Established in 2003, the All Iowa Reads program is one of the first projects to be provided by the Iowa Center for the Book. Tweet with us about #AllIowaReads16
The purpose of All Iowa Reads is to foster a sense of unity through reading. We encourage Iowans statewide to come together in their communities to read and talk about a single book title in the same year. Libraries, book clubs, schools and other local organizations are encouraged to sponsor discussions of the title. Please use this site for information as you read and study the book. We offer a wealth of materials including book reviews. discussion questions, and publicity materials to help you prepare successful discussions.
2016 All Iowa Reads selection: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
2016 AIR Program Links:
Although Lila is part of the Gilead trilogy, the novel stands on its own as a powerful story of a woman who, homeless and unschooled, nevertheless leads those around her from "doubt and sorrow" to compassion and understanding. The action in the story takes place before the two earlier works, Gilead and Home. "When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband, the Reverend John Ames, who paradoxically judges those she loves."
Susan Craig, Co-chair of the All Iowa Reads Committee said, "When a book set in Iowa, written by one of the greatest novelists of our time, who lives in Iowa, is proposed for All Iowa Reads it receives serious consideration. The committee had concerns that so many Iowans would have already read Lila by Marilynne Robinson and that we had already selected Gilead for the program. However, the themes presented in the book are universal, and very different from Gilead, the quality of the writing is superb and Lila’s story compelling. We feel that Lila was the right choice for 2016."
In a Starred Review, Publishers Weekly raves that Lila is “a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson’s work…Lila is a superb creation. Largely uneducated, almost feral, Lila has a thirst for stability and knowledge. As she yearns to forget the terrible memories and shame of her past, Lila is hesitant to reveal them to her loving new husband. The courtship of the couple—John Ames: tentative, shy, awkward; Lila: naïve, suspicious, wary, full of dread—will endure as a classic set piece of character revelation, during which two achingly lonely people discover the comfort of marital love…Robinson carefully crafts this provocative and deeply meaningful spiritual search for the meaning of existence. What brings the couple together is a joyous appreciation of the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of grace.”
Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels, Lila, Home, Gilead, and Housekeeping, and four books of nonfiction, When I Was a Child I Read Books, Mother Country, The Death of Adam, and Absence of Mind. She is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (Gilead), National Book Critics Circle Award (Lila), National Book Critics Circle Award Prize (Home), and the recipient of a 2012 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama, for “her grace and intelligence in writing.”
Past AIR Books:
- 2015. My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
- 2014. Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman
- 2013. The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
- 2012. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
- 2011. Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
- 2010. Driftless by David Rhodes
- 2009. The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown
- 2008. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
- 2007. Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio by Jeffrey Kluger
- 2006. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
- 2005. The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
- 2004. Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken
- 2003. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
How All Iowa Reads is chosen
The All Iowa Reads Committee welcomes, but does not solicit nominations. Members of the Committee read widely, seeking books with broad appeal. In a series of meetings, members discuss possibilities that meet the criteria listed below. The list is narrowed to approximately five titles which are read by all members. Members provide their honest impressions, independent of outside influence, and the final selection is made by consensus.
Criteria used to select the All Iowa Reads title
The AIR book must:
- Raise universal social issues relevant to Iowans
- Lend itself to sustained, spirited and in-depth discussion
- Be accessible to adults and high school aged youth
- Be available by January 1st of the selection year in the following formats:
- unabridged audio
- and either large print or downloadable eBook format that is available for purchase and circulation by public libraries*
It is desirable, but not required, that the book:
- have an Iowa or Midwest connection
- is a recent publication that has not been widely read
*In the event that the book is not available in large print, the Committee will request that the publisher make it available in LP.
For more information, contact the Coordinator.