Authors

Tana French is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Dublin Murder Squad series. The newest, called The Trespasser, is the sixth in the best-selling, habit-forming series. "It’s taken for granted that anybody who’s read one [Tana French novel] will very shortly have read them all,” wrote Laura Miller in the New Yorker.

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On today's show:

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Ben Winters is a little incomprehensible. Not his output, which is consistently great, but his wild imagination and range. He's a teacher, a playwright, an Edgar and Phillip K. Dick Award-winning novelist, he's written children's books, an existential detective series and landed a New York Times bestseller with the Jane Austen-meets-the-kraken mash-up, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

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On today's show:

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Mario Batali is a superstar chef, restaurateur, television star and passionate advocate for simple, regional food. Also passionate about making that food more accessible, he is author or co-author of 7 cookbooks, including his most recent, Big American Cookbook.

We caught up with him before his appearance at The Music Hall for Writers on a New England Stage and asked him if his cookbook ideas pop up like a timer or simmer below the surface for a while.

Episode music by Jahzzar
Ad music by Uncanny Valleys
 

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3.13.17: Civics 101 & The Stranger in the Woods

Mar 13, 2017
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On today's show:

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Lindy West, columnist for The Guardian, and author of How to be a Person and Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. Lindy writes about feminism, social justice, body image, pop culture and, lately, politics.

She's a funny and original thinker, and brave. She's been a contributor on several memorable episodes of This American Life - one on "coming out" as fat, another about confronting an internet troll, one of hundreds who'd harassed her online.

3.01.17: Federal Courts & Sex in the Sea

Mar 1, 2017
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On today's show:

Victoria Schwab... V.E. Schwab... V... the author's name depends on her audience, which, like the dark worlds she builds, is a well-thought out design.

Ms. Schwab, we'll say, burst onto the scene in 2011 with The Near Witch. A dozen books later, adult, young adult and middle grade readers have followed her into supernatural worlds, sinister scenarios and richly formed fantasy worlds.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Ottessa Moshfegh says she writes to explore why people do weird things. The daughter of a Croatian mother and Iranian father, she was a serious piano student who knew she didn't want to be a pianist when she felt the call to write - and not just write, but be bold.

We spoke to her before her reading at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

Episode Music: Kevin MacLeod, "Trio for Piano, Violin and Viola"
Credit Music: Uncanny Valleys, "Curious or Disconcerting"

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Caitlin Moran is the best-selling author of How to Be a Woman, Moranthology, and columnist for the Times of London. She and her sister developed and write 'raised by wolves" --a British television series loosely based on their experience in a family of ten growing up in a tiny subsidized flat in the English midlands. She is also a mother of two, an unapologetic feminist, and really, really funny. Caitlin Moran is now out with Moranifesto, her second collection of columns and essays.

Logan Shannon

Weather events and disasters can be ferocious - but in December of 1952, London, England was struck by a much quieter calamity - a heavy blanket of smog so thick, that thousands died. Today, stories from The Great Smog of 1952.  

And, eight years after the financial crisis, unemployment is down to pre-recession levels. Another indicator has not faired as well: underemployment. Is part-time work the new normal?

1.05.17: Presidential Kids, Half Wild, & 10MWW

Jan 5, 2017
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The framers of American democracy rejected monarchy and its tradition of passing power through bloodline ...that has not stopped presidents past from relying on their kids. Today, Brady Carlson on first children who've made presidential politics a family business. 

Also today, hold-outs, hippies, haves and have-nots live side-by-side in a collection of stories set in Vermont...not the picture postcard version.

Plus, the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop talks with a longtime copy writer for the LL Bean catalog.  

The New Year is a time to look ahead, but this week we’re looking back. Today a selection of our favorite stories and interviews of 2016. First up, we revisit a conversation about the global disappearance industry that plots, facilitates and documents fake deaths - and the investigators who track them down. 

Then, we'll reminisce about some of the strangest school assemblies we endured growing up.

And  Roman Mars of 99% Invisible looks into the origins of those inflatable tube men you see outside of car washes.

'In Maine, when we say something is "wicked good" – we really mean it.'

That's how LL Bean describes their Wicked Good Slippers, and how we describe Jeff Ryan, who for decades wrote Bean's catalog copy. We spoke to him about finding the story in everyday objects and the tricks of the trade when it comes to copy writing.

Jeff Ryan is also the author of Appalachian Odyssey, a memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail, bit by bit, over 28 years.

