Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Author Review: Donald Ray Pollock

I was going through my ever growing “to be read” list recently, when I came across the ominous sounding The Devil all the Time, by Donald Ray Pollock. As with most of the titles on that doughty list of mine, I couldn’t remember what initially attracted me to the book or what earned it a spot. I did, however, notice that there is a new Netflix movie adaptation of the same name and decided to give the novel a shot before checking out the movie. I admit that I had been in a bit of a reading slump before turning to this new (to me) author, but the brilliant, disgusting, descriptive, weird, and all around compelling prose of Donald Ray Pollock was sufficient to catapult me to new heights of literary enjoyment.

The Devil all the Time had everything: serial killers, hillbillies, traumatized war vets struggling to cope with life’s tribulations, preachers with suspect morals, and small-town desperation all masterfully woven into one storyline. Pollock’s work has been characterized by various niche subgenres such as “Hillbilly Gothic,” “Appalachian Noir,” and even “Hick Lit” and I found myself to be an instant fan. After zipping through The Devil all the Time, I looked Pollock up in the Carnegie-Stout catalog, hoping to find a plethora of similar tales of violence and desperation, of beauty and redemption penned by my newest literary obsession. Alas, I found only two such desolate dramas: Knockemstiff and The Heavenly Table.  


Knockemstiff is a set of loosely interwoven short stories that take place in the same Southern Ohio holler that is the setting for The Devil all the Time and the real-life birthplace of Pollock. The Heavenly Table is the account of a trio of desperadoes who refuse to let something as trivial as the law prevent them from improving their lot in life. Both sagas are unforgettable and impossible to put down.

In brief, if you’re a fan of gritty, dark, Gothic Noir stories, if you’re a fan of such authors as Brian Panowich or Joe R. Lansdale, or if you simply looking to escape a dreaded reading slump, give Donald Ray Pollock a read. He may not be the most prolific author around, but he seems to pump out a new masterpiece every 3-5 years, so it would seem that we’re about due for another.     

~Ryan Bankson, Circulation Services

Tax Forms and Free Tax Preparation in Dubuque in 2021

Updated: January 20, 2021

Tax Forms & Printing at Carnegie-Stout Public Library
The Iowa Department of Revenue is not distributing paper tax instruction booklets through Carnegie-Stout Public Library this year, and the selection from the IRS is very limited. Library staff can help you find tax forms and instructions on the Internet and print them for 15 cents per double-sided sheet. For more info call Carnegie-Stout Public Library at 563-589-4225 and ask for the Reference Desk.

Iowa Tax Forms
Iowa tax forms are available online at Help with Iowa forms and tax questions is available by calling 515-281-3114 or 800-367-3388.

Federal Tax Forms
Federal tax forms and instructions are available online at You can order free forms to be delivered to you by mail at or by calling 800-829-3676. Tax help is available by calling 800-829-1040. According to the IRS, live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time.

Stimulus Payments
For Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payment questions, see "Get My Payment" at and "Recovery Rebate Credit" at You may also call 800-919-9835 to ask about stimulus payments, but according to the IRS live phone assistance is extremely limited at this time.

Free Tax Preparation in Dubuque
Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) at is providing free and confidential tax preparation for individuals with low to moderate incomes. Here are some details:
  • Residents of Dubuque and surrounding counties in Iowa and Illinois making at or below $54,000 may qualify
  • Because of COVID, taxes will be completed by drop-off only
  • Pick up intake and consent forms at the lobby of Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) in Dubuque
  • Return completed forms and copies of tax documents to the HACAP lobby between Monday, February 8 and Friday, April 9, 2021
  • The lobby is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and has a drop-off box and printer/scanner for convenience
  • HACAP is located at 220 W. 7th St. in Dubuque. The lobby entrance is on Main Street at the Town Clock Plaza across from N.I.C.C.
  • You will be notified in approximately two weeks when your tax return is completed
  • For more details, please call HACAP in Dubuque at 563-556-5130 or 563-513-8829

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

C-SPL Reader of the Month: Becky Maher-Jacobson

Becky Maher-Jacobson is a part-time Library Aide at the Carnegie-Stout Public Library. She is also a band director in the Western Dubuque Community School District.

 Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)?

 A. The best book that I have read in the last year is The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths. A Gothic thriller, this book is about a high school English teacher who starts receiving messages in her personal diary after a fellow teacher is murdered. With an intriguing plot line and relatable characters, this book kept me engaged throughout and I would highly recommend it to any mystery fans, especially those who love classic gothic horror novels. 

Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?

A. My ideal reading environment is wrapped up in a blanket on my old squishy leather arm chair in front of our (unfortunately electric) fireplace. Wood-burning would definitely be preferable. Dressed in cozy sweats and fuzzy socks, I usually like to have some music on in the background, but something calm and relaxing that can fade away while I am reading. Snow or rain outside would be the icing on the cake!

