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Literature

Literature

As many know, parenting isn't an easy job. It can be hugely frustrating and even lonely trying to figure out what's best for your kid. Should you be a taskmaster or a best friend? Is there a middle ground? The pressures of full-time work and round-the-clock activities can make that question even more challenging to tackle.

Readers have waited almost 15 years for a second novel from the acclaimed Alexander Chee, following the highly-praised Edinburgh. The wait is over.

The Queen Of The Night is sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery. Lilliet Berne is the most famous soprano in the French opera. She is offered the role of a lifetime: an original part written for her. But then she sees that the opera must be based on a part of her life she's kept under wraps.

A long-lost Beatrix Potter book, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, is set to be released this fall, 150 years after the beloved author's birth.

The tale about a sharply dressed feline has "all the hallmarks of Potter's best works," editor Jo Hanks, who stumbled upon the story, says in an interview with Penguin U.K., which will publish the book.

'All The Birds' Overturns Sci-Fi And Fantasy, Gently

Jan 26, 2016

As a genre, science-fantasy is often as basic as it sounds: People with swords meet people with lasers. (In some cases, like Star Wars, the swords and lasers are even the same thing.) But there's so much more potential in the overlap between science fiction and fantasy, a fact that's not lost on Charlie Jane Anders.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin heads out on a cross-country comic adventure with Jane Lotter’s The Bette Davis Club.

Title: The Bette Davis Club

Author: Jane Lotter

Pages: 325

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

ISBN: 978-1503951075

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

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Elizabeth McKenzie's clever, romantic comedy broadcasts quirkiness right on its cover, with its potentially off-putting title and its illustration of a squirrel instead of the interlocked wedding rings you might expect. In the tradition of Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House and Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, The Portable Veblen is a smart charmer about a brainy off-center couple who face up to their differences — and their difficult, eccentric families — only after they become engaged. Although plenty whimsical — the squirrel has opinions!

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin heads back to middle school with a mutant dinosaur in the audio edition of Sink or Swim, the second book in author Bob Balaban’s The Creature from the Seventh Grade series.

Title: Sink or Swim

Author: Bob Balaban

Runtime: 4 hours, 41 minutes

Publisher: Listening Library

AISN: B00EE0Y8P0

Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood is based on a real forest in the English countryside. NPR's Ari Shapiro visits Ashdown Forest with Kathryn Aalto, author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh. (This story originally aired on All Things Considered on Oct. 26, 2015.)

After a torrent of criticism, Scholastic has decided to stop distributing A Birthday Cake for George Washington, a picture book about one of George Washington's slaves.

The historical book tells the story of Hercules, a slave used by the president as his chef. It shows Hercules and his daughter Delia happy and taking pride in making Washington a birthday cake.

Almost as soon as the book was released, it received withering criticism for whitewashing the history of slavery.

Great Expectations: Dickens And The Powerball

Jan 13, 2016

The Powerball bonanza, which has touched an unprecedented $1.5 billion, may be the largest jackpot in human history, but the frenzied ticket buying and wild hopes attending it are hardly new. Ask Charles Dickens.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin contemplates middle age with Michael Ian Black in Navel Gazing.

Title: Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies, Mostly Mind (But Also My Mom’s Which I Know Sounds Weird)

Author: Michael Ian Black

Pages: 173

Publisher: Gallery Books

ISBN: 978-1476748825

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

The Authors Guild has started the new year with a bang. First, the group, which represents the interests of writers, asked the Supreme Court to review an October appeals court ruling, which upheld Google's right to digitize out-of-print books without an author's permission. A few days later, the guild addressed a separate issue when it released a letter to publishers demanding better contract terms for authors.

When Eric Weiner sat down to write his new book he had to tackle a big question first: How do you define genius?

"That's not as easy as it sounds," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "I have a slightly unusual definition ... that a genius is someone we all agree on is a genius. It's a social verdict."

Weiner traveled all over the world — to Greece, Italy, Scotland and Silicon Valley — to investigate how genius takes root and grows. His book The Geography of Genius is an exploration of how great thinkers are affected by the places and times in which they live.

Memories Of A Long Life Return In 'Alive, Alive Oh!'

