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2021 Summer Book Guide: Adult Readers

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Summer is here. It’s time to dig into a good book — and time for Talk of Iowa's annual summer books show.

Host Charity Nebbe is joined by Iowa independent booksellers Jan Weismiller and Tim Budd of Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City and Hunter Gillum of Beaverdale Books. Whether you’re looking for scientific exploration, a captivating memoir or the opportunity to get lost in a novel, we’ve got something that will make your reading list.

Guests:

Fiction

“Abundance” by Jakob Guanzon
"Abundance" is the story of a father and son navigating being homeless and poor. The story is told in flashbacks that “thrust (the reader) into their situation, feeling the system working against them at times.”
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Encircling 3: Aftermath” by Carl Frode Tiller
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Filthy Animals” by Brandon Taylor
"If you liked Brandon Taylor’s novel 'Real Life' (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), you will love 'Filthy Animals.' In this collection of stories, Brandon Taylor brings his keen eye and eloquent ear to bear on the lives of characters navigating the eternal problems of young love and self-definition in a world that is all too contemporary. Issues of identity are central to the lives of these characters, but they are subordinate to the larger concerns of the soul."
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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Brandon Taylor will be on Talk of Iowa next week to discuss his new book.

“Five Wounds” by Kirstin Valdez Quade
"Five Wounds" takes place over a full calendar year, one Good Friday to the next. In a family drama, “you get (each character's) own personal insights, but also how they’re connecting as a family.”
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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"Four Winds" by Kristin Hannah
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Great Circle” by Maggie Shipstead
"This stunning, impeccably researched saga feels like it could only have been told by Maggie Shipstead, whose uncanny sense of character is in thrall to her large vision and her own experience as traveler and travel-writer. It is proof that gender-defying women — both historical and contemporary — have much to tell us of bravery and perception, both in relation to the human and the natural world. Coming at a time when we all need something to expand our vision, 'Great Circle,' is a novel to both relish and devour."
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“Great Fire” by Shirley Hazzard
"If you are in the mood for a deeply moving love story with a truly scrupulous protagonist — 'Great Fire' is the book for you."
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“The Night Always Comes” by Willy Vlautin
This gritty book can at times feel like southern noir. It's about “the lengths people go to to help family and…achieve the American dream.”
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“The Once and Future Witches” by Alix E. Harrow
"A high fantasy novel that combines historical fact with a modern #MeToo sensibility. An entertaining and engrossing read."
Recommended by Tim Budd
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“Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir
From the author of "The Martian" comes the tale of a middle-school science teacher named Ryland Grace. "With his trademark humor and loads of science and math, Mr. Weir scores another hit with those readers who like a lot of science in their science fiction. An excellent summer read."
Recommended by Tim Budd
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"The Prophets" by Robert Jones, Jr.
"This debut novel is a love story set in the most unlikely of places — an antebellum cotton plantation in Mississippi — and between the most unlikely of lovers — two slaves named Isaiah and Samuel." Budd describes Jones' writing as “earthy and majestic and new. I’m still trying to process a lot of the novel because it’s so rich.”
Recommended by Tim Budd
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“The Removed” by Brandon Hobson
This is “a book you need to read with someone because you’ll want to talk about it.”
Recommended by Tim Budd
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“The Souvenir Museum: Stories" by Elizabeth McCracken
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“Sweetness of Water” by Nathan Harris
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu” by Tom Lin
This novel is a wholly original western with a touch of fantasy.
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus" by Alan Gurganus
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“We Begin at the End” by Chris Whitaker
Recommended by Tim Budd
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Nonfiction

“Broken (In the Best Possible Way)” by Jenny Lawson
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Bubbleball” by Ben Golliver
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am” by Julia Cooke
"Ms. Cooke, herself the daughter of a Pan Am executive, takes us into the world of Pan Am stewardesses between the years of 1966 to 1975, when the airline was in its heyday as the gold standard of international travel. Restricted by rules concerning height, weight, age and marital status, somehow these women found freedom by seeing the world instead of simply seeing the kitchen."
Recommended by Tim Budd
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“Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II” by Daniel James Brown
Recommended by Tim Budd
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”Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York" by Alexander Nemerov
"A great companion to Mary Garbriel’s 'Ninth Street Women,' published in 2018, 'Fierce Poise' zeroes in on Helen Frankenthaler and paints her life as vividly as her paintings. From her first encounter with Jackson Pollack’s paintings to her first solo gallery show to her break up with eminent art critic Clement Greenberg, this biography of an increasingly important American painter is also a close-up portrait of an era."
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“Float Like a Butterfly, Drink Mint Tea” by Alex Wood
Wood's book is a "recovery memoir of sorts," but "because he’s a comedian, it’s laugh-out-loud at times, without talking up addiction.”
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War” by Louis Menand
"This is an essential road map to the middle decades of the last century. From Sartre to Mailer, Jackson Pollack to Andy Warhol. Susan Sontag to Betty Friedan, Elvis to Dylan and the Beatles, Richard Wright to James Baldwin and Stokely Carmichael — the list goes on and on. The range of Menand’s interest, the depth of his understanding and the deadpan wit that enlivens his prose make this book a delight — whether you read it from start to finish, or cherry-pick your interests. You will come away with a fuller understanding of the politics and art of the 20th Century and of their relationship to each other."
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance” by Hanif Abdurraquib
"Abdurraquib has written poetic essays on Black performance — everyone from Otis Redding to Beyoncé — in America and how those performances have influenced the culture at large."
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Mike Nichols: A Life” by Mark Harris
"Mike Nichols was a great movie director with an astonishing ability to draw out the best from the people he worked with. This chronicle of his life in film, theatre and stand-up is funny, insightful and thorough."
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto” by Alice Waters
Recommended by Jan Weismiller
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“What happened to Paula” by Katherine Dykstra
Recommended by Hunter Gillum
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“Why Peacocks? An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World's Most Magnificent Bird” by Sean Flynn
"When the opportunity crops up to take in three peacocks, award-winning journalist Flynn and his family jump at the chance — without any knowledge of these birds at all. It's a “family odyssey … you will laugh hysterically.”
Recommended by Tim Budd
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And if you need more book content, check out the Talk of Iowa Book Club. The July selection is "Clap When You Land" by Elizabeth Acevedo. Join the discussion July 20. You can also chat about book club selections and other literary interests with Charity and hundreds of other readers in the Talk of Iowa Book Club Facebook Group.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Caitlin Troutman is a digital news producer at Iowa Public Radio
Matthew is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Dennis Reese is the mid-day host for Iowa Public Radio