Wednesday, December 30, 2009

House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni

We always enjoy hosting home-grown Iowa writers, but it's going to be especially fun to include this bright, young writer in our 2010 AViD Author Series! His name is Peter Bognanni and for anyone familiar with our library system, that name may ring a bell. Peter is the son of Kathy and Sal Bognanni and Kathy is the branch manager of our Franklin Avenue Library. She told us last year that her son's book was slated to be published and it comes out next March!

House of Tomorrow is a delightful story, set in Iowa, about Sebastian Prendergast who lives in a geodesic dome with his eccentric grandmother. adds:
Jared Whitcomb is a chain-smoking sixteen-year-old heart-transplant recipient who befriends Sebastian, and begins to teach him about all the things he has been missing, including grape soda, girls, and Sid Vicious. They form a punk band called The Rash, and it's clear that the upcoming Methodist Church talent show has never seen the likes of them. Wholly original, The House of Tomorrow is the story of a young man's self-discovery, a dying woman's last wish, and a band of misfits trying desperately to be heard.

The book just received a starred review in Publishers Weekly--a indicator that it's a book worth reading and Peter was recently asked by the New York Times to write a blog about some of the music that has influenced him.

We are pleased as punch to include Peter in our lineup, so mark your calendars to attend his talk at the Central Library on Monday, May 10 at 7:00 PM (timed so that Peter can spend Mothers Day with his mom!) Books will be available for sale and signing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Half Broke Horses

I just finished reading Jeannette Walls delightful new book called Half Broke Horses and give it the highest of recommendations. If you liked her first book, The Glass Castle, you must read this one because it is all about her mother's mother who grew up during the depression on a ranch in Arizona and provides wonderful insight to Jeannette's mother's life.

I wish my dad, who was a cowboy himself, could have read this book. There were many descriptions and comments that reminded me of him--roping calves, taming wild horses, wearing Levi's until they develped a fine patina of dirt, manure, and grease. This was one book that I read during the middle of the night and could hardly stop reading. It transported me back to many of the places we have often visited in Arizona and reminded me of the grit of some of our ancestors.

Enjoy the holidays and take some time to read!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Peter Hedges Switched to April 13

Planning the AViD Author Series is a lot like putting together a jig saw puzzle. Every year, we start out with a blank slate and then we quickly fill a variety of slots with fascinating, nationally recognized authors. This year will be no exception.

We always begin by looking at the authors that our current audiences have suggested. There are always the predictable suggestions for authors--like John Grisham and Jodi Picoult--but our AViD budget is not large and their honorariums are.

So first we review a list of authors submitted by people that attended our series this past year. Then we look through various publications and catalogs to see which authors will be headed out on book tours. Then we talk to our various publishing contacts to see who they might recommend. We also talk to authors--who recommend their own favorites. Finally, our Selection Committee meets to go over a short "wish list." Then we begin booking the authors!

Ten years ago, when we first started the AViD Author Series, I would call the publishers and they would say, Des Moines where? Now, we sometimes get calls from publishers asking US to include their authors in our series--and that's fun!

This year, we had such a call from Peter's publicist. Of course, Peter is from Des Moines originally, so he asked his publicist to include us in his upcoming book tour. In addition to doing a program for us on April 13, Peter has also agreed to do one in Ames and he will be speaking at a Rotary event on Thursday, April 15.

He will be discussing his new book, The Heights. Here's a short blurb from the back jacket cover: Peter is the critically acclaimed author of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, the Oscar(TM)-nominated screenplay About a Boy, and the writer-director of Dan in Real Life. Now he turns his keen eye for the surprising truths of daily life to a story of middle-class parents, rich parents, private school, real esteate, and a good marriage turned upside-down when a new neighbor moves into town.

Watch here for more information about additional AViD writers once we have them confirmed.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Well, the AViD 2010 series has its first confirmed author--Peter Hedges! Peter has a new book coming out in March 2010 called, The Heights, and asked his publicist to book him during the AViD series in Des Moines! Peter brought in a great crowd when he came a few years ago and I expect he will pull another huge audience this time. So mark your calendars for April 12 as he will probably be the author to kick off the series! Not sure just yet on the venue--maybe Hoyt Sherman, maybe Drake.

