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What the IPR Staff is reading this summer

Collage of books picked by IPR staff.

Each year, IPR's Talk of Iowa welcomes booksellers to talk about new releases they're excited about for a summer book guide. But, there are readers with great recommendations all around us, and the IPR staff is no exception.

We asked our eclectic staff for their summer picks, whether they be old favorites perfect for the poolside or a recent release worth gushing about. Much like our staff, the answers are eclectic. They are listed below should you want to read along with us this summer.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

IPR's picks

Ben Kieffer | Host, River to River
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.
"I have hosted dozens of shows about sleep science and have absorbed quite a few insights. But Walker is in a league of his own in explaining the mysterious world of sleep. I learned so much. Geek out on accessible sleep science with this read!"
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The Bomber Mafia by Malcom Gladwell
"I would recommend listening to this as an audiobook, which in fact is how this project started for Gladwell. From the inception of powered flight to the present day, this is the story and moral dilemmas of bombing in war."
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Tony Sarabia | Midday Host
Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister
"The author brings the famous acid-tongued literary legend, Dorothy Parker to life, setting her and the whole story in NYC's Algonquin Hotel. It's where she and other writers, critics, actors and celebrities gathered for about a decade beginning in 1919 to socialize and trade barbs. Parker hasn't yet crossed over to the other side of death (and doesn't wish to) and during her wanderings throughout the hotel, she meets a cranky washed-up writer who's much younger than her. He lives in one of the hotel's rooms, waiting and wanting to die. Meister really captures Parker's voice in this book, which in part makes it one of those can't put down books that you're most likely to finish in a couple of days."
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At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
"This one is much darker, but also a tale of triumph. It's about a family that relocates from Connecticut to what was known as the Black Swamp of northwest Ohio in 1838 (it's not a planned destination). The parents and their five young children try and grow apples from seed they purchase from Johnny Appleseed. Things go wrong from the beginning and the youngest eventually leaves and ends up in Gold Rush California, collecting seeds from a different and much grander species of tree. It's a beautifully written story of family, hopes and adventure."
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Lucius Pham | Video Producer

Crying in H Mart by Michelle ZaunerTrick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
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"Two deeply thoughtful memoirs exploring society and belonging, written by two of the most articulate millennial voices in American pop culture and criticism."

Zachary Smith | Talk Show Producer
Hinterland: America's New Landscape of Class and Conflict by Phil A. Neel
"I am a huge fan of hybrid writing involving history, sociology and memoir. And I'm thirsty for writing that aims to understand the particularity of under-covered places like Iowa. Neel's book tries to understand the relationship between our strained labor realities, this place's pattern of production and where this leaves us — the people living here. "
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Meghan Polk | Account Executive
The Institute by Stephen King
"This was my first Stephen King book and it didn't disappoint. It is similar to the sci-fi show, the OA. The book is easy to pick up and suspenseful."
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The Incomplete Book of Running by Peter Sagal
"I went in and out between reading and audiobook. It's narrated by Peter and familiar,too, if you're listening to Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. His feelings towards running are relatable and a good pick me up to get out and run some distance."
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Catherine Wheeler | Host, All Things Considered
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
"I know it's not new, but it was new to me and did not disappoint! Perfect summer read: think Fleetwood Mac meets Almost Famous."
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The Invisible Life of Addie LeRue by V.E. Schwab
"Not a new book, but deeply engaging. It kept me in a trance with the storytelling. I read this one quickly and didn't mind all the house chores I neglected to do it. A little twisty, a little dark, a sprinkle of historical fiction, all the best things."
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Caitlin Troutman | Talk Show Producer
Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
"This is the best book I've read in a long time. It's a ghost story set in Vietnam, told from the point of view of several different narrators at different points in time. It contends with issues of identity, colonialism, the tourism industry and grief through folklore. It's mysterious and really, really spooky (coming from a person who has read a lot of spooky)."
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John Pemble | Reporter and Producer
The Secrets of the Force by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross
"It should be no surprise that I'm reading a book about Star Wars. This isn't a fiction, but an oral history about how this franchise was created and how it's evolved over four decades. I'm a big fan of oral history books, as they let readers piece together the history with longer context from those involved. Sorta like having reporter notes and transcripts that are super organized. Also, it should be no surprise that I have the authors' other oral history books that are about Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. I'm very predictable."
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Madeleine King | Newsletter Product Coordinator
Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King
"This collection of short stories started a furious stint of only consuming Lily King content for most of December and January. She's that good. This book felt just as much romantic and hopeful as it did heartbreaking. Each intimate vignette either made me laugh, cry, or call my mom."
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Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
"I devoured this book in less than three days, which is completely out of pocket for me, but that's what makes it a perfect summer read. It's a great choice if you want distraction and entertainment without leaving the plane of reality. This book is ultimately about an Oceans Eleven-type art heist, but is really about identity, the anxiety of impending adulthood, diaspora and colonization. I was hooked by being let in behind the scenes of international art theft and the engaging characters, and loved that the book didn't shy away from asking the question directly: 'When art is stolen, who does it belong to?' Plus, spoiler, there's some romance thrown in there."
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Share your picks

We're gathering your favorite summer reads — recent releases or old favorites — for an IPR reader-submitted books post. Send your submission in here!

Further Reading...

For even more summer reading suggestions, check outTalk of Iowa's picks for 2022.

And, for even more IPR book content, check out the Talk of Iowa Book Club. The July selection is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. You can also chat about book club selections and other literary interests with Charity Nebbe and hundreds of other readers in the Talk of Iowa Book Club Facebook group.

As the newsletter product manager, Madeleine (she/her) coordinates and writes for Iowa Public Radio’s newsletter portfolio, including The Daily Digest and Political Sense.