Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

In his latest book, Michael Beschloss details the windup to eight wars — and the executive branch involvement in each.

With the exception of the Korean War, all of these wars received either a formal congressional declaration of war (the War of 1812; the Mexican-American War in 1846; the Spanish-American War in 1898; WWI in 1917; and WWII in 1941-42) or some form of congressional authorization (Civil War in 1861 and the Vietnam War in 1964).

'Words We Don't Say' Still Hit Hard

16 hours ago

Just about any publishing professional will tell you that "voice" is one of the most important — and usually one of the most difficult — elements to capture in writing. When the voice of a book's main character comes through vividly enough, the reader doesn't just feel sympathy for the character, they become that character. Reading a book with great voice is like slipping on a second skin, seeing through someone else's eyes and walking a mile in their shoes, no matter how uncomfortable.

Unlabeled stimulants in soft drinks. Formaldehyde in meat and milk. Borax — the stuff used to kill ants! — used as a common food preservative. The American food industry was once a wild and dangerous place for the consumer.

Deborah Blum's new book, The Poison Squad, is a true story about how Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, named chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1883, conducted a rather grisly experiment on human volunteers to help make food safer for consumers — and his work still echoes on today.

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"All this is based on what I've heard from other people or worked out for myself. It may not be entirely true, though I for one believe it."

Jorge Luis Borges's iconic Patagonia story "The South" opens in Buenos Aires, in Argentina's north. The protagonist, Juan Dahlmann, is a librarian who's spent his whole life in the city, dreaming of moving to the Patagonian ranch he inherited from his grandfather.

To Dahlmann, Patagonia represents an alternate world, a macho Wild West filled with tough guys and gauchos, men in control of their fates.

"The first time I saw my father do coke, I was about six," author (and occasional NPR critic) Juan Vidal writes in his new memoir, Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture that Shaped a Generation. "Batman Underoos in full effect. I didn't know what the powder was on his stache, but I remember wishing he'd take me to see the snow."

He never did. Vidal's father faded in and out of his life, eventually disappearing entirely, in a cloud of guns, drugs and other women. But he's still the spirit that haunts this poetic chronicle of beats, rhymes and life.

'Beautiful Things' Is A String Of Little Apocalypses

Oct 7, 2018

Every story in the slim new Simon Van Booy collection, The Sadness Of Beautiful Things, is about the end of the world.

In none of them does the world actually end. In none of them does it even come close. But that doesn't change the fact that these are stories of apocalypse. Even the quietest of them shakes the ground and darkens the sky.

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Nicole Chung was born into a Korean immigrant family and then adopted by a white couple when she was an infant. Her parents always described her adoption as a kind of divine providence.

Right on the cover, Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell's horror comic Infidel lays out a bold goal. Campbell's powerful illustration — a woman in a headscarf menaced by an exaggerated, spiky hand — signals that this book will delve into the real-world theme of racism while simultaneously embracing the phantasmal devices of horror.

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Alice Walker has a new collection of poems about issues of the world, and those in her own backyard.

The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of the The Color Purple, The Temple of my Familiar and many other beloved works has now issued Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart. The book gathers 69 of her poems in both English and Spanish, the latter courtesy of translator Manuel García Verdecia.

She spoke to NPR about her adopted homes, the root of her poetry and human imperfection.

Pick up Nora Krug's reverberant graphic memoir, Belonging, and be prepared to lose yourself for hours in this unstinting investigation into her conflicted feelings about being German and her family's role in the Holocaust.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a kids' book writer and he loves to make his readers laugh, in silly picture books like Naptastrophe and Punk Farm and his action-packed Lunch Lady graphic novel series featuring a crime-fighting, apron-wearing lunch lady who's always ready to do battle to protect her students.

Essay: Parental Support

Oct 5, 2018

My husband and I are traveling in the Upper Peninsula and stop at a state park for a picnic lunch. Walking across the parking lot, I glance down at the asphalt pavement and see a small turtle, maybe two inches long. Dick picks it up and turns it over. “Painted turtle,” he says. “I’ll put him back in the lake.”

With guest host Todd Zwilich.

The political divide in our country might be stark, but it’s not a recent phenomenon.

How did we get here?

Political correspondent Steve Kornacki has a theory. In his new book, The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism, he traces the origin story back several decades, to when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich climbed to the top of their respective parties.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

What could possibly bring together a painter, an economist, a pastor and a planetary scientist? If you ask the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the answer is simpler than you may think: They've all shown creativity, potential for future achievements — and the likelihood that $625,000, meted out over five years, will help them complete their grand designs.

The story Nicole Chung was told about her adoption was always the same: "Your birth parents had just moved here from Korea. They thought they wouldn't be able to give you the life you deserved."

Her adoptive parents were white Catholics living in Oregon who told the story with joy: explaining that Chung was born 10 weeks premature, that her birth parents worried she would struggle all her life, that they believed adoption was the best thing for her.

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Sarah Smarsh is a daughter of the white working class. Born in rural Kansas, Smarsh traces her lineage back through five generations of family farmers. She also traces herself back through generations of teenage pregnancies; Smarsh's mother was just 17 when she had her.

There's never a shortage of memoirs by successful businessmen and, for the most part, they tend to play out the same way.

The cover often features a photo of the author in a suit, smiling, with his arms confidently folded across his chest. The book itself tells a rags-to-riches story, broken up with obvious aphorisms and bulletted lists detailing how you, too, can earn millions if you just put your mind to it, darn it. Words like "synergy," "impact" and "disruption" all get healthy workouts.

'Ink' Draws A Dark But Plausible Future

Oct 3, 2018

It's sometimes surprising to look at a book outlining a bleak future and see how startlingly accurate it's become — but it shouldn't be. The cruelty of the present echoes past cruelties that were never reckoned with; the history of so many countries is pockmarked with so many horrors that one need only look backwards to imagine the worst that lies ahead.

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The historian Hampton Sides has been exploring the origins of the U.S. conflict with North Korea. He's written a history of Americans in a brutal battle in the dead of winter, which happened when Americans tried to unify North and South Korea.

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