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About Paul

Unique selections of books from our book buyer Paul Ingram. He compiles great lists of books on varying topics.

If you have any requests for recommendations, send Paul an email at

  • Paul and Jan's Best Books to Give This Holiday

    Paul and Jan spoke with Charity Nebbe about their favorite books to give this holiday season.

    Check out Paul and Jan's picks below or listen to the broadcast.

    Paul’s Picks

    Finials: A View of Downtown IC by Marybeth Slonneger

    “She has gone through I don’t know how many of old Iowa City photos from 1850 and 60 where everybody has beards and odd little hats. They’ll frequently put a shot that you’ll recognize something from the 1960s or 70s next to the same shot a few years previously. It’s the greatest gift for any Iowa Citian. Her book on the Hamburg Inn was just a joy and this is the same kind of joy. A lot of people will like this.”

    On the Run by Alice Goffman

    “She was in school, and she wanted to find out about the people living in Philadelphia neighborhoods and getting involved with people who are at risk from the police all the time. They always talk about how many people are in jail. She says the police are just dying to put black males into jail. It’s quite controversial for many reasons but it is gorgeous writing.”

    Pitch by Pitch by Bob Gibson

    “He and a writer just get down with the tape or the film of one game. It was one of his most incredible, magical games and they talk about every pitch he made. He’ll talk about making a decision on what pitch to throw and where to throw it, and he goes on and on. And he throws the ball, and it’s a foul ball. And he puts all these great anecdotes. It’s just a great baseball book.”

    Audacity of Hoop by Alexander Wolff

    “This is about basketball and what it means to Barack Obama and to the people he hangs out with. He was a very good basketball player in high school but he didn’t get to play that much because his team was too good. There’s a great scene where after he’s president he gets back to Hawaii and talks to his coach, because he was really giving his coach a lot of crap about not playing him more. Obama felt bad about that. All he wanted to do was find this coach and say ‘Coach, I wasn’t that good.’ There’s basketball all around his life.”

    Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss

    “Lauren Redniss has invented a new kind of book, it’s not a graphic novel, it’s not a science kind of book, but it is all--it’s one of these I’m going to have to get you down to the bookstore to see because it’s just amazing. She’s a very, very good prose writer. This is really a collection of essays and art about weather.”

    The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott

    “The main character here, the basic sort of low end southern loser of a character, and he is a taxidermist as many people are beginning to realize that taxidermy is a low end profession in the South. And he wants most of all to get back to his girlfriend and he wants to get some money and he goes to a place called the center for cybernetic neuroscience and he has all these high powered humanities high-intellect things downloaded into his brain.”

    Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

    “This is a collection of short stories, it just won the national book award. There are five or six stories and they’re long-ish and some of them quite funny, some of them poignant.”

    All The Help You Need a Vic Pasternak novel by Sean Preciado Genell

    “It’s about an Iowa City cab driver who drives around at night and he has owned a couple of the various cab companies that he works on and talks about. It’s kind of a noir. He is very, very funny and absolutely believable. He’s got a very, very nice style. I’m really high on this book.” 

    Jan’s Picks

    The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

    “These are nine linked stories that take place in Russia between 1937 and the future. And they sort of go back and forth between characters who are artists—there’s a dancer and there’s a visual artist and a photographer--and this character that is a tool of the state. And of course art is dangerous to someone who is a tool of the state so each of the stories is kind of this interaction between trying to maintain culture and trying to maintain it.”

    100 Years of the Best American Short Stories — edited by Lorrie Moore

    “It is, as we say at Prairie Lights, a thick tome. It begins in 1915 obviously and ends in 2015. One of the really wonderful things about this book is Lorrie Moore’s introduction. She says, ‘It’s a lovely shock of mercy and democracy to find that we need to spend time in the company of people whose troubles we might ordinarily avoid.’”

    Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams

    “It has been getting really fantastic reviews; people are calling it one of the most essential books of the year. They do have that sort of minimalist Raymond Carver kind of feel to them but she’s able to describe characters from many walks of life and on many social and economic levels which is interesting. She’s still got that sort-of wry, sardonic, very observant way of describing things but not everything is taking place in the same social strata which is very interesting actually.”

    Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

    “It’s a very loving very close family but they’ve all experienced these sad reactions to their mixed racial family and they haven’t told each other about it. So it just sort of builds this feeling about how we often don’t talk to the people we’re closest to about the things that are most emotionally hard for us. It’s a really good book, it’s really vivid and well-written.”

