Iowa City Book Festival

October 14-20, 2024

2024 Schedule Coming Soon.

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Sarah Cypher

A young, queer Palestinian American woman pieces together her great aunt’s secrets in this sweeping debut, a family saga confronting questions of sexual identity, exile, and lineage. The Skin and Its Girl is a searing, poetic tale about desire and identity and a provocative exploration of how we let stories divide, unite, and define us–and even wield the power to restore a broken family. Sarah Cypher is that rare debut novelist who writes with the mastery and flair of a seasoned storyteller.

Sarah Cypher is the author of The Skin and Its Girl (Ballantine 2023) and holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, where she was a Rona Jaffe Creative Writing Fellow in Fiction. She grew up in a Lebanese Christian family near Pittsburgh and lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife.

October 10, 7:00 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books

Élise DesChamps

Élise DesChamps, who played the lead soprano role in The Machine Stops, is a lecturer at the University of Iowa School of Music (voice and opera). A native of Montréal, Canada, DesChamps is praised for her dark, rich voice, and sensitive musicianship. She has appeared in leading mezzo-soprano roles with companies including Opera Columbus, Cincinnati Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Opera Project Columbus, and Columbus Light Opera.

October 10, 7:00 p.m. at Iowa City Public Library

Miriam Gilbert

Miriam Gilbert retired from the Department of English at the University of Iowa in 2013. Currently she teaches classes at the UI Senior College, which are extremely popular, as are her show talkbacks at Riverside Theater. During her 44 years of teaching Shakespeare and drama, Gilbert stressed theatrical performance as a way of understanding a text. Her scholarship includes two major drama anthologies, and books and articles on Shakespeare. She maintains a second home in Stratford-upon-Avon where she enjoys seeing plays and entertaining visitors.

October 10, 7:00 p.m. at Iowa City Public Library

Cecile Goding

Cecile Goding, librettist of The Machine Stops, is an award-winning poet who has taught literature and creative writing for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, the University of Iowa, and Mount Mercy University. She became interested in writing for opera while in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop “Words and Music” seminar led by Marvin Bell and David Gompper. A lifetime interest in science fiction led her to adapt for the stage E. M. Forster’s classic 1909 tale of a dystopian future marked by fear and social isolation.

October 10, 7:00 p.m. at Iowa City Public Library

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog was born in Munich on September 5, 1942. He grew up in a remote mountain village in Bavaria and studied History and German Literature in Munich and Pittsburgh. He made his first film in 1961 at the age of 19. Since then he has produced, written, and directed more than sixty feature- and documentary films, such as Aguirre der Zorn Gottes (AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD, 1972), Nosferatu Phantom der Nacht (NOSFERATU, 1978), FITZCARRALDO (1982), Lektionen in Finsternis (LESSONS OF DARKNESS, 1992), LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY (1997), Mein liebster Feind (MY BEST FIEND, 1999), INVINCIBLE (2000), GRIZZLY MAN (2005), ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2007), Die Höhle der vergessenen Träume (CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, 2010). Werner Herzog has published more than a dozen books of prose, and directed as many operas. Werner Herzog lives in Munich and Los Angeles.

October 15, 7:30 p.m. at The Englert Theatre

Nathan Hill

Moving from the gritty ’90s Chicago art scene to a suburbia of detox diets and home-renovation hysteria, Wellness mines the absurdities of modern technology and modern love to reveal profound, startling truths about intimacy and connection. In the follow-up to Hill’s electric debut, Wellness reimagines the love story with a healthy dose of insight, irony, and heart.

Nathan Hill’s best-selling debut novel, The Nix, was named the number one book of 2016 by Entertainment Weekly and one of the year’s best books by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Slate, and many others. It was the winner of the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction from the Los Angeles Times and was published worldwide in more than two dozen languages. A native Iowan, Hill lives with his wife in Naples, Florida.

October 14, 2:30 p.m. at Iowa City Public Library

John Irving

John Irving has written fifteen novels over the course of his prolific career, the majority of which have been international bestsellers. His most recent novel is The Last Chairlift. Though it happens to be his lengthiest work, Irving calls The Last Chairlift his “last long novel—only shorter ones ahead.”

October 13, 7:30 p.m. at Hancher Auditorium

Eskor David Johnson

Eskor David Johnson is a writer from Trinidad and Tobago and the United States. His writing has appeared in BOMB Magazine, and McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. A graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was the recipient of the Richard Yates Short Story Prize, the Maytag Fellowship and the Teaching-Writing Fellowship, he currently lives in New York City.

