Peter Biello / NHPR

The Bookshelf is NHPR's series on authors and books with ties to the Granite State. All Things Considered features authors, covers literary events and publishing trends, and gets recommendations from each guest on what books listeners might want to add to their own bookshelves. 

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Pro sports have been plagued by doping scandals for years. The next sport up for scrutiny? Video games. Today, randomized drug testing comes to electronic gaming. Also, a new publishing niche: coloring books for adults.  We’ll find out why an increasing number of grownups are finding time to color in between the lines.  And a debate on the pros and cons of a controversial literary device – the sometimes clever, often groan-inducing pun.  

8.03.15: Drones, Autopsies, & Let's Be Less Stupid

Aug 3, 2015
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Drone war proponents say that unmanned aircraft save American lives -- but what's life like for drone operators? On today's show, a look at drone fatigue. Then, brain fitness. Does taking fish oil, and playing brain fitness video games actually help with memory loss? And finally, a forensic turn! Autopsies are pretty cool, but Hollywood may have them all wrong.

Shandi-lee Cox via flickr Creative Commons /

Jurassic World opened this weekend to big crowds but mixed reviews from the scientific community. On today’s show a paleoartist takes issue with the film’s inaccurate depiction of dinosaurs.

Then, from tips for Hollywood filmmakers, to tips for aspiring comics, a comedy insider, and former editor of The Onion, explains what it takes to earn a living making people laugh.

Courtesy of the Carson Entertainment Group /

The late night talk show monologue is one of few times TV audiences can still share a good laugh. On today’s show, we’ll talk to a seasoned comedy writer about the one time of day when power, rather than partisanship, is the punch line.

Then we’ll speak with an English professor who ditched his tweed jacket and elbow patches and joined a mixed martial arts gym to find out why men love to fight.

Plus, sabermetrics spawned a revolution in how baseball teams were built and inspired a blockbuster movie starring Brad Pitt, but does empirical analysis of baseball statistics still work today?

Treat Yourself To Our Favorite Surprise Videos

Apr 9, 2015
Michelle Tribe /

During Virginia's interview with surprisologist Tania Luna [Surprise: Embrace The Unpredictable and Engineer The Unexpected], Tania mentioned googling "animals being surprised" as a great way to see the power and humor of the unexpected. We were not disappointed with the results. But we also looked into the other kinds of surprises that humans experience.

Dinuraj K via flickr Creative Commons /

Last week’s attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris prompted an outpouring of support from satirists and comedians around the world. On today’s show a candid conversation with the former editor of The Onion on how the fake news magazine considered and created satire.

Then, one of the world’s leading theorists on comics tells us how the brain interprets simple cartoons and symbols -- much differently than words.

And we’ll get a sneak peak of NPR’s new show Invisibilia, which explores unseen phenomena in science and human behavior.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

This story originally aired on 9/15/2014 

For Gilda Radner, it hinged on a slight speech disorder. “I’m Baba Wawa.” For Eddie Murphy it began when he was a child and would imitate what he saw on the screen: Buckwheat.

For Josh Ruben, it all starts with a breath.

The University of Colorado's Humor Lab even has a catchy nickname: HuRL. The director of the lab, Peter McGraw, spoke with us about his work studying the reasons we laugh and why we think certain things are funny, while others are decidedely not. Staffed by the Humor Research Team which is also known as HuRT--we're noticing a trend here--the lab's theoretical foundation is the "Benign Violation Theory."

myri_bonni via flickr Creative Commons

At her funeral on Sunday, fellow comedians applauded Joan Rivers for her sharp wit, biting humor, and irreverent routines. What really made Joan Rivers so funny? On today’s show, the director of the Humor Research Lab offers some theories into what makes us laugh. Plus, from walk sign buttons that don’t reflect reality to digital signs over-estimating wait times at amusement parks; we’ll consider why technology is sometimes designed to give us the illusion of control.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments. via Flickr CC

  While me may not remember classmates’ names, or the books we read, there’s something about school lunch that stays with us long after graduation. Today, Word of Mouth investigates the content of children’s brown bag lunches, and discovers they’re not always healthier than cafeteria fare.  Then: a growing number of young Americans are lowering their vocal registers. We’ll look at the speech pattern known as vocal fry, and find out why women who speak with a creak have worse job prospects than their higher-register peers.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

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  Last week, the Federal Reserve released a startling statistic: one in five people nearing retirement age have no money saved for it. On today’s show we pose the question: have we reached the end of retirement? Plus, forget the fashion of New York City, London’s music scene, and the bright lights of Tokyo. Why South Korea may become the coolest place on the planet. 

