What to read over spring break — Iowa City book clubs share their picks

Three local book clubs in and around Iowa City suggest their picks for books to read over spring break.


With a week off from stress-inducing college classes, students can take the opportunity to read books other than their textbooks — escaping into another world over spring break.

There are many book clubs in the Iowa City area, with one on the University of Iowa campus in conjunction with the Stanley Museum of Art. The Stanley Reads book club was started in September of 2020, when the museum was trying to connect with its audience . Each month, the club reads a book centered around one of the museum’s art collections.

Right now, they are reading A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley — a book chosen specifically for the University of Iowa’s 175th anniversary. The novel is set in an imaginary county within Iowa, and follows a family as they’re navigating changing generations. Since the Stanley doesn’t currently have an exhibition on display because of its move to the new museum space on W Burlington Street, the club chose to read books that represent Iowa.

Kimberly Datchuk, the curator of learning and engagement at the Stanley, runs the Stanley Reads club. For her de ella, a book to read over spring break needs to be something light and easy, and provide a little escape from daily life.

“If you’re escaping to a beach or somewhere warm and enjoy reading a romcom, I love Jasmine Guillory,” said Datchuk. “They’re light, it’s going to have a happy ending, but she also deals with some bigger issues in the books too.”

She also recommended reading Kate Spencer’s new novel In a New York Minute, which comes out March 15. The book features a “meet cute” in New York City on the subway in another classic rom-com story.

The Iowa City Public Library’s book club, BYO Book, gets together once a month at various restaurants to discuss the month’s reading. Since COVID they have been meeting virtually via Zoom, but since the weather is getting warmer, they are hoping to find some outdoor venues soon.

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This month, BYO Book read a new biography on Polly Adler called madam by Debby Applegate to celebrate Women’s History Month. The book tells true stories about her rule-breaking life during the Jazz Age in New York City.

Candice Smith, a librarian in the Adult Services Department at the public library and co-founder of BYO Book, thinks that spring break is a great opportunity to read something that you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t quite found the time. She also finds it interesting to read books related to the place you are going if you are traveling for break.

“A lot of the students we have here are from the Chicago area, so I would recommend Eric Larson’s Devil in the White City,said Smith. “It’s about the era of Chicago when they were having the World’s Fair, and there happens to be this prolific serial killer.”

At the Coralville Public Library, they have two book clubs — It’s a Mystery, and Novel Conversations. Mike Jorgensen, the Adult Services Librarian, helped start Novel Conversations around 2013. They read many different styles of books, from classic to contemporary.

Jorgensen recommends reading dunes by Frank Herbert over spring break, a recent pick from their book club. The first half of the story was recently adapted into a film starring actors including Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya.

“It’s an epic science fiction book, but it has a wider appeal than just science fiction,” Jorgensen said. “A lot of science fiction gets into that gritty stuff, and it turns off a lot of people, but this is more about a young guy coming into his own.”

Spring break is often used as a time to relax or party it up with friends, but it can also be a great time to pick up that book that’s been sitting on your shelf all semester. Whether you’re on a sunny beach, in a busy city, or staying in Iowa — there are endless possibilities for reading.

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