NPR

Celebrating NPR's Petra Mayer with three literary things she loved

Our beloved friend and colleague Petra Mayer died suddenly a few weeks ago. This episode is for her. First, a conversation with NPR's Scott Simon and Sir Andrew Motion on The Folio Book of War Poetry, edited by Motion. Among her many nerdy interests, Petra was a self avowed "WWI poetry dork." The poetry is dark and moving, conveying universal feelings around loss. Then, a few quintessentially "Petra" pieces that capture her work and who she was. A conversation with romance author Beverly Jenkins and Petra talking about one of her favorite comfort reads, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

Celebrating NPR's Petra Mayer with three literary things she loved

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Penguin Random House

Tommy Orange is here to hold the door open for future Indigenous writers

This Thanksgiving, we're bringing you an author whose narrative likely runs counter to what you learned in school. Tommy Orange's novel, There There, is a brutal, remarkable, and necessary Native history. It's also a story of the shameful way America still treats its Native people. Orange was not comfortable with his new rising fame back in 2018. But he told NPR's Lynn Neary it was important to him to pave the way, spotlight and all, for young Indigenous writers.

Tommy Orange is here to hold the door open for future Indigenous writers

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Penguin Random House

'Calvin' shows how transgender kids can express who they really are

Authors JR and Vanessa Ford read the one book they could find about transgender kids to their child but skipped over the word 'transgender.' When they finally used the word, their child felt empowered by finding the right language to describe themselves. So the Fords set out to help more families with their children's book, Calvin. JR and Vanessa Ford told NPR's Audie Cornish that they are still learning as they go.

'Calvin' shows how transgender kids can express who they really are

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Bloomsbury Publishing

'The Island of Missing Trees' uses, well, trees to chronicle generational trauma

Author Elif Shafak struggled at first with how to write her new book, The Island of Missing Trees. The story she wanted to tell is about a family from Cyprus, a Mediterranean island that was the center of a conflict in the 1970s, but she didn't want the story to be about tribalism or nationalism. Which is why, Shafak told NPR's Steve Inskeep, much of the story is told from the perspective of a fig tree

'The Island of Missing Trees' uses, well, trees to chronicle generational trauma

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Penguin Random House

'Out of Office' considers 'why' companies want to bring back remote employees

The working world looks a lot different today than it did nearly two years ago, when the coronavirus pandemic sent many office staff to work from home indefinitely. Writers Anne Helen Peterson and Charlie Warzel take a look at what work, and our relationship to it, will look like going forward in their new book, Out of Office. NPR's Rachel Martin spoke with Peterson about why so many companies want their employees back in person. And, spoiler alert: it's not about productivity.

'Out of Office' considers 'why' companies want to bring back remote employees

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Mulholland Books/Orion Publishing

Murder! Space! James Bond! Chris Hadfield and Anthony Horowitz talk thrillers

This Friday, we're featuring two thrillers. First, astronaut Chris Hadfield talked with former NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro about his novel The Apollo Murders, which is set in the 70's around, you guessed it, the Apollo missions. It's got Soviet spies and secret space stations with machine guns mounted to the top. What more could a book need? Then a 2015 interview with NPR's Robert Siegel and author Anthony Horowitz about his James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, and what it's like giving a classic a 21st century twist.

Murder! Space! James Bond! Chris Hadfield and Anthony Horowitz talk thrillers

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Penguin Random House

'Misfire' takes an inside look at the corruption at the heart of the NRA

The National Rifle Association is being sued. The nonprofit at the heart of the gun lobby is accused of diverting money from its charitable mission. NPR investigative journalist Tim Mak has been following the paper trail, much of it tracing back to Wayne LaPierre, longtime leader of the NRA. NPR's Steve Inskeep talked with Mak about his new book, Misfire, detailing congressional investigations, and what the New York state attorney general has identified as tens of millions of dollars of corrupt spending on private jets and six figure suits.

'Misfire' takes an inside look at the corruption at the heart of the NRA

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Penguin Random House

'Beautiful Country' looks back on a young Chinese girl's undocumented childhood

Living as an undocumented immigrant means living in the shadows, says Qian Julie Wang. Her memoir Beautiful Country tells the story of her family's life in New York after fleeing China in 1994. Her mother worked menial jobs in terrible conditions. Her father struggled with his status as a man in a country that equated being Asian with weakness. They couldn't even seek out regular medical care for fear of being deported. Wang joins NPR's Scott Simon in today's episode to talk about how those experiences shaped and shamed her, even as she became a Yale Law graduate and successful attorney.