October 14, 1:00 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books

Chris Jones

Interested in the truth about Iowa and the Midwest’s water quality? You won’t get it from Iowa’s agricultural and political leaders. Among midwestern Corn Belt states, Iowa contains some of the world’s most productive farmland; the state frequently tops all others in harvested totals of corn and soybeans and has helped the U.S. be the world’s largest producer of corn every year since at least 1961. Iowa also has a lot of animals that eat corn and soybeans. The state is first in egg and pork production and fifth in the number of feedlot cattle. Concentrating both cropland and livestock within the state has created efficiencies in production, transportation, fertilization, and accumulated wealth for a lucky few. The immensity of this production has come at a cost: soil erosion, the loss of wildlife habitat, a lack of public parks and recreation areas, foul air from animal waste, and especially degraded water. Iowa has over 70,000 miles of streams, and only 15 segments of these meet all the designated uses outlined under the Clean Water Act. The pollutants from Iowa’s rivers ultimately drain to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, part of which is killed off every summer by Corn Belt pollution from farms 1,500 miles upstream. More than 20% of Iowans drink water treated for the removal of nitrate–a regulated drinking water contaminant that results from corn and livestock production–and nearly 7,000 private wells are contaminated with this pollutant.

October 12, 7:00 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A

Erin Jordan

Erin Jordan is an investigative reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, where she covers agriculture, water quality, electric vehicles and government accountability, among other topics. She also serves on the Investigate Midwest board and teaches at the University of Iowa Summer Journalism Workshop. Before The Gazette, Erin worked as the Eastern Iowa Bureau reporter for the Des Moines Register. She is a proud Iowa State University journalism graduate.

October 12, 7:00 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A

Daniel Kraus

Daniel Kraus is a New York Times bestselling author. His collaboration with legendary filmmaker George A. Romero, The Living Dead, was acclaimed by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Suspenseful and cinematic, Whalefall is an “astoundingly great” (Gillian Flynn, New York Times bestselling author) thriller about a young man who has given up on life…only to find a reason to live in the most dangerous and unlikely of places.

October 14, 11:30 a.m. at Prairie Lights Books

John Lake

John Lake, composer of The Machine Stops, is one of Iowa City’s most innovative and versatile musicians. He has played, studied, written, taught, recorded, and performed a wide range of genres, including rock ‘n’ roll, country swing, Americana, folk, classical, and improvisational jazz for nearly fifty years. The Machine Stops is his first operatic score: “I have always loved opera but had never considered writing one. However, once I saw Cecile’s libretto, I immediately related to the characters and the story, and the ideas flowed.” John’s score reflects his wide range of musical influences–from Frank Zappa and the Beatles to Igor Stravinsky and Richard Wagner.

October 10, 7:00 p.m. at Iowa City Public Library

Brooks Landon

Brooks Landon has been a faculty member of the University of Iowa English Department since 1978. He has published widely on contemporary American Literature and Science Fiction, including Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars (2003) and a writing book, Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Sentences You Love to Read (2013). Landon sees science fiction as a vital social phenomenon.

October 10, 7:00 p.m. at Iowa City Public Library

Josh Larsen

Josh Larsen is the co-host of the radio show and podcast Filmspotting, author of Movies Are Prayers and Fear Not! A Christian Appreciation of Horror, as well as editor/producer for Think Christian, a website and podcast exploring faith and pop culture. He’s been writing and speaking about movies professionally since 1994.

Josh’s career began in the newspaper business, where he started out as a beat reporter for a weekly community newspaper and went on to become a film critic for the Chicago-based Sun-Times Media for more than 10 years. In 2011, he joined the Christian media landscape as editor of Think Christian, and in 2012 he joined the long-running weekly podcast Filmspotting, aired on WBEZ in Chicago.

A veteran of the Sundance, Toronto, and Chicago International Film Festivals, Josh has given talks on film at various colleges and conferences. Since 2017, he has led “Ebert Interruptus,” a tradition established by Roger Ebert, which analyzes a single film scene by scene over several days at the University of Colorado’s Conference on World Affairs.

October 14, 10:00 a.m. at Iowa City Public Library

Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem is the bestselling author of twelve novels, including The Arrest, The Feral DetectiveThe Fortress of Solitude, and Motherless Brooklyn, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. He currently teaches creative writing at Pomona College in California.

October 15, 2:00 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books

Ayana Mathis

Ayana Mathis’s first novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, was a New York Times best seller, an NPR Best Book of 2013, the second selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. and has been translated into sixteen languages. Her nonfiction has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Guernica, and Rolling Stone. Mathis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was born in Philadelphia, and currently lives in New York City where she teaches writing in Hunter College’s MFA Program.

