Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature has been given to the U.S. poet Louise Glück for what the Swedish Academy calls "her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal."

Glück is the 16th woman to win a literature Nobel, and she already has a bookshelf's worth of heavyweight awards: a National Book Award, a National Humanities Medal and a Pulitzer Prize for her 1992 collection The Wild Iris.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Hungarian architect Ernő Rubik takes play very seriously — and suggests we could all lighten up. "Most people are taking most of the things too seriously," he says. "They really can't enjoy life because of that."

If Rubik's name sounds familiar that's because he's the inventor of the Rubik's Cube — that fun (and frustrating) colorful cube puzzle.

"If you don't really mind if you are winning or losing, you enjoy the play ..." he says. "I learn most from my failures — that is the way to learn, that is the way to be successful."

In 2014, Phil Klay released Redeployment, a collection of swift-talking stories emerging from — though not based on — his service in the Iraq War, to rapturous acclaim. He won the National Book Award, received uniformly glowing reviews, and earned frequent claims that Redeployment would be to Iraq what Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried has become to Vietnam. No small amount of pressure to put on an emerging writer, excellent though that writer may be.

Addie LaRue was born in France at the very end of the 17th century — but no one remembers that. No one, that is, except for Addie herself and the devil she makes a deal with to escape an unwanted marriage and an ordinary life. But bargaining with wild gods always comes with hidden costs. Addie willingly trades her soul for immortality, but she doesn't realize until too late that the price of her freedom is her legacy — for now she is doomed to be instantly forgotten by everyone she meets.

Rumaan Alam's latest novel, Leave the World Behind, centers on a white family and an older Black couple who find themselves together in a beautiful vacation house on Long Island while a power outage — and possibly something much worse — grips much of the East Coast.

Most of the world knows we're in the midst of a very consequential election. Against twin pandemics of illness and racism, deep economic insecurity, and a president whose relentless fearmongering has reached fever pitch, the ability to vote has never been more important.

Desmond Meade's Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Civil Rights of Returning Citizens is a compelling story about one man's rise from addiction, homelessness, and prison to run a successful campaign to re-enfranchise more than one million Florida voters.

On Monday, President Donald Trump returned to the White House after spending the weekend in the hospital being treated for COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


This year's MacArthur Fellows — recipients of what's commonly known as the Genius Grant — are engineers and writers, scientists and musicians, artists and scholars and filmmakers. They've mapped the universe and the human brain, created new worlds and picked apart what makes our own world tick.

Former CIA Director John Brennan is no fan of Donald Trump, having called the president a "disgraced demagogue" who belongs "in the dustbin of history."

But these days, Brennan is rooting for the president, who returned to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday night. Trump had been at the hospital since Friday night, after revealing his positive coronavirus test early that morning.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, musician Lenny Kravitz didn't spend much time thinking about being biracial. The only son of an interracial couple, he says, "I knew that my mother's skin tone was what it was and I knew that my father's skin tone was what it was. ... I thought nothing of it."

But things changed when he reached first grade: "My parents were the only ones that didn't match," he says. "And this kid jumped out and pointed his finger and said, 'Your father's white and your mother's Black!' "

The National Book Foundation has announced the 25 finalists for this year's National Book Awards, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, literature in translation, and young people's literature.

This year's authors are a diverse group that includes several debuts — from Deesha Philyaw and Douglas Stuart in the fiction category, and Tommye Blount and Anthony Cody in poetry.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


It wasn't the racist emails that bothered Issac J. Bailey.

Well, they bothered him — it was just that being a Black columnist for The Sun News, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, he accepted that he'd get hateful messages.

It was his well-intentioned white colleagues who he found more exhausting.

John Brennan stepped down as CIA director the moment Donald Trump was being sworn in as president – noon on Jan. 20, 2017.

The next day, Trump visited CIA headquarters and spoke about the size of his inauguration crowd while standing in front of the agency's Memorial Wall, featuring a star for each CIA employee killed in the line of duty.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Right now, young adult fiction is a genre that is really allowing compelling voices to tackle hard subjects in interesting ways.

In a new book, Hush, a cabal of magical men have literally stolen people's ability to distinguish fact from fantasy. The main character Shae is on a quest to find out who killed her mother and uncover what is really behind a plague that is destroying the land. Along the way, she learns that the most dangerous thing is to speak the truth.

Months after dropping out of the Democratic presidential primaries, Pete Buttigieg is back with a warning: America, he says, is facing a crisis of trust. And he says building that trust, in both American institutions and fellow citizens, is the only way to address the other challenges facing the country.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., called trust one of his "rules of the road" during his presidential campaign.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Couldn't we all use a little poetry? "That Was Now, This Is Then" is a new collection by Vijay Seshadri, one of America's great poets and a Pulitzer Prize winner. When we spoke earlier this week, we asked him to read his poem "Robocall."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Nora Seed wants to die.

This is where we begin, in Matt Haig's new novel, The Midnight Library: with a young woman on the verge of making a terrible choice. She's lost her job, her best friend, her brother. Her relationships are in shambles and her cat is dead. More importantly, she is just deeply, seemingly irretrievably, sad. She can't imagine a day that is better with her in it. Living has become nothing but a chore.

So she ends it. Overdose. Antidepressants. The world goes black.

Washington is — and always will be — a town that struggles between outcomes and principles. It's a place where compromise is both necessary and invariably suspect.

This sentiment comes from the opening pages of a new book — a book about Washington when it was a different town that worked in a different way, and about a man who excelled at getting things done in that distant Washington.