'Beautiful Country' looks back on a young Chinese girl's undocumented childhood

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Penguin Random House

SJ Sindu makes and unmakes a god in her new novel 'Blue Skinned Gods'

Questioning religion can be a pretty common identity crisis. But what if your faith is based on... yourself? When Kalki is born with blue skin and black blood, he is believed to be the reincarnation of Vishnu. But when he fails to heal a girl brought to him in distress, he questions his divinity, which means questioning everything. In today's episode, SJ Sindu talks to NPR's Scott Simon about how her novel Blue Skinned Gods was an attempt to better understand her own family's urge to believe.

SJ Sindu makes and unmakes a god in her new novel 'Blue Skinned Gods'

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Bold Type Books

'Hail Mary' sets the record straight on the history of the women's football league

You're probably at least a little familiar with the WNBA, and even if you never actually seen A League of Their Own, everyone knows there's no crying in baseball. But did you know there was a whole professional women's football league in the 1960's? NPR's A Martinez spoke with Britni de la Cretaz about their book Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women's Football League, which they co-authored with fellow sports writer Lyndsey D'Arcangelo. And, disappointingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, de la Cretaz says it was homophobia and sexism that undermined the league's success.

'Hail Mary' sets the record straight on the history of the women's football league

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Harper/Milkweed

'Dear Memory' and 'Cokie' both look toward the future while remembering the dead

In today's double episode, both books center people who have died. And they aren't just tributes to those who've passed, but to the people who remember them. First, Steven Roberts remembers his late wife, journalist Cokie Roberts, with NPR's Steve Inskeep. His book Cokie is full of interviews with her friends, family, and colleagues. Then, poet Victoria Chang talks about past and future generations of her family and what she wants to pass on to her own daughters in her book Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief with NPR's Rachel Martin.

'Dear Memory' and 'Cokie' both look toward the future while remembering the dead

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Macmillan

Amitav Ghosh turned to legends to write a story large enough for climate change

Trying to decrease your carbon footprint can be complicated. You use metal straws, recycle your paper, and bring your own grocery bags to the store, but everything you buy is part of a supply chain that's simply way out of your control. That lack of control is central to Amitav Ghosh's retelling of an ancient Bengali myth of a nature goddess setting calamity after calamity on a merchant who's only concerned with money. In today's interview, Ghosh tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that writing his 2019 novel Gun Island based on old legends allowed for a full response to the scope of climate change.

Amitav Ghosh turned to legends to write a story large enough for climate change

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Penguin Random House

Grady Hendrix reimagines the horror movie sequel in 'Final Girl Support Group'

Grady Hendrix LOVES horror movies, especially those old 80's slashers. And his new book is a tribute to that "final girl" at the end of so many of them. The one who doesn't necessarily survive by being smarter or stronger, but simply makes it to the end alive by not giving up. NPR's Audie Cornish interviewed him about his novel Final Girl Support Group, which is about exactly what it sounds like, a support group for women who survived psycho murderers — except it seems like someone's starting to hunt them down... again. As Hendrix says, what's the scariest thing for a "Final Girl?" A sequel.

Grady Hendrix reimagines the horror movie sequel in 'Final Girl Support Group'

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Simon & Schuster

Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks to a future living with COVID in 'World War C'

We've all heard talk about "the new normal," whatever that even is. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his own ideas, and despite the harsh realities of nearly two years living through a pandemic — quarantines, hospital staffing shortages, massive loss of life — he remains optimistic. In his new book World War C, he says, COVID is something we'll likely live with... forever. But that doesn't mean it has to control our lives. He sat down with NPR's Rachel Martin to talk about it in today's episode.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks to a future living with COVID in 'World War C'

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Penguin Random House

Lucy Barton and her ex, William, are at the heart of Elizabeth Strout's new book

In Elizabeth Strout's new book, a familiar character - Lucy Barton - returns when ex-husband William asks for her help unraveling a recently discovered secret, one that forces him to reevaluate what he knew about his family. Even though it's been decades since they split, the two embark on a trip to uncover the truth. Because, whether you like it or not, sometimes your ex is the only person who really knows you. In today's episode, Strout joins Here and Now's Robin Young to talk about the complexities of the ties that bind us.

Lucy Barton and her ex, William, are at the heart of Elizabeth Strout's new book

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Penguin Random House/Simon and Schuster

Tiphanie Yanique and Dawnie Walton on music, monsters, and family baggage

There was a time when the kind of music you listened to could fully define the kind of lifestyle you led, says Dawnie Walton, author of The Final Revival of Opal and Nev. It's less restricting now, but your taste in music can still say quite a bit about who you are. In her book and in Tiphanie Yanique's novel Monster in the Middle, music plays at the center of its characters' stories, as they wrestle with figuring out who they are in their relationships, with significant others and their families. NPR's Scott Simon talks with each author about it in today's episode.