Q. What book are you most excited about reading next, and what about it is most exciting?

A. The book that I am most excited about reading next is The Searcher by Tana French. Tana French is one of my favorite authors, with stand-out selections in her Dublin Murder Squad series and in her stand-alone novels. I always look forward to new releases from my favorite authors as I usually know that I will like the book in advance, especially if it’s an author whom I’ve read many of their titles. Another novel that will be released in February is a spin-off of The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths that I mentioned was my favorite read of 2020. Griffiths has taken Detective Harbinder Kaur from The Stranger Diaries and given her a new case to solve involving a 90 year old woman’s death that shouldn’t be suspicious given her heart condition, but everything may not be as it seems…. I can’t wait to read it!

Q. Do you remember when your love for reading began? 

A. I do! I remember wanting to learn to read so badly before kindergarten, sitting on the floor of my room and staring at the words and letters, willing them to make sense. I was so excited when it finally started to click. Go Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman was the first book that I learned how to read, but the Harry Potter series really helped fuel my love of reading after my aunt purchased the first three books of the series for my 9th birthday. My parents are both big readers and read to us every night as kids, so they really instilled a love of reading in our family from an early age.

Q. Can you tell us about your reading interests in general?

A. My belief when it comes to reading is that it should first be enjoyable, but also used to broaden your knowledge and your perspective on the world. I mostly stick to fiction since I consider it more leisurely than nonfiction, but I am honestly willing to read everything and anything, or at least give it a chance. My favorites are mystery and thriller novels (bonus points if they have an interesting twist at the end!), but I have recently been more into sci-fi type mysteries that have a supernatural or fantasy element involved, such as Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series or Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. The most important thing though is to read, so read what you like!

Check out Becky Maher-Jacobson's book list

Apply to be the next C-SPL Reader of the Month!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

C-SPL Reader of the Month: Colin Muenster

About Colin 

I am an Enterprise Architect at Clarke University, which is fancy for guy who does a little bit of everything.  In addition to app development and implementing strategic IT initiatives in relation educational technology, I also manage the Audiovisual Department, being the chief AV nerd on campus.  My hobbies include reading, writing, theatre, home “improvement”  projects, online gaming with my buddies, and spending time with my family.  I have worked a variety of jobs here in Dubuque, from overnight security guard, English & Theatre teacher, bookseller (River Lights), waiter (L.May), and freelance graphic design artist.  I have been hired to play a clown, and been paid money under the table to DJ at weddings.  I have a blog with some bad poetry, essays, and pictures of my daughters doing cute things.

(See the past Reader of the Month posts here) 

Q&A with Colin

Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)?

A. Since I really view them as a single book, I would say it would be the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer.

Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?

A. Cramped on a too small couch with a thick, dark beer.

Q. What book are you most excited about reading next, and what about it is most exciting?

I am excited to read Borne by Jeff Vandermeer.  Honestly, I loved the SR Trilogy so much, and am completely enamored with his writing style that I can’t wait to immerse myself in words again.

Q. What book do you think more people should read, and why do you think they should read it?

A. Perhaps not a specific book, per se, but an alternative literary canon – dramatic literature. What a play or a musical can do is distill a narrative to its most essential components and lay bare a character in ways a novel often cannot.  It forces the reader to use their psychoanalytical skills that a novel often makes easier for you.  This is especially true in terms of character development and motivation.  A play also has an artistry in and of itself that is magnificent to behold and legion in variety.  While a play is incomplete until being viewed on the stage, the simple act of reading can offer a sometimes more rewarding experience than a piece of fiction.  That being said, here is my short-list based on my current mood:  Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, J.B. by Archibald MacLeish, Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, and God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza

Q. What book has been the most challenging for you to read? How did it challenge you?

A. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner.  It took me so long to finally put my head in a place to really understand the menagerie of language Faulkner employs in crafting this book.  Having to retrain myself to understand the narrative as constructed by Faulkner was a grueling process and took the better part of year to achieve, but once it clicked, a light emanated from the novel that left me in awe of how one can paint with the artistry of words.

Q. When do you decide to stop reading a book? In other words, do you read every book to the last page, or is there a moment when you decide to stop?

A. I like to read challenging books in the same way runners may challenge themselves with longer or more difficult courses.  They payoff in that challenge once it is completed is for me one of the greatest joys of reading, although ironically, I never really wish for a good book to ever end, delaying my sought after catharsis.  That being said, the thing that usually forces me to put a book down is boredom coupled with a busy schedule.

