2012 has been a very jittery year — what with the presidential election, extreme weather events and the looming "fiscal cliff." In response to these tense times, some readers seek out escape; others look to literature that directly confronts the atmospheric uncertainty of the age. I guess I'm in the latter camp, because many of my favorite books this year told stories, imagined and real, about ordinary people who felt like they didn't have a clue what hit 'em.
Switching gears now, the issues of Palestinians, both in the U.S. and abroad, are often in the news, but not, I think it's fair to say, because of the comedy scene, which is where Maysoon Zayid comes in.
Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 11:08 am
2012 has been a jittery year, what with the presidential election, extreme weather events and, now, the looming "fiscal cliff." Not surprisingly, many of my favorite books told stories, imagined and real, about people who felt like they didn't have a clue what hit them.
COME RIGHT DOWN RIGHT NOW BUY SOME FURNITURE EVERYTHING MUST GO WE ARE LIQUIDATING MERCHANDISE FOR THE THIRD TIME SINCE LAST FEBRUARY AND THIS TIME WE REALLY MEAN IT WE ARE GOING OUT OF BUSINESS ANY REASONABLE OFFER WILL BE ACCEPTED OR MY NAME ISN'T CRAZYPANTS MCGILLICUDDY.*
On Friday, Sotheby's is putting up for auction 44 letters and 35 drawings from Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, to a young woman he was courting.
The letters were written during an eight-month period starting in 1970 when Schulz's first marriage was deteriorating and before he met his second wife. During this time, Schulz, 48, wrote Tracey Claudius, 25, poignant, funny, even innocent notes in pictures and words, often using Charlie Brown to stand in for himself.
Books for the holidays — whether they're hardcovers or digitized — are always good gifts. NPR's Susan Stamberg talked with some of our go-to independent booksellers — Lucia Silva, former book buyer at the now-closed Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, Calif.; Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Co. in Milwaukee; and Rona Brinlee of The BookMark in Neptune Beach, Fla. — to find out what's on their Best of 2012 lists.
By the time he turned 40, Joseph Kennedy was a millionaire many times over and the head of what would soon become one of America's greatest political dynasties. In his new biography of the senior Kennedy, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, David Nasaw charts Kennedy's life and trajectory from Boston society boy to Hollywood bigwig to controversial ambassador to Great Britain as World War II unfolded on the European stage.
"First of all, it meant for me money, which I had never had."
Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka tells NPR's Tell Me More host Michel Martin that being the first black African to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986 was extremely lucky, especially for his pocket. The $290,000 in prize money gave him a life he had never dreamed of before. But that fame came with a cost.
Exactly 97 years ago today, Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken. A few decades later, On the Waterfront, starring a young Marlon Brando, was filmed there. The small New Jersey city, which sits on the Hudson just across from Manhattan, has a storied past of which locals are fiercely proud.
Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 9:31 am
As a small-town girl, I love depictions of rural living when they've got a little style and sass in their makeup. Replete with enough quirks and quaintness to choke a mule, small towns are timelessly fertile ground for writers. But the best authors ignore — or even play with — stereotypes to tell truly compelling stories.
Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 9:04 am
A young boy seeks justice. A young woman wants to stay alive. A friendship is tested. The child of a commune comes of age. A solitary man gives himself over to love. These are the bare actions underpinning the novels that I'm suggesting for book clubs this year. Some are first novels; others the work of well-known writers. Some might touch your heart; others might challenge the way you think. At least one will make you laugh — and a couple might make you cry. They are all good reads. And they are, above all, books you'll want to talk about with your friends.
Oprah Winfrey became a publishing powerhouse when she started her book club in 1996. Her picks went to the top of best-seller lists — and stayed there for weeks. But when Winfrey's daily talkfest went off the air, the book club ended as well.
Now she is reviving it: Winfrey has just announced her second pick for the Book Club 2.0: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, a novel by first-time author Ayana Mathis about the Great Migration of African-Americans out of the rural South.
Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 6:34 am
Though my grandmother Georgette was born in the United States, she is half Belgian (Flemish) and half French. On top of the cabinets in her blue kitchen you'll find a little Dutch village of porcelain houses. Above the sink are miniature figures of the Statue of Liberty, Manneken Pis and the Eiffel Tower — representations of her three nationalities. In her Delft cookie jar you'll find speculaas (also called speculoos) — the Dutch windmill-shaped gingersnap-like cookie traditionally eaten on St. Nicholas Day.
