Just two weeks until we announce the winner of Round Nine of our Three-Minute Fiction contest here on WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, that's where we ask you to come up with an original piece of fiction that can be read in about three minutes. In this round, we received nearly 4,000 stories.
Now, graduate students from a dozen schools, including from the University of Houston and Indiana University, have read through all of them. And now, our judge this round, Brad Meltzer, is making his decision.
Seventy-five years ago, J.R.R Tolkien wrote a book for his children called The Hobbit. It isn't just a landmark piece of fantasy literature; it's a movement — a work that's inspired everyone from director Peter Jackson to the band Led Zeppelin to Leonard Nimoy (who recorded his own homage to the book in the late 1960s — "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins").
What is the point of the best-seller list? Depends who you are. If you're a reader, it's a guide to what's popular — what's new, what your neighbors are buying, and what you might like to read next. If you're a publisher, it's a source of feedback and a sales tool: It tells you how your books compete, and gives you triumphs to crow about on paperback covers.
John Lennon loved word play; he wrote songs that have not only become standards, but also milestones, like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Strawberry Fields," which he wrote with the Beatles, and "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance," which he wrote on his own. For most of his life, he also composed letters to friends and family; then lovers, as he grew up; and strangers, as he grew famous. His notes, letters and postcards often contained small, funny drawings and self portraits.
Sixty years ago, the book Charlotte's Web first appeared in print. This children's classic is often seen as a story of a spider and a pig. But when E.B. White recorded a narration of the book, he said something different: "This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself."