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Books

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.

If ever a man had a theme song, it would be Julian Fellowes — and the theme tune from his hit show Downton Abbey.

But now that Downton has ended, Fellowes has turned his flair for historical drama and romance to another story, set in another era. His new novel Belgravia is named for one of London's poshest neighborhoods. It's the story of a striving family harboring a big secret.

Every writer knows the paralyzing terror of the blank page. For poet Tess Taylor, the antidote to fear came through farming.

Taylor is the author of Work & Days, a new volume of poetry inspired by her year spent working on a farm in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. She was there living alone in a cabin as part of a writer's residency, finishing her first book of verse, and "had nothing to do but write," she says. "The idea of facing the blank page for that much time really scared me."

There's a strong argument to be made that Chicago's South Side is the cultural capital of black America, a place that a far-reaching who's who of black luminaries have called home — Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Ida B. Wells, Barack Obama. But even as the South Side has played a key role in the Great Migration, it was and continues to be shaped by entrenched segregation that has choked it off from resources and development.

Years ago, in a Brooklyn high school, a door slammed. Christopher Emdin, then a 10th-grader, immediately ducked under his desk. His math teacher accused him of being a clown and sent him to the principal's office.

Emdin wasn't being a clown.

A couple of days before, there had been a shooting just outside his apartment building. He thought the slamming door was a gun shot. His jump for cover was instinctual.

Millions of Americans recharge their phones, screens and laptops before they go to bed at night, but do they recharge themselves?

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, says we are in the midst of a sleep-deprivation crisis that creates anxiety, as well as exhaustion, depression, a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents — and overall sleep-deprived stupidity. NPR's Scott Simon talked with her about her new book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

Hunting down that obscure Vietnamese place that serves up bánh bao exactly like you'd find in Hanoi, or an Indian joint with dal just like the one you had on that trip to New Delhi, is a not uncommon pursuit in these food-obsessed days. But our culinary hunt for "authentic ethnic" food can be a double-edged sword, says Krishnendu Ray.

The very mention of the Silk Roads creates an instant image: camel caravans trudging through the high plains and deserts of central Asia, carrying silks, spices and philosophies to Europe and the larger Mediterranean. And while these ancient routes may remain embedded in our imagination, they have, over the past few centuries, slowly faded in importance. The region today is home to despotic regimes, failing states and endless conflict. But historian Peter Frankopan thinks that the Silk Roads "are rising again."

Growing up in both India and the U.S., Amit Majmudar wasn't entirely sure where he belonged — until he found the library. "I became a citizen of the library," he tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "And to this day, I feel at ease only in a crowd of books. In some ways, I feel like I am a book, to be honest with you."

After he won a National Book Award, and one of the MacArthur Foundation's so-called genius grants, no one anticipated Ta-Nehisi Coates' next move.

"What's the good of getting a MacArthur genius grant if you can't go and write a comic book for Marvel?" Coates tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "I don't know. There are things that people consider to be genius, and then there are things that deep in my heart I've always believed to be genius."

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