Books

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the drummer and leader of The Tonight Show's house band The Roots, says he's obsessed with the creative process. His new book, somethingtofoodabout, is a collection of his interviews with chefs about how art and creativity apply to their preparation and presentation of food.

Writer Michael Schulman conducted 80 interviews for Her Again, his new biography of Meryl Streep. He talked with her friends and colleagues, read articles, letters and commencement addresses — but he never actually talked with Streep herself.

Knowing how private Streep is, Schulman didn't expect her to grant an interview, but he nevertheless sent a letter early on. "I had started to talk to some of her old drama school classmates," he says, "and I realized, I really don't want her to hear about this secondhand. I should just tell her who I am and what I'm about."

When he was 2 years old, Ocean Vuong's family immigrated from Vietnam to the U.S. He tells NPR's Michel Martin that he didn't learn to read English until he was 11. Now 27, he's making his mark in the world of poetry.

Vuong is the 2016 winner of the Whiting Award for poetry and published a new book of poems called Night Sky with Exit Wounds, weaving his personal stories of growing up with his family memories of life in Vietnam.

If you came of age in the 1960s, chances are you think about rock 'n' roll as the music of youth, of rebellion, of fighting the establishment. But in Nigeria, which was in the middle of a civil war, rock was one of the ways in which people expressed their politics.

For hundreds of years, Timbuktu has had a place in the world's imagination. Located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, the city flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 13th through 16th centuries. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988, recognized for the University of Sankore, which had as many as 25,000 students who studied the Quran, as well as the historic Djingareyber and Sidi Yahia mosques.

Journalist Michael Kinsley — the founder of Slate and former editor of Harper's and The New Republic — says he's a "scout for his generation." Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease when he was in his 40s. Now in his 60s, he writes that he had the opportunity to experience old age before the rest of his fellow baby boomers.

As someone with autism spectrum disorder, John Elder Robison knows what it's like to feel emotionally removed from situations. Robison tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that throughout his life people have told him, "There's this emotional language you're missing. There are stories in people's eyes. There are messages."

Robison didn't fully understand what they meant until he received transcranial magnetic stimulation, a noninvasive procedure in which areas of the brain are stimulated with electromagnetic fields to alter its circuitry.

James Brown always wanted to take the stage last.

When Newbery award-winning author Kate DiCamillo talks to kids about how she became a writer, she sometimes shows them a photo of her own family.

"I would put up this picture of my mother, my brother and me and I would say to them, 'Who's missing?' " she tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "Clearly it's my father." And kids get that right away.

DiCamillo was always getting sick as a child, and when she was 6 years old, her family moved from Philadelphia to Florida in hopes that it would help her get healthy.

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen's most beloved novel, and now it's getting an update. The new book, Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible, is the result of a match made by The Austen Project, which pairs popular authors with Austen's books. When the project reached out to Sittenfeld about rewriting Pride and Prejudice, she says she felt like she'd won the lottery.

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