by Maeve Clark on November 7th, 2014
I admit it, I can’t get enough of Jane Smiley. And thanks to a sales rep from Random House and the recent Iowa City Book Festival I was not only able to get a advance reading copy of Some Luck, Smiley’s latest novel, but I, with several hundred other avid readers, was able to hear her read from it at the Englert Theatre. I have heard Smiley read before and she can weave a great story in person as well as in print and she did just that on the Sunday afternoon she stopped in Iowa City. She clearly still loves Iowa, her home for many years while she studied in Iowa City and then taught at Iowa State. In fact, she shared the story of her vintage bag, she said it reminded her of Iowa and her sweater, which she knit herself, from yarn made from soybeans, which she thought might just have been grown here too.
The focus of Some Luck, the first of a trilogy, is the Langdon family; their farm, their kin and their lives for the next 33 years. And what a 33 years it is. The book begins with Walter and Rosanna and their five month old son, Frank. The novel explores their life on the farm outside the small town of Denby. It was a rural Iowa that many of us grew up hearing about from our parents and grandparents, a time when fields were plowed with draft horses, and hired men lived with the family, schools were one room and the students were the children of the nearby families. The pace of life had a rhythm and pattern. But change comes and Smiley illuminates the change chapter by chapter, with each each chapter covering a year in the Langdon family.
If you have been waiting for another novel from this Pulitzer Prize winning novelist you will be thrilled to read Some Luck. And as luck would have it, there are two more books to follow.
by Beth Fisher on June 9th, 2014
If you’ve ever taken a roadtrip, you know there are all sorts of things to see when cruising down the roads of Iowa. Big cities and small towns; railroads, bridges and barns; modern buildings or historic architecture; fields of corn, soybeans or hay; and trees, grasses and wildflowers.
It might surprise you to know that many of the trees, grasses and wildflowers you see in and along the roadsides of Iowa were planted by the Iowa D.O.T. Iowa’s Living Roadways, a small spiral bound book produced by the Iowa Department of Transportation is a guide to the various landscape designs and planting styles used to maintain the roadways of Iowa.
The guide includes photographs and plant profiles of 41 species of wildflowers and grasses- from Canadian Anemone, Blackeyed Susan, Spiderwort and Vervain; 33 species of trees - including, 10 species of Crabapples, five species of Maples and 4 species of Oak; and 16 types of shrubs – from Chokeberries, to Dogwood and Fragrant Sumac. Each plant profile includes a color photograph, a description, bloom times, trivia, and possible habitats or locations.
The end of the book has a glossary, references and bibliography, and a fun 8-page section called Amazing Plant Facts. (Did you know that Oak tress do not produce acorns until they are 50 years old?) You can find a copy of this book in either the Circulating or Iowa Reference Collections at 582.13/Iowa’s
by Hannah Kane on April 2nd, 2014
Looking for your next weekend read? I have a great springy one for you. In Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, the end of the world is nigh. Austin Szerba, his girlfriend Shann, and his best friend Robby live in fictional Ealing, Iowa. The trio occupy themselves the same way most small-town 16-year-olds do — skateboarding, eating pizza, driving into Waterloo to see movies, and trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of life.
But their world is turned upside-down when giant praying mantises rampage through Ealing. The big bugs are hungry — for PEOPLE. This tale of survival, friendship, identity, and growing up has a sense of Vonnegut-esque humor so fresh that once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Check out the catalog record here to learn more and place a hold!
Plus, it’s green. REALLY green.