Jun 15, 2013 — "Stories are compasses and architecture," says author Rebecca Solnit. "We navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of the world."
Apr 24, 2013 — At 19, the heroine of Isabel Allende's florid, frenzied Maya's Notebook is in a tailspin of drugs, prostitution and crime. Sent by her grandmother to hide out with an old friend on an island off Chile, she finds love and redemption. Reviewer Mary Pols doesn't buy it.
Jan 24, 2013 — Ali Smith's new book, Artful, began as a series of lectures on comparative literature, given at Oxford last year. The lectures have been given a fictional shell, the story of an unnamed narrator finding a cache of essays in the study of her dead lover. Reviewer John Wilwol calls Artful "superb."
Dec 13, 2012 — Susan Stamberg presents the year's best books, picked by independent booksellers around the country. Selections range from gritty, free-verse fairy tales to ballerina photographs and a grim Southern story about a small town that would rather its ghosts remain at rest.
Nov 26, 2012 — Author Hortense Calisher once called the short story "an apocalypse in a teacup." Critic Jane Ciabattari presents her favorite mini-apocalypses of 2012, from veteran authors like Sherman Alexie to newcomer Claire Vaye Watkins, who combines a unique voice and a shadowed family history in her debut collection.
Nov 13, 2012 — In fiction, Ann Beattie channels first lady Pat Nixon, while Ben Marcus looks at the consequences of nasty rhetoric, and Jonathan Odell imagines a slave healer's life. In nonfiction, the creators of Portlandia offer a guided tour of Portland, Ore., and Ellen Forney reflects on her bipolar disorder.
Oct 15, 2012 — E.B. White's classic children's book is ostensibly about a spider and a pig. But author Michael Sims says the story is really about the barn the critters live in, based on a real barn on White's Maine farm.
May 25, 2012 — Not sure what to read this summer? NPR's Susan Stamberg asked three booksellers to share their top five picks for the books you shouldn't miss. They recommend tales of con artists, grade-school spies, refugees and ranchers — plus an exploration of why stories make us human.
Apr 18, 2012 — Jonathan Gottschall is an English professor fed up with academia's ugly jargon. He recommends three books that help writers with their prose. Has a book ever helped you with your composition skills? Tell us about it in the comments.
Mar 19, 2012 — Author and secretary Lynn Peril knows that writing on the job is a time-honored tradition. She recommends three books that were written while the boss was looking the other way. Have you ever composed a novel at your day job? Tell us about it in the comments.