Q. Do you remember when your love for reading began?

A. I don’t remember its title or how old I was, although I know for sure I was a child in elementary school.  I had, for the first time, finished a chapter book, and that sense of achievement and satisfaction hit me in a way nothing ever had up to that point.  I sought every opportunity to recreate that feeling ever since. 

Q. Can you tell us about your reading life in general?

A. What is odd, I feel, about my reading life is that if you were to ask any of my teachers growing up, I think you’d find that very few of them saw me as someone who loved to read.  They would be right, as I did hate to read….what they told me to read, mostly because they told me to read it.  I read on my own, and rarely did I take the time to pick up the assigned reading, which, as you may imagine, led to some less-than-stellar grades.  I was a closeted reader, rarely discussing books with ANYONE, because some part of me felt a certain shame in the act of loving something I so openly detested in an academic setting.  It wasn’t until college, when surrounded by people with passions ranging and intermingling in the fields of art, literature, and music did I truly begin to openly, and with renewed ferocity, express my love for the written word.  I found the world far more complex, beautiful (or by contrast exasperatingly ugly) than I had ever dreamt. It is why, when I was hired to work at River Lights Bookstore after graduating from college, I felt as I had truly struck gold (which is still true for anyone who is bestowed the opportunity to work at River Lights, a place as close to heaven as you can reach while on earth). To this day, I rarely travel anywhere without something to read just in case the opportunity arises.  With three kids in tow nowadays, those opportunities are a little less frequent, but old habits die hard.  In a supreme cosmical feat of karma, my passion for literature led me to go back to school to become a High School English and Theatre teacher where I was able to couple my love of theatre and literature into something I was so fortunate to do on a daily basis for five years of my life.  I could go on, really, but you weren’t expecting a novel, or a novel written by me that is.

Check out Colin Muenster's book list

Apply to be the next C-SPL Reader of the Month!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

C-SPL Reader of the Month: Courtney Chaffee

About Courtney

I am a musician, a bowler, a photographer, a lover, and a friend. My passions vary widely, but are all art-centered and I include reading as an art. I play trombone with a lot of local groups, bowl in league weekly, and love taking photos on nature hikes.

Fun Book Fact: in middle school my group (which changed yearly) went to district “Battle of the Books” all three years.

I’m always open to reading suggestions and I try to pick up at least one book per reader that’s featured. Some of them included in my lists are books that were suggested to me or book club picks. Books are food for the brain and just like when you’re eating, you’ll never know if you like it if you don’t even try it.

(See the past Reader of the Month posts here) 

Q & A with Courtney

Q. Can you tell us about your reading interests in general? 

A. Anyone who knows me now would have difficulty believing I used to hate reading. I’m rarely seen without a book, more often than not it’s multiple books. I’m a frequent commenter/poster on the library’s Facebook, am featured on their banner, have been on their blog, and now I’m a Reader of the Month! My level of dedication to reading this year increased when I said I was making Diamond Level on the Great Reading Challenge - no matter what. I now have a blog called “The Book Nook by CC-Liz” where I post reading updates regarding the challenge and book reviews. I have already achieved my goal for this year! I’m attempting to challenge myself even more by branching out and reading things that are outside my norm. I’ve worked my way into the nonfiction realm and have been reading memoirs, essay compilations, and studies on different topics. I have let the questions that come from reading guide me to my next topic. I still keep one foot in the fantasy waters though. Right now I am listening to the “Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan, while reading a bunch of psychology-heavy books.

Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)?

A. This is a hard question. I have to break it down by genre or collection type anytime I am asked. The best fiction book that I’ve read in 2020 is The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, while the best fictional audiobook I’ve listened to in 2020 is Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal.

The best book I’ve ever read is an impossible question to answer. The audiobook that elicited the largest reaction from me was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes read by Susan Lyons (mainly, there are multiple narrators). My favorite book of all time is forever going to be the “Harry Potter” series, with the Prisoner of Azkaban as my favorite one.

Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?

A. There’s two environments that are perfect for reading, it just depends which I’m in the mood for. The first one is outside, anywhere in nature. I can be lying in my hammock, sitting in the woods, feet in the water, wherever. As long as I am surrounded by nature, I am happy.

The other perfect reading environment is snuggled in a blanket in some sort of nook/corner with a warm beverage. Bonus points for each animal I have trying to distract me from my reading (one cat and two dogs).

Q. What book are you most excited about reading next, and what about it is most exciting?

A. I can’t answer this. I rarely know what I am reading next. I have a really long TBR (To Be Read) list, but I just pick and choose. A lot of the time I will walk into the library and look at the displays; then next thing you know I’m walking out with 8 books, none of which were my original plan. I do the same with eBooks, I will look at what is available now and choose one from there. Yes, I use the hold feature A LOT for titles that interest me, but I can’t really say there’s a single book that I am just waiting for on the edge of my seat.