Jan 10, 2016

Diana Athill is, by her own account, a very old woman. At 98, she lives in a home for the elderly in North London. This small and lovely book is a collection of favorite memories that return to Athill at the end of her life: heartbreak, yes, a miscarriage, but also a moment by the apple tree, a hill carpeted in bluebells, Byron's letters.

Three sisters — and their brother — converge on their late grandparents' dilapidated cottage for what's likely to be a valedictory summer holiday together as they decide the old homestead's fate. Yes, Tessa Hadley's sixth novel is unabashedly Chekhovian. But The Past also channels those delicious English country house dramas in which characters thrown together under one roof unpack some of the psychological baggage they tote everywhere, airing out old resentments, disappointments, secrets and affinities.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin practices her spells with the magical misfits in the audio edition of Upside-Down Magic by authors Sarah Mlynowsky, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins.

Title: Upside-Down Magic

Author: Sarah Mlynowsky, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Runtime: 3 hours, 8 minutes

Publisher: Scholastic Audio

AISN: B01180GUY0

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

One of the world's most precious volumes starts a tour on Monday, in Norman, Okla. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is sending out William Shakespeare's First Folio to all 50 states to mark the 400th anniversary of the bard's death. Published seven years after he died, the First Folio is the first printed collection of all of Shakespeare's plays.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin catches up with the Fixer in Fixed in Fear, the latest Justice novel by author T. E. Woods.

Title: Fixed in Fear

Author: T. E. Woods

Pages: 266

Publisher: Alibi

AISN: B00VD0442Q

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

It's been a year since the U.S. and Cuba began normalizing relations. Tourism, business and cultural exchanges are booming. And there is another curious benefactor of those warmer ties — Ernest Hemingway, or at least, his legacy. The writer lived just outside of Havana for 20 years, and that house, called the Finca Vigia, has long been a national museum.

The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller, set in contemporary London, with a female protagonist and a female author — Paula Hawkins. It was published this year, and received wide acclaim.

Girl on a Train is a psychological thriller, set in contemporary London, with a female protagonist and a female author — Alison Waines. It was published in 2013, and received almost no attention.

You might be able to predict where this is going.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin cooks up some holiday heart and humor with Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

Title: Bella’s Christmas Bake Off

Author: Sue Watson

Pages: 213

Publisher: Bookoutoure

AISN: B015FNZFBK

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

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin reunites with three old friends in author Karine Tuil’s The Age of Reinvention.

Title: The Age of Reinvention

Author: Karine Tuil

Pages: 392

Publisher: Washington Square Press

ISBN: 978-1476776347

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

Movie screens are thundering with futuristic stories this year, from the final installment of The Hunger Games to The Martian. Both films started as books — The Martian originally self-published — but it's The Martian that taps into an intriguing trend toward realism. Space travel has been a sci-fi staple for more than a century, and now some of the biggest names in the genre are trying to imagine what it would actually take to send humans to another planet.

"Usually when you illustrate a book, you're working on something that nobody's read before," notes Jim Kay.

But when you get tapped to add the illustrations to new editions of the entire Harry Potter series, as Kay did, the situation is more than a little bit different.

"It took a long time to get over the sort of terrible panic which grabs you," Kay says, "because you don't want to ruin the most successful children's book franchise in history."

Christopher Buckley's new novel is a historical heist caper, the story of a scam: An attempt to counterfeit the Shroud of Turin, believed by some to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth. As Jesus himself never said, "Talk about chutzpah!"

The 16th-century Holy Roman schemers include Dismas, a former mercenary who now deals in religious relics, from foreskins to fingerbones, and Albrecht Dürer, the real life artist and engraver. It's a road story, of a kind, that brings the duo to into contact with brothels, damsels, foreplay and swordplay.

For Molly Crabapple, art is a tool for action.

She has illustrated court proceedings at Guantanamo and documented the war in Syria with her pen and paper. Her work has been featured in Vanity Fair and The New York Times, and she's a columnist for Vice.

In her new memoir, Drawing Blood, she describes growing up in New York City and working her way through art school as a "naked girl for hire," as she puts it, posing for art classes and acting in music videos.

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