowa stop this fall on a nationwide tour of a First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story

by Anne Mangano on February 23rd, 2016
Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story Cover Image

There are so many books about Detroit. There are the books about its hardships (Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: an American autopsy). There are those about the people trying to change it for the better (Mark Binelli’s Detroit City is the Place to Be). And of course, there is the “ruin porn,” an unfortunate term, but the photographs are interesting nonetheless (Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s The Ruins of Detroit). But David Maraniss’ most recent book, Once in a Great City: a Detroit Story, goes back—way back—to when Detroit was an influential economic and cultural powerhouse—the year 1963.

So what was going on in 1963? The Big Three car companies are selling more cars than ever and Ford is just about to release the Mustang. Martin Luther King Jr. participates in the Walk to Freedom drawing over 100,000 marchers demanding equal wages, employment opportunities, and access to housing. He caps the event with the first version of the “I Have a Dream” speech a few months before the March on Washington. Motown is sweeping the charts with Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get a Witness” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heatwave.” And Detroit is a major contender to host the 1968 Summer Games.

But there are small wounds beginning to fester. 1960 is the first census year that Detroit sees a decrease in population. Urban renewal is tearing down neighborhoods (mostly African American communities) in exchange for highways. 1964 sees strikes at Ford, GM, and American Motors by the United Auto Workers. And the Walk to Freedom is protesting severe discrimination in Detroit. Maraniss weaves all of these things together in his narrative, providing a great sense of the city in the early 1960’s. He also picks a pivotal moment for the city. Like many northern cities in the era, this is a decade when politicians, business leaders, and residents make decisions that lead their city to sink or swim.

Houseplants make it feel like spring

by Beth Fisher on February 20th, 2016
Houseplants make it feel like spring Cover Image

Winters are long in Iowa.  By the time the middle of February comes around, Mother Nature begins to tease us with bright sunny days.  But look at a calendar and you’ll see that we are still more than a month away from Spring.

If you’re itching to get your hands in the garden there is something you can do now that might make it feel like spring – get a new houseplant!  Tovah Martin’s new book “The Indestructible Houseplant – 200 beautiful plants that everyone can grow is “for all the windowsill-gardener wannabes… For all the folks who hankered for houseplants but didn’t know where to start, and for all the people who picked up the wrong houseplant and thought its hasty demise was their fault, this book is for you.”

The Idestructible Houseplant is both a good reference book and a fun read. (Yes, books can be both.) If you’re looking for a book on houseplants and you want to look up just one plant, hit the index in the back and it will tell you where to turn. Or hit the table of contents for her list of 200 plants and go from there.

But if you’re looking for a fun read, start at the very beginning.  Tovah Martin is an entertaining writer. Her snappy style and entertaining storytelling will get you hooked. She’ll tell you the story of how she got hooked on houseplants, how the idea for this book came to be, what her home is like and how she tested plants to come up with her 200 surviving “indestructibles.”

The 200+ page “Gallery of Indestructibles” lists her choices in alphabetical order.  Each new plant begins with an entertaining page or more describing the plant, a beautiful color photograph, and half-page table listing the plants features: it’s common name(s), Latin name, a rating (easy or easiest), size range, foliage description, other attributes, desired light exposure, water requirements, optimum night time temperature, rate or growth, soil type, fertilizing, issues and ideal companions.


The last 40 pages take you through what she calls “The Details” –  choosing a plant; general cautions about plant toxicity; light, humidity and temperature considerations; choosing and preparing a container.  The list of sources are mainly in Connecticut, but all have websites.

There is one thing I was surprised by.  The groupings called “Ferns” and “Ivy”  are examples of when the author groups plants into a family.  The information is general rather than specific to any of the individual types found in the index.  Not that the information isn’t good, but it might not be appropriate to ALL the different plants in either family.

This is a great gardening book, and I’m definitely adding it to my wish-list.

It’s Book Madness Time at the Library!

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on February 18th, 2016

Grab your brackets and a pencil (or pen, if you’re feeling lucky) — it’s Book Madness at ICPL!Book Madness

Visit our display on the Library’s first floor to see which titles will face off in this year’s literary competition. Be sure to pick up a bracket! Anyone who returns their bracket by Feb. 28 is in the running for a $20 gift certificate to Prairie Lights! (We’ll have two winners; one in the Children’s bracket and another in the Teens and Adults bracket).

