lilaA new novel from the Pulitzer Prizewinning author of Gilead and Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.

Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church the only available shelter from the rain and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security. Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.

Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic. (description from publisher)

some luckLonglisted for the 2014 National Book Award From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize : a powerful, engrossing new novel – the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart. Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy–a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers. (description from publisher)

ms american pieBeth M. Howard knows about pie. She made pies at California’s Malibu Kitchen for celebrities including Barbra Streisand (lemon meringue), Dick Van Dyke (strawberry rhubarb), and Steven Spielberg (coconut cream) before moving back home to rural Iowa. She now lives in the famous American Gothic House (the backdrop for Grant Wood’s famous painting) and runs the hugely popular Pitchfork Pie Stand.  

With full-color photos throughout, Ms. American Pie features 80 of Beth’s coveted pie recipes and some of her own true tales to accompany them. With chapters like Pies to Heal, Pies to Seduce, and Pies to Win the Iowa State Fair, Beth will divulge her secret for making a killer crust without refrigerating the dough and will show you how to break every rule you’ve ever learned about making delicious, homemade pie. (description from publisher)

oxfordprojectIn 1984 photographer and University of Iowa art professor Peter Feldstein set out to photograph all 676 residents in his town of Oxford, Iowa. Over the course of the summer he succeeded in photographing 670 individuals “as they were”: in street clothes, some lugging shopping bags or carrying pets or children. Peter returned in 2005 to re-photograph as many of the original residents as he could, this time bringing along University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom to interview residents. The Oxford Project compiles the photos and interviews to provide a case study of small town life in America.

The biographies are concisely written and give you a glimpse into the lives of the residents: their personal triumphs and tragedies, their accomplishments and regrets. This book highlights the differences 20 years brings but also the striking similarities in dress, posture, and overall demeanor that people tend to maintain throughout their lives. Like any good book, The Oxford Project encourages the reader to reflect on their own life. In 20 years, what will you look back with satisfaction or regret the chances you didn’t take?

 

 

 

grant woods iowaIconic Regionalist American Artist Grant Wood certainly left his mark on the international art world – and on Iowa, his home state. Wood’s American Gothic is one of the most recognizable paintings in the world, and his work graces museums far and wide. Now you can tour Iowa with a thoughtful, detailed exploration of Wood’s life and the historical context of his work.

Grant Wood’s Iowa explores Wood’s role in the art world with self-guided museum tours and detailed discussions of his work, but it also allows you to get out into the Iowa he loved – a place that hasn’t changed all that much since Wood’s era. You’ll find nature hikes and parks where you’ll enjoy the landscapes that inspired Wood; county fairs and arts festivals that celebrate Wood and the rural character of his beloved home; modern eco-attractions, theaters, and wineries; and the studios and galleries of the Iowa artists who are Wood’s heirs.

In order to understand Wood’s work, one must first understand the Iowa he lived in. This unique guide allows you to fully appreciate Iowa’s role in nurturing Wood’s wit, humor, and enormous talent. It also explains his leading role in the Midwestern Regionalism art movement and introduces us to other major Iowa artists who were contemporaries influenced by Wood. The only book of its kind, Grant Wood’s Iowa assists vacationing and resident art aficionados in understanding and appreciating Wood’s important body of work in the cultural and environmental context of his home state. Wood’s life is lovingly detailed, from his childhood on a farm to his adulthood teaching and working in Iowa’s small-town communities. Grant Wood’s Iowa transports art lovers into the creative world of this iconic and quintessentially American artist. (description from publisher)

class aAn unforgettable chronicle of a year of minor-league baseball in Clinton, Iowa town follows not only the travails of the players of the Clinton LumberKings but also the lives of their dedicated fans and of the town itself. Award-winning essayist Lucas Mann delivers a powerful debut in his telling of the story of the 2010 season of the Clinton LumberKings in Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere.

Along the Mississippi River, in a Depression-era stadium, young prospects from all over the world compete for a chance to move up through the baseball ranks to the major leagues. Their coaches, some of whom have spent nearly half a century in the game, watch from the dugout. In the bleachers, local fans call out from the same seats they’ve occupied year after year. And in the distance, smoke rises from the largest remaining factory in a town that once had more millionaires per capita than any other in America.

Mann turns his eye on the players, the coaches, the fans, the radio announcer, the town, and finally on himself, a young man raised on baseball, driven to know what still draws him to the stadium. His voice is as fresh and funny as it is poignant, illuminating both the small triumphs and the harsh realities of minor-league ball.

