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IPR’s 2017 Summer Book List

The summer months can be a great time of the year to crack open a new book. During this hour on Talk of Iowa, Jan Weismiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Book Store in Iowa City and Kathy Magruder from Pageturners Book Store in Indianola join host Charity Nebbe to discuss both their new and classic book recommendations to add to your summer reading list.


Jan's picks:

Do Not Become Alarmed—Maile Meloy

"Malie Meloy is a short-story writer often and is a really great writer in terms of relationship intrigue."

AugustownKei Miller

"This is set in a town in Jamaica in 1982 but it's looking back at a day in 1920. The town itself was founded by former slaves in 1838, and in 1920 a charismatic preacher had convinced almost everybody in the town that they could ascend to heaven…it's beautifully written."

Anything is Possible—Elizabeth Strout

"All the characters are getting [her memoir], and she's not there but it's making them remember aspects of their past. So the stories are linked stories with different characters from the town. It's absolutely wonderful."

Lincoln in the Bardo—George Saunders

"It's historical in one way but sort of fantasy in another. It taking place in February of 1862, right after Lincoln's son Willy has died, and he's suffering terribly…it's an amazing book."

Sport of Kings—C.E. Morgan

"It's not for everyone, but I've had people that say it's one of the most important novels that's been written about race in America ever, and I think that might be true."

Kathy's picks:

Glass Houses—Louise Penny (thirteenth installment of the Inspector Gamache series; it comes out August 29th)

"It's the thirteenth book in a mystery series. These are set in a small town in Canada called Three Pines. You really have to read the whole series which is why it's a great summer pick. They are delightful."

All Systems Red—Martha Wells (first in the Murderbot Diaries)

"The main character is a security bot. It's not human, it's not really a machine because it has a brain. It is owned by an insurance company and it has hacked its governor module and has gone rouge—kind of...it's a great, fun, quick read. "

The Alice Network—Kate Quinn

"The main character is a nineteen-year-old pregnant socialite, who's on her way to London with her mother to take care of the 'little problem.' It's fun, it's got a lot of historical detail about both WWI and WWII and the spies during the wars, and it's a great, entertaining read for the summer."

Wonder Woman: Warbringer-- Leigh Bardugo (comes out 8/29)

"This is an origin comic about the first time Wonder Woman goes off the island before she meets anybody else…this one should be a lot of fun and comes out in August."

The Painted Queen—Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess (comes out 7/25)

"It's the last in a really long-running series by Elizabeth Peters who sadly died last year and has been finished by Joan Hess. It's based on the life of Amelia Peabody Emerson who just before the turn of the century goes to Egypt to become an Egyptologist."

Paul's classic picks:

Intruder in the Dust—William Faulkner

"If you want to get started with Faulker and understand why he is loved so much, Intruder in the Dust is a really good starting place. If you like To Kill a Mockingbird, then you'll love this story."

The Moviegoer—Walker Percy

"This won the National Book Award in 1962…it's about a character called Binx Bolling…Binx is well-to-do and has an enormous amount of history in the family. It's worth reading."

Final Payments—Mary Gordon

"It was in the seventies one of a spate of feminist novels that spoke to the issues shouting out in the seventies… [The main character] becomes extremely aware of men's feeling of entitlement toward her body."

Mister Sandman—Barbara Gowdy

"It's about this goofy family in small town Canada. They all have some sort of sexual kink and none of them will admit it to anyone else… [Gowdy] is the best unknown Canadian author—she is amazing."

Other Voices, Other Rooms—Truman Capote

"This was written in the early 1950s by a twenty-two year-old who had been educated by his lover who was a professor.  The story is about a boy named Joel Knox who is sent away for mysterious reasons by his mother to live with the weird branch of this family…if you pick it up and read the first page, you'll be mesmerized."

Our Souls at Night—Kent Haruf

We Think the World of You—J.R. Ackerley

"It's about an English civil servant who is gay and his lover is a thief and is in prison. A lot of the book is about his relationship with his boyfriend's family."

The Hamilton Case—Michelle de Kretser

Dept. of Speculation—Jenny Offill


Jan's picks:

A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century—Jerome Charyn

"This collection of essays really goes over a lot of the biographical detail. The title comes from [Emily Dickinson's] famous poem "My Life had Stood -- a Loaded Gun."

Becoming Mrs. Burton—Susan Burton and Cari Lynn

Dear Friend From My Life, I Write to You in Your Life—YiYun Li

"It's really about her deep relationship to reading and her choice to write only in English even though she didn't learn English until she was in her twenties. It's a really wonderful book."

Between Them: Remembering My Parents—Richard Ford

Theft by Finding Diaries 1977-2002—David Sedaris

"These are his diaries from 1977-2002… He doesn't write down his "feelings" but makes clear his feelings for other people. They aren't all funny but they become more funny as the book goes on."

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign—Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

White Working Class—Joan Williams

Kathy's picks:

The Perfect Horse—Elizabeth Letts

"In addition to stockpiling art during WWII, Hitler was also stockpiling priceless equine breeding stock…  This is the story of moving the horses out of the way, where they went, and what happened—and it's nail-biting.

Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women—Kate Moore

"It's the story of the radium craze in the Americas. In about 1917 radium was the hot new thing, they were telling everyone healthful it was and one of the most coveted jobs women could have was painting radium on the dials of clock faces… These poor girls started to die these really horrible deaths…it's a story that will make the hair stand up on your neck."

Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom—Thomas Ricks

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor—Joe Starita.

"She was first [Native American] doctor and also one of the first female doctors during the late nineteenth century. She was the daughter of the chief of the Lakota who went to school, learned to be a doctor, came back and spent the rest of her entire life taking care of her people."

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit—Michael Finkel

Paul's classic picks:

Towers of Trebizond—Rose Macauley

"MaCauley is one of the wittiest travel writers to ever have lived. This book makes you laugh all the way through. Each of these characters have adventures that aren't particularly plausible but extremely amusing."

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa