We suggest: Iowa Writers’ Workshop edition

By Collection Management Librarian Dontaná McPherson-Joseph

This October, we’re excited to welcome Claire Lombardo as the speaker at this year’s Ballinger Lecture, held virtually on Zoom, on Sunday, October 11, 2-3 pm.

And we’re also thrilled that so many Oak Parkers read and loved Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had. In honor of her upcoming virtual visit, the titles listed below celebrate Lombardo’s fellow writers from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a two-year graduate residency program in creative writing known for giving us many of the best writers and works of literature ever.

Check out these six books from writers who, like Lombardo, attended the workshop as a student or taught there as professors.

Love The Most Fun We Ever Had? Try these titles


Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Why you should try it: An engrossing and eminently readable novel that also happens to contain pitch perfect social commentary for our times.

Description: Seeking justice for a young black babysitter who was wrongly accused of kidnapping by a racist security guard, a successful blogger finds her efforts complicated by a video that reveals unexpected connections.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand & Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Find all available formats in the catalog »

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Why you should try it: The relationships between mothers and daughters and among siblings are at the core of this complex character study.

Description: A sixth-year PhD candidate grappling with the childhood faith of the evangelical church in which she was raised while researching the science behind the suffering that has devastated her Ghanaian immigrant family.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand & Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Find all available formats in the catalog »

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Why you should try it: Parallel narratives, deeply intertwined characters, and chosen family make this award-winning novel perfect. Bonus: Makkai served as an Iowa Writers’ Workshop fiction professor in 2015.

Description: A novel set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris follows the director of a Chicago art gallery and a woman looking for her estranged daughter in Paris who both struggle to come to terms with the ways AIDS has affected their lives. Winner of the Stonewall Book Awards Barbara Gittings Literature Award and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand & Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Find all available formats in the catalog »

The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey

Why you should try it: A late 90s coming-of-age tale with all the hallmarks of a classic. Bonus: Livesey currently serves as an Iowa Writers’ Workshop fiction professor.

Description: Saving the life of a young boy, three siblings find their bond challenged by their parents’ troubled marriage and their respective efforts to identify the boy’s attacker, manage a new relationship, and search for a birth parent.

Find all available formats in the catalog »

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Why you should try it: An emotional wallop of a book that is an arresting and demanding reading experience; this one will stay with you. Bonus: It’s on the Booker Prize 2020 shortlist!

Description: Keeping his head down at a lakeside Midwestern university where the culture is in sharp contrast to his Alabama upbringing, an introverted African-American biochem student endures unexpected encounters that bring his orientation and defenses into question.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand & Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Find all available formats in the catalog »

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham

Why you should try it: A bleak, sweeping novel of sisterhood and getting by that may require a cozy blanket after reading.

Description: Joining a new church in 1996 Lagos in the face of impoverishing losses, twins Bibike and Riyike find their bond challenged by wrenching hardships, a father’s reckless choice, and their respective views on independence.

Find all available formats in the catalog »

Librarian Dontaná McPherson-Joseph

About Dontaná

Dontaná is a Collection Management Librarian who was born with an unending reading list. She is almost always reading two books simultaneously and is easily distracted by cool covers.

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