Books

Kate Walters / KUOW

Amazon Books opened in Seattle Tuesday and while it looks similar to your average bookstore, there are some noticeable differences. 

While you will find the latest best-sellers, most of the books are chosen based on data from Amazon's online sales. For example, shelves are labeled: 'Business Top Sellers, 4.5 stars and above'.

Jennifer Cast, Vice President of Amazon Books, said customers want the physical experience of buying books and Amazon thinks it can improve that experience.

Joel Peterson

Picking out a Mother’s Day card has never been easy for me. The cards with feminine designs and gold font catch my eye but the words never convey the difficult relationship between my mother and me. Sure I could go with the clichés of ‘You’re the best mom ever!” or try to fill a blank card with my own feelings. But sometimes those feelings are too intense for a card. Sometimes it's easier to send jewelry and pretend all is well. But so much is left unsaid.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

A school district in Sweet Home, Ore., is considering whether to pull a book by Northwest author Sherman Alexie from junior high classrooms.

Novels are low-tech objects. They can't be plugged in, they've got no buttons or knobs, and they don't make your eyes pop out of your head as you watch creatures or asteroids zigzag across a screen. Usually, novels have no visual aids at all. So if you want to know what Anna Karenina looks like, well, you just have to read the book.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

No place seems safe these days from someone's terrifying, post-apocalyptic imaginings. Los Angeles is wrecked in the movie Elysium, the South is zombie-ridden in TV's The Walking Dead, and now— thanks to writer Ben Winters — even the quiet streets of Concord are at risk of annihilation.

Today's Internet users have become accustomed to stories of hacking, identity theft and cyberattacks, but there was a time when the freedom and anonymity of the Web were new, and no one was sure what rules — if any — applied to its use. Many thought the Internet was beyond government regulation, its very chaos a source of creativity and strength.

'Schindler' Author Returns With A Tale Of The Great War

Aug 20, 2013

Is there more to say about World War I nurses and their patients after Hemingway's uber-classic A Farewell to Arms? The saga of ambulance driver Frederic Henry and his beautiful English nurse Catherine Barkley is generally thought to be an unrivaled fictional treatment of what was called, at the time, the Great War. Could a different novelist squeeze additional juice from this particular grape?

When you watch a DVD these days, there's a whole array of extras waiting for you after the movie — commentaries, deleted scenes, special re-creations that add to the experience.

But what if you are a novelist and want to do the same? Could you? Should you?

One of the most intriguing figures of 20th-century warfare is T.E. Lawrence, the British army officer who immersed himself in the culture of the Arabian Peninsula's Bedouin tribes and played a key role in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. He became a well-known and romanticized figure in post-war England, and was immortalized in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.

Martinis And Manuscripts: Publishing In The Good Old Days

Aug 19, 2013

Elissa Schappell is the author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls.

In the good old, bad old days of book publishing, screaming matches happened in public, not online; the boss' philandering was an open secret never leaked to the press, and authors actually had to turn in their manuscripts in order to get money out of their publisher.

A Dystopian View Of America's 'Fallen' Suburbs

Aug 18, 2013

The suburbs can be a creepy place. And they are at their creepiest in Patrick Flanery's new novel, Fallen Land. Set outside an unnamed American city, this dark and complex thriller plays out in a half-built subdivision where construction ground to a halt during the housing crisis.

Go to your nearest paperback rack, and odds are, you'll see two or three, or four, or — well, a lot of books by Debbie Macomber, an author The Sacramento Bee has dubbed "the reigning queen of women's fiction."

Macomber has 170 million books in print; the newest, Rose Harbor in Bloom, has just been released. Her publisher, Random House, celebrated Macomber's selling power earlier this month with a fan retreat at the Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville, where 400 women gathered for a weekend of tea, knitting and literary friendship.

Author David Ewalt was in the fourth grade when he got hooked on Dungeons & Dragons.

"I was at one of my friends' houses on a weekend after school. And he broke out this weird game," Ewalt tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "[He] said 'hey, do you guys want to fight some monsters and explore a dungeon?'"

Now a grown man, Ewalt still can't help but spread the good word about the game. He's written a new book about it, called Of Dice and Men.

When Dylan Dethier graduated from high school a few years ago, he didn't go on to the local college, join the Army or hitchhike cross-country. He hit golf courses, on a trip across America to play a round of golf in each of the Lower 48 states.

He played the posh course at Pebble Beach, yes; but mostly public courses across the country, including one in hard-hit Flint, Mich., another in North Dakota and one in a corner of Alabama. Over the course of a year he slept with an ax under his car seat, lost his virtue, and looked at America from green to shining green.

Before abolitionist and Harpers Ferry raider John Brown became a hymn, he was a flesh and blood human being: Bible-thumping, rifle-toting, heroic and maybe more than a little unhinged.

