Prairie Lights Bookstore
Prairie Lights bookstore is a wonderful independent bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa. Based on first hand experience, we think it’s the perfect launching point to begin a visit to the UNESCO World City of Literature. Inside, we noticed something for every age group. There was also a section of the bookstore devoted to local writers. The bookstore regularly hosts readings by outstanding authors. Fortunately, these excellent readings are broadcast live over the web and archived.
As you enter the bookstore, you will notice all kinds of interesting signs, displays, and aisles of books which beckon. However, we recommend that you head first to the upstairs cafe, before exploring the books. We began our visit to the bookstore in the upstairs cafe, because we had been driving long distances to far destinations and Iowa City was our afternoon break. It’s not often that a road trip stop includes the aroma of freshly baked goods and artisan coffee. As if that weren’t enough, the upstairs cafe is in the same spot where a literary group used to meet during the 1930’s. Composed of writers Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, E.E. Cummings, and others, this group met there regularly. It was so fun to walk into a space with so much history of writers we had all read in school.
We visited the cafe on two different road trips through the Midwest, and found it a memorable destination each time. Located not too far off the main highway, and with ample street parking, it was a great place to relax, read, talk, and eat. One of the charming touches was that all the food and drink were served on vintage dishes which added to the historical feel of the experience. If good coffee, hot chocolate, excellent cheese plates, and freshly baked cookies are your thing, you will love it!
Browsing the Bookstore
After a delicious meal in the cafe, we had plenty of energy to browse the offerings in the bookstore. We recommend that you purchase The Iowa Avenue Literary Walk booklet before heading down one block to the literary sidewalks. The brochure is a guide to Iowa City’s literary “walk of fame” and describes each writer’s history and connection to Iowa. The price is right and it’s also a great souvenir.
After book browsing and enjoying our food, we enjoyed a stroll along the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk. Beyond Prairie Lights, there are additional restaurants, bookstores, and buildings which are connected to the literary history of the city. We hope you enjoy your stay in this fantastic college town.
The Prairie Lights Bookstore is the final stop on our Iowa Trail!
Rebecca Blake Beech