Iowa City Book Festival 2018: What to Read First?

Amid 90 degree days, vacation plans, and orientation tours, fall seems eons away. With the announcement of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature’s tenth annual Iowa City Book Festival lineup, however, the change of seasons can’t come quickly enough. The festival, which will take place from Oct. 1-7, 2018 will feature authors from across the country and around the globe, including some from other UNESCO Cities of Literature.

This year’s festival will also continue with the many traditions of the Book Festival including the history of partnerships with other area organizations, and the festival’s reading of a classic piece of literature. This year’s reading will be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in celebration of the novel’s 200th anniversary. In addition to the reading, related work and panel discussions will take place during the week, along with a special screening of one of the adaptations of Frankenstein hosted at FilmScene.

null Later in the week, Thursday will feature the presentation of the City of Literature’s annual Paul Engle Prize to writer Dina Nayeri. The prize honors an individual who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit, and whose active participation has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts. Nayeri, the seventh writer to receive the award, is a novelist, essayist and activist who has written extensively about the life and challenges of refugees. Due to Nayeri’s prominence in the festival as the Paul Engler Prize winner in addition to the relevance of her work to current events, her book Refuge is one of my “must read” picks for the book festival. In Refuge, Nayeri tells a story similar to her own. “I don’t feel like any place is home,” she says. “There’s no place where I can really say, you know, I feel complete and at ease.” Like Nayeri, Refuge’s protagonist, Niloo, left Iran as a child. It is through Niloo, and the father she leaves behind, that Nayeri explores the tension of being tied to a homeland and the urge to assimilate to a new culture. Nayeri, who now lives in London, is an MFA graduate from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow and a Teaching Writing Fellow.

A read completely different from Refuge my second choice to read in preparation for the ICBF isn’t for the faint of heart. Although you may recognize David Small’s name from your/your children’s favorite childhood stories his graphic memoir, Stitches, isn’t for kids. Writer and illustrator David Smalls recreates the horrific family drama surrounding his concealed childhood battle with cancer in Stitches. While Stitches may at first seem to be a bleak look into a Kafkaesque nightmare the story actually serves as a, “tale of redemption that informs us that things can get better, that good can emerge from evil, and that art has the power to transform.” Which is exactly what Small’s art does, transforming Stitches from a gripping memoir to a silent movie that not only keeps the reader turning pages, but also places them in the author’s shoes (or mouth as you’ll find out). If you enjoy Stitches keep an eye out for Small’s newest graphic novel, Home After Dark, which is expected out September 11, just in time for the Iowa City Book Festival!

The majority of the events of the 2018 Iowa City Book Festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 6, but the full schedule will be released closer to the event. For specific times and locations for festival events, or to learn more about programs and authors, please visit and follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (, where we will share news of new programs and authors as they are confirmed.


Recent News

Add new comment