Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Books for the New Year

Buried within the 250 messages awaiting my return from the holidays, were two offers for author programs! I haven't read their books yet, but I did want to send out the publicity right away as they both sound like great reads and promise interesting programs!

Ambassador Mary E. Kramer, native Iowan and former Iowa Senate president, will discuss her new book, More Than a Walk on the Beach: Confessions of an Unlikely Diplomat, in the Central Library Meeting Room on Wednesday, January 19 at 6:30 PM, highlighting her unlikely journey from Iowa to the U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Her publicist tells me that the book is a "plainspoken and frank account of life as a U.S. Ambassador living abroad and gives insight to
the process a U.S. diplomat must go through, as well as Mary’s opinions on that lengthy—and sometimes frustrating—road to ambassadorship. Along the way, Mary relates her often humorous and entertaining experiences in dealing with dignitaries, foreign cultures, and the U.S. Government. More importantly, through her firsthand accounts of personal distress after witnessing the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, to the delicate balancing act needed in order to maintain foreign relations, Mary shares her guiding wisdom, common sense and inspiration to a sometimes chaotic profession."

On February 7, local author Kimberly Stuart is coming to the Central Library to LAUNCH her newst book, Operation Bonnet.
Kimberly reports that her book, about a private investigator want-to-be who dons an Amish bonnet to go undercover, has already received a good review from Publisher's Weekly. She has even had an inquiry about possible movie rights. Kimberly will be the featured guest for the library's Writer's Workshop on February 7 which is open to the public. I'm sure she will have lots of advice to share--both with readers and with writers--as this is her fifth book to be published.

We will have books available for sale and signing at both events, so mark your calendars!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Need a Good Book?

Whether you are looking for suggestions on the next book to read, a good title for your book club, or perhaps a story that will appeal to a reluctant reader, our new Readers Advisory Wiki is just the ticket.

You will find all kinds of lists and links to helpful web sites. Looking for the next title in a series? Click on What's Next. Need a downloadable book? Click on Adult/Free Downloadable Audio and E-Books. How about a book with Iowa connections? Click on Iowa Interests/Contemporary Iowa Works.

Bestsellers, award-winners, thrillers - whatever you like to read! Visit the wiki often as our librarians will be updating the lists often and adding new recommendations. Please give this new wiki a try and let us know how you like it! We would love to hear from you if there's another list that you would like us to add.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How Many Rainbows Do You Know?

Whenever a publicist calls, I must admit that I feel a twinge of excitement, We have had some wonderful authors visit our library following such calls--Bill Geist, Lisa Scottoline, Jamie Ford, Joe Hill to name just a few.

Last week, I had a call from Rainbow Rowell's publicist. Have you ever known anyone named Rainbow? That was enough to pique my interest and then when I heard the premise of her debut novel, Attachments, I was really intrigued. It's about an I.T. guy who has been hired to monitor the internal emails at a small newspaper.

My reading time is somewhat limited right now because of all the holiday happenings, but I'm almost halfway through the book. It's full of delightful e-mail banter between two work friends that makes me wonder just how many employees spend their work time discussing their mundane daily lives via office email. (Is this the new watercooler chatter?) And how many employers actually hire folks to monitor those very emails.........

Rainbow Rowell, in real life, writes for the Omaha World Herald--so she's well suited to know the inside story of news rooms. And she's funny! And she wants to come visit us. She has a blog. (Note: She is a HUGE fan of Glee.)

Her book comes out in February. Take a look and let me know what you think.
And for the record, I actually do know another person named Rainbow, but I think she spells it without the w.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Plenty of Turkey (with a few books thrown in)

My family and I have been "well-turkeyed" this week. Enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at my father-in-law's nursing home earlier in the week. Then had a full meal with all the trimmings with extended family at noon yesterday and delicious turkey sandwiches with my sister's family last night!

It's always fun to catch up with what's going on in the family--sometimes it's more drama than we prefer, but still, it's good to hear what's happening with everyone. One of my cousins has a friend named Deb who works at a book store and this year we re-connected. It starts out so innocently with a simple question like, "what's the best book you've read this year?" and before we know it, we are at a full gallop traveling across the range of fiction, nonfiction, and beyond!

Within minutes, she had grabbed a pen and a piece of paper to write down her favorites and we were googling via my mobile phone to look up a couple of titles we were having trouble remembering, immersed in our own little world of "book lust." Now before I lose the slip of paper she wrote on, I am going to enter her best reads list. After all, she works in a book store and she ought to know!

The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer

Atlantic : Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester

Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

Jarrettsville by Cornelia Nixon

Cleopatra : A Life by Stacy Schiff

And just in case you are favorite book this past year, would have to be The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (which Deb hasn't read......but will!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Is a Book?

If you live in Iowa and you love to read, you really should check out this group of dedicated "bookies" who contribute their time and energy to something called the Iowa Center for the Book(ICB). The ICB is a program of the State Library of Iowa and an affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress whose mission is "to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries."

I have the pleasure of representing the DMPL on the ICB's advisory board and recently attended a meeting. In addition to offering a wonderful web site devoted to reading and books, the ICB also collects the names of Iowa Authors--a task that is not as easy as one might assume at first glance. The ICB's list of Iowa Authors is a great resource for readers, librarians, teachers, and anyone else who might have an interest in finding an author. (The DMPL also has an Iowa Author list with slightly different criteria.)

The list currently includes the names and contact information for more than 230 authors--not bad for our small state when one considers that the criteria for being included on the list is:
Author is presently living and writing in Iowa.
Author is writing for the non-specialist reader.
Author writes books for adult, young adult, or juveniles.
Author's book is in physical format, printed and bound.
Author's book is owned by at least one library in Iowa that is open to the public.

