Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer is an editor (and the resident nerd) at NPR Books, focusing on fiction, and particularly genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads. You can also hear her on the air and on the occasional episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Previously, she was an associate producer and director for All Things Considered on the weekends. She handled all of the show's books coverage, and she was also the person to ask if you wanted to know how much snow falls outside NPR's Washington headquarters on a Saturday, how to belly dance, or what pro wrestling looks like up close and personal.

Mayer originally came to NPR as an engineering assistant in 1994, while still attending Amherst College. After three years spending summers honing her soldering skills in the maintenance shop, she made the jump to Boston's WBUR as a newswriter in 1997. Mayer returned to NPR in 2000 after a roundabout journey that included a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a two-year stint as an audio archivist and producer at the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She still knows how to solder.

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.

Cartoonist Dylan Meconis's new book Queen of the Sea is set in a convent on a tiny island, somewhere off the coast of a country that could be Tudor England, but it isn't, not quite.

The story plays out in a mysterious, possibly magical alternate world just a few degrees off what you might have learned in history class — but it's packed with intricate, well-researched details. And goats.

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?"

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!

At 7am, the Tower of London is peaceful — no tour groups, just distant traffic noise, and if you believe the legends, a ghost or three. Except in one corner, where there's a large, luxurious wood-and-wire enclosure that contains some very hungry ravens, hopping and croaking as they spot Christopher Skaife approaching with breakfast.

ElfQuest is something unique in the world of comics: It's one of the longest-running fantasy series ever — and it's been the passion project of just two people for its whole life.

There were few comics shops, fewer conventions, and not a lot of women were making comics when creators Wendy and Richard Pini began their epic quest in 1978. But now that quest is over, and they're on a farewell tour called Forty Years of Pointed Ears.

Editor's note: The poll is now closed! Thanks for voting.

This year's summer poll has me hiding under the bed — whether or not there's a monster there — because, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, we're celebrating horror. And I, your faithful correspondent, was scarred for life by a battered copy of Cujo I found in a summer house when I was a kid — so I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I'm making here to bring you the best of everything creepy, chilling and downright terrifying.

Any self-respecting comics fan cringes at the phrase "comics aren't just for kids anymore." But any self-respecting comics fan also has to admit there are some great kids' comics out there — especially right now.

Before I left for San Diego Comic-Con this week, I checked in with Lucy Strother, a fourth grade teacher in Philadelphia whose students just love comics. "We have like a comics and graphic novels bin in the library and it's perpetually empty because the kids are so obsessed with comics and graphic novels," she says.

Paula Hawkins' 2015 book — The Girl on the Train — was a massive bestseller. A tense domestic thriller with a boozy, unstable narrator, it caught the imagination of a reading public desperate for the kinds of dark deeds and desperate women Gillian Flynn pioneered in Gone Girl a few years earlier.

It was a bright hot day in June. Or possibly July. And the clocks almost certainly weren't striking thirteen, because they don't do that in this country.

But it WAS the summer of 1984. I was 9 years old, and my father was handing me a beat-up paperback with an anonymous-looking white and green cover; his old college copy of George Orwell's 1984. "Here," he said. "I think you're ready for this." My dad has always had a weirdly inflated sense of my intellectual abilities.

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