Earl Gray is about the closest thing to a celebrity that the small Appalachian town of Magguson has. In Chris Sullivan's debut animated feature, Consuming Spirits, Gray (Robert Levy) hosts a gardening show on the local radio station, and the occasional event around town.
Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 11:28 am
Photographer Gail Albert Halaban spent her childhood summers in Gloucester, Mass., a small seaside town where her father was born. "I never thought it was that interesting of a place," she says. "The beach was beautiful, but I was interested in getting to know it better."
Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 6:35 am
Some books paint pictures with words; others use pictures to render us speechless. No matter the method, you'll lose yourself in the best possible way leafing through the volumes in this year's list of recommended gift books. If pages were like musical notes, these titles would produce a pretty great mashup. Envision one of photographer Cindy Sherman's crones in the forest of a Brothers Grimm tale. Set one of graphic novelist Chris Ware's "building stories" inside, say, the curvaceous contours of an architectural masterwork by Frank Gehry.
Earlier this year, Oprah Winfrey announced an updated version of her popular book club, this time called Book Club 2.0. Her first pick, Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild, experienced best-seller list success thanks to what some people are calling the "Oprah bump." And last week Winfrey announced her second pick, a novel called The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, a first-time author.
We all remember the KFC Double Down: the sandwich that replaced bread with fried chicken and changed our lives for the fatter. Just in time for Hanukkah, the Jewish Journal has created the Latke Double Down, which replaces the bread with latkes, aka fried potato pancakes. They fill theirs with lox.
It's been more than six years since Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, concluded his enormously popular 13-volume young adult series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Now Handler has revived the Snicket narrator in his YA novel Who Could That Be at This Hour?
The book is the first of a series — All the Wrong Questions — and a prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It tracks the young Snicket's adventures during his apprenticeship at the V.F.D., a mysterious organization that readers familiar with the Snicket stories will recognize.
Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:36 am
Sean Howe is the author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.
In 1980, the comic book artist Frank Miller introduced the raven-haired femme fatale Elektra Natchios in the pages of Marvel Comics' Daredevil. She was the former lover of Daredevil's alter ego Matt Murdock, and his Columbia University classmate until her diplomat father was killed and she left the United States.
Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 2:26 pm
Since this was an election year, NPR's Backseat Book Club decided to hold an informal poll to identify the best-loved children's books of 2012. We know that "kid lit" is a big category, stretching from baby-proof board books all the way to young-adult titles with fetching werewolves on the covers. But we're interested in books that hit the sweet spot for backseat readers — kids between 9 and 14 years of age. So we reached out to booksellers and one librarian to find out which books bowled them over this year.
Earlier this summer, I looked for Edward Hopper's Morning Sun at its home in the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. In the painting, a woman sits on a bed with her knees up, gazing out a window. She's bare, but for a short pink slip. The iconic Hopper is a must-see, but on the day I visited, it was on loan to an exhibition in Madrid.
Justin Lee was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist home. He had two loving parents, and was deeply committed to his faith. In school, classmates even referred to him as "God Boy" because of his devotion.
But, as he was entering high school, Lee's whole world began to change, as he came face-to-face with feelings that he'd tried for many years to suppress.
"I didn't know I was gay at first, because I was the kid who was preaching against folks accepting themselves as gay," he tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
A young intelligence officer during the Second World War survives life in a Nazi concentration camp. A music producer in the 1970s falls in love with a young bohemian singer who breaks his heart. A lonely Italian neuroscientist makes a revolutionary discovery: Humans have no souls. These are some of the stories Sebastian Faulks weaves together in his latest novel, A Possible Life.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a six-letter word containing "QU" somewhere inside it. You'll be given anagrams of the remaining four letters. You name the words (No answer is a plural or a word formed by adding "s.").
Last week's challenge from listener Adam Cohen of Brooklyn, N.Y.: Name two articles of apparel — things you wear — which, when the words are used as verbs, are synonyms of each other. What are they?
Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina has been adapted for TV or film at least 25 times. It's a title role made great by screen legends Greta Garbo and Vivian Leigh, and now, it's Keira Knightley's turn.
Knightley reunites with Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright in a new adaptation of the book. Here, she talks to Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered,about bringing the title character to life.