Jason Dessen, the protagonist of the new novel Dark Matter, is just a regular guy: He's 40, a devoted husband, a professor of physics at a small college, and a loving father to a teenage son.

But one day he's drugged and kidnapped and wakes up to find he's in a very different world. Not just a different world — a different life.

Blake Crouch joins NPR's Elise Hu to talk about the new book, and about why he loves imagining alternate realities.

In the summer of 2004, after two decades of estrangement, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Susan Faludi received an e-mail from her father. It read:

Dear Susan,

I've got some interesting news for you. I've decided that I have had enough of impersonating a macho aggressive man that I have never been inside.

The letter was signed, "Love from your parent, Stefánie." Faludi's 76-year-old father, Steven, had had gender reassignment surgery.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin hits rock bottom with a grieving wife and mother in Jack Jordan’s My Girl.

Title: My Girl

Author: Jack Jordan

Pages: 128

Publisher: CreateSpace

ISBN: 978-1532815386

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

Welcome to the second installment of Read, Watch, Binge! our summer recommendation series. As you may recall from last month's list, we were tired of algorithms that only matched books to books or movies to movies. So this month, we've enlisted the help of real live humans to pair books with movies, musicals, TV, comics, podcasts and more.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin travels back to the early days of radio with author Sarah-Jane Stratford’s Radio Girls.

Title: Radio Girls

Author: Sarah-Jane Stratford

Pages: 365

Publisher: NAL

ISBN: 978-0451475565

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

Underground Airlines will start a lot of conversations. A lot.

The book's narrator is an African-American man living in a near-future United States in which slavery has never been entirely eliminated ("Big Abe," meaning President-elect Lincoln, was shot early in his campaign, and several Southern states amended the Constitution to retain it).

There aren't many lucky people in the fictional Jamaican town of River Bank, the setting for Nicole Dennis-Benn's debut novel Here Comes the Sun. A long drought has robbed many residents of their livelihoods, and their homes are being threatened by developers who want to build yet another huge resort, one where rich, white tourists can sequester themselves away from the reality of the poverty-stricken villages that surround it.

'Faith' Makes Fat A Force To Reckon With

Jul 6, 2016

It's got to be said: The costume is ... not great. Faith, the plus-sized superhero starring in her debut volume from Valiant Comics, is a "psiot" who fights crime armed with the powers of flight and telekinesis. Unfortunately, she does it wearing a sort of half-coat, half-smock in the toothpastey palette of white with blue trim. Her matching white pants and plain white boots evoke a snowsuit. Faith's costume is so graceless, it almost seems like the work of an artist who's channeling unspoken fatophobia.

Robert F. Kennedy is often remembered as a liberal icon who worked to heal racial strife, decrease poverty and end the war in Vietnam. But biographer Larry Tye says the New York senator was actually a political operative whose views changed over time.

"Throughout his life, [Kennedy] paid attention to what went right and wrong," Tye tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "He grew by actually seeing things up close; he took things to heart in ways that few politicians do."

Thrillers have a long, honored tradition of turning germs into monsters. But from Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain on up, such novels have speculated about microorganisms in a way that pales compared to the monstrosities that humans inflict on each other — especially when faced with the threat of lethal infection, one of the most primal fears we have. Dana I. Wolff — also known as mystery author J.E. Fishman — toys with this dynamic in his new novel The Prisoner of Hell Gate.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin learns about literature with some unlikely scholars in Mikita Brottman’s The Maximum Security Book Club.

Title: The Maximum Security Book Club

Author: Mikita Brottman

Pages: 228

Publisher: Harper

ISBN: 978-0062384331

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

Nicole Dennis-Benn's debut novel takes readers to a Jamaica that tourists rarely visit. "This is no paradise. At least not for us," she writes.

The characters in Here Comes the Sun are working-class women. They struggle with money, sexuality and the pressures of tourism squeezing their small community of River Bank.

A few weeks ago, I went back to the federal prison in Seagoville, Texas, for another conversation with Edgar Diaz.

'The Big Sheep' Plays Hardboiled Sci-Fi To The Hilt

Jun 29, 2016

It's not hard to parse the two main influences on Robert Kroese's new novel The Big Sheep. The title itself mashes them up: Raymond Chandler's 1939 hardboiled masterpiece The Big Sleep and Philip K. Dick's 1968 post-apocalyptic classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the basis of the film Blade Runner). The question is: Does Kroese's book transcend the obviousness of that literary portmanteau? Thankfully, yes.

In Persona, Genevieve Valentine introduced us to a world in which diplomats are celebrities on the covers of glossy magazines, and in which paparazzi wage a guerilla war against the status quo by ruffling the smooth, sanctioned narratives of the International Assembly with candid shots obtained through illegal surveillance.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin seeks out family with a crime boss and a wannabe gangster in the latest Justice novel, Dead End Fix, by T. E. Woods.

Title: Dead End Fix (Justice Novel #6)

Author: T. E. Woods

Pages: 290

Publisher: Alibi

AISN: B018CHA304

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

The Toast — funny and literary feminist website, gleeful kneecapper of high culture, omphalos of cheerful misandry, and habitat of the rare courteous and informative comments section — is closing.

"No matter how long they've been there, the people who live out here believe that whatever life demands of them they can meet it on their own," writes Larry Watson in his new novel, As Good as Gone. "Here" is the badlands of eastern Montana, a famously desolate and unforgiving region; those who inhabit it tend to learn self-reliance quickly, and by necessity.

Despite its ever-controversial sexism, The Taming of the Shrew remains one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies — in both the original and its many modern adaptations, including Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate. And now Anne Tyler, as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series of novels based on the major plays, has tamed the Bard's shrewish battle of the sexes into a far more politically correct screwball comedy of manners that actually channels Jane Austen more than Shakespeare. It's clear that she had fun with Vinegar Girl, and readers will too.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin tracks down a stalker with a team of bodyguards in the audio edition of Always Watching by Lynette Eason.

Title: Always Watching (Elite Guardians #1)

Author: Lynette Eason

Runtime: 8 hours, 31 minutes

Publisher: Tantor Audio


And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.