Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer is an associate editor and resident nerd at NPR Books, focusing on genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads.

Previously, she was an associate producer and director for the weekend editions of All Things Considered. She handled all of the show's books coverage, and she was also the person to ask if you wanted to know how much snow falls outside NPR's Washington headquarters on a Saturday, how to belly dance, or what pro wrestling looks like up close and personal.

Mayer originally came to NPR as an engineering assistant in 1994, while still attending Amherst College. After three years spending summers honing her soldering skills in the maintenance shop, she made the jump to Boston's WBUR as a newswriter in 1997. Mayer returned to NPR in 2000 after a roundabout journey that included a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a two-year stint as a producer at the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. While at Columbia, she made a three-part documentary on pirate radio in America.

Arts & Life
3:08 am
Sun December 29, 2013

Winging It: Biking Around Again In Margaritaville

NPR's Petra Mayer has finally learned how to ride a bike.
Izolda Trakhtenberg

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 9:53 am

I love Key West, and I go there as often as possible: pina coladas, drag queens, shady hammocks, feral chickens — it's the best. There's just one problem: everyone gets around the island by bike, and I've never learned to ride one. Obviously that had to change.

Why didn't I learn? I really don't remember, and neither did my mom, when I asked her about the one time my parents tried to teach me. "You got on a big bicycle that was so big you couldn't really turn the wheels and got discouraged."

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Monkey See
5:03 am
Sat December 14, 2013

NPR NSFW? Checking Out The Sexy Books On Mobile

Browse More Than 200 Of This Year's Standout Titles" href="/post/npr-nsfw-checking-out-sexy-books-mobile" class="noexit lightbox">

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Television
2:21 am
Sat November 23, 2013

Allons-y! Why We've Been Traveling With 'Doctor Who' For 50 Years

Jenna Coleman plays Clara, companion to Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith. The relationship between the Doctor and his companions is at the core of Doctor Who's long-lived appeal.
Adrian Rogers/BBC

Originally published on Sat November 23, 2013 9:18 am

This afternoon, millions of fez-wearing fans around the world will tune in to a very special episode of Doctor Who. The venerable British sci-fi series turns 50 today — though the time traveling alien Doctor himself is probably somewhere on the wrong side of 1,000.

From scrappy, low-budget beginnings (bubble-wrap monsters, anyone?), Doctor Who has become a global phenomenon. Only soap operas can match it for longevity and popularity. So what's the secret to the Doctor's appeal?

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Author Interviews
1:03 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

'Boxers & Saints' & Compassion: Questions For Gene Luen Yang

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 2:00 pm

Gene Luen Yang broke out in 2006 with American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award. It weaves three stories — about a Chinese-American boy, a terrible stereotype named Chin-Kee and the mythical Monkey King — into a complex tapestry of identity and assimilation.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Austen Unvarnished: Q&A With Jo Baker, Author Of 'Longbourn'

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 1:21 pm

The world of Jane Austen — gracious country houses, empire-waist dresses, card parties and suppers and genteel raillery and a touch of social anxiety — is familiar literary ground. And no house is more familar and comforting than Longbourn, home to Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. But what goes on behind the scenes? Who irons those dresses and prepares those suppers?

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Books News & Features
2:32 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Did The Cat Eat Your Gymsuit? Then These Books Are For You

Lizzie Skurnick wrote several books in the Sweet Valley High series. Her new imprint aims to celebrate and preserve classic young adult books from the 1930s through the 1980s.
Ig Publishing

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 8:09 pm

Young adult literature is big business right now; bookstores and movie theaters are full of titles like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.

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Author Interviews
5:03 am
Sat August 31, 2013

Questions For Hugh Howey, Author Of 'WOOL'

Hugh Howey self-published the original WOOL novella in 2011. It has since grown to become a best-selling phenomenon.
Amber Lyda

After a varied career as a computer repairman and yacht captain, Hugh Howey turned his hand to writing. He'd self-published several novels and stories when the sci-fi dystopia WOOL, originally just a novella, found sudden runaway success in 2011. Howey found himself writing sequel after sequel to keep up with reader demand — the latest volume, Dust, was released in August.

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Books News & Features
12:22 pm
Sun August 18, 2013

Fans Are Like Friends To 'Reigning Queen' Of Women's Fiction

Debbie Macomber's latest book is Rose Harbor in Bloom.
Deborah Feingold

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 4:12 pm

Go to your nearest paperback rack, and odds are, you'll see two or three, or four, or — well, a lot of books by Debbie Macomber, an author The Sacramento Bee has dubbed "the reigning queen of women's fiction."

Macomber has 170 million books in print; the newest, Rose Harbor in Bloom, has just been released. Her publisher, Random House, celebrated Macomber's selling power earlier this month with a fan retreat at the Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville, where 400 women gathered for a weekend of tea, knitting and literary friendship.

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Author Interviews
4:30 am
Sat July 27, 2013

What If The X-Men Were Real? Q&A With Marcus Sakey, Author Of 'Brilliance'

What if the X-Men were real? And what if they weren't mutants in spandex, but people like you and me and Bob in accounting, just endowed with superhuman talents for things like pattern recognition, programming and strategy?