That's where the discussion about "what is a book" gets interesting. Nowadays, with e-books and all the self-publishing opportunities, it's becoming harder and harder to define exactly what constitutes a book, hence an author. The committee is going to leave the current criteria in place for the time being, but we will continue, I'm sure, to re-examine it at future meetings.

No matter. The important thing is to continue our mission of encouraging the love of reading! So, check out the list and if you know of any authors that should be on there, tell them to submit their names.

Another cool thing that the ICB web site contains is a wonderful literary calendar of all kinds of book-related programs and events, including information about the annual All Iowa Reads selection and related events. Enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Connecting Through Books

One of the best things about working at a library is that people love to tell you what they are reading. I might run into a friend at the grocery store or a lecture and invariably, we start talking about books. Of course, talking about books is a big part of my job, so maybe I do tip the conversation in that direction!

This week I had the pleasure of attending the Bucksbaum Lecture and hearing Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. Dr. Nafisi’s book is about the women’s book discussion group she began, comprised of seven of her best female students who secretly attended regular meetings at her house weekly. They would study such books as Lolita and Madame Bovary, literary works considered controversial and even dangerous to read in Iranian society. Often, Nafisi would encourage her readers to bring westernized clothing underneath their veils, and they would put on make-up during the meetings.

Much of Nafisi’s talk addressed the importance of taking personal responsibility and the need for greater civility throughout the world. But the portion of her talk that really struck a chord with me was her focus on the absolute joy of reading—the intimacy of strangers, she called it. She described how reading a book can close the gap between cultures, between countries, between strangers. Two people reading the same book, immediately have a sense of sameness—no matter their backgrounds. There is a sense of sharing the experience along with a sense of escape-- the sense, as described by Atticus Finch, of walking in someone else’s shoes.

I guess that might explain why wherever I go, I love to ask people what they are reading. It’s amazing how quickly and easily you can connect with someone by just listening to them describe the book that might be stashed on their night stand, or in their Kindle, or on a CD in their car’s stereo. If you’ve read the book that they mention, you instantly want to share your favorite parts with them. If you haven’t read it, you want to know what they like about it. If you are familiar with the author, you may gain a bit of insight as to how the reader thinks. It’s all about connecting, and isn’t that a wonderful thing? In this fast paced, often impersonal world of technology and cubicles, it's wonderful to actually connect with a person. Here at the library, we are seeing an increase in teens wanting to connect via our craft programs, gaming events, and book discussions. It's a nice role for the library--and another great reason to support it financially!

And in case you're interested....This week I am listening (in my car) to The End of Overeating by David Kessler. On my nightstand is, an advanced reader copy by Julia Glass, called The Widower’s Tale. And next to my reading chair downstairs is a book by Benjamin Percy, a young Iowa State University teacher I just heard about called, The Wilding. Three very different books, but I am enjoying each one!
What are you reading?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Socks for a Squadron!

When Sarah Early, one of the youth specialists at the Central Library heard that we had scheduled a program with Major Chuck Larson, in recognition of Veterans Day, she suggested that we might want to add in a service project for our staff association to sponsor for the holidays. You see, Sarah knows firsthand about service men because she has a couple of sons that are Marines.

On November 9, at 6:30 PM Major Larson will be speaking about his book Heroes Among Us: Firsthand Accounts of Combat from America’s Most Decorated Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan. These stories tell of the training and the commitment our men and women have made to freedom around the world.

And that's why you will soon be hearing more about putting socks on a squadron of soldiers called the Flying Tigers because we have teamed with the folks at Fox River, a manufacturer in Osage, IA who has a wonderful initiative to provide wool socks to soldiers overseas.

In honor of the men and women who are currently serving our country, the Des Moines Public Library Staff Association in conjunction with Fox River Mills is sponsoring this holiday project. On the night of Chuck Larson’s talk you will be able to order a pair of warm Fox River Mills socks for just $10.00. You will also get two cards, one card will be attached to the socks and have space for your greeting and appreciation. The second card is for you to give to someone else acknowledging this purchase was made in their name. Our goal is send 300 pairs of socks to Afghanistan for the holidays.

According to Sarah and her sons, receiving any kind of item from back home is greatly appreciated. Warm, dry socks would be a wonderful gift. Watch our web site for details on this project or write to Sarah directly at for more information.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Couple of Books about Birds

Every so often we seem to experience a bit of serendipity here at the library. This month it seems to revolve around birds! Larry Stone, a great nature photographer sent us some information recently with an offer to do a program about his newest book (cowritten by Jon W. Stavers) titled, Gladys Black: The Legacy of Iowa’s Bird Lady. You may recognize Larry’s name from his twenty-five years as the outdoor writer for The Des Moines Register. He’s written several other nature books featuring wonderful stories about local characters and beautiful photos of some of Iowa’s most picturesque scenery. His book about Gladys, who also wrote many newspaper articles, is a wonderful look at the countless lives (birds and humans) she touched and how she became a conservation legend. Larry will present his program at the East Side Library on Wednesday, October 20 at 6:30 PM.

Once we had the program about Iowa’s bird lady planned, we called up our friend Pat Schlarbaum at the Department of Natural Resources. So during the entire month of October, you can stop by the East Side Library and see a life-sized replica of a bald eagle’s nest. Then it was only natural that we would also have to offer a showing of that great Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The Birds, right? It’s free, it’s at 1:00 PM this Saturday, October 9 and it’s at the East Side Library. Bring the family!

