NPR's Book of the Day


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In need of a good read? Or just want to keep up with the books everyone's talking about? NPR's Book of the Day gives you today's very best writing in a snackable, skimmable, pocket-sized podcast. Whether you're looking to engage with the big questions of our times – or temporarily escape from them – we've got an author who will speak to you, all genres, mood and writing styles included. Catch today's great books in 15 minutes or less.

Episode Date
How Colin Powell Wanted The World To Remember Him
When Colin Powell died on October 18 at the age of 84 from COVID-19 complications, he left behind a long, decorated career in Washington and the U.S. Army. He spent much of his life in the military, eventually rising to the rank of four-star general, and went on to become the first Black Secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs. But, as he discussed in a 2012 interview with NPR's Robert Siegel about his memoir It Worked For Me, Powell's reputation was tarnished when he used faulty evidence to push for the Iraq War: "I'll never leave it behind."
Oct 19, 2021
Amor Towles' new book is about a road trip that takes more than a few U-turns
Amor Towles' new book is quite the joyride — The Lincoln Highway follows four kids in a 1948 Studebaker who set out along the real-life Lincoln Highway, the first highway to cross the country. Two of them are trying to head for San Francisco to find their mother — the other two want to go the other way, looking for a promised inheritance. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. Towles talked to NPR's Scott Simon about the book — and also about the way the world moves so much faster now than it did in the 1950s, and how that affects the stories kids hear and see and create.
Oct 18, 2021
In song and poetry, 'Nina' and 'Just Us' offer ways to start a conversation on race
After the protests last year, we heard the phrase "racial reckoning" a lot, as some groups of people struggled to catch up with what's just been reality for many others. This week we've got two books that might help you reckon with that reckoning, in two different ways: Traci Todd and illustrator Christian Robinson's bright and powerful picture book biography Nina: A Story of Nina Simone and poet Claudia Rankine's Just Us: An American Conversation, in which she puts together poetry, essays and images to bring readers into an uncomfortable but necessary conversation about race.
Oct 15, 2021
Fiona Hill's new Trump-era memoir is less about Trump than it is about us
In her memoir, Fiona Hill extends her riveting testimony from Donald Trump's first impeachment trial. And while she might not dish as much dirt as other Trump-era memoirists, the former senior National Security official writes movingly about Trump and about polarization and other threats to American democracy. She points to Russian history to suggest that distrust in government and political systems can lead to collapse. And while she describes Trump as the symptom of that division and distrust, she also says he put a spotlight on what needs fixing.
Oct 14, 2021
Humor, horror and social commentary blend in Percival Everett's detective novel
Percival Everett's page-turning new detective novel The Trees is at once gruesome and screamingly funny. A racial allegory rooted in southern history, the book features two big-city special detectives with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation who are sent to investigate a small-town crime. The murders are hideous in detail, the language is rough, there are racial epithets of all kinds, and somehow the politically incendiary humor is real. Everett talks with NPR's Scott Simon about how — and why — he blended these styles.
Oct 13, 2021
What Maggie Nelson Means When She Talks About Freedom
Since her childhood in 1970s San Francisco, critic and poet Maggie Nelson has been mulling the concept of freedom — particularly how we define, practice and experience it. She sat down with NPR's Ari Shapiro to talk about four areas in life — art, sex, addiction and climate change — and how we talk about freedom in regard to our collective wellbeing and individual rights.
Oct 12, 2021
Myriam J.A. Chancy's historical novel about a Haitian earthquake hits on human truths
Back in August, Myriam J.A. Chancy was preparing for the release of her novel What Storm, What Thunder when the news broke: a magnitude 7.2 earthquake had hit Haiti. It was a "chilling and bittersweet" moment, she says; her soon-to-be-published book revolved around the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, and its aftermath. In this episode, she talks to NPR's Scott Simon about the eerie similarities between the two quakes, how her characters speak to how international relief efforts have historically failed Haiti, and what the world can learn from the country's rebuilding efforts.
