Cities of Literature to highlight SDGs through #17Booksfor17SDGs campaign

In a twist on the traditional end-of-the-year “best of” lists that usually arrive in December, the UNESCO Cities of Literature will issue a list of “17 Books for the 17 SDGs” between Monday, December 2, and Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Each day, select Cities of Literature will post book suggestions from their cities and countries to social media, using the hashtag #17Booksfor17SDGs. Each day, a different 2030 Sustainable Development Goal will be highlighted, with books relevant to those topics suggested. These might be nonfiction titles that specifically address that day’s SDG, or perhaps a work of fiction that somehow ties into the theme.

Several of the 39 UNESCO Cities of Literature will take part directly, while others will repost and retweet these selections to broaden the reach of the message.

The project, initiated by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, seeks to draw attention to the Sustainable Development Goals and to show the value in raising awareness to these issues.

To learn more about the SDGs, please visit:

For a list of Cities of Literature on Twitter, please visit:

New Cities of Literature among additions to UNESCO network

In celebration of the UN’s World Cities Day 2019, UNESCO has announced the designation of 66 cities to join the Creative Cities Network, making for a total of 246 Creative Cities worldwide. 

Among these new Creative Cities, 11 were designated as Cities of Literature including Angoulême, France; Beirut, Lebanon; Exeter, United Kingdom; Kuhmo, Finland; Lahore, Pakistan; Leeuwarden, Netherlands; Nanjing, China; Odessa, Ukraine; Wonju, Republic of Korea; Slemani, Iraq and Wrocław, Poland. There are now 39 designated Cities of Literature. We welcome our new sibling Cities of Literature to the Creative Cities Network and look forward to collaborating with them in the future. 

“A key value of our designation is the ability to create close ties with other creative cities from around the world,” said John Kenyon, executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization. “These 11 cities will make our network, more diverse and dynamic, and will offer significant new opportunities for our writers to connect with new audiences and our readers to discover new work.”

Iowa City was designated as a City of Literature in 2008, making us the third City of Literature in the world, and the second Creative City in the U.S. Since our designation 11 years ago, we have promoted literary events in and around Iowa City, have organized yearly literary festivals such as the Iowa City Book Festival, our One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival, and MusicIC. We also hosted the 2018 City of Literature conference during our 10th anniversary, in which members representing all the Cities of Literature were invited to discuss future projects and collaborations. 

The Creative Cities Network was created by UNESCO in 2004 to promote sustainable development through creative processes within cities and places of urban settlement. The Network recognizes cities from seven creative fields including Craft and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature, and Music. Designated Creative Cities use their creative field by placing creativity at the core of their development and economy to ensure a city centered around inclusivity, safety, resiliency, and sustainability. 

All over the world, these cities, each in its way, make culture the pillar, not an accessory, of their strategy,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “This favours political and social innovation and is particularly important for the young generations.”

For more information on the Creative Cities Network, visit:

What to Watch: Writers on the Fly

For Writers on the Fly, you should check out Larry Baker, the author of The Education of Nancy Adams. In this chat, he talks about his newly found struggle to find a quiet place to write and how he thinks a writer should “get into the mind of all sorts of characters.”

Check it out here:

And, if you’re interested, go check out his newest book is From a Distance.


For Writers on the Fly, you should check out Amber Dermont, the author of The Starboard Sea. Here she tells us about her current influence of stand-up comedy and the dangers of free time creating more wasted time.

Check it out here:

And, if you’re interested, go read her latest book is Sorry, You Are Not a Winner.


For Writers on the Fly, you should check out John Scalzi, the author of Lock In. He tells us plainly that a writer is someone who writes, along with this, he tells that people ask him the wrong question when they ask him how he gets his ideas. Instead, he thinks they should ask, “How do you filter the good ideas from the bad ideas?”

Check it out here:

And, if you’re interested, go see one of his newest books – Head On.


Previous Iowa City Book Festival Authors Latest Publications

With the 2019 Iowa City Book Festival less than one week away, we thought it appropriate to shoutout some of the newest publications from the 2018 and 2017 Book Festival authors. 


Mary Kubica (When the Lights Go Out, 2018 Book Festival) 

The Other Mrs.

