Live From Prairie Lights

"Live from Prairie Lights” 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.

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.
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  • Marilynne Robinson in conversation with Lan Samantha Chang

    October 26, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join Prairie Lights and the Iowa City Book Festival for an exciting reading with Marilynne Robinson, in conversation with Lan Samantha Chang.

    To access the event, register here.

    Marilynne Robinson's new novel, Jackis a New York Times Bestseller. Casey Cep of The New Yorker, says of the book, "Jack is the fourth novel in Robinson’s Gilead series, an intergenerational saga of race, religion, family, and forgiveness centered on a small Iowa town. But it is not accurate to call it a sequel or a prequel. Rather, this book and the others—GileadHome, and Lila—are more like the Gospels, telling the same story four different ways . . . At seventy-six, she is still trying to convince the rest of us that her habit of looking backward isn’t retrograde but radical, and that this country’s history, so often seen now as the source of our discontents, contains their remedy, too.”

    Marilynne Robinson is the author of four novels, including Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Home, winner of the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Lila, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her first novel, Housekeeping, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Robinson's nonfiction books include The Givenness of ThingsWhen I Was a Child I Read BooksAbsence of Mind, The Death of Adam, and Mother Country, which was nominated for a National Book Award. Her awards include the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and the Louisville Gravemeyer Award in Religion. She was the recipient of a 2012 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama, for "her grace and intelligence in writing." She is currently Professor Emeritus at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

    She will be joined in conversation by Lan Samantha Chang, the author of a collection of short fiction, Hunger, and two novels, Inheritance, and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. Her work has been translated into nine languages and has been chosen twice for The Best American Short Stories. She has received creative writing fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is Program Director and Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor in the Arts at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.


  • Jack Jung in conversation with Alexander Chee

    October 28, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading from Yi Sang: Selected Works with one of its translators, poet Jack Jung, as well as a conversation with author Alexander Chee.

    To access the event, register here.

    Formally audacious and remarkably compelling, Yi Sang’s works were uniquely situated amid the literary experiments of world literature in the early twentieth century and the political upheaval of 1930s Japanese occupied Korea. While his life ended prematurely at the age of twenty-seven, Yi Sang’s work endures as one of the great revolutionary legacies of modern Korean literature. Presenting the work of the influential Korean modernist master, this carefully curated selection assembles poems, essays, and stories that ricochet off convention in a visionary and daring response to personal and national trauma, reminding us that to write from the avant-garde is a form of civil disobedience.

    Yi Sang: Selected Works was published by Wave Books in September 2020 and is translated by Jack Jung, Don Mee Choi, Sawako Nakayasu, and Joyelle McSweeney

    Jack Jung is a graduate of Iowa Writers’ Workshop where he was a Truman Capote Fellow. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States. He received his BA in English from Harvard and MA in Korean language and literature from Seoul National University. 

    He will be joined in conversation by Alexander Chee, author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel. He is winner of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship, The Randy Shilts Prize in gay nonfiction, the Paul Engle Prize, the 2018 One Story Magazine’s Mentor of the Year Award, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. He is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.

  • Ralph James Savarese & Stephen Kuusisto: Writers @ Grinnell

    October 29, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Join Writers @ Grinnell with Prairie Lights Bookstore for a virtual event celebrating the publication of two recent books of poetry: Republican Fathers  (Nine Mile Books)  by  Ralph James Savarese and Old Horse, What Is to be Done? (Tiger Bark Press) by Stephen Kuusisto. Together they've written a book titled Someone Falls Overboard: Talking through Poems, which will be out in 2021. They'll each read for about 15 minutes and then have a conversation about poetry, politics, disability, and literary friendship.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Ralph James Savarese is the author of two books of prose, Reasonable People and See It Feelingly, and two books of poetry, Republican Fathers and When This Is Over: Pandemic Poems. He is also the co-editor of three collections; a fourth, The Futures of Neurodiversity, is under contract with the MLA. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Bellingham Review, Fourth Genre, New England Review, Ploughshares, Seneca Review, and   Sewanee Review. He teaches at Grinnell. His website is:

    Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey; Planet of the Blind  (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”) and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light;   Letters to Borges; and   Old Horse, What is to Be Done?  A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, The Ohio State University and Syracuse where he currently directs interdisciplinary disability research programs. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is:

  • Senator Sherrod Brown in conversation with Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls

    October 30, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Join us for this special pre-election reading with Senator Sherrod Brown and conversation with Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls, to celebrate the release of the paperback edition of Senator Brown's Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown has sat on the Senate floor at a mahogany desk with a proud history. In Desk 88, he tells the story of eight of the Senators who were there before him. David M. Shribman with The Boston Globe says of Desk 88, "Perhaps the most imaginative book to emerge from the Senate since Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts produced Profiles in Courage."