October 14, 4:00 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books

Marta McDowell

With their deadly plants, razor-sharp shears, shady corners, and ready-made burial sites, gardens make an ideal scene for the perfect murder. But the outsize influence that gardens and gardening have had on the mystery genre has been underappreciated. Now, Marta McDowell, a writer and gardener with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, illuminates the many ways in which our greatest mystery writers, from Edgar Allen Poe to authors on today’s bestseller lists, have found inspiration in the sinister side of gardens.

Marta McDowell lives, writes and gardens in Chatham, New Jersey. She shares her garden with her husband Kirke Bent and assorted wildlife. Her garden writing has appeared in popular publications such as Woman’s Day, Country Gardening, and The New York Times.  She is a regular contributor to the British journal Hortus.

October 11, 12:00 p.m. at the Coralville Public Library

Mindy Mejia

Mindy Mejia is a CPA and a graduate of the Hamline University MFA program. Her debut novel, The Dragon Keeper, was published by Ashland Creek Press in 2012. She lives in the Twin Cities with her family, and is the author of Strike Me DownEverything You Want Me to Be, and Leave No Trace.

October 14, 2:30 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books

Tracie Morris

Tracie Morris is a poet, performer, artist and scholar. Pushing the boundaries of theory, language, moving image and sound, Morris has presented work at venues ranging from intimate cafes to renown arts institutions such as Dia Art Foundation, Centre Pompidou, MoMA, and the Whitney Biennial. Tracie has published ten collections of poetry and essays, including human/nature poems, Applying J.L. Austin: A Black Speech Act Workbook and handholding: 5 kinds: on the other hand. Morris holds a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University, an MFA from Hunter College, CUNY and is a Professor of Poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has earned numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry.

October 11, 7:00 p.m. at Prairie Lights Books

Joanne Ramos

Joanne Ramos was born in the Philippines and moved to Wisconsin when she was six. She graduated with a BA from Princeton University. After working in investment banking and private-equity investing for several years, she became a staff writer at The Economist. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children.

October 8, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. in room C20 at the Pomerantz Center

Kristen Roupenian

Kristen Roupenian holds a PhD in English from Harvard, an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, and a BA from Barnard College. She is the author of the short story, “Cat Person,” which was published in The New Yorker and selected by Sheila Heti for The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2018.

October 14, 1:00 p.m. at Iowa City Public Library

Keith Schneider

Keith Schneider is a New York Times writer, and senior editor and chief correspondent for Circle of Blue, the Traverse City-based network of journalists and scientists reporting on global trends affecting water, energy, and food. Keith developed Circle of Blue’s internationally renowned Global Choke Point project, reported from six continents, on the confrontation between rising demand for energy and food in the era of diminishing freshwater reserves. Before joining Circle of Blue, he was media and communications director at the US Climate Action Network and communications director at the Apollo Alliance. Keith also developed one of the first independent online news desks as the founder and executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute. Keith writes from his home in northern Michigan, where he has lived since 1993. Read his personal site at

October 12, 7:00 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library meeting room A

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor at Columbia University.  Her first job was at Iowa (1965-77), where she went through the ranks, and profited greatly by the absolute support of colleagues among whom she would mention President Sandy Boyd, Vice President May Brodbeck, Chairs John Gerber and David Hayman, and many many others. She met Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Okot p’Bitek, and Sankha Ghosh at the International Writing Program; worked with John Cheever and Anthony Burgess at the Writer’s Workshop, and was involved in the hiring of Maureen Robertson, Danny Weissbort, Steven Unger, Ruedi Kuenzli, Sheldon Pollock and others. Her special friends were Alexander Aspel, Cassia Tomasini, Dale Godwin. She has written a few books, received a few prizes and holds a few honorary degrees. For many years, she has been grappling with finishing a book on W.E.B. Du Bois and writing an Afterword on the first English translations of Gramsci’s conversation with Julia and Tatiana Schucht while imprisoned.  Humanities for social justice is her obsession. Translation is the medium of this work.

October 12, 6:30 p.m. in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber

Justin Torres

Justin Torres is the author of We the Animals, which won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, was translated into fifteen languages, and was adapted into a feature film. He was named a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35,” a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a Cullman Center Fellow at the New York Public Library. His short fiction and essays have appeared in The New YorkerHarper’sGrantaTin HouseThe Washington Post, LA Times Image Magazine, and Best American Essays. He lives in Los Angeles, and teaches at UCLA.

