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.

  • 11 minutes 9 seconds
    'We Were Once a Family' examines how the foster care system failed the Hart siblings
    In 2018, Jennifer and Sarah Hart drove off a cliff in California, killing themselves and their six adopted children. While much of the media attention focused on the two women, reporter Roxanna Asgarian set off to investigate what had happened to the children's birth families, and why they'd been removed from their care. In today's episode, Asgarian speaks with Here & Now's Deepa Fernandes about her book, We Were Once a Family, and the ways the foster care and child welfare system in the United States pushed the Hart siblings into an abusive and ultimately fatal situation.

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    18 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 7 minutes 44 seconds
    Revisiting J.D. Vance's memoir, 'Hillbilly Elegy'
    This week, former President Donald Trump announced that Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance will be his running mate in the 2024 election. Vance rose to prominence with his bestselling 2016 memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, which captured his upbringing in Appalachia and his family's intergenerational struggle with poverty, substance abuse and trauma. In today's episode, we revisit a conversation between Vance and NPR's Steve Inskeep about the book, in which he says there are ways politicians misunderstand white, working-class Americans.

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    17 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 10 minutes 43 seconds
    'Ultraviolet' follows a young boy going through puberty and first love
    Aida Salazar's new book, Ultraviolet, has a lot in common with Judy Blume's Forever, but from the point of view of an eighth grade boy; it's all about Elio Solis grappling with his changing body, his first girlfriend and his family life. In today's episode, Salazar tells Here & Now's Deepa Fernandes how watching her own son grow up inspired the events of the middle grade book, and they discuss how conversations of consent, masculinity and sex education are just as important for young men as they are for young women.

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    16 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 8 minutes 41 seconds
    In 'Beautiful Days,' Zach Williams ponders parenthood, reality and the uncanny
    Zach Williams' collection of short stories, Beautiful Days, has earned high praise for the unsettling way it examines mundane, everyday life. In today's episode, Williams tells NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer how becoming a dad inspired the anxiety and wonder of parenthood that shows up throughout Beautiful Days, and the two get to talking about why he chose to focus on the "quickness and musicality" of short stories over writing a novel.

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    15 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 19 minutes 54 seconds
    Two books dive into the musical histories of The Police and Joni Mitchell
    Today's episode is about two emblematic musicians who take us to very different parts of the globe, from the London punk scene to the Laurel Canyon utopia of the 1960s and 70s. First, Stewart Copeland speaks to NPR's Leila Fadel about his memoir, Stewart Copeland's Police Diaries, which chronicles his time as a drummer for the legendary band. Then, Here & Now's Robin Young is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers, who's written a biography of Joni Mitchell's expansive career called Traveling.

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    12 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 11 minutes 19 seconds
    In 'Other Rivers,' Peter Hessler chronicles his return to Chinese classrooms
    Foreign correspondent Peter Hessler taught in China during the country's economic boom in the 1990s, which he wrote about in his book River Town. Now, in Other Rivers, Hessler breaks down what it was like to teach there again more than two decades later. In today's episode, he and NPR international correspondent Emily Feng talk about what changed — and what stayed the same — with a new generation of students in China and how covering the country remains a challenge for so many writers and journalists.

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    11 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 10 minutes 40 seconds
    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveils her vision for American democracy in 'True Gretch'
    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a new memoir out – it's about the people and experiences that shaped her version of leadership. Whitmer has led her state through a pandemic, natural disasters and the battle over reproductive rights, among many other issues. In today's episode, she speaks with NPR's Juana Summers about True Gretch: What I've Learned About Life, Leadership, and Everything in Between, her steadfast support for President Biden during his bid for reelection, and how she sees her future in the Democratic party.

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    10 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 9 minutes 29 seconds
    'Devil Is Fine' explores race, colonialism and grief through magical realism
    Devil Is Fine, the new novel by John Vercher, follows an unnamed protagonist banging out a book pitch in a fugue state that mirrors what's happening in his own life: after the death of his son, a biracial writer inherits a plantation from the white side of his family, which has the remains of both his slave-owning ancestors and the people they enslaved. In today's episode, Vercher speaks with NPR's Lauren Frayer about why he felt magical realism made the story about American history and loss and racism more accessible, and how different layers of grief manifest in the story.

    To listen to Book of the Day sponsor-free and support NPR's book coverage, sign up for Book of the Day+ at plus.npr.org/bookoftheday

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    9 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 9 minutes 10 seconds
    'At the Edge of Empire' traces China's history through Edward Wong's family
    The central character of New York Times correspondent Ed Wong's memoir, At the Edge of Empire, is not Wong himself — it's his father, who studied in Beijing in the 1950s and staunchly supported the Chinese Communist Revolution. Wong's book traces his father's disillusionment with Mao's government and eventual move to the U.S. In today's episode, he speaks with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly about intertwining his family's personal story with the greater history of his parents' home country, and what Americans can still stand to learn about Chinese citizens.

    To listen to Book of the Day sponsor-free and support NPR's book coverage, sign up for Book of the Day+ at plus.npr.org/bookoftheday

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    8 July 2024, 7:00 am
  • 19 minutes 8 seconds
    Kevin Kwan explores race and identity in 'Sex and Vanity' and 'Lies and Weddings'
    Today's episode features two interviews with Kevin Kwan, author of the Crazy Rich Asians series. First, former NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke to the writer in 2020 about Sex and Vanity, exploring identity through the lens of a biracial character and setting a new trilogy between Europe and the U.S. Then, Here & Now's Robin Young asks Kwan about his newest novel, Lies and Weddings, and his thoughts on the fascination with wealth and power in literature.

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    5 July 2024, 10:40 am
  • 7 minutes 45 seconds
    A new book examines Alexander Hamilton's plan for public debt
    Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, is somewhat of a pop culture phenomenon thanks to a hit musical about his life. But a new book called The Hamilton Scheme dives into a less-known part of Hamilton's legacy — his vision for public debt. In today's interview, author and historian William Hogeland speaks with NPR's Steve Inskeep about why Hamilton considered higher loans to be paid by the federal government a good thing, and how that can be traced to today's relationship between China and the United States.

    To listen to Book of the Day sponsor-free and support NPR's book coverage, sign up for Book of the Day+ at plus.npr.org/bookoftheday

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    4 July 2024, 7:00 am
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