Pico Iyer will read from his latest, “Autumn Light,” at Prairie Lights

Pico Iyer will read from his latest book at Prairie Lights at 7 p.m. today.


David Harmantas

Prairie Lights bookstore on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Reporter

After traveling for 32 years, writing more than 1,000 essays, and publishing 15 books, Pico Iyer will now fly to the City of Literature to read from his latest book, Autumn Light, at Prairie Lights today.

Iyer grew up bouncing back and forth between the United Kingdom and California because of his parents’ occupations as professors. These childhood journeys inspired him to pursue travel writing.

“Iowa City is an epicenter for writing,” he said. “Writing is seen as the best kind of occupation there, and my heart starts beating faster knowing that I’m going to be there soon. I even had the release of Autumn Light delayed by two months because Prairie Lights—and Iowa City—are the perfect places to launch the book.”

Iyer had worked as a writer for Time when he found a new home across the Pacific Ocean. During one of his adventures, he landed in Tokyo with a 20-hour layover awaiting him. Instead of remaining confined to the walls of a hotel room, Iyer explored a small town near Tokyo. Based on those 20 hours, he decided he would return to Japan and make it his home. That was in 1987, and he’s been freelancing ever since.

“Japan feels like home to me, even if I will always look like an outsider with my English accent, Indian skin, and American green card,” Iyer said. “I believe we all have secret homes across the world, places with which we have some deep affinity, even if we have no official affiliation. I have a Japanese wife and stepkids, but I still I feel like a delighted tourist there. There’s always something different or fascinating going on, and I can never take anything for granted here.”

Autumn Light is a nonfiction piece that opens in Japan following the death of Iyer’s father-in-law. The story weaves through the aftermath of the death and through Iyer’s life but leaves no simple “resolution” for readers.

“There is no resolution to my book because Japan reminds me that life is a continuing cycle,” Iyer said. “The seasons change, and the end of autumn means the beginning of winter, the end of winter, the coming of spring. All we can do is find beauty and wonder in things precisely because they do not last.”

Table tennis, which Iyer plays, snares the readers’ attention in the pages of Autumn Light.

“It’s interesting because people who are in their 70s or 80s will often beat an 18-year-old,” Iyer said and chuckled at the thought. “It doesn’t require absolute agility, the way football does.”

Iyer’s books involve themes of both hope and realism and how the two complement each other.

“It’s how to balance hope and realism,” Iyer said. “Bringing together the fact and truth of impermanence and beauty of the world that we only begin to notice when they are falling away.”