Books

Thwaites did goat research at Buttercups, which he says is "the United Kingdom's (if not the world's) only sanctuary for abused goats." Its 250 goats live down the road from Thwaites's home.

Classical music fans know the names Mendelssohn and Schumann. Chances are, Felix and Robert leap to mind — but Felix's sister Fanny was also a composer, and so was Robert Schumann's wife Clara. Those are just two composers featured in Anna Beer's new book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

In two of The New Yorker's most famous articles, writer Joseph Mitchell tried to answer one question: Who was Joe Gould?

Mitchell first introduced Gould in 1942: He was a quirky, possibly mentally ill Harvard dropout who wandered the streets of Greenwich Village and Harlem filling pages and pages of dime-store notebooks with everything people said to him. Gould said he was writing the longest book ever; he called it The Oral History of Our Time.

As researchers work to understand the human genome, many questions remain, including, perhaps, the most fundamental: Just how much of the human experience is determined before we are already born, by our genes, and how much is dependent upon external environmental factors?

Oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross the answer to that question is complicated. "Biology is not destiny," Mukherjee explains. "But some aspects of biology — and in fact some aspects of destiny — are commanded very strongly by genes."

If you think your job is painful, try spending a workday with Justin Schmidt.

Schmidt is an entomologist who focuses on a group of insects called Hymenoptera — we know them as stinging ants, wasps and bees.

The legal case over transgender rights hinges on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. But the word "sex" wasn't always going to be part of the bill. And "sex" — which, at the time was meant to mean gender — was not on that list when the bill came to the House.

Not long after publishing his first book, London designer Thomas Thwaites found himself with no real job and in relationship trouble. His book, The Toaster Project — about his attempt to build a toaster from scratch — was a huge success, but he found the whole business of being a celebrity thinker a hard act to follow.

To be human is to worry about getting by, doing better, finding love and accepting the march of mortality. Thwaites decided to try to escape the burden of being human — and he would do it by becoming a goat.

Growing up, cartoonist Daniel Clowes liked to draw, but he never thought he'd make much of a career out of it. "I was expecting to work for Cracked magazine for four years, and then try to get work putting up aluminum siding or something, doing my prison drawings while I was down for a DUI," he jokes to Fresh Air's Sam Briger.

Louise Erdrich's new novel LaRose opens with a tragedy: An Ojibwe man is out hunting for deer and accidentally shoots and kills his best friend's 5-year-old son, Dusty. The hunter has a 5-year-old son of his own, and so, in keeping with a practice from the Ojibwe tribe's past, 5-year-old LaRose goes to live with Dusty's family.

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