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

In the wake of Robin Williams' death, we spoke to freelance writer Leigh Cowart about her recent experience at a clown convention. After the interview she shared her perspective on Robin Williams, a man whose humor and compassion had the power to bring so many people out of the depths. 

Logan Shannon / NHPR

NASCAR drivers can reach speeds of 200 plus miles per hour. Remarkably, when wrecks occur, drivers overwhelmingly survive the accidents, but they don’t always walk away unscathed. On today’s show: concussions in NASCAR, and the challenges drivers face after the smoke clears. We'll also talk to a futurist about ectogenesis, or artificial wombs. Often referenced in science fiction, the idea of children being grown outside of a mother's body is inching closer to reality. Plus, earlier this year, the New York Daily News reported that the U.S. is in grave danger of a clown shortage. We head to a clown convention to find out why membership is down, but why clowns are unlikely to completely disappear. 

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

On today’s episode we talked to Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher of The Found Footage Festival. The Found Footage Festival began in 2004 out of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Pickett and Prueher, childhood friends from Wisconsin, began their collection in high school by picking up unintentionally funny VHS videos from various sources (a lot of garage sales).  The festival tour where they showcase their collection originated out of the need to fund their full-length documentary, Dirty Country (2007), which follows a raunchy country singer and small-town family man, Larry Pierce. 

The Found Footage Festival has now completed their seventh volume. They tour across the US and will be completing a UK tour this summer. On Thursday, June 19 the FF Festival will be in Bethlehem, New Hampshire at the Colonial Theatre at 7:3o PM, 18 years of age and up. If you’re nearby, tickets are for sale here. If not, we have made a short list of some of the many hilarious videos that Pickett and Prueher have curated. Check out more on their website.

Word of Mouth 4.19.14

Apr 18, 2014
Sarah Thomas

Life can be awkward.  Dinner conversation even more so.  Elevator encounters?  AWWWK-WAAARD. We at Word of Mouth work hard not to be awkward, but hey... even the best radio interviews can get a little weird sometimes.  On today's program, the conversation is flowing just great... but the topic?  It's awkward.,, &

We've all felt it before, that cringe when you witness something awkward that you have absolutely no control over. Let's admit it, though, we don't ever actually look away. We might cover our mouth and contort our face when watching the king of awkward bosses Michael Scott up the awkward ante, but without the Michael-isms, The Office just wouldn't be the same campy success that it was. Today's Word of Mouth delves into those cringe-tastic moments to reveal why it is now the pervasive comedy style.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

@Doug88888, Gerry Balding, Sarah0s, Adam Cohn, Mark Evans, Ross Pollock, Don LaVange, Giorgio Raffaelli & hey tiffany! via flickr Creative Commons

Today on Word of Mouth - laughing! And why we do it. We're getting science-y with the giggles before moving on to a less-than-scientific community: psychics. Then, the art of the brain takes over with a look at graphic novel that takes place inside the brain. Finally, what happens to digital art, and how do we restore it?

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments

The Art of Procrastination by John Perry

Feeling guilty about putting off something important?  Can’t seem to finish that daunting task at the top of the to-do-list?  Here’s a philosophy book for you: “The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing John Perry is an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford University, and an admitted chronic procrastinator.  He wrote the book as a way of avoiding doing something else – a principle he calls “structured procrastination".

Photo of Nicholson Baker courtesy the Poetry Foundation

Author Nicholson Baker joins us to talk about his recurring character Paul Chowder. The procrastinating poet first tuned up in Baker's novel The Anthologist, and is now the center of his latest book, Traveling Sprinkler.

Photo of A.J. Jacobs by Michael Cogliantry

A.J. Jacobs is serious about self improvement.

11/26/11 PART 2

Nov 26, 2011
Photo by Marsmet523, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Jay Wexler's new book and blog focus on the odd Constitutional clauses we should, maybe, focus on a little less... and those we should, perhaps, turn into awesome t-shirts.

Former war journalist turned humorist P.J. O'Rourke talks about travel writing, and living in the family war  zone. His latest book is Holidays in Heck.