Think that's enough about birds! Oh no, here's where the serendipity happens!

After we booked all the bird events, right out of the blue sky, (pun is definitely intended) came a phone call from another local writer, Wendy Delsol, who has written this thrilling debut novel called, STORK. It’s being sold as a young adult book, but I took it along on my recent vacation and can honestly say that it was a fun read. I just learned that the ALA, American Library Association, included it in its nominations for Best Fiction for Young Adults. I don’t want to give too much away, but just know that it has plenty of fantasy for teens, a lot of suspense, and some delightful Scandinavian references that will appeal to adult Iowans and Minnesotans!
Wendy will be here at the Central Library on Monday, October 18, at 6:30 PM. Get set to hear more about this local writer because she has already signed for the sequel, Frost, to be released next year! Hope you land at the library some time this month!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bonobos, Elephants, and Wicked Plants

Some people await that newest Janet Evanovich mystery, others limit their reading to strictly non-fiction. As for me, my reading selections seem to change like the wind. Since I work with people who "book" for a living, it's probably not surprising that I hear about a wide range of titles, subjects, and authors.

Thanks to a long weekend due to the Labor Day holiday and an extra furlough day thanks to the city's budget, I had the pleasure of several extra hours of reading. In preparation for Sara Gruen's upcoming visit, I devoured the memoir, Bonobo Handshake, by Vanessa Woods--a lovely telling of her romance with a chimp researcher as they traveled to the Congo to study bonobos. Bonobos, like chimps, share most of our human DNA but are quite different socially from chimps. It's fascinating (and inspiring) to read of the peaceful interactions in the bonobo colony. We humans could certainly learn lessons--and we should!

Sara Gruen's book, Water for Elephants, is another amazing story with great insight to the animal world. Be sure to read the afterword about all the research she did on circus animals. I especially loved the story about the elephant who had learned how to remove her stake from the ground, drink the large vat of circus lemonade, and then replace the stake leaving the circus workers to wonder who was stealing all the lemonade!

My daughter recently recommended a rather eccentric book, Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities. It's bright green cover and intriguing etchings is your first hint that this not your typical botanical read! I have always been intrigued by medicinal plants and this book takes it a step further than that. It could be an invaluable source for anyone writing a murder mystery!

This morning I finished reading a memoir by Michelle Norris, a name you may recognize from her reporting on NPR. It's called The Grace of Silence . I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle in NYC last May at Book Expo where she shared that she really didn't set out to write a memoir, but rather a report on race relations since Obama's election. However, as she worked on the story, she discovered that there were several things in her own family's history that deserved further investigation. Always the excellent journalist, the book is a fascinating story of how she uses her skills to learn more about the people who raised her.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Planning a Promising Panel Discussion Around Mockingbird Anniversary

Every once in a while, an event just drops into place and such was the case with the plans for our celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, the immortal book by Harper Lee. As part of the celebration, HarperCollins has published a new book entitled, Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird, by journalist and filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy, featuring a collection of interviews with famous Americans as they reflect on how Harper Lee’s masterpiece influenced them in all aspects of their lives.

So as part of that celebration, we have scheduled a free showing of the Academy Award-winning movie, staring Gregory Peck--set for Tuesday, September 14 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Central Library. This program is being offered as part of the popular "Literacy in a Different Way series" hosted by librarian Laura Walth.

Next, the folks at Franklin Avenue Library are including the book in two of their monthly book discussions:
Thursday, August 5, 1:00 PM
Tuesday, September 14, 6:30 PM

Our friends at HarperCollins Publishers are donating six free copies of To Kill A Mockingbird to use as prizes for a contest during the month of September. One winner will be drawn at each of our six library locations.

And we are all set to host a MEMORABLE PANEL DISCUSSION at the Central Library on Wednesday, September 15 at 6:30 PM! Carol Spaulding-Kruse, assocate professor of English at Drake University has agreed to act as moderator for our most distinquished panel, which includes:
Retired Meredith executive, author, and poet James Autry
Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines CEO J. Barry Griswell
Polk County Judge Odell McGhee
Retired DMPS Principal Kittie Westin-Knauer
and National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling.

So, you have plenty of time to read the book, for the first time or perhaps the second or third. Enter our contest during the month of September! Encourage your kids to read the book, or better yet, read it with them, then watch the movie together.

It's an American classic! The perfect thing to read in Des Moines- just named as an All American City for 2010.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Oh Jackie! - Writer Jacquelyn Mitchard Tackles TV

Years ago, before there was an AViD Author Series, I remember reading columns by Jacquelyn Mitchard in the Des Moines Register and thinking to myself that she seemed like a woman I would love to have as a friend. Reading her column was sort of like reading a letter from a good friend, always interesting, usually from a view-point to which I could relate. I almost always agreed with her politics, and always admired her ethics and her positive outlook on life.

When Oprah selected Mitchard's book, The Deep End of the Ocean, for the Oprah Book Club, I knew Mitchard was destined for more (well-deserved) fame. So when we started targeting authors to bring to Des Moines for our AViD series, Jacquelyn Mitchard was on my short-list. But in the early days, it wasn't so easy to just call up a publisher and ask for a certain author. In fact, I remember calling up a few publishers and after learning that I was calling from Des Moines, they would reply, "And why would we want to send an author to Des Moines?"

But after a few years of successful events with large, enthusiastic audiences and happy authors who reported back to their publicists how much they enjoyed coming to Des Moines, it got easier to request authors. And eventually we brought Jackie Mitchard to Des Moines! Just as I imagined, it was instantly like meeting an old friend. As you might expect if you read her books, she is bright, kind, and just as warm as her writing.

I got an email from her this week about a new project she is proposing for her own talk show! It's going to be all about re-inventing yourself and believe me, Jackie knows a little something about that. Remember, she wrote her first book right after her husband died of cancer. This past year has been a challenge for her too.

Here's a paragraph from her email:
I've always said, when the going gets tough, take more risks. And this year has been the kind of year I've needed to listen to my own advice. The week after we were approved to adopt two beautiful daughters from Ethiopia, we learned we'd lost everything in a crippling theft by a hometown boy posing as an investment counselor. The guy promised to help some of his thousand victims recover their hard-earned life savings, but he lied to the federal judges. Still, not long after we found that out, our first college graduate put on his cap and gown.
Lots of pearls among the pebbles.

If you are a fan of Jackie's writing, you are sure to enjoy Jacquelyn's Audition: Oh, Jackie! (Reinvent Yourself. Reinvent Your World) - OWN TV .

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fifty Years Later--Mockingbird Message Still Sings

Our rainy weather provides a great excuse to sit back and enjoy an old movie, so that's exactly what I did last weekend. I had been assigned to read To Kill a Mockingbird way back in high school and found it charming and haunting and memorable. When the movie came out in 1962, I was still a child. I'm sure my mother would not have taken me to see such an "adult" movie. By the time I was old enough to watch it, I leaned toward less literary movies and was more likely to watch The Graduate or Blazing Saddles.

But since this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the book, I decided to watch the movie and realized that I HAD NEVER SEEN it. What a magnificent movie it is! Gregory Peck at his finest. Black and white film at its best. The most remarkable child actors! And of course, the genius of Harper Lee's story.

There's a new book out called, Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird that is a collection of essays by celebrites who describe the impact that To Kill A Mockingbird had on them. The folks at HarperCollins are helping us plan a celebration for the book's anniversary with several events at the library this fall. I really hope we can show the movie and introduce a whole new generation to the story. We're considering a To Kill A Mockingbird contest too, asking people to tell us what the book has meant to them. We're also planning book discussions and perhaps a panel discussion about the book's relevance fifty years later.

If you love To Kill A Mockingbird, we'd love to hear ideas on other ways that we could celebrate this monumental book. Whether the stormy weekend forecast holds true or not, do yourself a favor and check out the book or movie to re-discover Harper Lee's amazing, timeless tale.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rainy Day Readin'

It's a rainy Saturday morning--the perfect excuse for crawling back in bed for an extra hour of reading time! The past week, I read an advance copy of Sara Gruen's Ape House--a good story that has propelled me to continue in the "primate genre" that seems to be evident in the current publishing environment. Next up, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by a recent U. of I. Writer's Workshop grad named Benjamin Hale. It's an interesting premise of a love affair between a primate and his caretaker! And another book just showed up in my inbox this week, called Lucy by Laurence Gonzales. It's about a girl sho is part ape. The author describes it as a coming-of-age novel about a wonderful young girl discovering herself and the world in which she finds herself. Lucy says it herself: All teenagers have feelings like hers. The message is: Lucy is a novel. It’s a story, and as such, it’s meant to make people turn the pages and laugh and cry. If they happen to have deep thoughts along the way, that’s good, too. But if all Lucy does is to make you stay up late reading, then that’s enough for me.

Fortunately the forecast is for a lot more rain, so I have a good excuse for why my garden is NOT going to get weeded this weekend!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Librarians Go Ga Ga

If you still think all librarians wear buns and spend their days shushing people, check out this cool You Tube video produced by library science students at Washington State.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Authors You Would Like to Meet?

It won't be long before we begin planning for AViD 2011, so I'd like to send a shout out to all AViD fans--what authors are you just dying to meet? And yes, I know that you would love to have John Grisham or Stephen King--but please remember, we do have a limited budget.

With that in mind, I would encourage you to make suggestions and begin an exchange of ideas. We have a wonderful selection committee who considers authors all year long. We also collect suggestions at each of our events, and encourage members of the audience to list their favorite authors.

So, if there is a certain author that you'd like to suggest, feel free to let us know. You can find a complete list of our past AViD authors on our web site.

More Info from Book Expo

Okay avid readers, here's a link to some great inside scoops from the Book Expo that I just attended. Enjoy! BS060310BEA10BookPanels

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Passage--Promises to be Hottest Book of the Summer

Promoted as a cross between The Andromeda Strain and The Stand, the book grabs you in its first thirty pages, with questions that you can't wait to turn the page to answer--and a reference to Iowa in the first paragraph, no less! The author, Justin Cronin, is a U. of I. Writers Workshop graduate who teaches at Rice University. He was one of the last authors to sign books at the Random House booth on Thursday, but the line waiting for him was one of the longest lines of the show. I think they put him last so that people (who typically ship their books homes) would be forced to carry his book onto the plane--great marketing strategy!

For a bookie like me, Book Expo is the closest thing to taking a vacation
while working. Jon Stewart tickled the audience with his silent
reading of his new book EARTH, which he hopes will become a science textbook for high schools this fall. John Grisham shared his inspiration for his upcoming book, The Confession --a followup to his nonfiction book called,The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, -- from an obit he read of a man who had been incarcerated for a crime he did not commit, then freed due to new DNA analysis techniques. Michelle Norris, from NPR's All Things Considered, shared a glimpse of her "extraordinarily ordinary" parents, in a memoir called, The Grace of Silence, as did Condeleeza Rice in a book also dedicated to her parents. Barbra Streisand,the perfectionist, shared with Oprah's friend Gayle King, her woes of remodeling her various homes.