October 14, 11:30 a.m. at Iowa City Public Library

The Iowa City Book Festival would not happen without the support of our volunteer community. 2024 Volunteer opportunities will be posted soon.


Anna Barker, Curtis Bauer, Cristalle “Psalm One” Bowen, Lan Samantha Chang, Elizabeth Crane, Darrin Crow, Angie Cruz, Anthony Doerr, Johnnie Each, Lori Erickson, John Irving, Sarah Kendzior, Jennifer L. Knox, John Koethe, Alex Kotlowitz, Lyz Lenz, Beth A. Livingston, Ruthina Malone, Debra Marquart, Mary J. Mascher, Elizabeth McCracken, Don McLeese, Randall Munroe, Kyle Munson, Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez, Zachary Oren Smith, Victor Ray, Jason Reynolds, María Sánchez, Rebecca Solnit, Jim Throgmorton, Jerald Walker, Elizabeth Weiss,


Robert Costa, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Gina Frangello, Gregory Galloway, Laura Gellot, Julie Hanson, Pierre Joris, Shreya Khullar, Deb Marquart, Dr. Reuben Jonathan Miller, Kristy Nabhan-Warren, Marc Rahe, Emily Rapp, Chuy Renteria, Fiona Sampson, Habib Tengour, Bob Woodward


James Autry, Dr. Rana Awdish, Erika Billerbeck, David Bluder, Kelly Carlin, Charles Connerly, Thomas Cook, Lisa Dillmann, Hope Edelman, Dr. Eve L. Ewing, Fatima Farheen, Barbara Feller, Thomas Frank, Anja Kampmann, Jill McCorkle, David Perkins, Anne Posten, Pilar Quintana, Ron Rash


Kendra Allen, Paula Becker, Toi Derricota, Joseph Dobrian, John Domini, Andy Douglas, Cornelius Eady, Sarah Elgatian, Lori Erickson, Melissa Febos, James Geary, Josh Gondelman, David Hamilton, Donika Kelly, Amanda Lee Koe, Jessica Laser, Lyz Lenz, Lauren Markham, Joe Michaud, Kei Miller, Kassandra Montag, Raj Patel, Eileen Pollack, Daniel Poppick, John Sandford, William Steele, Lisa Tetrault, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Christina Ward, Don Waters, Dr. Angela Sadler Williamson, Andrea Wilson


Haifa Abu Al-Nadi, Usman Ali, Sadagat Aliyeva, Eman Alyousuf, Anastacia-Renee, James Anderson, James A. Autry, Kateryna Babkina, Bayasgalan Bastuuri, Ari Berman, Denise Pattiz Bogard, Rumena Bužarovska, Dr. Ira Byock, Tameka Cage Conley, Chow Hon-Fai, Max Allan Collins, Dan Coman, Common, Art Cullen, Z. P. Dala, Kathy Eldon, Jane Gregory, Tahila Hakimi, Eduardo Halfon, Rick Harsch, Tim Harwood, Silvia Hidalgo, Huang Chong-Kai, Dan Kaufman, Rasha Khayat, William Kent Krueger, Mary Kubica, Emily Liebowitz, Bejan Matur, Mindy Meija, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Wayetu Moore, Mike Mullin, Derek Nnuro, Faisal Oddang, Sunni Overend, Melissa Palma, Chuy Renteria, Nancy Rommelmann, Alex Salkever, Chandramohan Sathyanathan, Sjón, David Small, Mark Wilson


Francesca Abbate,  Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Chris Adrian, Ramsha Ashraf, Larry Baker, Will Bardenwerper , Gary Boelhower, Luis Bravo, Dan Campion, Rafael Campo, Frances Cannon, Alexander Chee, Audrey Chin, Jennifer Colville, Loren W. Cooper, Eliza David, Li Di An, Joseph Dobrian, Michelle Edwards, Nathan Englander, Lori Erickson,  Bi Feiyu, Jin Feng, Julia Fierro, Ed Folsom, Melissa Fraterrigo, Alberto Fuguet, Kaori Fujino, Kathryn Gamble, Enza Garcia Arreaza, Ted Genoways, Erin Gitchell, Lorna Goodison, Garth Greenwell, Barbara Hall, Ya Hsien, John Ira Thomas, Justine Johnson Hemmestad, Jon K. Lauck, Dung Kai-Cheng, Hilary Kaplan, Lisa Katz, Anne Kennedy, Jon Kerstetter, Joe Kyugen Michaud, Mike Lankford, Luljeta Lleshanaku, Okky Madasari, Christopher Merrill, Sadek Mohmmed, Peter Nazareth, Pola Oloixarac, Tim Parks, Steve Paul, Jim Perlman, Sarah Prineas, Jennifer Pritchard, Donald  Ray Pollock, Julie Russell-Steuart, Jeffrey Ryan, Steve Semken, Yuriy Serebriansky, Yaara Shehori, Daniel Simon, Crystal Spring Gibbons, Whitney Terrell, Jeremy Tiang, Antionette Tidjani Alou, Zachary Turpin, Anja Utler, Inara Versemnieks, Manual Vilas, Xavier Villanova, Jacquelyn Vincenta, Daniel Wallace, Kenneth Whyte, G. Willow Wilson, Andrea Wilson, Poon Yiu Ming