Q. What book do you think more people should read, and why do you think they should read it?

A. I wouldn't suggest a single book because everyone’s tastes are different and my reading style now, isn’t what it was last year. I curate my advice to the person. If you’re looking for a young reader novel then the “Ranger’s Apprentice” series. A romance? Any book by Jojo Moyes or Nicholas Sparks. Fantasy? Rosemary & Rue, J.R.R. Tolkien, or "Harry Potter." Empowering? Girl Up by Lindsey Bates. I can go on and on for each genre (except a few nonfiction topics maybe….).

Q. What book has been the most challenging for you to read? How did it challenge you?

A. After reading memoirs and first person stories of survivors of violence: sexual assault, domestic violence, war, etc. I found a fictional tale on those topics to be really difficult. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell for example. Her writing style is nice, but I struggled with a fictional telling of grooming and abuse after reading cases like the Larry Nassar trials or Weinstein. I actually advise against this book and would steer a person towards the memoirs/nonfiction titles.

Emotionally the most challenging was listening to Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I had a bottle of wine and a bar of dark chocolate alongside me when I got to the last third of that novel. She had me bawling like a baby, but I couldn’t stop listening. It was intriguing!

Q. When do you decide to stop reading a book? In other words, do you read every book to the last page, or is there a moment when you decide to stop?

A. Stopping a book is really difficult for me. Once I’m invested in it, I almost always finish it. If the book was suggested to me I tend to try even harder to finish it. There are a few that after a chapter or two I wasn’t hooked and I quit, but that is fairly rare.

Q. Do you remember when your love for reading began?

A. My love of reading actually started in elementary school (kindergarten to second grade area). Shout-out to the best teacher I ever had: Mrs. Resch. Without that woman, I would not be the reader I am today. I used to hate reading and was actually considered ‘behind’ the curve. My parents put me in a summer school course and BOOM, I’m never seen without a book anymore. Mrs. Resch inspired my reading and pushed me along. She took my love of raccoons and used it to help me read, my favorite children’s book will forever be The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. I have multiple copies in multiple formats and languages, as well as my original copy still. 

Check out Courtney Chaffee's book list! 

Apply to be the next C-SPL Reader of the Month!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

C-SPL Reader of the Month: Ryan Bankson

About Ryan

Ryan Bankson is a Library Assistant in the Circulation department at Carnegie-Stout Public Library and an infantry captain with the Iowa Army National Guard. He enjoys wandering around his haunted mansion, messing around in the woods, and devouring any book in sight.

Q & A with Ryan 

Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)? 

A. Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts. I'm a lifelong student of military history and Napoleon has been my personal hero for as long as I can remember. Roberts' comprehensive biography of the great soldier-statesman is the best of the many that I've read over the years. It's quite the tome, but readers cannot help but be amazed by Napoleon's accomplishments. 

Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?

A. In fair weather you'll find me on my porch with a book on my lap and cooler full of beer nearby. When the winter weather drives me inside, I do my reading in my chair in the study with a glass of brandy at hand. 

Q. What book are you most excited about reading next, and what about it is most exciting?  

A. I'm excited for Joe Abercrombie's latest, The Trouble with Peace. This is to be the second in a new trilogy from this master of Grimdark fantasy. What's the Grimdark fantasy subgenre you ask? Think George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. These action-packed low fantasy novels feature a lot of 'gray areas' characters–not all good or all evil, black or white. Abercrombie's characters are morally ambivalent with mixed motivations, plenty of snark, and action-packed, fast-moving plots. If this sounds appealing to you, I recommend The Blade Itself, the first in Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy.
Q. What book do you think more people should read, and why do you think they should read it?  

A. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I enjoy novels that explore themes of immortality, and this classic from the prolific Oscar Wilde really makes the reader think about the cost of eternal youth.
Q. When do you decide to stop reading a book? In other words, do you read every book to the last page, or is there a moment when you decide to stop?   

A. If I decide that a book isn't worth my time, I cast it aside to be returned to the library without a second thought. This could be within a few sentences, a few chapters, or after I've slogged through half of the book. One of the best things about having a library card is that you're not on the hook for the cost of the book if it isn't a good match for you. Your friendly neighborhood library has thousands more, all available for free.  
Q. Do you remember when your love for reading began? 

A. I started devouring Goosebumps, Strange Matter, and Spooksville books when I was in early elementary school, later gravitating to Harry Potter, The Wheel of Time, and A Song of Ice and Fire when I was older. As long as I've been able to read independently, I've been a voracious reader with very disparate tastes.

Check out Ryan Bankson's Favorites book list! 

Apply to be the next C-SPL Reader of the Month!