Lynn Neary

When writer Téa Obreht's first book came out in 2011, it got the kind of reaction that most debut novelists only dream of: The Tiger's Wife was both critically acclaimed and a best seller. It was nominated for the National Book Award and won the Orange Prize.

Writers, like all artists, are willing to give up a lot to keep doing what they love best. But sometimes, reality bites, and dreams have to be put aside in order to put food on the table. That's what happened to Adrian McKinty — but then, with a little help from some friends, he found a way to keep going. The result is his new book, The Chain.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Poet, writer and musician Joy Harjo — a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation — often draws on Native American stories, languages and myths. But she says that she's not self-consciously trying to bring that material into her work. If anything, it's the other way around.

Four years ago the unthinkable happened to Jayson Greene. His 2-year-old daughter, Greta, was visiting her grandmother. The two were sitting on a bench on New York's Upper West Side when a brick came loose from a nearby building. It struck Greta in the head, and she died three days later. Greene began keeping a journal, which turned into his new memoir, Once More We Saw Stars.

Ann Beattie has been hailed as the voice of her generation, but she's never taken that distinction too seriously. Beattie's short stories began appearing in The New Yorker in the 1970s. In her latest book, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck, the voice of the boomer generation focuses on a new generation — the Millennials.

Beattie has published more than 20 books over the course of her career, both novels and short story collections. She says short stories come more easily to her. Novels, she admits, are "endlessly fascinating," but more of a struggle.

Every year, when it's time to give out the Nobel Prize for Literature, British bookies lay odds on who might win. Every year, Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o is viewed as a contender.

His body of works includes novels, plays and essays. But the first thing he ever wrote was a short story, which is included in a new collection of stories that range from the 1960s to the present. It's called Minutes of Glory, and he thinks of it as a kind of "literary autobiography."

Imagine a world where lying is against the law. You might expect that any place that values truth so highly would be a utopia — but the world writer Ben Winters has created in Golden State is far from idyllic. And though it's set in the future, it's very much based on our current political moment.

Winters says he knows exactly when he started writing Golden State: The day following President Trump's inauguration. Specifically, it was after "the infamous incident of the inauguration crowd-size debate."

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Much-loved poet Mary Oliver died Thursday of lymphoma, at her home in Florida. She was 83. Oliver won many awards for her poems, which often explore the link between nature and the spiritual world; she also won a legion of loyal readers who found both solace and joy in her work.

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

When thousands of young people descended on the National Mall earlier this year for the student-led March for Our Lives, singer Jennifer Hudson ended the event with an emotional rendition of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

Some of the best stories begin at home — and in fact, that's where Tony DiTerlizzi got the idea for his latest book. The Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator, perhaps best known for The Spiderwick Chronicles, is taking a big leap into the unknown with his first Christmas book, The Broken Ornament.

Eight-year-old Lucy Gray is wide-eyed and quivering with anticipation when I arrive at her house in suburban Maryland. I am sorry to report that I am not the object of her excitement. She is thrilled because she will soon be cooking with my companion, Molly Birnbaum, editor in chief of America's Test Kitchen Kids.

For the first time, a writer from Northern Ireland has won the prestigious Man Booker Award. The prize, given to works of fiction written in English and published in the U.K., was announced at a ceremony Tuesday evening in London.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Writers often have ambivalent feelings when their book are adapted for film.

They may enjoy the fame and fortune a movie can bring, but remain loathe to give up control over their creation. Some have famously hated the final adaptation.

But Justin Torres loves the film based on his debut novel We the Animals. That's because Torres worked closely with director Jeremiah Zagar.

Zagar is a documentary filmmaker, but he always wanted to direct a narrative feature film. For a long time, he just couldn't find the right story.

Perhaps best known for his novel A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul was a controversial figure in the literary world. The Nobel Prize-winning writer died on Saturday at his London home, the author's agent confirms to NPR. He was 85.

His wife Nadira Naipaul, who was at his side when he passed, said he was "a giant in all that he achieved and he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavor," The Associated Press reports.

Gillian Flynn's wildly successful Gone Girl helped spawn a batch of best-selling mystery novels featuring complex female protagonists. That was sweet revenge for Flynn, whose first novel, Sharp Objects, had been turned down by publishers who didn't think people wanted to read stories about less-than-perfect women. Now, Sharp Objects has been adapted as a limited series, debuting Sunday on HBO, starring Amy Adams.

Every year at BookExpo, the publishing industry's annual conference, a few books emerge as front-runners in the competition for readers. This year, There There by Tommy Orange is one of those books. Set in Oakland, Calif., it explores the lives of Native Americans who live in cities, not reservations — lives like that of its author, who himself grew up in Oakland.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Zora Neale Hurston, one of the best known writers of the Harlem Renaissance — and the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God — has a new book. Well, that's not quite right; it's actually an old book that is only now being published. It's called Barracoon, and it's based on a series of conversations Hurston had with Cudjo Lewis, who was brought to this country aboard the last ship that carried slaves across the Atlantic

There's a well-known Russian folktale, "Snegurochka," that tells the story of an elderly couple who yearn to have a child; they create a little girl out of snow, and she comes to life. In her novel The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey reimagined that story and set it in her home state of Alaska — and now the story has made one more leap, to the theatre at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage.

Novelist Richard Powers lives in a house perched on a hillside, just on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "It's very much a tree house," he says with a laugh. "That's why I live here."

His latest book, The Overstory, brought him to the old growth forests of Tennessee. The novel follows the lives of nine different people, all determined to save ancient trees from destruction. Their lives become entwined as they fight to save virgin forests, with unforeseen consequences.

Great artists are known to have big egos — they can suck up all the air in a room if given half a chance. And living in the shadow of such greatness can stunt a person's growth, which is exactly what happens to the central character in Tom Rachman's new novel, The Italian Teacher. Rachman takes us through the life of Pinch Bavinsky, from his childhood adoration of his famous father to the disappointments of adulthood, and in the process, explores what it means to be an artist.

Writer Sherman Alexie last week issued a statement admitting he "has harmed" others, after rumors and allegations began to circulate about sexual harassment. Without providing details, Alexie said "there are women telling the truth," and he apologized to the people he has hurt. Now, some of those women have come forward to speak to NPR about their experiences with him.

It was no accident that W.E.B. Du Bois called his book The Souls Of Black Folk, says Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History Of Racist Ideas In America. Du Bois wasn't looking for a catchy title — he was reacting to the reality of his times.

"Racist Americans were making the case that black people did not have souls," Kendi says. "And the beings that did not have souls were beasts."

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Asymmetry is a book whose title tells the tale: It's made up of two disparate stories with no apparent connection, and a third story that just hints at the link between the two. Debut author Lisa Halliday won the prestigious Whiting Award for her work — and while you may not have heard of her, you probably have heard of Colson Whitehead, Jeffrey Eugenides, Alice McDermott and Jonathan Franzen, all of whom are fellow Whiting winners

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It seems fitting that 2017 has been bookended by two novels about women and power. When the year began, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which depicts a future where women are stripped of all power, began making its way to the top of best-seller lists. As 2017 draws to a close, another dystopian novel has made it onto some prominent top ten lists: Naomi Alderman's The Power.

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