Sara Gruen, of Water for Elephants fame, drew a huge crowd for Ape House--which I had planned to read on the plane, until I got sucked into the vortex of The Passage! There's another primate book in my very near future, by Benjamin Hale. Entitled, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, it is a first person account (by a talking chimp) of a love affair with his human.

I met Nelson DeMille, a long-time personal favorite and was intrigued by a presentation by mystery writers, Karin Slaughter, Lee Childs, and Justin Cronin, (who wrote The Passage--and yes, there is already a movie deal in the works).

For all you romance readers, I connected with Debbie Macomber who is considering a trip to Des Moines next year. And so is Adriana Trigiani--who is as funny as any stand up comic. So many great writers--so many great books!

In the next few weeks, I will be sharing my thoughts on some of the advanced reader copies that I picked up. For starters, here's the short stack currently on my bedside table:
--Ape House, by Sara Gruen
--Room, by Emma Donoghue
--God's Guest List, by Debbie Macomber
--Naked in Eden, by Robin Easton
--The Promise, by Jonathan Alter

Sunday, May 23, 2010

NYC Book EXPO! An AViD Reader's Delight!

Books, authors, and publishers--all gathered in one city--and I get to go! Book Expo brings together hundreds of authors and "bookish folks" like me and hundreds of other librarians, book sellers, publishers, etc.

Last year, within two minutes of entering the Javits Center, I met R. L. Stine coming up the stairs--and that was just the beginning! Nicholas Sparks, Capt. Sully (the pilot of the plane that went down in the river), Dr. Ruth, Julie Andrews, Pete Dexter, Richard Russo, Greg Mortenson, Peter Yarrow, Mary Karr, Holly Black--that's just a few of the wonderful writers on hand. I met Claire Cook there and that's how we were able to get her to come to Des Moines for AViD on June 15!

This year the event has been expanded to include several author events around the city and -- even a key note with Barbra Streisand Tuesday evening! I have several appointments with publishers so, trust me, I will be WORKING HARD ALL WEEK LONG to convince the authors I meet to add a trip to Des Moines on to their next book tour. It's grueling work, but somebody has to do it!

p.s. Mark your calendars for September 7--Sara Gruen has agreed to launch her newest book, Ape House, right here in good old Des Moines. She did a lot of research at The Great Ape Trust, so we are lucky enought to be the first city on her book tour! Her talk will be held at Hoyt Sherman Place Theater and will begin at 7:00 PM. More details soon!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Polygamy, Faith, and A Mother’s Love –Topic of Tonight’s AViD Author Event

Carolyn Jessop visited us last year on a cold day in February, but I still remember distinctly how much her warm spirit impressed me. Now back in Des Moines for an AViD Author Visit, it’s obvious that Carolyn continues to exude a quiet confidence and a strong faith. She will speak tonight (May 12) at 7:00 PM at Hoyt Sherman Place Theater, about her second book, Triumph, a moving and inspirational tale of her life since she fled, with her eight young children, from the extremist Mormon sect the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where she was raised.

Since then, Carolyn has been recognized for her bestselling memoir, Escape, and has become a spokesperson for women’s rights, sharing with readers the sources of the strength that has allowed her to not only survive but flourish in her new life.

Don’t miss her program tonight. (Books will be available for sale and signing after the program.)

I promise that you will be touched deeply by her quiet grace, saddened by her painful story, and inspired by how she has met the challenges in her life. Here’s a link to a more complete description of her two books.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We All Become Care Givers at Some Point: Passages of Caregiving by Gail Sheehy

If only Gail Sheehy would have written her book about ten years earlier! As she outlines in her new book, Passages of Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence, almost every person faces the task of caregiving at some point in their life. For me it was about ten years ago when we realized that my dad was showing signs of dementia. All at once, I found myself pulled in all directions, trying to figure out how to manage his care, researching the disease, the various options available in nursing care, dealing with doctors, Medicare, etc. It’s an overwhelming feeling and Gail Sheehy has done a great job of pulling it all together in one easy to read, extremely helpful book. She knows, first-hand, what it means to be a caregiver because she has spent the last seventeen years caring for her husband.
This morning, I watched an interview between Gail and Meredith Veira (another lady who also deals with her husband’s health issues) on The Today Show and I just read a story by Gail Sheehy in this month’s issue of AARP Magazine. (Gail was named Caregiving Ambassador for AARP last year.)
You can listen to an interview with Gail next Friday, May 14 on Iowa Public Radio’s The Exchange at 12:30 PM. Then plan to attend the free program with Gail at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, May 19 at Sheslow Auditorium on the Drake Campus as part of the library’s AViD Author Series.
Visit Gail’s web site for more details at:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Avidly Awaiting Ivan

One of the things that makes the AViD Author Series so much fun is that it gives us a chance to show off Des Moines during (mostly) beautiful weather and today is just the perfect day to welcome a remarkable writer like Ivan Doig to our fair city. He is set to arrive this afternoon and it should be fun showing him our city dressed in its springtime finery. From the several story daffodil depicted on the west end of Meredith's headquarters to the yellow and red tulips outside the Central Library and the gorgeous planter boxes along Locust and Grand, downtown Des Moines is as lovely as an Easter bonnet!

I just finshed Ivan's book, Winter Brothers:A Season at the Edge of America, an amazing account he wrote thirty years ago during a winter spent researching the travels of an explorer, drawn to the Pacific Northwest from Boston in the 1850's. If you are inquisitive and want to experience the wild coastline of Puget Sound, you will find Doig's research (and personal insights) of James Gilchrist Swan's journals fascinating.