Ever been anxious about moving? Sadie Froust’s concerns about moving from Chicago to small-town Maine were amplified ten-fold when her neighbor was discovered dead in her home. This unsolved murder paired with her husband Will’s disturbed niece and the unexpected death of his sister made the eerie, chilling demeanor of the old house all too real for Sadie. She decides to take matters into her own hands in order to preserve her safety, but the more twisted family secrets she uncovers, the more she finds she has to lose. This psychological thriller is set to release February 2020. 


William Kent Krueger (Desolation Mountain, 2018 Book Festival)

This Tender Land

This historical fiction novel takes place in Minnesota during the Great Depression. Four orphans flee a school for Native Americans that they were forcibly separated from their parents to attend. While meandering down the Mississippi in a stolen canoe, they encounter all kinds of different folk from farmers to faith healers to displaced families all hit with the Depression. For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing, This Tender Land exemplifies a big-hearted novel that demonstrates how we’re all connected under the same struggles and the same hopes and dreams.


Max Allan Collins (Scarface and the Untouchable, 2018 Book Festival)

Do No Harm

To be released in March 2020, Collins’ latest Nathan Heller mystery begins in 1954 when Heller takes on the Sam Sheppard case. With shaky evidence and a questionable motive, a young doctor is accused of his wife’s brutal murder. The doctor claims an intruder did the deed, while the public attests that the husband was disturbed and wanted out of married life. Heller tries to prove his innocence to no avail, and the doctor is sentenced to life in prison. Flash forward to 1966 and Heller is given a second chance to free the now much older inmate. The detective is steadfast on proving his innocence, but will he put himself in danger in the process?


G. Willow Wilson (The Butterfly Mosque, 2017 Book Festival)

The Bird King


Set in the Iberian peninsula during the 15th century, just before Christopher Columbus set sail, Fatima is the sole remaining concubine to the sultan. Her best friend and palace mapmaker, Hassan, can draw maps of places he’s never seen and can even bend reality and change distances between place and person. Some see this ability as a gift, but the Christian-dominated Spanish monarchy sees Hassan’s craft as sorcery. With only a jinn and Hassan’s talent to help them, the two journey through a Spain that is on the brink of a major change due to quarreling empires and religions. Former One Community, One Book author G. Willow Wilson writes in a way that NPR writer Amal El-Mohtar reveres as “Deeply beautiful and wondrously sad, and I can’t tell if it ended too quickly or if I just needed it not to — if I just wanted to dwell in a home built out of story for a little longer yet.”


Pola Oloxiarac (Savage Theories, 2017 Book Festival) 


Originally published in Spanish, this novel is a thriller centered around a violent occurrence just days before writers from all over the world congregate in Sweden for an award ceremony for a prestigious literary award. All the authors are put on edge upon arriving for the event. Protagonist and narrator Mona Tarrile-Bryne finds herself amidst scandals and a constant air of fear surrounding the event. In this novel Pola Oloxiarac shows the true power of language in a world still dominated by the “culturally elite.”


Alexander Chee (Paul Engle Prize winner, 2017 Book Festival) 

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel-Essays

Former Engle Prize winner and Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Alexander Chee’s latest book is a collection of essays loosely tied together to make a memoir that untangles his life from his cultural background and sexual orientation, to his journey as a writer and most impactful experiences in his life. This book is a testament to who Chee is, and gives instruction to identify the critical aspects in our own lives that shape our values and personal truths. 


Nathan Englander (Dinner at the Center of the Earth, 2017 Book Festival)

Raised in a Jewish Orthodox home, Larry is an outcast in his own family because the young 7th grader considers himself an atheist. When his father unexpectedly dies and the responsibility of reciting the Kaddish everyday for 11 months to put his father’s soul safely to rest falls on Larry, he looks for the easy way out. In an age where basically anything can be bought on the internet, Larry finds a website where a stranger can be paid to recite the Kaddish daily in Larry’s place. 20 years after punching in his credit card information and hitting submit, Larry has re-found his religious identity and begins to feel selfish about the decision his adolescent self made. This satirical novel pokes fun at living in an age where the world must grapple with constant temptations from the internet. 

Check out our Writers on the Fly interview with Englader!


Frances Cannon (The Highs and Lows of Shapeshift Ma and Big-Little Frank, 2017 Book Festival)

Walter Benjamin Reimagined

In this collection of pieces to interpret German Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin’s work, Cannon uses both writing and illustrations to give insight on his thoughts and dreams. This work not only brings Benjamin’s work to the attention of the reader, but his work mixed with Cannon’s drawings and hand printed notes and text makes for a piece of artistic literature.


