Prairie Lights Reading Series (Iowa City)

by Nynke Passi

Praire Lights Bookstore • 15 South Dubuque St. • Iowa City, IA 52240 • 319-337-2681 • 800-295-BOOK • Open 9:00 a.m. daily

“Live from Prairie Lights,” held at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, is an internationally known readings series, which features some of the best up-and-coming and well-established authors & poets from all over the globe. Presented before a live audience and streamed over the world wide web, this long running series brings the spoken word from the bookstore to the masses.Most readings begin @ 7:00 p.m. Arrive early to assure yourself a seat. Link to the upcoming readings:
Live at Prairie Lights upcoming readings

The University of Iowa is home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, one of the most highly regarded graduate Creative Writing programs in the country. As a result, many distinguished as well as up-and-coming authors and poets come to Iowa City to give readings, usually at Prairie Lights downtown or at the Shambaugh Auditorium on campus. The Virtual Writing University Archive, featuring hundreds of audio and video recordings of emerging and renowned writers from around the world, documents the history of writing at The University of Iowa and its surrounding community. The collection is continuously updated with recordings from local readings. The project, founded by Jim Elmborg of the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), is a collaborative effort between SLIS and the Virtual Writing University.

Writing University Virtual Writing Library ARCHIVE:
Writing University Archive

The Writing University live streams many of our readings here.

The Live from Prairie Lights audio archive is available here.

Iowa City PATV has a video archive of readings located here.


JOE BLAIR, March 6, 2013 – 7:00pm, Prairie LIghts

  • Joe Blair will read from the brand new paperback edition of By The Iowa Sea. This vivid memoir about the heartbreaks and ecstasies of marriage, fatherhood, and life in Johnson County, Iowa (Joe Blair lives in Coralville) charmed readers all over the country when it was released last year. The writing is remarkably direct. O, the Oprah Magazine, said that the memoir is “so raw and true you’ll gasp.”  And, Iowa Writers’ Workshop Professor Ethan Canin says that  “Joe Blair’s voice is uncommonly perceptive, startlingly honest, and powerfully moving. This is eloquence born of pain, sharpened by humor, and burnished, finally, by understanding and redemption.”

    Exquisitely observed and lyrically recounted, this is a compelling and often humorous account of an ordinary man’s struggle to live an extraordinary life. A finalist for the Elle magazine Reader’s Choice Award, By the Iowa Sea charmed critics, booksellers, and readers alike.

    Joe Blair is a pipefitter who lives here with his wife and four children. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Iowa Review.

JULIA PANDL, March 7, 2013 – 7:00pm, Prairie LIghts

  • Julia Pandl will read from Memoir of the Sunday Brunch. For Julia Pandl, the rite of passage into young-adulthood included mandatory service at her family’s restaurant, where she watched as her father—the chef—ruled with the strictness of a drill sergeant. At age twelve, Julie was initiated into the rite of the Sunday brunch, a weekly madhouse where she and her eight older siblings  did service in a situation of controlled chaos. In her wry memoir, Julia Pandl looks back on those formative years, a time not just of growing up but, ultimately, of becoming a source of strength and support as the world her father knew began to change into a tougher, less welcoming place. Part coming-of-age story a la The Tender Bar, part window into the mysteries of the restaurant business a la Kitchen Confidential, Julie Pandl provides tender wisdom about the bonds between fathers and daughters and about the simple pleasures that lie in the daily ritual of breaking bread.

    “Pandl’s Restaurant in Milwaukee is a Midwest tradition: What makes Julia Pandl’s memoir shine is not only its charm and humor but also its insider’s look at how high standards and love equals extraordinary food.”  — Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

    Julia Pandl was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she still lives and works. Memoir of the Sunday Brunch is her first book. When she is not writing and otherwise working, she moonlights as a stand-up comic.

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS, March 12, 2013 – 7:00pm, Prairie Lights

  • Terry Tempest Williams will be here to read from When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice. In 54 chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother’s journals in a book that keeps turning around the question, “What does it mean to have a voice?”

    “The writing of Terry Tempest Williams is brilliant, meditative, and full of surprises, wisdom, and wonder. She’s one of those writers who changes peoples’ lives by encouraging attention and a slow, patient awakening.” —Anne Lamott, author of Imperfect Birds

    When Women Were Birds is a wise and beautiful and intelligent book, written for the women, men, and children of our times. It vibrates with the earned honesty of a great soul. It is a gift, passed on to readers with the same spirit of love and generosity with which it was first given to the author by her mother. A remarkable journey, a remarkable story.”        — Rick Bass

    Terry Tempest Williams is the award-winning author of Refute, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, The Open Space of Democracy, An Unspoken Hunger, Leap, and Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert. She lives in Castle Valley, Utah but makes annual trips to Maine.