Read a new book from one of these 10 Iowa authors

Books written by Iowa authors.

By Amie Rivers

April 2, 2024

You probably have heard all about “The Bridges of Madison County.” Or how occasional Iowa resident Mark Twain counted Muscatine’s sunsets among the best he’d ever seen (and he was a world traveler!). Or how Kurt Vonnegut finished “Slaughterhouse-Five” at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

But did you know the state of Iowa continues to cultivate budding writers and turn them into bestselling authors to this day?

From well-researched nonfiction tomes to twisty thrillers, and from memoirs to children’s books (and more), we’ve put together a list of modern authors with ties to the Hawkeye State.

So if you’re looking for a book by a homegrown author from THIS century, look no further than this list!

“Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World” by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter (2008)

“Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, a kitten was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. For the next nineteen years, Dewey Readmore Books never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility (for a cat), and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.”

Iowa bonafides: Myron was the real-life Spencer librarian at the center of this tale. She retired in 2007 and continues to live in Spencer.


“A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland” by Cornelia Mutel (2016)

“In 2010, while editing a report on the effects of climate change in Iowa, ecologist Cornelia Mutel came to grips with the magnitude and urgency of the problem … The result is this book, an artful weaving together of the science behind rising temperatures, tumultuous weather events, and a lifetime devoted to the natural world. Climate change isn’t just about melting Arctic ice and starving polar bears. It’s weakening the web of life in our own backyards.”

Iowa bonafides: Mutel is the former senior science writer at IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa College of Engineering and lives in Iowa City.


“No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class” by Christopher R. Martin (2019)

“The damning indictment of the mainstream media that flows through No Longer Newsworthy is a wakeup call about the critical role of the media in telling news stories about labor unions, workers, and working-class readers.”

Iowa bonafides: Martin is a professor of Digital Journalism and Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa.


“Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland” by Art Cullen (2020)

“In a story where politics, agri­culture, the environment, and immigration all converge, Cullen offers an unsentimental ode to rural America and to the resilient people of a vibrant community of fifteen thousand in Northwest Iowa, as much sur­vivors as their town.”

Iowa bonafides: Cullen is a native of Storm Lake, and the longtime editor and co-owner of the weekly newspaper The Storm Lake Times. He previously was a reporter or editor at papers in Algona, Ames and Mason City.


“The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” by Nikole Hannah-Jones (2021)

“The 1619 Project is The New York Times Magazines award-winning reframing of American history that placed slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. The project, which was initially launched in August of 2019, offered a revealing new origin story for the United States, one that helped explain not only the persistence of anti-Black racism and inequality in American life today, but also the roots of so much of what makes the country unique.”

Iowa bonafides: Hannah-Jones is a native of Waterloo and a graduate of Waterloo West High School, and founded the after-school literacy program, 1619 Freedom School, in Waterloo in 2021.


“We Heard It When We Were Young: Tales of Growing Up Mexican American in Small-Town Iowa” by Chuy Renteria (2021)

“We Heard It When We Were Young tells the story of a young boy, first-generation Mexican American, who is torn between cultures: between immigrant parents trying to acclimate to midwestern life and a town that was, by turns, supportive and disturbingly antagonistic.”

Iowa bonafides: Renteria was born in Iowa City and raised in West Liberty, and lives and works in Iowa.


“Omari’s Big Tree and the Mighty Djembe” by Abena Sankofa Imhotep, illustrated by Meanz Chan (2022)

“Omari’s Big Tree and the Mighty Djembe explores themes of tradition, family, and community. A sweet, colorful read that kids will love.”

Iowa bonafides: Sankofa Imhotep is a graduate of Drake University and lives and works in the Des Moines area.


“Barons: Money, Power, and the Corruption of America’s Food Industry” by Austin Frerick (2024)

“Barons paints a stark portrait of the consequences of corporate consolidation, but it also shows we can choose a different path. A fair, healthy, and prosperous food industry is possible—if we take back power from the barons who have robbed us of it.”

Iowa bonafides: Frerick is “a seventh-generation Iowan” who grew up in Cedar Rapids and was a paperboy for the Gazette. He got his bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College and is on the board of directors of Common Good Iowa.


“Everyone Is Watching” by Heather Gudenkauf (2024)

“From the New York Times bestselling author of ‘The Overnight Guest’ comes a twisty locked-room thriller about a mysterious high-stakes game that proves life-threatening.”

Iowa bonafides: Gudenkauf is a graduate of the University of Iowa, previously taught at the Iowa Writers’ House, and lives and works in Iowa.


“This American Ex-Wife: How I Ended My Marriage and Started My Life” by Lyz Lenz (2024)

“A deeply validating manifesto on the gender politics of marriage (bad) and divorce (actually pretty good!) in America today, and an argument that the former needs a reboot—from journalist and proud divorcée Lyz Lenz.”

Iowa bonafides: Lenz lives and works in Iowa.

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.



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