Fans of Doig's book, The Whistling Season, have a treat in store because his next book, Work Song, (due out this summer) continues the story of schoolteacher Morrie, who travels to a copper mining town and settles in to a new role in the town's library. I had the pleasure of receiving an advanced reader copy and read it this past month right at the time of the two mining disasters. Doig's descriptions of the mines, and the men who worked in them, added a haunting awareness to what I was reading in the paper about the trapped miners.

Ivan Doig will be speaking at Sheslow Auditorium tomorrow night (April 19) at 7:00 PM. The event is open to the public and seating is first come, first served. If you love great writing, don't miss this chance to meet a legendary writer. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Love Big Books!

If you love to read as much as I do, you already know how it feels to get that email notice from the library saying that the best-selling title you requested MONTHS AGO is finally on the hold shelf for you, right? You see, I love big books--the kind that just beckon you to spend a week-end immersed in their story, the kind that you wake up in the middle of the night just so you can read another chapter, the kind that takes both hands to hold! And such is the case with Stephen King's Under the Dome.

How DOES the guy come up with these ideas and then go on to develop such amazing explanations? And how does he think up all those characters--the kind that everyone recognizes, the wackos, the heros? So, while everyone was complaining about the three inches of March snow we got yesterday, I confess that I was secretly thinking, oh good--I have a great excuse for cuddling under the covers and reading!

I'm about a fourth of the way through it already and find that I am feeling a wee bit guilty for reading it rather than some of the books by our upcoming visiting authors. But, King is my pure entertainment reading, my guilty pleasure, in other words! Gotta go--the dome awaits me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hear the Stories of Thirteen Immigrant Families By Award Winning Journalist Steven Roberts

Monday, March 8, 6:30 PM
Central Library

New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist and well-respected commentator Steven V. Roberts has always been fascinated by his grandparents’ migration to America from the Old World nearly one hundred years ago, and he traced their story in his stirring memoir My Fathers’ Houses. In his latest book, From Every End of this Earth: 13 Families and the New Lives They Made in America, he explores the contemporary immigrant experience and shares the accounts and voices of thirteen families who are following in the footsteps of his ancestors.

Roberts has been a journalist for more than forty years, working at the New York Times and U.S. News & World Report. He and his wife, television journalist and author Cokie Roberts, coauthored the New York Times bestseller, From This Day Forward.

The Journey Series is sponsored by the Des Moines Public Library Foundation with financial support from Wells Fargo, coordinated with assistance from HarperCollins Publishing, the Duncan Entertainment Group, and the Iowa Council for International Understanding.

Peter Hedges' New Book, The Heights, Now Available

Peter Hedges, another hometown boy, returns to Des Moines to kick off the 2010 season of AViD. I was lucky enough to receive an advance reader copy of his newest work, The Heights, and it sounds like it is already attracting some attention since it went on sale March 4. Listen to what Peter has to say about it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

AViD Author Peter Bognanni Creating Quite a Buzz

It's great fun to watch as a young author's work takes off and such is the case for our home-grown AViD author Peter Bognanni. In addition to an early starred review in Publishers Weekly, his book has also been noticed by Indie Bound, Borders, and Barnes & Noble. Local bookseller Beaverdale Books is in love with Peter's book and now we are hearing that even Oprah has discovered the story and will mention it in her April issue. And best of all, he will be here to speak about his experiences on Monday, May 10 as one of our AViD authors.

Here's Peter on Minnesota Public Radio

Here's Peter on a Twin Cities morning TV show

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Minivan Magic - MORE Magazine

Minivan Magic - MORE Magazine For all you want-to-be writers, check out this article by Claire Cook, who published her first bestseller at age 44.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 AViD Features Amazing Array of Authors

The Des Moines Public Library will kick off its tenth annual AViD Author Series on Tuesday, April 13 at Hoyt Sherman Place Theater, as writer and filmmaker Peter Hedges returns on book tour for his newest work, The Heights. Hedges grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa, and attended Valley High School. He is best known for his popular book and subsequent movie, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, as well as recent movies, Pieces of April and Dan in Real Life.

Poet Camille T. Dungy will stop by the Central Library on Wednesday, April 14 to share her recently published collection, Suck on the Marrow. She is also the author of What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison, was a finalist for the PEN Center USA 2007 Literary Award and the Library of Virginia 2007 Literary Award, and currently serves as editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for literature.

Legendary writer Ivan Doig will appear at Sheslow Auditorium on Monday, April 19. Doig was born in Montana in 1939, the grandson of homesteaders and the son of a ranch hand and a ranch cook. He grew up along the Rocky Mountain Front that has inspired much of his writing. His first book, the highly acclaimed memoir This House of Sky , was a finalist for the National Book Award, and his many books have received numerous prizes. Additional titles include: Dancing at Rascal Fair, Heart Song, Whistling Season, The Eleventh Man, and many more.

Music fans won’t want to miss a program by writer David Lipsky who will discuss his new biography, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace on Monday, April 26 at the Central Library. Lipsky is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Magazine Writing, the New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, and many other publications. He's the author of the novel, The Art Fair, a collection of stories, Three Thousand Dollars, and the bestselling nonfiction book Absolutely American.

Peter Bognanni, a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, returns to Des Moines on Monday, May 10 at the Central Libary to discuss his newly published book, House of Tomorrow. His mother, Kathy Bognanni, is the manager of the Franklin Avenue Library. The book, a debut novel, has already received considerable critical acclaim. Peter is currently Visiting Instructor of Creative Writing at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Last year, Carolyn Jessop, packed the house when she stopped by the library to discuss her book, Escape, the harrowing story of a woman who not only broke out of the confines of a fundamentalist religious sect but also wrested her children away from it. Her newest book, Triumph: Life After the Cult, details how Jessop overcame the challenges and tragedies that life has presented her and how she continues to fight for the women and children of the FLDS. Her program will be held at Hoyt Sherman Place Theater on Wednesday, May 12.