alea adigweme, Wasi Ahmed, Khaled Al Khamissi, Eros Atalia, Rachel Aukes, Yusi Avianto Pareanom, Anna Barker, Dan Barry, Odeh Bisharat, Daniel Boscaljon, Velibor Bozovic, James F. Brooks, Julie A. Burns, Angie Carter, Crystal Chan, Ryan Collins, Jennifer Colville, Rachel Corbett, Galit Dahan-Carlibach, Zp Dala, Eliza David, Joseph Dobrian, John Domini, Ricky Dragoni, Legodile ‘Dredd  X’ Seganabeng, Anaïs Duplan, Allen Eskens, John Freeman, Roxane Gay, Mara Genschel, Obari Gomba, Mortada Gzar, Tse Hao Guang, Donald Harstad, Craig A. Hart, Mallory Hellman, Aleksandar Hemon, Ray Hendrickson, Nathan Hill, Claire Hoffman, Adam G. Hooks, Michelle Hoover, Helen Horn, Allegra Hyde, Marie Jackson, Leslie Jamison, Zhou Jianing, Ruel Johnson, Akhil Katyal, Daniel Khalastchi, Suki Kim, Jennifer L. Knox, Chen Ko Hua, Tom Lutz, Alexander Maksik, Emily Martin, Allison Means, Christopher Merrill, Rachel Morgan, Amanah Mustafi, Okey Ndibe, Marc Nieson, Lynne Nugent, Robert Oldshue, Robert Olen Butler, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Robert Owens, Shenaz Patel, Carlos Patiño Pereda, F. Paul Wilson, Alice M. Phillips, Leonard Pitts Jr., Hilary Plum, Vladimir Poleganov, Carolyn Raffensperger, Hensli Rahn Solorzano, Nell Regan, Rick Riordan, Melvin Rivers, Julie Rubini, Julie Russel-Stewart, Deb Schense, Steve Semken, Vivek Shanbhag, Tomoka Shibasaki, Tom Shroder, Courtney Sina Meredith, Katherine E. Standefer, Stephanos Stephanides, Catherine A. Stewart, Kalmia Strong, Kenriikka Tavi, Mariano Tenconi Blanco, Erik Therme, Genevieve Trainor, Tatiana Troitskaya, B.C. Tweedt, Kali VanBaale, Ng VirginiaSuk-Yin, Angelo Volandes, Andrea Wilson, Andrea Wulf, Rachel Yoder, Christina Yohannes, Alice S.  Yousef

About the festival


WELCOME TO IOWA CITY! The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization is proud to offer you a week of excellent, one-of-a-kind, free, literary programming as part of the 2023 Iowa City Book Festival. Iowa City is a City of Literature for many reasons: The wonderful writing programs at the University of Iowa, our small presses and magazines, our wonderful libraries, our bookstores, and amenities like the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk.

The Iowa City Book Festival is organized by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, a nonprofit 501(c)3 that manages the Iowa City area’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. The City of Literature works to advance its mission of celebrating and supporting literature on a local, regional, national, and international level, connecting readers and writers through the power of story.

The Graduate Iowa City is the preferred hotel for visitors to the Iowa City Book Festival. Click here to make your reservation or call 319-337-4058 and reference the “UNESCO Book Festival Room Block” to receive a discounted rate.


Support provided by the Iowa Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.




Why Iowa City?

The oldest creative writing program in the country, and still regarded the best. More than forty Pulitzer Prize winners. North America’s only UNESCO City of Literature. How did the midwestern college town of Iowa City, Iowa become the capital of creative writing in America? Check out the City of Literature documentary to find out.

Support the Festival

The vast majority of City of Literature events are offered without charge, but they are not free. Your tax deductible donation gives us the ability to offer programs like this festival. Please consider supporting the City of Literature by making a donation today.

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