Iowa City Hosts 9th Annual Book Festival

Issue: 

John Kenyon, the executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, reveals Iowa City’s strong literary culture to the world each year.
John Kenyon, the executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, reveals Iowa City’s strong literary
culture to the world each year. 

When Iowa City hosted the ninth annual Iowa City Book Festival, held October 8-15, as many as 5,000 bibliophiles gathered to appreciate writers from near and far at its largest literary celebration to date.

Making history

In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City as a City of Literature. Iowa City was the third in the world and the first in the United States to receive the selective recognition.

John Kenyon (BA’92), director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, attributes the University of Iowa’s legendary Writers’ Workshop and the International Writing Program as fundamental reasons for receiving the prestigious destination. Learn more about Kenyon and his position here.

“A significant number of authors we invite to the book festival to share their works are graduates of these world-famous programs,” Kenyon said.

Literary hub of Iowa City

The Iowa City Book Festival, originally hosted by the University of Iowa Main Library, began in 2009. After analyzing its success the first year, Iowa City declared the book festival should be an annual tradition.

In 2013, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature began coordinating the annual festival. Events such as book readings, discussion panels, and a book drive are scattered throughout downtown Iowa City. Prairie Lights, the Iowa Memorial Union, the Iowa City Public Library, and other businesses partner with the festival to showcase noteworthy writers.

This year’s book festival featured more than 60 authors from across the nation, up from just 39 in 2013.

Alison Ames Galstad, president of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature board of directors said, “Whether you’re interested in a light-hearted escapist type of story or a thought-provoking piece of literature, there is something for everyone at the book festival.”

 

UNESCO

Paul Engle Prize Winner

During the 2017 Iowa City Book Festival, Alexander Chee, a University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, was celebrated for winning the prestigious Paul Engle Prize for his debut novel, Edinburgh.

Established in 2011, the Paul Engle Prize honors authors who have written a one-of-a-kind story and have bettered his or her community by means beyond just pen and paper. Chee writes on diversity issues such as race, gender and LGBTQ+. Writers from around the country compete for this specific award. Read more about Chee here.

Download the list of authors who were present at the 2017 Iowa City Book Festival here.

Making memories

Kenyon’s favorite 2017 festival event was Writers’ Workshop graduate Nathan Englander’s reading of his recent publication, Dinner at the Center of the Earth. Englander requested that his fellow University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, Chris Adrian, join him at his reading.

“We were able unite two old college friends who had the opportunity to chat about books and life as students of the Workshop,” Kenyon said.

Read more about Englander and his novel here. 

The Iowa City Book Festival is a tradition that not only unifies the community, but it also provides an opportunity to show what the University of Iowa brings to the literary world.

Join the Tradition in 2018:

UNESCO Conference April 3-6, 2018
Iowa City Book Festival Oct. 1-7, 2018