For many years my favorite independent bookstore has been Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa. I have enjoyed many visits and bought many books there. Iowa is my native state but not where I live these days, so visits to Iowa City are infrequent. But this week I was lucky enough to be there.

The bookstore is located downtown near the campus of the University of Iowa. It is a cozy, well-used space. There are three floors with a coffee shop on the top floor. Staff is always ready to help.

One of the things I have always appreciated about Prairie Lights is how well books are organized, how easy different types of books are to find. Sections are well marked. There are books about Iowa and writing in Iowa as well as large sections on history, literature and poetry. There are cookbooks, books on the environment, a nice selection of literary journals and much more. You get the idea: variety. Books for readers with different interests.

I enjoyed a large display of Staff Picks with informative notes on each one. One of their picks is a book I am currently reading, The Cradle by Patrick Somerville. It is a spare, well-written novel about a family search. This is an example of how this bookstore and I never fail to connect.

There was also a display entitled Indie Bound. Here I took a second look at a newly published best seller Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt. This title was included in a recent post on the Reading page of this blog in a list of ten books by authors I have not yet read. This time I reluctantly put it off for later. IndieBound has an informative website.

I purchased two books. A Thousand Mornings is a recent volume of poetry by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. She takes us to the marshlands and coastline of her home in Massachusetts. I know I will enjoy the trip. The second book is by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett, titled A House In the Sky. This is a memoir by a young woman held hostage in Somalia. Recently published, this book is receiving quite a bit of attention.

It seemed to me that the store was not as tightly filled with books as in the past. But books were still easy to view. There were plenty of bargains to be had. You can order books and find other useful information about books at and at The difference is that the latter is an online bookstore while the first site tells about events, staff picks and more. In store readings can be listened to from your home through the internet at Discover Prairie Lights and its resources for yourself. You will be glad you did.

Even if this favorite did not wrap its arms around me quite as tightly as it has on other visits, it is still the favorite I’ve known the longest when it comes to independent book stores. I very much look forward to my next time there, whether I can be in Iowa City or travel via the internet.

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