Investment banking is the timely subject of mystery writer James Grippando’s latest thriller, Money to Burn. Grippando, whom the Wall Street Journal calls "a writer to watch," will visit the Central Library on Monday, May 17. His newest novel explores a world where the destruction of financial institutions and the people who run them can occur in a matter of hours—perhaps even minutes. Grippando is the national bestselling author of sixteen novels that are enjoyed worldwide in twenty-six languages. His latest releases include Last Call, Born to Run, and Intent to Kill.

Best-selling author Gail Sheehy will visit Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium on Wednesday, May 19 on book tour for her new book, Passages for Caregivers, about the crisis in care-giving. Author of fifteen books, Sheehy is world-renowned for the revolutionary Passages, which remained on The New York Times bestseller list for more than three years and has been reprinted in 28 languages. A Library of Congress survey named Passages one of the 10 most-influential books of our time. In The Silent Passage, she broke the taboo surrounding menopause and opened a dialogue vital to maturing women's health.

Journalist and native Midwesterner Nick Reding spent four years in Iowa prior to writing his New York Times bestseller. Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town tells the heroic story of the small town of Oelwein, Iowa and the epidemic of drug abuse in rural America. Methland was picked as a best book of the year by the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chicago Tribune, and the Seattle Times. Reding’s presentation will be held on June 3 at 7:00 PM at Hoyt Sherman Place Theater.

Anyone looking for a great summer read will want to mark their calendar for Claire Cook’s upcoming visit to the Central Library on Tuesday, June 15. Cook, the bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Life’s a Beach, promises to you on a rollicking getaway without leaving the comfort of your own home. Cook is on book tour for her new book, Seven Year Switch. the story of a woman content living a man-free existence, whose ex-husband returns. Then “it takes a Costa Rican getaway to help her make a choice—between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be.”

All programs will begin at 7:00 PM and seating is first come, first serve. Books will be available for sale and signing following each program. For more information about the great authors featured in the 2010 AViD Author Series, watch the library’s web site at: Funding for the AViD Author Series is provided by the Des Moines Public Library Foundation with support from Humanities Iowa, Nationwide, Wells Fargo, Douglas and Deborah West, Drake University, Iowa History Center at Simpson College.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Celebrate the History of Jazz

It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms... It has calmed us with its rich harmonies. The musician returns to the roots to affirm that which is stirring within the soul...and creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument. Jazz is exported to the world from America...This is triumphant music.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Join us at the Central Library on Wednesday, February 24 at 6:30 PM as the African American Museum of Iowa presents jazz musician Ray Blue. Blue has been described as a natural connector - a conduit, a channel, a bridge and as an intuitive communicator who speaks eloquently, in and through his music. With a brilliant balance between passion and precision, Ray Blue swoops and soars through a melody then launches into a spirited solo, engaging a soulful communication that leaps off the bandstand and speaks deeply to the audience. Blue has shared the stage with a host of world-renowned musicians, including Steve Turre, Eddie Henderson, Gary Bartz, T.K. Blue, Blues Legend Bob Gaddy, Wycliff Gordon, Benny Powell, Sun Ra Arkestra and The Cotton Club All-Stars. He currently holds a chair with the Spirit of Life Ensemble, and tours annually with The Ray Charles Show.

Early on, Ray Blue's Junior High School music teacher introduced his class to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, proclaiming, "This is your music". That simple statement set his whole program into motion, ensuring that "passing it on" would always play a large part of Ray's program.

As passionate about passing on the legacy of jazz to young musicians as he is about letting loose on stage, he is one of the art form's most inspiring mentors. An educator/clinician, Mr. Blue consults at colleges, universities, schools and communities around the world. Since 2002, Mr. Blue's Pro-Am Ensemble, which grants student musicians the opportunity to prepare, rehearse and perform with professional musicians has been conducted in a workshop setting, and presented in the U.S., Germany, Finland, South Africa, Gabon and China.

Ray Blue is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Wm. Penn University, which annually presents The Ray Blue Jazz Award to a graduating senior. In addition, Wm. Penn University hosts the annual Ray Blue Jazz Education Festival for High School and College musicians.

Blue's roaming spirit led him to forge a European alliance in 2000. His frequent tours through Europe led him to establish dual residences in Berlin and NYC, with his wife Riitta, who hails from Finland. With a long-held desire to establish a connection in Africa, in 2003 Mr. Blue made his first trek to South Africa. While performing with South African musicians, conducting jazz and educational workshops, a unique synthesis of musical language began to unfold, resulting in a fantastic fusion of American and African cultures, rhythms and melodies. People listened, danced, and profoundly resonated. For Ray this was like coming back home. Ray returns to Africa each year to perform, study and conduct workshops. This experience has led to Cross-Continental Spirit (Afro-Jazz Project).