    The English and Their History by Robert Tombs

    “This is a history of the English and their culture from the Bronze Age to the present. But it’s very readable, because he’s got this just sort of incredibly encompassing personal voice that just draws you right in. He says something really interesting that if English history had been his field, he wouldn’t have been able to write a book like this for ordinary reader. He would have been bogged down immediately in the academic stuff.”

    The Year of Lear:  Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro

    “1606 is the year he finished King Lear and wrote both Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. In terms of Shakespeare’s life altogether, it’s hard to put together anything so this book doesn’t try to do that. It tracks more what’s going on that year. It’s right after the reign of Elizabeth has ended and King James who is Scottish and Catholic is there, there’s this gunpowder plot which attempts to assassinate him and fails. But there’s all this intrigue that he then ties to all three: Macbeth and King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra.”

    I’ll Tell You Mine:  30 Years of Essays from The Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program edited by Hope Edelman and Robin Hemley

    “The introduction talks about the history of the program because it’s not part of the Writers Workshop. It was begun in the 1970s in the English department, and it’s regarded. They start in the 80s with the essays that are in here. There are a lot of people included in here that are known and others that are not. They’re very diverse both in terms of style and subject, and it’s a really great anthology.”

    Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

    “It’s a collection of the letters she’s written to all the men in her life. They’re all short bur she’s very quick witted, and I think everybody can relate to wanting to write letters like these to people in your life.”

  • Barb & Victoria's Holiday Picks


    recommendations from Barb & Victoria



    Close Your Eyes

    Kitten's First Full Moon

    Time-Out for Sophie

    The Napping House Board Book



    National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry

    Snuggle Up with Mother Goose

    A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young



    My Grandfather's Coat

    Hansel & Gretel

    Treasury of Norse Mythology

    The Sky Is Falling!



    Bob and Flo

    North Woods Girl

    Two White Rabbits

    The Day the Crayons Came Home

    Holey Moley

    Where's the Baboon?

    Bulldozer's Big Day


    R Is for Rocket: An ABC Book

    I'm Cool

    Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!


    Felix Stands Tall

    I Really Like Slop!

    Lillian's Right to Vote

    The Full Moon at the Napping House



    James to the Rescue

    Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon


    The Princess in Black & the Perfect Princess Party

    Backyard Witch: Sadie's Story

    Bunjitsu Bunny's Best Move

    The Trouble with Ants

    Frank Einstein and the Brainturbo

    Hilo 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth



    Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter

    Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People

    Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

    Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

    The Inventor's Secret

    Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre & His World of Insects

    Poet: The Remarkable Stor of George Moses Horton



    Out of the Woods

    I Don't like Snakes

    How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom

    Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear

    Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out

    A Chicken Followed Me Home!



    The Green Bicycle


    Astounding Broccoli Boy

    Diary of a Mad Brownie

    Goblins on the Prowl

    Hereville: How MIrka Caught a Fish


    Kid Owner

    Sunny Side Up

    Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

    The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

    Firefly Hollow

    Binny in Secret

    Finding Fortune

    The Marvels

    The Odds of Getting Even

    Gone Crazy in Alabama



    The Thing about Jellyfish

    The Last Leaves Falling

    The Scorpion Rules

    A Prince without a Kingdom

    Losers Take All

    Infinite in Between

    Ash & Bramble

    The Hired Girl

    Goodbye Stranger

    Honor Girl

    The Emperor of Any Place

    Everything, Everything


  • Paul's Corner: Gathering Leaves by Robert Frost

    The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems Robert Frost


    Spades take up leaves
    No better than spoons
    And bags full of leaves
    Are light as balloons.

    I make a great noise
    Of rustling all day
    Like rabbit and deer
    Running away

    But the mountains I raise
    Elude my embrace,
    Flowing over my arms
    And into my face.

    I may load and unload
    Again and again
    Till I fill the whole shed
    And what have I then.

    Next to nothing for weight,
    And since they grow duller
    From contact with earth,
    Next to nothing for color.

    Next to nothing for use.
    But a crop is a crop,
    And who’s to say where
    The harvest shall stop.
        --Robert Frost

    Hoping granddaughter Lillian, 8,
    Will memorize it or remember it, when 
    She plays in the leaves.