Episode music: "Auld Lang Syne" by Podington Bear
Credit music: "Joy in the Restaurant" by David Szesztay

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The holidays are fast approaching, and for the procrastinators among us, the online retailer Amazon.com offers a ray hope. But what if the gift you've purchased isn't what it claims to be? Today, the supply and demand chain for counterfeit goods

Then, in the early days of cinema, soundtracks were played live.  A single pianist or orchestra accompanied those early silent films with sometimes written and sometimes improvised, music and sound effects. The Alloy Orchestra keeps that tradition alive by live scoring old silent films using state of the art electronics, and...a rack of junk. 

Irish author Emma Donoghue may be best known for Room,  her novel written in the voice of a young boy confined with his mother in a single room.  It was nominated for a Man Booker prize and made into an Oscar-winning film, for which she wrote the screenplay. Her most recent novel is The Wonder, about a "fasting girl" in 1850s Ireland.

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Someone suffering from a major depressive episode may have trouble getting out of bed - sleep too much during the day, and then suffer from insomnia at night. Today, an experimental, and counter-intuitive treatment for depression.

Plus, the benefits of being bored. Whether we're sitting quietly for a cup of coffee, or taking a walk without a destination, one author argues that setting aside time to do nothing can make us more creative, and teach us more about who we really are - she even has some handy tips for how foster a bit of boredom.

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Social media networks have too few people to monitor and shut down the volume of Islamic State propaganda accounts. Today, a Dartmouth professor has created a tool to flag violent, extremist videos and recruitment tools and keep them off social media feeds...still, some companies fear accusations of censorship.

Then, in the early 1800s, America was new - a wide and blank slate for backwoods prophets, reformers and salvation seekers to create their own versions of paradise. Today, from Shakers to radicals to polygamists, a road trip through some of the nearly 200 utopian communities that emerged in the 19th century.

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What do McDonalds hamburgers and NPR underwriting have in common? Ray and Joan Kroc.  One, a business tycoon responsible for building a world-wide brand and the other a strong woman with a passion for progressive causes. Today we’re learning about the odd couple pairing of a billionaire-entrepreneur and peace-loving philanthropist.

Plus, a collection of stories follows characters down the slippery slope of technological dependency -  and how to slow it down.

Virginia Prescott

Tom Gauld -- a cartoonist, illustrator of comics and covers for the New Yorker and The Believer. His weekly cartoon about the arts for The Guardian newspaper is a wry, often deadpan favorite among writers. He is extremely prolific, author of more than a dozen books of comics, including You're Just Jealous of My Jetpack and most recently Mooncop.

11.14.16: Nonstop Metropolis & Words on the Move

Nov 14, 2016
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Whether it's the overuse of like, saying "nuculear", or using the word "literally", figuratively, misuse of language has a way of getting under our skin. A linguist assures us that language is always changing...so loosen up. Today, why dictionaries and grammar sticklers can't stop improper language.

Plus artists, researchers and cartographers re-interpret the city that never sleeps... Illustrating its distinctive culture, history and variety through maps.

In Conversation With Colson Whitehead & Ben Winters

Nov 4, 2016
Courtesy Sara Plourde, NHPR

Colson Whitehead and Ben Winters joined Virginia in front of a live audience for the "In the Spotlight" series at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, presented in partnership with Gibson's Bookstore. Today, we're listening to that conversation with two writers who made the imaginative leap from what we already know happened, to what could have happened.

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It’s our 30th episode, this time with the phenomenally successful Jodi Picoult.

Writers on a New England Stage: Jodi Picoult

Oct 26, 2016
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NHPR and The Music Hall present Writers on a New England Stage with Jodi Picoult recorded live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth. 

Picoult is a phenomenally successful novelist, with more than 14 million books in print worldwide. Small Great Things is her most recent. Like previous books, it debuted at number one on best-sellers lists.

Picoult devotees will recognize the relatable, everyday characters thrashing through controversial ethical issues seemingly ripped from the headlines. But for her, Small Great Things was different. It’s about racism, white privilege and the inherited inequities of America’s past and present. She says it was one of the hardest books to write. The Washington Post called it her most important

Ric Kallaher Photography

The novelist, short story writer and essayist Cynthia Ozick's best known piece of writing is called The Shawl, a brutal, phantasmal story of a woman and two children marching to a Nazi concentration camp. The Holocaust and Jewish identity are recurring topics in Ozick's fiction and criticism. Growing up in the Bronx, she was called Christ-killer, and humiliated for not singing Christmas carols at school.

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