Tiphanie Yanique and Dawnie Walton on music, monsters, and family baggage

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Penguin Random House

Nick Offerman ponders nature's patterns and chaos in Central Park

Parks and Rec actor Nick Offerman is famous for playing an outdoorsman on TV, but it turns out he actually is one in real life, too — albeit considerably less gruff than his character Ron Swanson. NPR's Scott Simon met up with him in the wilds of Central Park to discuss Offerman's new book Where the Deer and the Antelope Play. A testament to the pastoral takes a philosophical look at the vast wilderness of America and how open lands affect our approach to recreation, conservation, farming, and more.

Nick Offerman ponders nature's patterns and chaos in Central Park

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NPR

In a powerful memoir, poet Joy Harjo talks about finding her voice and using it

Poet Laureate Joy Harjo says she loved poetry as a kid, but didn't feel like it belonged to her. "It wasn't until I heard Native poets," she tells NPR's Michel Martin, "that I realized that, wow, this is a powerful tool of understanding and affirmation. And I don't know, I just started writing." Harjo had been studying medicine, she says, and she knew her people needed doctors — but what about poets? Her new memoir Poet Warrior is a chronicle of pain and injustice, of growing up poor with an abusive stepfather — but also of poetry and discovery, of taking that pain and using it to make art.

In a powerful memoir, poet Joy Harjo talks about finding her voice and using it

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Penguin Random House

Poet Melissa Lozada-Oliva dreams of Selena

The Queen of Tejano music is having a moment in pop culture once again, even 26 years after her murder. Selena Quintanilla's face not only adorns T-shirts and hoodies, but she's also the subject of a Netflix series, a podcast and a new novel by poet Melissa Lozada-Oliva. It's called Dreaming of You, and imagines what would have happened if Selena hadn't been killed when she was 23. Lozada-Oliva tells us about the story, which is written in verse, and the pop star's impact on her life since she was a child.

Poet Melissa Lozada-Oliva dreams of Selena

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Macmillan

Jane Goodall doesn't want you to give up on the planet

Amidst all the bad news (like, really bad news), it can be hard to hold on to hope — especially with the looming threat of climate change. But renowned scientist and chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall says that, despite the dire state of the world, it's too early to give up on our planet. Her new book with co-author Douglas Abrams is all about the state of our planet and how to save it from looming catastrophe for future generations.

Jane Goodall doesn't want you to give up on the planet

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Simon & Schuster/ Penguin Random House

Zakiya Dalila Harris and Oliver Jeffers talk about different kinds of hauntings

It's almost Halloween, which means that we're in peak spooky season. So for today's episode, we bring you two books with two very different kinds of frights: a haunted house and...office politics. That's right: In The Other Black Girl, writer Zakiya Dalila Harris captures the all-too-real horror of being the only Black woman in her office. When another Black woman is hired, the tension gets dialed up even higher. And in There's A Ghost In This House, the author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers uses old photographs to create creepy illustrations that will give both children and adults goosebumps.

Zakiya Dalila Harris and Oliver Jeffers talk about different kinds of hauntings

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Penguin Random House

How Drew Magary rediscovered himself after 'The Night the Lights Went Out'

The humor writer Drew Magary was at a karaoke bar when his life changed in a flash: He collapsed and cracked his skull. By most accounts, the resulting traumatic brain injury should have been fatal, but he survived. As he recounts in his book The Night the Lights Went Out, recovering from that injury has been tough. Among other things, he permanently lost some of his senses. As Magary tells NPR's Lulu Garcia Navarro, recovery has required him to figure out who he is now, post injury — a challenge that makes for a good story, he says.

How Drew Magary rediscovered himself after 'The Night the Lights Went Out'

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Simon & Schuster/St. Martin's Press

Why Hillary Clinton wanted to write a political thriller about her greatest nightmare

The bestselling author Louise Penny is a prolific writer of mysteries and thrillers — but for her latest book, she decided to bring a partner into the fold, a novice to the world of mystery-writing: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Their book, State of Terror, brings readers into a world in which a president picks a former rival to be his secretary of state (sound familiar?) — and she must then contend with what Clinton calls one of her greatest fears: nuclear-armed terrorists. In this interview, Penny and Clinton discuss the messages they hope readers take away from the book.

Why Hillary Clinton wanted to write a political thriller about her greatest nightmare

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Ecco

In 'The Matter of Black Lives,' generations of Black thinkers probe American racism

Back in June 2020, during a summer of protests for racial justice, the New Yorker republished 'Letter from a Region in my Mind," a seminal James Baldwin essay calling out the ignorance of liberal white Americans. In the following months, writer Jelani Cobb put together a collection of essays from the magazine that fit a similar theme: Black writers, including Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote pieces for the New Yorker about race and racism that still ring true today. In this interview, Cobb reflects on the essays and what it took for those Black writers to break into the magazine.

In 'The Matter of Black Lives,' generations of Black thinkers probe American racism

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