Bound to Please

Borrowed, downloaded or straight off the shelf—however you currently read (or listen to) books, don’t miss the latest intriguing titles by authors who’ve emerged from the University of Iowa’s much-lauded graduate writing programs.

Fiction

“A vibrant and compassionate portrait of a family,” is how novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson describes “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” (Knopf, January 2013). This book represents a first foray into fiction by Ayana Mathis, whose journalism has appeared in Glamour magazine and The Village Voice. Mathis’ novel conveys the hope and bitterness of the Great Migration as lived by one brave girl.

“The Dog Stars” (Knopf, August 2012) is the debut novel of adventure writer Peter Heller; he’s previously published four books of nonfiction and contributed pieces to National Public Radio. His novel follows a pilot and his dog as they search a depopulated America to find the person behind a mysterious radio message.

Vancouver-born writer Marjorie Celona gives us “Y: A Novel” (Free Press, January 2013), which examines the very separate lives of a foster child and the birth mother who abandoned her. Celona’s stories have appeared in journals, including the Harvard Review.

Nonfiction
Hali Felt’s first book, “Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor” (Holt, July 2012), profiles geologist Marie Tharp, who in 1948 laid the groundwork for proving the theory of continental drift. Felt teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh and has reported for the Columbia Journalism Review.

A year in the life of a Midwestern farm family is recalled by Jeremy Jackson in “I Will Not Leave You Comfortless: A Memoir” (Milkweed, September 2012). Jackson also writes fiction—and charming cookbooks!

Lucas Mann’s volume, “Class A,” chronicles a season spent among Clinton, Iowa’s, minor-league baseball players (Pantheon, January 2013).

Poetry
In the poems of “Gravesend” (University of California, July 2012), Cole Swensen, who currently teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, explores the enigma of memory and other ghostly phenomena. Her previous 10 books of poetry have garnered critical attention and awards; she divides her time between Iowa City and Paris.

Carol Tyx unearths quiet poems from her middle years for anyone who finds the extraordinary in the everyday. Her recent works are gathered in “Rising to the Rim” (Brick Road, October 2012). Tyx teaches at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids and has participated in violence-reduction projects in Colombia.

From Stephen Kuusisto comes the smart, tender “Letters to Borges” (Copper Canyon, October 2012). These collected poems are addressed to blind poet Jorge Luis Borges. Kuusisto, who is himself sight-impaired, has written two earlier books of poetry (his “Planet of the Blind” became a best-seller) and two memoirs. He currently teaches at Syracuse University. Written by Cecile Goding

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Iowa’s nonfiction writing program, Cecile Goding lives in Iowa City. She teaches at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City.

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