Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Something for everyone at Iowa City Book Festival

Festival started as thank you after Floods of 2008

  • Photo

When the Iowa City Book Festival started eight years ago, it was envisioned as a way to say thank you to the many volunteers who a few months earlier had helped the University of Iowa Main Library as the rising Iowa River moved closer to the building.

Volunteers filled sandbags, while others assembled inside, forming a human chain to pass books up from the library’s basement, moving them out of harm’s way. It’s a memory all too clear for Corridor residents as volunteers again help prepare for flood threats along the Cedar River to the north.

That first-ever Iowa City Book Festival started small. The one-day gathering of book lovers also helped celebrate Iowa City’s designation as an UNESCO City of Literature.

Since then, the festival has grown exponentially. The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature foundation took over administration of the festival four years ago, and it has grown to a six-day festival, with more than 100 presenters at more than 60 events held at venues around Iowa City and Coralville.

“It does seem to grow every year,” Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon said. “Particularly this year, it has grown because we’ve taken on stronger partnerships with other entities in town.”

One of those partnerships is with Iowa City Hospice, who is helping bring author Angelo Volandes to discuss his book “The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care.”

“It’s a chance for other entities in town to get authors in front of an audience, and it gets us a greater variety of writers,” Kenyon said. “It’s really a win for everyone.”

That great variety of writers includes producers of non-fiction, novels, poetry and more, with a mix of both local and international authors. Throughout the festival there will be numerous events happening at any one time. Festivalgoers can start the day Oct. 8, for example, by choosing between a children’s art workshop centered on “Don Quixote,” a bookmaking workshop, a live group reading of poetry, three different panel discussions or readings from seven different authors. All events throughout the week except a sold-out visit from young adult author Rick Riordan are free and open to the public.

Kenyon admits choosing what to attend can be hard.

“People will say there’s too much to choose from. Well, go to any amazing big festival and that’s the case. If that’s the problem we have, I can live with that,” Kenyon said.

The schedule and author bios are available at iowacitybookfestival.org to help attendees narrow down what to attend. Kenyon said even he is having trouble choosing.

“That’s like asking me about a favorite child,” he said, when asked which events he’s especially excited about.

He did identify a few highlights, however: Writer Roxane Gay will receive the Paul Engle Prize at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 and then be interviewed by Iowa City writer Alea Adigweme. At 1 p.m. Oct. 8, Iowa native Nathan Hill, who once worked at The Gazette, will read from his critically acclaimed debut novel “The Nix.” And at 2 p.m. Oct. 9, Suki Kim will discuss “Without You There is No Us,” her memoir of teaching English in North Korea. Her discussion is in partnership with the UI Center for Human Rights that selected her book for this year’s One Community, One Book program.

In short — “We have some majorly talented writers talking about very compelling topics,” Kenyon said.

IOWA CITY BOOK FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

Oct. 4

Public reading: “Crime and Punishment”; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 4, 5 and 6; Old Capitol, east entrance, 21 N. Clinton St., Iowa City

The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care; 6:30 p.m.; Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St., Coralville

Oct. 5

“The Man Who Planted Trees,” a family-friendly play; 2 p.m. Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5, 4 p.m. Oct. 6; Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Road, Iowa City; Tickets: hancher.uiowa.edu/tickets

Michelle Hoover, discussing “Bottomland”; 7 p.m., Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Oct. 6

Andrea Wulf, discussing “The Invention of Nature”; noon, Old Capitol, Senate chamber, 21 N. Clinton St., Iowa City

“The Fail Safe” podcast with Roxane Gay, live taping; 1 p.m.; Clinton Street Social Club, 18 1/2 S. Clinton St., Iowa City

Panel: “Crime and Punishment” at 150; 2 p.m., Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Roxane Gay receives Paul Engle Prize; 7 p.m.; Coralville Public Library, 1401 Fifth St., Coralville

Oct. 7

Panel: Writing and Politics; noon, Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, social hall, 220 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City

“Freeman’s” family issue launch with John Freeman and Aleksandar Hemon; 5 p.m.; Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

John Iran Thomas, “TIRE” and “Man Is Vox: Barracudae”; 7 p.m., Daydreams Comics, 21 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

The Open Courtyard: Possibilities of the Personal, with Leslie Jamison; 6 p.m.; hotelVetro, ballroom, 201 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Rick Riordan, sold out; 7 p.m., The Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City

Oct. 8

Book fair; all day; Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City

Don Quixote Redraw / Redibujar Don Quixote, bilingual children’s event; 10 a.m. to noon; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room D, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Workshop: Simple Artist’s Book Structures, with the Iowa City Press Co-op; 10 a.m. to noon; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room E, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City; register at iowacitybookfestival.org/workshops

Reading Aloud: Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah; 10 a.m.; Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, social hall, 220 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City

Panel: Sense of Place I; 10 a.m.; City Hall, council chambers, 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City

