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Talk of Iowa Book Club

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Talk of Iowa Book Club

We love to read. We love to talk about what we're reading. We know many of you do too. That’s why we created a book club at Talk of Iowa.

Join host Charity Nebbe for bi-monthly book club meetings, live on-air! Hear about the themes, characters and big-picture questions raised by the titles on our reading list. Get a copy of the books, find a comfortable chair and read — or re-read — right along with us. As a member of the Talk of Iowa Book Club, you can join our official Facebook group to continue the conversation between shows.

The book talk doesn't end there. Listen to Talk of Iowa weekdays at 10 a.m. on all IPR News and News/Studio One signals or online to hear from other authors and experts.

The Talk of Iowa Book Club is sponsored by Western Home Communities and Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Deming Foundation.

Book Club Reading Lists
2022
2021
2020
2022

The book club meets on Tuesdays, every other month, during Talk of Iowa. We're excited to share a mix of old favorites and new publications with you for 2022. Download and print our reading list, grab your copies to read along and join us for our bi-monthly meetings!

February 15: The Cider House Rules


By John Irving

Set in rural Maine pre- and post-WWII, The Cider House Rules tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch — saint and obstetrician, ether addict and abortionist, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud’s. It is also the story of Dr. Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells.

April 19:Thomas and Beulah


By Rita Dove

This collection of connected, narrative poems tells the semi-fictionalized story of the author’s maternal grandparents — a Black family in the predominantly white Midwest — and the sometimes contradictory experiences and perspectives of men and women within a traditional American marriage.

June 14: A Thousand Acres


By Jane Smiley

A successful Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm among his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions.

July 19: The Hate u Give

By Angie Thomas

After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.

August 23: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

By Sherman Alexie

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

October 11: We Heard It When We Were Young


By Chuy Renteria

A first-generation Mexican American boy is torn between cultures: between immigrant parents trying to acclimate to Midwestern life and a town that could be supportive or disturbingly antagonistic. Renteria’s story looks past the public celebrations of diversity to dive into the private tensions of a community reflecting a changing American landscape.

December 20: Homegoing


By Yaa Gyasi

Ghana, eighteenth century: two half-sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned and sold into slavery. Stories of their children and descendants unfold throughout subsequent chapters.

2021

January 19: Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” That’s the most famous quote from “Mother Night,” a strange, cautionary tale from Kurt Vonnegut. The novel is told in the first person by Howard W. Campbell Jr. as he awaits trial for war crimes. He is an American who was living in Germany when World War II broke out, recruited to serve by both Nazis and the Allied Forces. The book is set in the past, but feels timeless and relevant today.

February 16: The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis

At the age of eight, orphan Beth Harmon is quiet and withdrawn. That is, until she plays her first game of chess, proving herself a child protegee and finding her own sense of self and power for the first time in her young life. By her teens, Beth is competing in the U.S. Open championship and making a name for herself in the male-dominated world of competitive chess. But as her skill and international ranking grows, the stakes get higher, her isolation becomes deeper and the thought of escaping her world altogether becomes more intriguing. Whether you binged “The Queen’s Gambit” series on Netflix or just heard the hype, join us in reading the book that started it all.

March 23: The Overstory - Richard Powers

An ode to environmental activism and connection, the Overstory follows eight very different people unknowingly tied together by the lives and legacies of trees – some of which are rooted right here in Iowa. This book, which won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is split into four sections: Roots, Trunks, Crowns and Seed; weaving the characters together through their relationships with the natural world.

April 20: An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo

In this collection, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands east of the Mississippi River two hundred years after the forced removal of the Mvskoke people. Harjo’s poems interrogate the historical erasure of the Mvskoke and other native people while finding strength and gratitude in the abundance of her homeland. “An American Sunrise” weaves Harjo’s personal story with tribal history and roots itself in the spirituality of her ancestors and righteous outrage over the historical atrocities committed against native people in the modern United States.

