Books

Confessional cartoon chronicler Jeffrey Brown's new autobiographical work, A Matter of Life, will sit next to Craig Thompson's Blankets as one of the most touching and wise graphic memoirs we have about growing up in a religious household and grappling with faith.

This summer, NPR's Cities Project has been looking at how cities around the world are solving problems using new technologies. And though there's great promise in many of these "smart" city programs, New York University's Anthony Townsend remains skeptical.

Townsend, whose book Smart Cities is due out in October, tells NPR's David Greene about the causes, benefits and potential dangers of the smart city boom.


Interview Highlights

On what caused the smart city boom

We have to confess: When we heard that Twinkies will have nearly double the shelf life, 45 days, when they return to stores next week, our first reaction was — days? Not years?

Urban legend has long deemed Twinkies the cockroaches of the snack food world, a treat that can survive for decades, what humanity would have left to eat come the apocalypse. The true shelf life — which used to be 26 days — seems somewhat less impressive by comparison.

When novelist Kate Christensen was just a toddler, she witnessed her father beating her mother. It was a scene that would haunt Christensen for decades.

And so it's with a description of that morning that she chooses to begin her memoir Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites. The book that unfolds is an examination of the reverberations of her father's violence in her life, and a meditation on how her love of food helped her cope.

As a child, she tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, she refused to identify with her mother in the scenario.

We like to think that if we eat our recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, we're doing right by our bodies. Think again, says health writer Jo Robinson.

In her new book, Eating on the Wild Side, Robinson argues that our prehistoric ancestors picked and gathered wild plants that were in many ways far more healthful than the stuff we buy today at farmers' markets.

­­My friend Mark Leibovich — a New York Times reporter — has written a book about the inner watchworkings of Power Washington called This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital. Among the incestuous cognoscenti of the Capital City, This Town has more buzz than a top-bar beehive.

Charlie Huston's 2010 novel, Sleepless, bowled me over. What a powerful combination of combustible plot and fiery language! At the center of that book, an insomnia plague spreads across Southern California (and the rest of the country). The illness keeps you awake all night, quite fuzzy-minded during the day, and then after a couple of months it kills you. The only thing approaching an antidote is a drug called Dreamer, which makes a little sleep possible before you die.

News stories can often be distilled into good guys versus bad guys, heroes versus villains. But what makes a villain? What's the difference between a garden-variety bad guy and an evil genius, besides a couple of IQ points? Those are the questions pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman grapples with in his new book, I Wear The Black Hat.

When Alfredo Corchado went to cover Mexico for The Dallas Morning News, he was determined not to focus on drugs and crime but rather to cover issues critical to the country's future — immigration, education and the economy.

Physics And Poetry: Can You Handle The Truth?

Jul 9, 2013

If you are going to shell out cash sending a kid to college, you might as well get in on their fun too. That's how my daughter's post-modern lit class slammed me into The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot.

It is, arguably, one of the most important poems of the 20th century. At least that is what they told her and that is what my dad told me when he first gave me a copy as a boy. But she had a class that helped her understand the poem. Alone in my study I didn't get it ... again (sorry Dad).

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