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NPR Story
5:03 am
Tue June 11, 2013

School's Out: 5 Great Summer Reads For Teens

Andrew Bannecker

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 9:48 am

I'm surrounded here at NPR Books by people with sophisticated, grown-up tastes — happy to dive into the latest Claire Messud or Daniel Alarcon or James Salter. Meanwhile, give me — any day — a book about teenagers (and preferably dragons). A good YA novel is a polished gem of solid storytelling, but more than that, it draws us back in time to the teenagers we once were — or never were, or wanted desperately to be.

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Book Reviews
5:01 am
Thu June 6, 2013

'Cinnamon And Gunpowder': Haute Cuisine On The High Seas

Food porn and rip-roaring pirate adventure are two great tastes that taste great together in Eli Brown's rollicking Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Owen Wedgwood is the brilliant but rather prissy chef to shipping magnate Lord Ramsey — until privateer captain "Mad Hannah" Mabbot shoots Ramsey at point-blank range and takes Wedgwood prisoner, charging him to earn his keep by preparing her one magnificent dinner a week, using only the ingredients he can find on her ship, the Flying Rose.

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Author Interviews
6:33 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Questions For Barbara J. King, Author Of 'How Animals Grieve'

iStockphoto.com

Attributing human characteristics to animals makes for great cartoons, but it's not usually considered rigorous science. Now, a new book argues that animals do think and feel in ways similar to humans.

Barbara J. King is a professor of anthropology and a commentator on NPR's science blog, 13.7. And her book, How Animals Grieve, makes a powerful case for the presence of love, affection and grief in animals — from a house cat mourning her lost sister to elephants who pay respects to the bones of their matriarchs.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Tue April 23, 2013

A Bird-Watching Babe In The Woods Stumbles Toward Maturity

Oh no, I thought, cracking open Brian Kimberling's debut novel, Snapper. It's a collection of linked stories. Starring an aimless birdwatcher. Who drives an ancient, glitter-encrusted pickup truck named Gypsy Moth and has a grand passion for an honest-to-God Manic Pixie Dream Girl with red hair, floaty dresses, a flute and a killer pancake recipe. And her name is Lola. Lola! I was braced for a thorough beat-down with the dreaded Whimsy Hammer.

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Book Reviews
8:27 am
Thu March 7, 2013

Samba, Spiderbots And 'Summer' Love In Far-Future Brazil

Arthur A. Levine Books

In the 17th century, fugitive slaves founded a free community in the mountains of northeastern Brazil. They called it Palmares. Contemporary accounts describe the courtyards and the fountains, the churches and council meetings of that sprawling settlement, which survived for decades before a concerted military effort by Portuguese colonists wiped it out in 1695.

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First Reads
5:03 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Questions For Alaya Dawn Johnson, Author Of 'The Summer Prince'

Alaya Dawn Johnson lives and writes in New York City.
Alden Ford

Alaya Dawn Johnson has written a number of novels for adults (including the delightful Zephyr Hollis series), and now she's venturing onto the young adult shelves with The Summer Prince, a complex science-fiction narrative set in post-apocalyptic Brazil. The action takes place in the city of Palmares Tres, which is entirely contained in a giant pyramidal structure on a bay, surrounded and fed by giant algae vats.

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Books
4:15 am
Sun January 6, 2013

For 'Wheel Of Time' Fans, The Last Battle Is At Hand

The Wheel of Time series tells the story of Rand Al'Thor, a farm boy who discovers he's a prophesied hero.
Tor Books

Originally published on Sun January 6, 2013 8:02 am

  • Hear An Extended Interview With Harriet McDougal
  • Hear an Extended Interview With Brandon Sanderson

It's the moment fantasy fans have been waiting for (really!): After more than 20 years, and 13 doorstopper volumes, the last book in the best-selling Wheel of Time series comes out Tuesday. The series unfolds an epic battle between good and evil — think Game of Thrones but more so: more characters, more magic, more tiny little world-building details, more everything.

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The Picture Show
4:15 am
Sun October 7, 2012

Catching The 'Shadow' Of A Lost World

Wedding party, 1914. A still from the film In the Land of the Head Hunters, in which Curtis sought to re-create a mythic story of the Kwakiutl.
Edward Curtis Library of Congress

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 11:24 am

Photographer Edward Curtis started off his career at the tail end of the 19th century, making portraits of Seattle's wealthiest citizens. But a preoccupation with Native Americans and a chance encounter on a mountaintop triggered an idea: Curtis decided to chronicle the experience of the vanishing tribes — all of them. It was an unbelievably ambitious project that would define Curtis, his work and his legacy.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu October 4, 2012

A Mashup Of Mundane And Magical In 'Dragonslayer'

Courtesy of Harcourt

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 6:48 am

It's been a big year — well, a big few years — for young adult fiction, which I'm not going to complain about in the slightest; nothing beats a good YA novel for pure storytelling punch. But I might complain, just a little, about the overwhelming sameness of some of the plots. Dystopian futures, quiet-yet-spunky teenage girls, doomed love triangles — sound familiar? Suzanne Collins has a lot to answer for. Luckily, you can crack open The Last Dragonslayer and spend time with a protagonist who has a refreshingly different set of priorities.

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Books
1:19 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

This Week's 5 Must-Read Stories From NPR Books

iStockphoto.com

1. The Healing Power Of Stories

Cambodian author Vaddey Ratner was just a child when the Khmer Rouge came banging on the doors of her aristocratic family's compound in Phnom Penh. She's fictionalized that experience — and the years of hardship that followed — in her new novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan.

She survived — and so does her heroine, Raami — in part because she remembered the poems and stories her father loved.

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