May 18: Little Faith - Nickolas Butler (All Iowa Reads adult selection)

Lyle Hovde and his wife Peg are thrilled when their estranged daughter Shiloh and her six-year-old son Isaac finally return to the family home in rural Wisconsin. But like any family reunion, the situation is complicated. In her absence, Shiloh has become deeply involved with an extremist church, courted by a devout pastor who believes Isaac has the spiritual ability to heal the sick. Over the course of a year, Lyle finds himself torn between his concern over his daughter’s growing religious extremism and his desire to keep his family close.

June 15: Kindred by Octavia Butler

It’s 1976 and the country is celebrating the Bicentennial. Dana, a young black woman, and her new husband, Kevin, a white man, have just moved into a new house in California. While she’s unpacking Dana is whisked away through time and space to Maryland in the early 1800s. Dana and Kevin shift back and forth through time and space as they experience the brutality of slavery and the reality of life when our nation was young. The novel is complex and compelling science and historical fiction that reveals some very deep truths about human nature and our history.

July 20: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Written in a richly lyrical novel-in-verse format, “Clap When You Land” follows the lives of Camino and Yahaira Rios, half-sisters separated by language, culture and country for most of their lives but brought together by the sudden death of their father. Through shared grief, the two teenagers are forced to face what it means to be a family while exploring the power and pressures of culture, class and privilege. “Clap When You Land” is written for a young adult audience, but its thoughtful prose and compelling characters invite readers of all ages.

August 17: The Life And Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines in 1951, smack dab in the middle of the Baby Boom generation. Like many so-called Boomers, Bryson grew up with a grand vision of becoming a crime-fighting superhero, and lived out his dreams by racing around his neighborhood in a homemade cape, dubbing himself “The Thunderbolt Kid.” This persona is the foundation for a touching and hilarious memoir that follows Bryson’s childhood and family life in Iowa through the 1950s and 60s penned in vivid and relatable observation.

September 28: Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives by Ray Young Bear

This is a coming-of-age novel that follows the life of Edgar Bearchild through the decades of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. The novel is semi-autobiographical. Bearchild grows up in the Black Eagle Child Community, a fictional stand in for the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama where Young Bear grew up and now lives. The novel is told in a combination of verse, prose and letters. Young Bear excels at illustrating what it’s like to straddle two very different cultures that exist simultaneously around and within his characters. It is at times funny, poignant and heartbreaking.

October 19: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Roy and Celestial are young, black, urban professionals living in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s a businessman and she’s a gifted artist. The book starts as an exploration of the kinds of challenges that any couple might experience in a marriage, the weight of secrets untold and paths untaken, but the book takes a sharp turn when Roy is accused of a serious crime he did not commit. It’s a beautifully written and resonant account of complicated relationships and an illustration of how systemic racism shapes the characters' lives in powerful ways beyond their control. Jones earned her master's degree at the University of Iowa.

November 16: My Antonia by Willa Cather

Published in 1918 “My Antonia” is a classic that brings the pioneer experience of the Midwest to life. Told as a flashback, the story begins as two young people arrive in Nebraska to build new lives. Jim Burden is newly orphaned and traveling to live with his grandparents on their farm. Antonia Shimerda is traveling with her Bohemian immigrant family, seeking a new life on the prairie. In telling the characters’ stories of growth, hardship and connection the book explores issues of class, gender and what it means to be American.

December 21: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

This is a novel of mothers and daughters divided by culture and time, but connected through love. The book is told through sixteen interwoven stories that explore the experiences and identities of Chinese immigrant mothers and their first-generation American daughters. It is captivating and powerful from start to finish, filled with heartbreak and hope. This beautifully crafted book will resonate with anyone who has or is a mother or a daughter.

2020

February: "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" - Ayana Mathis (Fiction)

April: "A Sand County Almanac" - Aldo Leopold (Non-Fiction)

May: "Eligible" - Curtis Sittenfeld (Fiction)

June 10: Delights and Shadows - Ted Kooser (Poetry)

July 9: Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder / The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich (Fiction)

August 12: Storm Lake – Art Cullen (Non-Fiction)

September 9: The Mothers- Brit Bennett (The 2020 All Iowa Reads selection for adult readers)

October 12: The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros (Fiction)

November 11: Crossing to Safety - Wallace Stegner (Fiction)

December 16: Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression – Mildred Armstrong Kalish (Non-Fiction)

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