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Get cultured this weekend: Book Festival held in Iowa City

Contributed photo

By Louise Carhart

If you’re looking for an excuse to get off campus this weekend and avoid the 10/10 fallout, there’s no better place to head than Iowa City for the annual Iowa City Book Festival. Running from Oct. 4 to Oct. 9, the Festival is held every year in various locations throughout the City. Iowa City holds this Festival to celebrate the place of literature in its history and the continued importance of books to the City.

Contributed photo
Contributed photo

“As the only [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] UNESCO City of Literature in North America, Iowa City is known as a place that values and celebrates literature. That makes it easier to book a festival. Authors know they will be treated well and will interact with some of the best audiences in the world at our festival,” wrote John Kenyon, the Festival director in an email to The S&B.

Hosted by the organization Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, the Festival honors the strong literary tradition present in Iowa. How did Iowa City come to be designated as a City of Literature? The strong and continued presence of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, as well as the multitude of other programs and literary institutions made Iowa City a worthy candidate and recipient of the award.

As for this year’s Festival, a great number of events promise to entertain visitors and keep the literary spirit of the City alive.

“We have Pulitzer Prize winners in Robert Olen Butler and Leonard Pitts Jr., we’re giving our Paul Engle Literary Prize to Roxane Gay, we’re debuting [University of Iowa] grad Nathan Hill’s first novel, we’re partnering on events featuring Angelo Volandes, Suki Kim, Andrea Wulf and more. It’s a long list of highlights,” Kenyon wrote.

All of these events will be featured prominently alongside a book fair that visitors can peruse in the hunt for their next read.

In addition to the planned programming and the fair, there is a portion dedicated to the “First Folio” exhibition of Shakespeare’s work. Earlier in the fall, one of the “First Folio’s” of Shakespeare’s work was on display at the University of Iowa Main Library. The fair will honor this historical artifact with some dedicated programming.

“Because the ‘First Folio’ was here in September and is now gone, we only have a small bit of programming related to it, with a presentation by Adam Hooks, curator of that exhibition locally, talking about his book, ‘Selling Shakespeare’ and Emily Martin discussing art books related to Shakespeare,” Kenyon wrote. “However, though the ‘First Folio’ is gone, the exhibition around it remains, and it is a fascinating look at some pieces of the University of Iowa’s own collection, which includes a ‘Second Folio’ and many other rare works. So those coming to town for the festival definitely should take in that exhibition at the University of Iowa Main Library.”

Although the “First Folio” drew a large amount of visitors to the Main Library in September and the exhibit undoubtedly will continue to be popular, the Book Festival is continuing to rely on its strength as one of the premier literary festivals in the country.

“Given the strength of literary programming in Iowa City, each year seems to bring something new and exciting. This year was no different,” Kenyon wrote.

Visitors looking to fully experience the Festival should head to their website in order to gain an idea of what might be of interest to them and what the main events are taking place the day they visit.

“Visiting and really spending some time with the schedule and the author bios is a great way to start. With more than 100 presenters at more than 50 events over six days, we feel there truly is something for everyone,” Kenyon wrote. “No matter your tastes, you should be able to find something that appeals to you. And, it’s all free and open to the public.”

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