Petra Mayer

Lauren Beukes' new Afterland takes place in a world that exists not long after our own — a very near future in which a terrible virus has wiped out almost all the men in the world, leaving a scant few million, mostly held in government research facilities.

In the early 1960s, Rudolfo Anaya was teaching high school during the day and writing at night, struggling to find the voice that would bring his first novel alive.

The CEO of Macmillan — one of the Big Five book publishing houses — has announced he'll step back from day-to-day responsibilities, following an industry-wide day of action protest against racism organized by five Macmillan employees.

A long, long summer is stretching ahead of us — many summer camps and programs are closed, kids are restless and parents and caregivers are stretched thin. But story time is always a little moment of escape.

So this year, we want to hear all about your very favorite books for the littlest readers, specifically picture books and very easy chapter books. Is it something you loved as a kid? Something the kids in your life demand at Every. Single. Bedtime? Something they love to read by themselves? Something you gift to every kid you know? Tell us about it!

The National Book Critics Circle — which represents hundreds of critics nationwide, and hands out several prestigious prizes — is the latest literary organization to be riled by accusations of racism.

In Liara Tamani's swirling, poetic new young adult novel All the Things We Never Knew, two high school basketball stars, Rex and Carli, fall in love at first sight — the falling is literal in Carli's case; she has a gallbladder attack and collapses in Rex's arms courtside at a basketball game.

But how do you turn love at first sight into lasting love, when you don't really know how to love yourself? Both Rex and Carli struggle with their own doubts and depths and family secrets.

In this time of fear and uncertainty, people are going back to the land — more or less. Gardening might just be overtaking sourdough baking, TV binging and playing Animal Crossing as our favorite pandemic coping mechanism

Journalist and activist George M. Johnson's new memoir is an unvarnished look at growing up black and queer in New Jersey and later Virginia. Johnson draws readers into his own experiences with clear, confiding essays — from childhood encounters with bullies to sexual experiences good and bad, to finding unexpected brotherhood in a college fraternity, all of it grounded in the love and support of his family.

Grady Hendrix's new novel stars a group of determined women who confront a supernatural threat in their community — and while vampires aren't real (as far as we know), Hendrix says The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires has its roots in his own real life.

Cartoonist and literary jokester Tom Gauld usually lampoons classic novels and the predicaments of the writing life. But in his new book, Department of Mind-Blowing Theories — collecting comics from his ongoing column in New Scientist magazine — he turns his pen to the realm of science (and occasionally science fiction).

You've seen it all over your Twitter feed. Half your friends are probably playing it — yes, Nintendo's Animal Crossing is the video game of the moment, and it is a great way to keep yourself soothed and distracted.

N.K. Jemisin is fresh off of winning three Hugo Awards in a row for her powerful Broken Earth trilogy — set on a world wracked with constant geological upheavals, where only the despised and exploited people known as orogenes can calm the quakes.

Judy Vogel's life is falling apart. Or really, it HAS fallen apart: Once, she was a successful children's book author whose work was adapted for TV. Now, a couple of flops and a nasty case of writers' block have reduced her to grinding out content for a wellness website; her estranged husband Gary, whose anxiety has stunted his music career, lives in the basement because they can't afford to divorce — a situation they're hiding from their sullen teenager Teddy. And her best friend is dying of cancer.

Flatiron Books, publisher of the controversial new novel American Dirt, has cancelled the remainder of author Jeanine Cummins' book tour after what it called "specific threats to booksellers and the author." This follows several individual event cancellations. [Disclosure: Flatiron Books, publisher of American Dirt, is among NPR's financial supporters]

Goodbye to Mr. Creosote. Goodbye to the naked organist. Goodbye to Brian's mum, and to all her screeching sisters. Goodbye to Terry Jones, who has consumed his final wafer-thin mint.

When the creators of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were working on adapting the wizarding world for the stage, they knew a lot of people have seen the Harry Potter movies. And they didn't want to reproduce the things most people have already seen.

On the north side of the river Thames, between a pub and a railway bridge, there's a rickety staircase down to another world. Or rather, several worlds, layered on top of each other and jumbled together in the slightly stinky river mud. It's a bright, blowy day — seagulls are wheeling overhead, barges pass by in the background, and everywhere I look, there are little fragments of history.

