Iowa's Literary Heritage Resources

Iowa's Literary Heritage and Writers from Other Iowa Towns

map of iowa

A map of Iowa, showing the regions of the state

This list identifies authors by the town where they were born or worked.


Ted Kooser – U.S. poet laureate; raised in Ames & graduate of ISU

Sara Paretsky – mystery writer; born in Ames in 1947

Jane Smiley – A Thousand Acres; Moo

Cedar Rapids

Paul Engle – poet

William Shirer – The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich

Carl Van Vechten – novelist & photographer


James Norman Hall – Mutiny on the Bounty

Council Bluffs & Independence

Janet Dailey – romance novelist


Susan Glaspell – novels and short stories as well as a wonderful play, Trifles, which also appeared as a short story.

Alice French (using the pen name of Octave Thanet)

Des Moines

Bill Bryson

Alan E. Nourse – science fiction and science writer: Blade Runner


Richard Bissell – Pajama Game

Thomas Gifford – bestselling author of thriller novels

David Rabe – playwright (Sticks and Bones won the Tony Award for Best Play)

Ft. Dodge

Thomas Heggen – Mister Roberts

Keosauqua & Pittsburg

Phil Stong – State Fair

Lake Mills

Wallace Stegner – fiction and nonfiction

Mason City

Meredith Willson – Music Man


Emerson Hough


Hamlin Garland


Edna Ferber – Showboat: spent girlhood in Ottumwa

Storm Lake

Marjorie Holmes – popular Christian author


Mona Van Duyn – U.S. poet laureate: went to UNI

Maurice Zimm – screenwriter: Creature from the Black Lagoon

Webster City

MacKinlay Kantor – novelist and screenwriter: Andersonville

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Links to Other Lists of books by Iowa Authors -- Iowa Authors in the Jefferson Public Library. This is a very comprehensive list of books by Iowa authors -- The Des Moines Public Library presents its list of books with Iowa interests

The Iowa Authors Collection has been keeping track of Iowa Authors for many years: the Ia Authors page lists over 2,000 Iowa writers. The Special Collections has information about some of the writers, whose names are hyperlinked.

Bob McCown with his picks for 50 books written by Iowans. "These fifty books on Iowa, written by Iowans, include novels, memoirs, and historical studies portraying every part of the state." Bob McCown worked at the University of Iowa Library, Special Collections, for many years and was a long-time member and leader of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association. This article first appeared in the publication Books at Iowa 65 (November 1996).

Clarence Andrews, A Literary History of Iowa, The University of Iowa Press, 1972. This amazing book devotes an entire chapter to Ruth Suckow (Chapter 7, Ruth Suckow: The Poetry of Place). Andrews was a member of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association and a Suckow Scholar. He also discusses Bess Streeter Aldrich and James Hearst in his book, which covers Iowa writers up to 1971.

Iowa Literary History, 1971-1991 by CLARENCE ANDREWS. This essay about Iowa Literary history picks up from where he left off in his book, mentioned above. The essay was published in Books at Iowa (April 1992) but you can read it at the link below. Copyright: The University of Iowa

Want to know more about Iowa History? Dorothy Schweider was a Professor of History at Iowa State University and wrote a book about the history of Iowa.

Iowa: The Middle Land 1st Edition by Dorothy Schwieder (Author)

ISBN-13: 978-1587295492 ISBN-10: 1587295490

The History of Iowa: here is an online essay by Dorothy Schwieder, Professor of History, Iowa State University.

Last Updated March 5, 2021

Cherie Dargan, webmaster