Literature

Literature

You might not expect "Santa's Helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he read on Morning Edition in 1992.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his tale.

This was a strange and wonderful year for young adult fiction — but also a confused and divisive one. We learned that 55 percent of young adult fiction was read by adults. Debates raged over what constituted a young adult novel versus an adult novel. Apologetic grown-ups sneaked into the teen section of the bookstore, passing subversive teens pattering into the adult paranormal and literature and mystery shelves.

Don't Hide Your Harlequins: In Defense Of Romance

Dec 19, 2012

Hi, my name's Bobbi. I read romance.

My favorite "best of the year" list is the Bad Sex in Fiction award, even — or perhaps because — it eschews the romance genre. This year's winner was just announced: Nancy Huston's Infrared, whose heroine celebrates the "countless treasures between [her] legs." But I'm not writing a Best Romance of the Year list, because I don't think the idea even works for my genre.

Mean girls and their ingenious female creators top my mysteries and thrillers list this year. Maybe it takes the special discernment of a female writer (who's presumably suffered through the "Queen Bee and Wannabee" cliques of middle school) to really capture the cruel mental machinations that can hide behind a pair of shining eyes and a lip-glossed smile.

They used to call it the "vanity press," and the phrase itself spoke volumes. Self-published authors were considered not good enough to get a real publishing contract. They had to pay to see their book in print. But with the advent of e-books, self-publishing has exploded, and a handful of writers have had huge best-sellers.

If there was a recipe for the best-selling writer Rick Riordan, it would go something like this — start with a love of storytelling, fold in more than a decade of teaching middle school English, combine that with two sons of his own who don't quite share their dad's love of literature, and marinate all of that with a deep passion for mythology.

Riordan has sold tens of millions of kids' books. He hit pay dirt with the Percy Jackson series — it's about an everyday kid who has superhero powers because he's the secret son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin gets buried in holiday murder and mayhem with David Handler’s The Snow White Christmas Cookie.

Title: The Snow White Christmas Cookie          

Author: David Handler

Pages: 264

Publisher: Minotaur Books

ISBN: 978-1250004543

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

Rod Stewart: Big Dreams, Bigger Hair

Dec 17, 2012

3 Books To Read Before The End Of The World

Dec 17, 2012

According to the adherents of the 2012 apocalypse theory, rooted in a controversial reading of ancient Mayan numerology, Earth is going to break into pieces and/or be consumed by a solar flare and/or disappear into a black hole on Dec. 21, right before Christmas.

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.

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.

'Torn': Living As An Openly Gay Christian

Dec 9, 2012

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.

Famous writers and their families: that's the subject of two recent biographical studies that read like novels — one a Gothic nightmare; the other, a romance.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin tracks an all-star assassin with NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp.

Title: NYPD Red

Author: James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Pages: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

ISBN: 978-0316199865

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

Time has a way of condensing major historical events into a few key moments, with one-dimensional, legendary figures at the forefront. In his new book, author and archivist Todd Andrlik gives life and depth to one such event — the American Revolution. He uses newspaper reporting from that era to provide a sense of the Revolution as it actually unfolded.

In 2012, several high-profile comics creators added landmark works to their already impressive legacies. With Building Stories, Chris Ware offered 14 volumes of comics, each with its own meticulous, anagrammatic take on despair, and stuffed them into a box.

Hear The 2012 National Book Award Nominees

Nov 14, 2012

Publishers, reporters and authors gathered Tuesday at the New School in New York City to celebrate this year's exceptional nominees for the National Book Awards. In advance of the awards on Wednesday night, NPR recorded the 10 nominated authors for fiction and nonfiction reading from their works.

These 10 books — which tell the stories of a young drug smuggler, lovable philanderers, holograms in the Saudi desert, and more — inspired, informed and entertained readers in 2012.

Philip Pullman Rewrites The Brothers Grimm

Nov 12, 2012

Two hundred years after the Brothers Grimm first published Children's and Household Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are getting another rewrite.

Philip Pullman, who wrote The Golden Compass of the young-adult fantasy series His Dark Materials, took on the challenge of retelling 50 of the original Grimm stories for his latest book, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm.

This Veterans Day, NPR Books went into the archives to find stories of combat and coping. A mother describes the emotional minefield of having a child at war, a Marine writes a memoir of a mortuary, and a photojournalist pays tribute to two centuries of Native-Americans in the military.

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