Sheila O'Connor's Evidence of V is a novel built around a void, a blank space in O'Connor's own life: The story of her unknown maternal grandmother, a talented young singer who ended up sentenced to six years in a state reform school for the crime of becoming pregnant at 15.

"I did not know her, and I cannot know the truth of her story, but like so much 'missing family' she has occupied a major place in my imagination for most of my life," O'Connor tells me in an email conversation.

Violet Speedwell is a "surplus woman." She lost her brother and her fiancé to World War I, and she's been living quietly ever since, learning to accept that she's not going to have a husband or a family.

Violet is the protagonist of Tracy Chevalier's new novel, A Single Thread. When we meet her in 1932, she's had enough of sitting at home, taking care of her grieving, difficult mother. She wants a life of her own, so she moves to nearby Winchester, where she meets a group of women who make embroidered kneeling cushions for Winchester Cathedral.

Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale ended on a cliffhanger: The rebellious handmaid Offred stepping into a mysterious black van, on her way to freedom — or to arrest.

Petra: It's Saturday! (Or actually, as we're posting this it's now Sunday) I feel the need to reiterate this, lest I forget what day it is or which direction is up! Saturday tends to be the day people bust out their best cosplays — I saw some truly amazing getups, including countless Deadpools (Deadspool?), a lot of women dressed as Loki and Doctor Strange, a really well-done armored Cersei Lannister, Missandei of Naath carrying her own head, and my personal favorite, Logan and Jessica from Logan's Run, complete with life-clocks in their palms.

Fifty years ago, a bunch of comics fans in San Diego decided they wanted a way to meet other fans. They were mostly teenagers — okay, and two adults — but what they created became the pop culture phenomenon we know as San Diego Comic-Con.

Today, Roger Freedman is a physics professor, but in 1969 he was 17 years old — and he had no idea what he was about to get himself into. "I think it's fair to say that if you had come to us and said how Comic-Con was going to evolve, we would have said A) what are you smoking, and B) where can we buy some?"

Welcome to the 50th San Diego Comic-Con!

A good convention is almost a ritual space — a time and place away from time and place. Once you step through that glass door and swipe your badge, you could be anywhere, anywhen; the hours pass by outside and you don't notice. It's almost as if the rest of the world doesn't exist — you are at Comic-Con. You have always been at Comic-Con. What I'm trying to say, here, is that I've barely been here 24 hours and I already don't know which way is up or really what day it is. Mallory, I hope you're less disoriented than I am.

Knock knock!

Who's there?

THE FUNNIEST PANEL OF SUMMER POLL JUDGES WE'VE EVER HAD!

Voting in this year's Summer Reader Poll is in full swing — and if you still haven't voted, you can do that here — so it's time to meet our expert panel of professional funny people ... who I wish were writing this copy, because maaaan they're all way more hilarious than I am. But in fact, they'll be helping curate our final list of 100 favorite funny reads.

Voting for the 2019 poll is now closed. Thanks for your input! Stay tuned – the final list of 100 favorite funny books is coming in August!

If you could use a laugh right about now — and I think we all could — the NPR Books Summer Reader Poll is here for you! This year, we want to hear all about your favorite funny books and stories, and we don't just mean comedy writing. If it makes you laugh (or giggle, or even snicker quietly), we want to hear about it!

Well, Valentine's Day is upon us, and whether or not you're in love, I think we can all agree that sometimes the pressure to be in a relationship, or celebrate the fact that you're in one, can get a little ... less than delightful.

Renowned British actor Albert Finney has died at 82; his family confirmed the death in a short statement, saying he "passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side."

I don't think, as a teenage fangirl, that I realized exactly how bitter, how cynical, how teeth-grittingly furious the Monkees' 1968 movie Head is. How it starts with — more or less — a suicide: Micky Dolenz running in a panic through a municipal ribbon-cutting ceremony and taking a leap off of a shiny new suspension bridge, tumbling through the air and crashing into the water to the stately chords of "Porpoise Song" while the rest of the band watches in consternation from the railing. How it ends the same way, except this time it's all four of them jumping.

The Book Concierge is back! Explore more than 300 standout titles picked by NPR staff and critics.

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The Aspen Institute has announced this year's nominees for its annual prize — 16 titles (including several short story collections and quite a few debut authors) that, in the Institute's words, address "a vital contemporary issue."

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