Tales of Jesse James's exploits have grown to almost mythological proportions since the actual man and his gang galloped over the plains stealing horses, holding up trains, and robbing banks in the years after the Civil War. Shot All To Hell: Jesse James, The Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape is a new book about the legendary man.

Part of our summer reading series Island Reads, highlighting authors from the Caribbean

Andrea Stuart was curious about her family's history in Barbados. And through years of careful research, she found that her bloodline includes both slave owners and slaves. She has written about her own family, as well as a detailed history of slavery in the Caribbean, in her book Sugar in the Blood. Guest host Celeste Headlee talks with Stuart about her family history, the moral complexity of slavery and finding roots in the past.

What happens in our brains while we're asleep? That's one question neuroscientist Penelope Lewis is trying to answer. She directs the Sleep and Memory Lab at the University of Manchester in England. Her new book is The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest.

Lewis joins Fresh Air's Terry Gross to talk about how sleep affects memory, and how REM sleep can affect depression.


Interview Highlights

On how sleep makes memory stronger

In the world of book publishing, ravaged though it may be, the name Farrar, Straus & Giroux still bespeaks literary quality. It's a publishing house that boasts a roll call of 25 Nobel Prize winners and heavyweights like Susan Sontag, Carlos Fuentes, Joan Didion, Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen. A lot of writers, past and present, have turned down higher advances for their books from other publishing houses for the honor of being an FSG author.

On the second page of his debut novel Snow Hunters, Paul Yoon vividly depicts the last moments before his protagonist Yohan is liberated from a prisoner of war camp on the Korean peninsula, "where there was always a wind that carried the smell of soil and sickness" from the animals at a nearby farm. Yohan is about to catch a boat to Brazil and start a new life as a Japanese tailor's apprentice – and as he rides away in a UN truck, he "shut his eyes and dreamed of castles."

Novelist Sue Grafton is a real hoot. She's just as likely to talk, in that native Kentucky drawl of hers, about her prized silver-coin mint julep cups as about a juicy murder mystery. But she does have a crime writer's imagination.

"I always say to people, 'Don't cross me, OK? Because you will be so sorry,'" she says. "'I have ways to kill you you ain't even thought of yet.'"

Heading West: The Gritty, Luminous 'Son Of A Gun'

Aug 12, 2013

My parents married young — both were still undergraduates — and so by the time my father started graduate school in mathematics, he and my mother were the harried parents of three small children. They wanted us to see America. And so my father chose the University of Arizona — about as far as you could go from our West Virginia home without falling off the country's opposite edge. On our way, we stopped in Tombstone.

If you're like me, you probably feel exhausted just thinking about how much cultural stuff is out there. A friend recently told me he was reading an acclaimed Hungarian novelist whose books I've never opened. "Please tell me he stinks," I begged, "so I don't have to read him."

"Actually, he's great," came the reply, and I groaned. This was something I didn't want to know.

Piper Kerman was a 24-year-old Smith College graduate in 1993, when she flew to Belgium with a suitcase of money intended for a West African drug lord.

This misguided adventure started when she began a romantic relationship with a woman who was part of what Kerman describes as a "clique of impossibly stylish and cool lesbians in their mid-30s." That woman was involved in a drug-smuggling ring, and got Kerman involved, too, though Kerman left that life after several months.

How short is too short, according to the law? Wardrobe choices, or lack thereof, raise all sorts of issues — from First Amendment concerns to questions of equality, sexuality and control.

Ruthann Robson's new book, Dressing Constitutionally Hierarchy, Sexuality, and Democracy from Our Hairstyles to Our Shoes, examines anecdotes throughout history demonstrating the ways fashion and laws can conflict or influence one another. Robinson talks with Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about some of those examples.

Stephen Burt latest book is the poetry collection, Belmont.

We can go to science fiction for its sense of wonder, its power to take us to far-off places and future times. We can go to political fiction to understand injustice in our own time, to see what should change. We may go to poetry — epic or lyric, old or new — for what cannot change, for a sense of human limits, as well as for the music in its words.

For four decades, William Ferris tracked down some of the most inspirational artists and historians of the American South. He sat down with Eudora Welty, Alice Walker, Pete Seeger, Bobby Rush and Alex Haley, capturing their reflections on tape and their images on camera.

There are numbers all around us. They are in every word we speak or write, and in the passage of time. Everything in our world has a numeric foundation, but most of us don't see those numbers. It's different for Daniel Tammet. He's a savant with synesthesia, a condition that allows him to see beyond simple numerals — he experiences them.

Tammet drew attention around the world about a decade ago when he recited, from memory, the number pi. It took him five hours to call out 22,514 digits with no mistakes.

Pages