Oct 11, 2021
The Realities Of Abortion Politics In 'Family Roe: An American Story' & 'Red Clocks'
Authors Joshua Prager and Leni Zumas each explore the real world implications of abortion politics, through fiction and non-fiction. First, in a conversation with Michel Martin, Prager talks through his book The Family Roe: An American Story, centered on the woman who was the baby at the center of the landmark Roe v. Wade trial. Then Leni Zumas and Scott Simon discuss Zumas' novel Red Clocks, set in a time where fetal personhood legislation has outlawed not only abortion, but also in-vitro fertilization.
Oct 08, 2021
Hearing Voices From 'The Book of Form and Emptiness'
If these walls could talk... what might they say to the chairs? In Ruth Ozeki's novel The Book of Form and Emptiness, 13-year-old Benny Oh starts hearing things talk to him after the loss of his father. As he navigates his grief, it's his conversations with books that guide him through.
Oct 07, 2021
The trailblazing Black football players that history books forgot
You've likely heard the names of Ruby Bridges, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall — the first African Americans to desegregate public schools, baseball and the Supreme Court. But do you know the names of Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley or Bill Willis? Unless you're a football fan, you likely haven't. And that's what Keyshawn Johnson is trying to rectify in his book The Forgotten First, the story of the men who helped break the NFL's color barrier. NPR's A Martinez sat down with Johnson to discuss those four men, and the legacy they left behind.
Oct 06, 2021
'Cloud Cuckoo Land' by Anthony Doerr
Following the success of his previous novel All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr's latest book is an ambitious epic about the power and immortality of stories. He discusses it all with NPR's Scott Simon here. If you're in the market for a novel written by someone who genuinely loves books, this is the pick for you.
Oct 05, 2021
From silence to cacophony, here's how your brain makes sense of the world
It can be hard enough to answer the question, "what kind of music do you like?" But how about "why do you like it?" That's one of the many questions about the human brain and sound that neuroscientist Nina Kraus set out to answer in her book Of Sound Mind. In this interview with NPR's Ari Shapiro, she breaks down the science behind what our brains do when they process sound, and how it differs for each of us.
Oct 04, 2021
What A Detective Novel And A Memoir Both Have To Say About Black American Life
At first glance, journalist Dawn Turner's book Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood and detective novelist Walter Mosley's Down The River Unto The Sea don't have a ton in common. The former takes place in Chicago and focuses on the tough childhoods of Turner, her sister and her best friend; the latter takes readers to the streets of New York, where a cop-turned-private eye investigates police corruption. But in today's episode, each author talks to Michel Martin about how both their stories illustrate systems that treat Black Americans unfairly, and what that says about justice in the U.S.
Oct 01, 2021
To Understand Humanity, You Have To Understand Water
For decades, the author and scientist Giulio Boc­caletti has studied the substance that's come to define life as we know it: water. And in his book Water: A Biography, he traces the history of how humanity, regardless of continent or creed, has shaped entire civilizations around a resource that's both fickle and essential for life on earth. In this episode, All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro talks to Boccaletti about our long, complicated history with water, and why understanding the past is crucial to the fight with climate change.
Sep 30, 2021
Colson Whitehead Finally Gets To Flex His Comedy Muscle
After writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning books The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, author Colson Whitehead needed a change of pace. So for his next novel, Harlem Shuffle, he decided to tackle topics near and dear to his heart: heists and New York real estate. In today's episode, Morning Edition host Noel King talks to Whitehead about his book's protagonist, a furniture retailer named Ray Carney, and what draws him to a double life of crime.
Sep 29, 2021
NPR's Book of the Day: Hand-picked Great Reads, Everyday From NPR.
Want to find a good read? Or just keep up with the books everyone's talking about? NPR's Book of the Day gives you today's very best storytelling in a snackable, searchable, pocket-sized podcast. Whether you're looking to engage with the ideas and issues of our times – or temporarily escape from them – we have an author who will speak to you, all genres, moods and writing styles included. Today's great books in 15 minutes or less.
Sep 24, 2021