I'm also working out details with Nick Reding, author of Methland, who also is interested in attending. So that's two Iowa related authors already.

My good friends at HarperCollins are working on several outstanding writers as well and so I am getting excited to see just who we can bring to celebrate our tenth year!

I received a galley copy of Peter's new book and it is a delightful romp through Brooklyn Heights, filled with zany humor, Peter's quick-witted observations on everyday life and some wonderful characterizations of parents overindulging their children and themselves.

Unfortunately, I am so tired from moving furniture that I can't stay awake to read more of the book. We are in the midst of re-finishing eight rooms of wood floors. Last week we moved out four rooms and this weekend, we moved those four rooms' furniture back as well as four other roomfuls of furniture. By the end of this week we should have all eight rooms and the hallway finished so we can then begin to get back to normal life. Still need to paint two bedrooms and a guy is coming tomorrow to hopefully begin work on a new deck outside. Life in an old house is never dull.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

AViD 2010 Lineup Begins!

The 2010 AViD Selection Committee met on Friday and we already are well on our way to a great lineup. Since this will be our tenth anniversary, we are hoping to make it a memorable series! We are hoping to bring in Nick Reding, the author of Methland and I have already been in touch with his agent.

We hope to offer ten wonderful writers again this year. Watch this space as I will post the authors as soon as we have them confirmed!

Currently, I am reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafron--a big thick book with an amazing plot centered around a writer and an antique book store. It's a deep read so I alternated that one with Kay Bucksbaum's memoir, A Place to Grow and now have moved on to Driftless, the 2010 All Iowa Reads selection.

Kay's book is fun to read since it's all about her childhood in Des Moines, centered around Polk Blvd. Kay will visit the Central Library on Tuesday, November 10 at 6:30 PM. I especially love the back jacket cover blurb by her son-in-law Thomas Friedman, who says, "It's the best bio I've ever read."

I have just begun Driftless, set in Wisconsin, and am already engaged with the rural characters it depicts. Looking forward to more time to read soon as I am taking a couple days off work to welcome daughter Makenzie home this week! She has been out in the Northwest Pacific for the last three months picking blueberries, gathering honey, and falling in love with the area. Anxious to hear all about her travels.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Hatbox Baby

At a recent author event, I was promoting the upcoming visit by Carrie Brown, who will be our final AViD author this year. She will speak at Sheslow Auditorium on Friday, October 23 at 7:00 PM. We selected her because her book, The Rope Walk, was chosen this year as the All Iowa Reads book. I had read that book many months ago and found it delightful--a wonderful story of childhood friendship and innocence, darkened by the story of a neighbor they befriend who is dying of AIDS.

When I mentioned the book to a woman who comes to many of our programs, she asked, "Oh but have you read, The Hatbox Baby?" She continued, "it's all about premature babies that they exhibited at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair!" So, indeed, I had to read it.

She was right, that is the core of the story, but Brown manages to weave several other amazing characters into this story based on history. The doctor, who is able to keep many of the babies alive using the money he gets from fair-goers. The fan dancer who is the only one to draw more gawkers. Her dwarf-like brother, a preemie, himself. The nurse, who loves the babies that she knows she will never have. And many other fascinating characters including the hatbox baby and his parents.

At first glance, the reader is repulsed to think that we would ever allow tiny, living humans to be put into such a freak show. And the ending leaves more questions than answers. But a very worthwile read.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An Amazing Array of Authors at Iowa Author Dinner

It was a dark and gloomy night, but it quickly warmed up as hundreds of library supporters came together last Thursday evening for the tenth annual Iowa Author Dinner sponsored by the Des Moines Public Library Foundation. A trio of honorees shared their unique perspectives and delightful personalities: Millie Kalish, as warm and genuine as her readers would expect from her book, Little Heathens. John Stauffer, a Roosevelt grad now at Harvard University, as articulate and brilliant as his recent book Giants. Debra Marquart, a North Dakota native who now teaches creative writing at ISU, capping it off with a touching tribute to Iowa and a hilarious tribute to her lone chin whisker--a listing to which any woman over the age of forty can relate.