Part sports story, part cultural exploration, part memoir, Class A is a moving and unique study of why we play, why we watch, and why we remember. (description from publisher)

Iowa’s Rochester Cemetery (near Tipton) is one of the most unusual and bio-diverse prairies left in America, boasting more than 400 species of plants–337 of them native to the region–on its thirteen-and-a-half acres. Among them are fifteen massive white oaks that stood watch as the surrounding landscape was converted into farmland after Euro-American settlers arrived in the 1830s. The cemetery is the last resting place of these pioneers and their descendants, down to the present. Graves are scattered among the wildflowers, across hills that geologists consider sand dunes held in place by the deep roots of the plants and people and is beautifully presented in Life and Death on the Prairie by Stephen Longmire.

Pioneer cemeteries have been recognized as important prairie remnants and seed banks ever since Aldo Leopold, another Iowa native, called attention to them in his landmark essays of the 1940s, as he developed the new field of ecological restoration. At Rochester Cemetery, the drama of the prairie’s survival continues to this day, in a controversy that flares up as reliably as spring’s shooting stars. To botanists across the country, this place is a pilgrimage site. To local residents, it is either a source of pride or a shameful weed lot (some feel regular mowing would show more respect for the dead). To the photographer and writer Stephen Longmire, it is a place where the stories of the rural Midwest are written on the land-a long exposure, extending back to the days when Meskwaki Indians camped nearby and wildfire held back the forest. In the creative tension between people and place, Rochester’s prairie holds its native ground. Historic cemetery plantings grow wild among the native wildflowers, and bright plastic flowers decorate modern graves.

In compelling photographs and prose, Longmire shows this patch of original Iowa to be a living record of all the land’s uses since its settlement. (description provided by publisher)

The story of the American Quilt Trail, featuring the colorful patterns of quilt squares writ large on barns throughout North America, is the story of one of the fastest-growing grassroots public arts movements in the United States and Canada. In Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement Suzi Parron travels through twenty-nine states (including Iowa and Illinois) and two Canadian provinces to visit the people and places that have put this movement on America’s tourist and folk art map.

Through dozens of interviews with barn artists, committee members, and barn owners Parron documents a journey that began in 2001 with the founder of the movement, Donna Sue Groves. Groves’s desire to honor her mother with a quilt square painted on their barn became a group effort that eventually grew into a county-wide project. Today, registered quilt squares form a long imaginary clothesline, appearing on more than three thousand barns scattered along one hundred driving trails.

With more than fifty full-color photographs, Parron documents a movement that combines rural economic development with an American folk art phenomenon.

June 7

True Grit – Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld

Mattie Ross is determined to avenge her father’s blood by capturing Tom Chaney, the man who shot and killed him for two pieces of gold. Just fourteen, she enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn, a one-eyed, trigger-happy U.S. Marshal with an affinity for drinking, and hardened Texas Ranger LaBoeuf to track the fleeing Chaney. Despite their differences, their ruthless determination leads them on a perilous adventure that can only have one outcome: retribution.

Just Go With It – Adam Sadler, Jennifer Aniston

A plastic surgeon who is romancing a much younger schoolteacher enlists his loyal assistant to pretend to be his soon-to-be ex-wife in order to cover up a careless lie. When more lies backfire, the assistant’s kids become involved, and everyone heads off for a weekend in Hawaii that will change all their lives.

June 14

Battle Los Angeles – Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan

For years, there have been documented cases of UFO sightings around the world. But in 2011, what were once just sightings will become a terrifying reality when Earth is attacked by unknown forces. As people everywhere watch the world’s great cities fall, Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected. It’s up to a Marine staff sergeant and his new platoon to draw a line in the sand as they take on an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered before.

Hall Pass – Owen Wilson,  Jason Sudeikis

Rick and Fred are best friends who have a lot in common, including the fact that they have each been married for many years. But when the two men begin to show signs of restlessness at home, their wives take a bold approach to revitalizing their individual marriages: granting them a ‘hallpass,’ one week of freedom to do whatever they want, no questions asked

June 21

Cedar Rapids – Ed Helms, John C. Reilly

A small-town, naive, Midwestern insurance agent must represent his company at a regional insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his mind is blown by the big-city experience.

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Rodrick Rules ! Zachary Gordon, Steve Bostick

Back in middle school after summer vacation, Greg Heffley and his older brother Rodrick must deal with their parents’ misguided attempts to have them bond.

 

Want an idea of how bad floods can get in this area? Take a look at some of these dvds and videos….

Fighting the Floods WQAD’s coverage of the June 2008 floods has footage of the floods in Iowa and Illinois, including Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Illinois Valley, Historic Flood of 2008 footage of the September 16th flood along the Illinois River.

’93 Flood This video was aired live during the flood and aftermath; it contains aerial footage of the flooded Mississippi River.

Fatal Flood A 1927 Mississippi River flood killed more than a thousand people and destroyed the homes of millions from Cairo, Illinois on south to New Orleans. This a PBS American Experience program – which are uniformly excellent.