Well that’s all for now folks! Hope to see you all at the Iowa City Book Festival next week!

Schedule set for 2019 Iowa City Book Festival, Oct. 1-6

The Iowa City Book Festival’s 11th year will feature a mix of authors, panel discussions, workshops, a book fair and more, with programming that blends the best in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

The festival will be held from Oct. 1-6, with most events at various locations throughout downtown Iowa City. Long a showcase for collaborations with other area organizations, this year’s festival partners include the International Writing Program, the One Community One Book program, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, the Iowa Writers’ House and more.

The festival will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Coralville Public Library with presentation of the City of Literature’s annual Paul Engle Prize to poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady. The prize, sponsored by the City of Coralville, honors an individual who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts. Derricotte and Eady co-founded Cave Canem in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape.

On Wednesday, the festival welcomes New York Times bestselling mystery novelist John Sandford. The Cedar Rapids native and University of Iowa graduate is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of 40 novels, including 29 in the Lucas Davenport “Prey” series, and 11 in the Virgil Flowers series. Sanford will discuss the latest in the Flowers series, Bloody Genius, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 2, in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library.

Also Wednesday, the festival welcomes writer, activist and academic Raj Patel. Best-known for the book Stuffed and Starved, the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System, Patel returns to discuss his latest work, History of the World in 7 Cheap Things. He also will show rough cuts from his latest documentary film, a story of community activists from one of the world’s poorest countries traveling the U.S. to talk to farmers, advocates and policymakers about climate change. Patel’s talk, presented by the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 2, at the Englert Theatre. It is free and open to the public.

Thursday features two University of Iowa Ida Beam lecturers. James Geary, deputy curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and editor of Nieman Reports, will present “Juggling Aphorisms,” based on  his latest book, Wit’s End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It. He will appear at 5:15 p.m. on Oct. 3, at Shambaugh Auditorium in the UI Main Library. Geary also will read at the UI’s English-Philosophy Building at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4

Also Thursday is a reading and presentation by Jamaican poet and novelist Kei Miller, an Ida Beam scholar visiting the UI’s International Writing Program. Miller is the author of three novels, several poetry collections, and Fear of Stones and Other Stories, which was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book. He will present at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3, in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library

Friday is highlighted by a presentation by Lauren Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers. Markham’s book, which tells of the harrowing journey Salvadoran twins Ernesto and Raúl Flores take to illegally immigrate to the U.S. to escape violence in their home country. The book is this year’s selection for the UI’s Center for Human Rights “One Community One Book” program. Markham will speak at 7 p.m. in 240 Art Building West.

Each year, the festival features the public reading of a classic work of literature with supporting programming throughout the week. From Monday, Sept. 30, through Friday, Oct. 4, volunteers will read Leo Tolstoy’s classic War & Peace aloud in its entirety. The reading will take place from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the Pedestrian Mall stage outside the Graduate hotel. Other programming, including partnerships with the Stanley Museum of Art, Special Collections at the UI Main Library, a screening of the classic 1966 film at FilmScene, and more will be a part of the celebration throughout the festival and beyond.

Saturday, Oct.5, the biggest day of programming, will feature dozens of events including readings, panel discussions, a book fair and more.

Other Saturday highlights include:

  • A celebration of the 50th anniversary of the University of Iowa Press. Authors of current UI Press books will present, including Kendra Allen, Paula Becker, and Don Waters.
  • Christina Ward, author of American Advertising Cookbooks: How Corporations Taught Us to Love Bananas, Spam, and Jell-O, will speak about her book, followed by a sampling of some of the infamous recipes by the Iowa City group Historic Foodies. Special Collections at the UI Main Library also will be showcasing several pieces from the Szathmary Culinary Collection.
  • A celebration marking the retirement of longtime UI Writers’ Workshop administrator Connie Brothers will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, in Macbride Auditorium.
  • A panel discussion on immigration featuring authors from the second volume of the Iowa Writers’ House project We the Interwoven and Lauren Markham will be held on Saturday, Oct. 4.

The festival closes Sunday with a full day of events that include the start of a week’s worth of screenings of a new digital restoration of Sergei Bondarchuk’s eight-hour adaptation of War & Peace at FilmScene. Also on the Sunday schedule is a writing workshop presented in partnership the University of Iowa’s Center for Teaching, readings, and more.

Other than film screenings at FilmScene, all festival events are free and open to the public.