Michael and Barbara Gartner, honored for their work in promoting literacy and libraries, made for a most appropriate conclusion--featuring Michael as both moderator and honoree--as only Michael could do. A grand occasion that was equally entertaining, and a wonderful way to spend a cold and rainy night.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Literary Fiction Readers: Check out A Gate at the Stairs

It seems like I am in a phase of reading disturbing books--and Lorrie Moore's newest novel, A Gate at the Stairs, is a continuation of that trend. The book jacket's claim that "Moore's deft, lyrical writing brings us up against the heart of racisim, the shock of war, and the carelessness perpretrated by others in the name of love" is right on the mark! Just as I thought she was taking me in one direction, she veers into another difficult topic and the stories continue to haunt me. It's a very thoughtful book and Moore has a beautiful command of the language, using words to bring life in the Midwest into sharp focus. A very good read in spite of the disturbing subjects--my kind of book--the kind that makes you just sit and think upon finishing the last chapter. I am inspired to read more of her work, especially the book with the delightful title, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

October Treats Des Moines with Great Author Visits!

The month promises to be hectic and filled with plenty of opportunities to meet authors at the Central Library! Millie Kalish kicks it off on Thursday, October 1 at noon with a return visit prior to her appearance at the Iowa Author Dinner hosted by the Des Moines Public Library Foundation. Millie's book, Little Heathens, is a must read for anyone who grew up in Iowa. She captures both the joys and challenges of farm life and is an inspiration for anyone that is even remotely considering writing a book. She was in her eighties when she wrote it and it went on to become a best-seller, honored as one of The New York Times Top Ten Book in 2007!

We had a great event with Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, last week at the East Side Library as a kickoff to the wonderful baseball exhibit currently on display called: Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience. Next up, the opportunity to hear first hand stories from two actual players: Art "Superman" Pennington and Ernest "Schoolboy" Johnson. That's on October 5, at 6:30 PM, at the East Side Library.

Then we will gear up for a visit by Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, on October 13 at the Central Library. More about that book in my next blog.

And mark your calendars now for the Iowa Author Fair on Wednesday, October 21 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM featuring forty-eight Iowa authors, all at the Central Library.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Difficult Subject Makes for A Depressing Yet Worthwhile Read

I had read about the book Methland and decided that since it is set in Oelwein, a small town in Iowa, I should probably read it. But it is not a book that you can just sit down and read all at once. Having grown up in a small town and still residing in the same place, I fully appreciate the story of how a town can be significantly affected by the influx of meth.

During the '80's, as my kids were born and started school, I became acquainted with more than a few families where the parents had become addicted and I saw first-hand the devastating results of such addictions. Reading Methland, it is almost like the author, Nick Reding, could be talking about my own town as the characters are familiar and the results similar. It is a very difficult story to read, simply because it hits so close to home. I was particularly surprised by the big businesses that were involved in creating and perpetuating the problems. Reding deserves a lot of credit for tackling the subject--often putting himself in harm's way, in the pursuit of the story!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience

We have a wonderful exhibit coming to the East Side Library this month called, Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience. You can find more info at:

We kick it off with an opening night reception on Monday, September 21. The reception begins at 5:30 followed by an author event at 6:30 featuring Larry Tye, who will be discussing his book, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall Is a Great Time to READ!

Of course is there ever a bad time? I don't think so.

I can't believe it's been a year since I last added to this blog. I had such good intentions but the past year has been blur of author visits, programs, meetings, etc.

But enough about me--let's talk books.......

I just finished two great reads that I would highly recommend to anyone that likes good fiction. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is a fascinating story set in the early 60's, about a white socialite in Jackson, MS who decides to capture the stories of various maids. Once she finally persuades more than one woman to tell her story, she meets in secret to interview them and then publishes it anonymously. I heard Stockett speak at Book EXPO this summer and she is a delightful woman. Would love to have her come to DM for a visit!

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by James Ford is another great read. Ford will be coming to the Central Library on October 13 so mark your calendar. This book is set in the 40's and is a beautifully written, innocent love-story between a young Chinese boy and a Japenese girl. Their friendship causes the boy to be disowned by his stalwart father and gives insight to the country's atmosphere as the Japanese were herded into internment camps.