Beginning Feb. 29, you can vote for your favorite title in our Book Madness brackets. To start, we have 64 titles in four categories. 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 two rounds; it’s up to you! – and watch as the titles progress.

Here are the voting dates to remember:

  • First Round: Feb. 29 through March 6
  • Second Round: March 7 through March 13
  • Sweet 16: March 14 through March 20
  • Elite 8: March 21 through March 27
  • Final 4: March 28 through April 3
  • Championship Game: April 4 through April 10

The winning book in each bracket will be announced on Monday, April 11!

Remember, titles that have already won (2014 winning titles: Harry Potter in the Children’s bracket, To Kill a Mockingbird in the Teens and Adults bracket; 2015 winning titles: Percy Jackson in the Children’s bracket, Lord of the Rings in the Teens and Adults bracket) are not eligible for the 2016 competition.

Here’s a list of this year’s books. Who do you think will win it all?



  • Sparky! by Jenny Offill
  • Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio
  • Eloise by Kay Thompson
  • Flora the Flamingo by Molly Idle
  • Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem by Chris Monroe
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead
  • Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems


  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence Atwater and Richard Atwater
  • Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • Superfudge by Judy Blume
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
  • Warriors by Erin Hunter
  • Wayside School by Louis Sachar
  • Super Diaper Baby by Dav Pilkey
  • Who Was … by Various
  • Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew by Carolyn Keene
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
  • Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  • Judy Moody by Megan McDonald
  • Shadow Children by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas


  • Small Steps: The Year I got Polio by Peg Kehret
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
  • The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques
  • Pie by Sarah Weeks
  • Ivy’s Ever After by Dawn Lairamore
  • Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
  • Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
  • The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate



  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


  • Naked by David Sedaris
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  • The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  • Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner & Steven Levitt
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Dead Wake by Erik Larson
  • Descent by Tim Johnston
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
  • Find Me by Laura van den Berg


  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


  • Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
  • These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner
  • Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella
  • Lamb by Christopher Moore
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff
  • Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan
  • Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers
  • Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
  • A Good American by Alex George
  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
  • The Martian by Andy Weir

The Dark Net

by Heidi Kuchta on February 17th, 2016

Dark NetHidden behind the searchable internet world, there exists a network of sites that requires specific servers, browsers, or codes to access. These “dark” areas of the internet are commonly associated with bad behavior, crime, and even terrorism. British author Jamie Bartlett is not here to launch arguments in favor of censorship and surveillance, but rather provides an overview of the dark net. In this book, which came out to rave reviews in May 2015, Bartlett breaks down the dark net for the person wanting to broach the many ethical quandaries the internet provides. If you want an introduction to some of the controversies of living in a digital age, I definitely recommend you check this book out! I especially enjoyed the chapter highlighting the dark net war between the anti-immigrant British Nationalists and the group Antifa – short for “Antifascism.”

Also of particular interest was the brief discussion at the end of the book about transhumanism – a philosophy that embraces the digital age for all of the sophisticated ways it can enhance the human experience. Some computer geeks have already implanted experimental computer chips inside of their own bodies, something that seems sci-fi but is now reality.  Also, apparently some of the leading transhumanist thinkers believe that by the middle of this century we will have the capability to upload the contents of our brains onto a digital interface! This is both scary and fascinating – I will most certainly be reading more about these transhumanists.

At the heart of The Dark Net is a cautionary tale: Yes, the internet is amazing, but it can also be vile and scary – much like humanity.  I do recommend this book, but with certain warnings. The book opens with a story about a girl whose life is ruined for sport by internet “trolls” (full explanation and history of trolling included.) There is also a whole chapter about pornography, which I can fully understand some would rather skip over. This is not an appropriate book for kids, but it also isn’t terribly graphic. The book is interested in looking at how the dark net has changed the digital landscape – not glorifying particular aspects of the dark net. Just be prepared for frank discussions.


Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen

by Brian Visser on February 17th, 2016
Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen Cover Image

Last year, Marvel got the Star Wars comics license back from publisher Dark Horse.  The move made sense since Marvel and Lucasfilm are both owned by Disney (corporate synergy!).  Marvel put some of their best writers and artists on the first three comics–Star Wars, Darth Vader and Princess Leia–and the results were (mostly) fantastic.  My favorite, by far, was the Darth Vader comic written by Kieron Gillen with art by Salvador Larocca.

Darth Vader is one of my favorite characters of all time.  He’s the best bad guy there is.  My love began early when I was drawn to an over-sized Darth Vader action figure at my babysitter’s house.  I vividly remember clutching it when confined to a playpen.  I didn’t watch the movies until years later, but Vader had already made his mark.  Because of this, I was hesitant about the Darth Vader comic.  What if they didn’t do justice to the best bad guy there is?  Thankfully, I didn’t need to be worried.

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 takes place after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  Vader is disgraced after failing to stop an unknown Rebel pilot from destroying the Death Star.  The Emperor demotes him and assigns an agent to monitor him.  Vader, in an effort to get back on top, recruits a rogue techno archaeologist named Doctor Aphra.  Aphra specializes in droids, and Vader catches up with her after she has activated Triple-Zero and BT-1, which are basically murderous versions of C-3P0 and R2-D2.  Vader wants to know what the Emperor is planning next, and there are a lot of double-crosses along the way.

One of my biggest issues with Star Wars comics is that the characters don’t sound like themselves.  The writers can never quite get their voices right.  Vader is a man of few words, and when he speaks, you listen.  Gillen nails that, and I can almost hear James Earl Jones booming voice in the dialog.  Also, the artists usually screw up the helmet and make him look derpy.  Salvador Larocca couldn’t do a better job, though.  I highly recommend Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 to any Star Wars fan.

Tales from the Golden Age of Hollywood

by Anne Mangano on February 16th, 2016
Tales from the Golden Age of Hollywood Cover Image

I am a devout listener to the podcast You Must Remember This, which is quite terrific if you love classic movies and tales from old Hollywood. I highly recommend it. Last month, the podcast went on break and I was left filling a void as big as an “O” in the Hollywood sign. I filled it with fiction.

In Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, Sister Alda Ducci, forced to leave her convent, is hired to be the personal secretary of Loretta Young. The twenty-year old film star is in the middle of making Man’s Castle, but also in the middle of a relationship with Spencer Tracy. Both Young and Tracy are Catholic; Tracy is married. It doesn’t work out. Disappointment and heartbreak abound. But that only sets us up for the real drama: Loretta Young is chosen to star in The Call of the Wild with Clark Gable. The novel mainly focuses on what happens between Young and Gable as they film on location, as well as the fallout of their relationship. Trigiani individualizes each character and relationships are not portrayed as tawdry or depraved as the rumor mill at the time would make them out to be. I appreciated that Alda was a fully developed, interesting character, rather than just service as the framing for the Young/Gable vehicle. It is also a well-written, solid read and it left me wanting more.

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My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

by Kara Logsden on February 11th, 2016
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout Cover Image

I love books that stick with me. I like to ruminate over words, ponder what the author was saying, and think about themes and how the book fits into my bigger world. My Name is Lucy Barton is one of these books. And just like Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, My Name is Lucy Barton is a book to be savored.

Lucy Barton was raised in poverty in Amgash, Illinois. She escapes this poverty by working hard, ignoring ridicule, becoming a writer, and creating an adult life in Manhattan. Unfortunately Lucy cannot escape her past and the the loneliness and insecurities that follow her.

The book is also about family ties and love – wanting love and giving love – and coming to terms with one’s expectations for love vs. the reality of love. The story meanders like a stream, and Strout gives important details quietly, like a whisper in the reader’s ear. As I read I pondered each whisper, and silently hoped for happiness and love for Lucy as she faced her life’s journey.


Esquire’s “Hater in Chief”

by Melody Dworak on February 10th, 2016

gallery-1451926582-esquire-march-cover-trumpSo Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary last night and racked up 10 delegates. If you love the media frenzy around this unconventional presidential candidate, check out Esquire’s February cover article, “Hater in Chief.” Behind a paywall everywhere else, you can check it out digitally through ICPL’s digital magazine collection Zinio. Have your library card and password ready and go to to log in and download that grumpy, frowny face.