Reading: Ray Hendrickson, “Yarns by Ray”; 10 a.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, room 202; 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Reading: Julie Rubini and Tom Shroder, “Missing Millie Benson” and “The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived”; 10 a.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, assembly room, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Reading: Robert Oldshue and Allegra Hyde, “November Storm” and “Of This New World”; 10 a.m.; Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

Reading: Dan Barry and James Brooks, “The Boys in the Bunkhouse” and “Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre”; 10 a.m.; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Beyond Realism; 10 a.m.; FilmScene, 118 E. College St., Iowa City

Fracture: A Discussion, about Ice Cube Press anthology about fracking; 10 a.m.; Old Capitol, senate chambers, 21 N. Clinton St., Iowa City

Prompted: A Parade of Creative Writing Activities, with the Iowa Youth Writing Project; 11 a.m.; Weatherdance fountain stage, Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City; register at iowacitybookfestival.org/workshops

Panel: Pics or It Didn’t Happen; 11:30 a.m.; City Hall, council chambers; 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City

Shakespeare, That Global Brand; 11:30 a.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, room 202, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Reading: F. Paul Wilson, “Panacea”; 11:30 a.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, assembly room; 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

The Rising Generation poetry reading, Nell Regan; 11:30 a.m.; Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, social hall, 220 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City

Reading: Jennifer L. Knox and Ryan Collins, “A New American Field Guide & Song Book” and “Days of Shame and Fear”; 11:30 a.m.; Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

Reading: Crystal Chan, “Bird”; 11:30 a.m.; Iowa City Public Library, teen room, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Reading: Robert Olen Butler, “Perfume River”; 11:30 a.m.; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Writing as Recovery; 11:30 a.m.; FilmScene, 118 E. College St., Iowa City

Panel: Publishing in Iowa; 11:30 a.m.; Old Capitol, senate chambers, 21 N. Clinton St., Iowa City

Word Portraits: Getting to character through rhythm and point of view, with Prompt Press and Free Generative Workshops; 1 p.m.; Weatherdance Fountain Stage, Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City; register at register at iowacitybookfestival.org/workshops

Reading: Adam Hooks and Emily Martin, on Shakespeare and art books; 1 p.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, room 202, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Writing With Your Thumbs; 1 p.m.; Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, social hall, 220 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City

Reading: Nathan Hill and Alexander Maksik, “The Nix” and “Shelter in Place”; 1 p.m.; Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

Indie Author Day live steam panel discussion; 1 p.m.; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room D, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Leonard Pitt, Jr., “Grant Park”; 1 p.m.; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Who Do You Read?; 1 p.m., City Hall, council chambers, 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City

Workshop: Japanese stab binding, with Juile Russell Steuart of Caveworks Press & Studios; 2 p.m.; Weatherdance Fountain Stage, Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City; register at iowacitybookfestival.org/workshops

Reading: Catherine A. Stewart, “Long Past Slavery”; 2:30 p.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, room 202, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Reading: John Domini and Kali VanBaale, “Movieola” and “The Good Divide”; 2:30 p.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, assembly room; 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Senes of Place II; 2:30 p.m.; Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, social hall, 220 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City

Reading: Okey Ndibe, “Never Look an American in the Eye”; 2:30 p.m.; Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

Aleksandar Hemon with Velibor Bozovic, discussing “The Lazarus Project”; 2:30 p.m.; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Binaries on the Run; 2:30 p.m.; City Hall, council chambers, 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City

Reading: Lynne Nugent and Katherine E. Standefer, “The Best American Essays”; 4 p.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, room 202, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Reading: Hilary Plum and Rachel Corbett, “Watchfires” and “You Must Change Your Life”; 4 p.m.; Iowa City Senior Center, assembly room, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Industrial-strength literature; 4 p.m.; Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, social hall, 220 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City

Reading: Tom Lutz and Marc Nielson, “And the Monkey Learned Nothing” and “Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love & Landscape”; 4 p.m.; Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

Reading: Claire Hoffman, “Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood”; 4 p.m.; Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Panel: Indie Authors; 4 p.m.; City Hall, council chambers, 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City

“Iphigenia: Fragments from an Excavation,” staged reading; 7 p.m.; Old Capitol, senate chambers, 21 N. Clinton St., Iowa City

Oct. 9

City of Literature historical walking tour; 10 a.m.; meet at Iowa Writers’ House, 332 E. Davenport St.

Poetry and Mimosas, reading featuring Rescue Press and Iowa Writers’ Workshop writers; 11:30 a.m.; RSVP, 140 N. Linn St., Iowa City

Open house, Iowa Writers’ House; noon to 1:30 p.m.; Iowa Writers’ House, 332 E. Davenport St., Iowa City

Undercover in North Korea: discussion with Suki Kim on “Without You, There is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korean Elite”; 2 p.m.; Pomerantz Center, room C20, 213 N. Clinton St., Iowa City

Little Village Roast of Iowa City; 4 p.m.; Trumpet Blossom Cafe, 310 E. Prentiss St., Iowa City

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.