Blue regularly performs on numerous world stages with musicians from many different cultures, throughout Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. As a leader, he has conducted U.S. State Department tours to Zambia, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Gabon. His festival performances as leader and featured artist include: Zanzibar International Film Festival, Zanzibar, Tanzania; North Sea Jazz Festival-Cape Town, South Africa; Macufe Festival-Bloemfontain, South Africa; European Union Annex Festival-Dublin, Ireland; Audi Jazz Festival-Brussels, Belgium; Macao Jazz Festival, China; The Newport in New York Festival, New York, NY; New York State Black Arts Festival-Albany, New York; Koepenick Jazz Festival-Berlin, Germany; Midi Music Festival-Beijing, China; Pori Jazz Festival, Finland; Foix Jazz Festival, France; Bayonne Jazz Festival, France and many others.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jouney Series Begins on Wednesday, February 17

In planning programs to offer at the library, it's always a special privilege to hear about a native Iowan who has gone forth into the world and made a difference. Such was the case with next week's program featuring film-maker and writer Chip Duncan. Chip, who grew up in Shenandoah, Iowa, had planned to come back to Des Moines to speak at Rotary so he agreed to come a day earlier and do a program for us on Wednesday, February 18 at 6:30 PM at the Central Library.

Finding hope in the face of international crisis isn't easy to do, but according to one review, Chip's book is "an engaging new account of humanitarian efforts in the world's most challenging and deadly trouble spots"..... that "chronicles his travels to some of the most heartbreaking and desperate places on the planet. He introduces us to displaced inhabitants of refugee camps in Darfur, homeless children and widowers following a devastating earthquake in Pakistan, and the strong survivors of a generation of warfare in Afghanistan. What Duncan finds are compelling and hopeful stories of people who defy the word victim while embracing the future."

In a recent email, Chip shared that he had just returned from working with Haiti Relief so he will, most likely, have new stories to share beyond the ones in his book. I hope to see you Wednesday!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Journeys Series Begins February 17 at Central Library

I know, I promised an announcement of the 2010 AViD Series--but first, I want to be sure you know about several authors who will be visiting in February and March. Since all four writers have written stories about global travels, we decided to call it JOURNEYS.

Chip Duncan will be coming to Des Moines to speak at the Downtown Rotary and has been kind enough to agree to a program on February 17 at 6:30 PM at the Central Library. Chip has travelled all over the world since growing up in Shenandoah, Iowa and has many film credits from his work at The Duncan Entertainment Group. I haven't had a chance to read the actual book, but the cover is gorgeous and the topic is certainly timely. Enough To Go Around: Searching For Hope in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Darfur.

Then mark your calendar for:
March 2, Kevin Michael Connolly
March 8, Steven Roberts
March 23, Tori Murden McClure

Check out all the events on our web site at:, Then click on the box at the bottom of the home page, marked JOURNEYS.

Friday, January 29, 2010

AViD Announcement Soon!

Hard to believe but 2010 will be our tenth anniversary of the AViD Author Series at the Des Moines Public Library! So we are hoping to offer another stellar lineup. My goal was to feature ten authors in '10. Would you believe, I am having trouble trimming it to just ten?

We plan to kick off the series on April 13 with a return visit by Peter Hedges! And we have already confirmed Ivan Doig, James Grippando, Claire Cook, and several others. My goal is to have the rest of the lineup finalized next week but we are still awaiting word from a couple of publishers.

Stay tuned.....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

GregAlan Williams Coming Back to Des Moines

Sometimes author programs just drop out of the sky! Des Moines native GregAlan Williams is coming home for the annual I'll Make Me A World in Iowa events and has agreed to stay over to do a program at the Central Library on Monday,February 1. GregAlan is a familiar face to many TV and movie watchers--recently has played a judge on three episodes of Drop Dead Diva. He was the assistant coach in Remember the Titans and is still fondly remembered by lots of folks from his work on Baywatch! But GregAlan is much more than a pretty face.

He does a lot of work with troubled youth and I saw him give a talk a few years ago to about 100 young men at a boot camp facility in my town. Within the first ten minutes of his talk, I watched those kids settle down, lean forward in their chairs, and give their full attention to what he had to say. He has a commanding voice--he sang as a kid growing up in the inner part of Des Moines. His mother raised him as a single mom, and I would have to say, she did a great job.

GregAlan has written a new book called, Heart of a Woman, and he will stop by the library to talk about it at 6:30 PM on February 1. I just got a copy of it and plan to read it this weekend. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The tenth season of the AViD Author Series is quickly approaching and so we are hard at work finalizing this year's lineup.

Peter Hedges will kick it off on April 13, followed by distinquished northwestern writer Ivan Doig on April 19. Mystery writer James Grippando will be here on May 17 and it looks like Nick Reding, author of Methland, will be coming on June 3 to kick off his paperback tour. We are still awaiting further word on several outstanding authors and 2010 promises to be another great year for writers and readers in Des Moines! Once we have everything confirmed, we will be publicizing the whole lineup on the library's web site at:

I am more than halfway through Greg Mortenson's second book, Stones into Schools and am enjoying it just as much as Three Cups of Tea. Greg is a wonderful storyteller and so humble about all the dangerous and difficult work that he has done. His book is now required reading for senior officers serving in the military. His committment to the communities and his dedication to education is so commendable and I hope that someday it will be recognized offically--perhaps by the Nobel committee. Pakistan awarded him one of their highest honors in 2009--much deserved.

I am personally enjoying the book because I had the pleasure of spending almost two days driving him around Des Moines when he visited here in 2007. I saw Greg in NYC last summer and in spite of a huge line of folks waiting for his signature, he took the time to give me a big hug. As I read the book, I am just amazed at how much devastation he had experienced in the Pakistan earthquake prior to his visit to Des Moines.

Greg recently donated many copies of his books to our library, making it possible for us to offer book discussion sets--for kids and teens, as well as the adult books. So if you are in a book group, check out our book discussion sets.

Perhaps it's time to ask Greg to make a return visit to Des Moines?