    Sherrod Brown is the senior United States Senator from Ohio, elected to his seat in 2006. He was the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 13th congressional district from 1993­ to 2003 and the forty-seventh Secretary of State of Ohio from 1983 to 1991. A member of the Democratic Party, Senator Brown began his political career in 1975 upon election to the Ohio House of Representatives. Brown has dedicated his life in public service to fighting for what he calls “the dignity of work”―the belief that hard work should pay off for everyone. He resides in Cleveland with his wife, Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and author. They are blessed with a growing family, including three daughters, a son, and seven grandchildren.

    Zach Wahls represents District 37 in the Iowa Senate. District 37 includes all of Coralville, the west side of Iowa City, rural north and east Johnson County including Solon, all of Cedar County, and the town of Wilton in Muscatine County.  He is an advocate for LGBTQ rights and co-founder of Scouts for Equality, the national campaign to end discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America. He grew up in Iowa City and is the author of the bestselling book My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family.

  • To Marvin: A Celebration in Poems

    November 1, 2020 - 2:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading and celebration of Marvin Bell’s poetry by his friends, colleagues, and former students, including John Irving, Tess Gallagher, Heather McHugh, David St. John, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kwame Dawes, Ellen Bass, Juan Felipe Herrera, Stephen Kuusisto, Dorianne Laux, Lia Purpura, Eric Pankey, and many more. Nathan Bell will sing, and we will raise a toast to the ways in which this extraordinary poet has shaped our literary landscape. “You are not beautiful, exactly,” he writes in his famous poem for his wife, “To Dorothy.” “You are beautiful, inexactly.” Marvin’s precise understanding of what the inexact beauty surrounding us means has made all the difference in the lives of writers and readers around the world.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

  • Pappyland: Wright Thompson in conversation with Julian Van Winkle III

    November 12, 2020 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Join Nate Kaeding with Big Grove Brewery for a conversation to celebrate the release of Pappyland. 

    Your ticket enters you into a RAFFLE for a chance to win a bottle of PAPPY VAN WINKLE. Three bottles will be raffled off by the Lee Initiative - so three winners!

    Wright Thompson, Julian Van Winkle III, and Nate Kaeding of Big Grove will come together virtually to talk about the most sought-after Kentucky Bourbon whiskey in the world. Join us to listen in, get a copy of Pappyland shipped to your door, and to have a chance to win a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. See more details and purchase your ticket here.

    Barrel-aged for over 20 years and released in limited batches each fall, fans vie for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle each year online, seeking lottery tickets that offer a chance to purchase a bottle—which are typically priced north of $3,000. Julian Van Winkle III, the third-generation head of the family business, has been swarmed in recent years wherever he goes with people standing in lines for him to sign their bottles of Family Reserve, the whiskey he created to honor his grandfather Pappy Van Winkle, founder of the genteel craft bourbon.

    PAPPYLAND: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last​ is the first all-access account of the legendary Pappy Van Winkle brand, written by the beloved ​New York Times​-bestselling author Wright Thompson in close collaboration with Julian Van Winkle.

    Publisher's Weekly's Starred Review calls Pappyland, "A fast-paced and colorful history of 20th-century Southern culture, told through the story of charismatic cult-bourbon maker Julian P. Van Winkle III. . . . ‘Being Southern,’ Thompson writes, ‘means carrying a responsibility to shake off the comforting blanket of myth and see ourselves clearly.’ Thompson more than fulfills that burden with insight and eloquence.”

    Wright Thompson ​is the ​New York Times ​bestselling author of ​The Cost of These Dreams​ and a senior writer for ESPN. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi with his family.

    He will be joined in conversation by Julian Van Winkle III, who is the third generation Van Winkle to be involved in the Kentucky Bourbon whiskey business. His grandfather, who was known as "Pappy", started the family in the business back in the 1870s when he was a salesman for the W.L. Weller & Sons liquor wholesalers in Louisville. He later built and was president of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, which opened its doors on Derby day, 1935.

    Your ticket to the event will include:

    • a copy of Pappyland, including shipping and handling
    • a $10 donation to the Lee Initiative Restaurant Workers Relief 
    • entry into a raffle for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle - three bottles to be raffled, so three winners!