books

This week, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with NPR's Michel Martin, promoting his new book that reflects on his late son Beau's battle with brain cancer. During the interview, Biden also told NPR he has "no plans" to run in the 2020 presidential election.

Although Martin and Biden's conversation touched on many topics, it was apparent Beau's memory and presence continue to be at the forefront of his mind.

Along with his book, family and 2020 election prospects, NPR asked about Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment against Justice Clarence Thomas.

Updated at 11:05 p.m. ET

At a glitzy gala in New York City on Wednesday night, four writers emerged with one of the world's most illustrious literary prizes, the National Book Award: Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing, won for fiction; Masha Gessen's The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, for nonfiction; Frank Bidart's Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016, for poetry; and Robin Benway's Far from the Tree, for young people's literature.

Terence Shepherd

By his own admission, Dr. Rolando Ochoa is not much of an air traveler.

But on a flight to San Diego a few years ago, it occurred to the Miami Dade College professor just what a trip his life has been so far. And the legs of the journey were far from ordinary: from child star in his native Cuba. to political refugee in his late teens, to budding music artist, to banker, to educator.

Now, they serve as chapters in his book, “Cuba 18, U.S. 50: My Fifty Year Trip.”

Before I finally picked up and read Louise Erdrich's new novel, called Future Home of the Living God, there was a mighty obstacle that had to be faced — an obstacle called The Handmaid's Tale. After Margaret Atwood's magisterial achievement, is there really room for another dystopian feminist novel about the overthrow of democracy by a Christian fundamentalist regime that enslaves fertile women and reduces them to simple vessels of procreation?

The somewhat unsettling answer is "Sure!"

Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words "um" and "uh" from your conversation?

When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it's natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency.

Becoming a fan of something often means becoming a part of a community. And finding that group of like-minded people can feel like finding a place you truly belong. Other times, that community isn't all that welcoming.

This time of year, the stands at Paris' hundreds of weekly food markets are laden with plump, dark grapes and wild mushrooms. Wild game often hangs from hooks above.

Of all the seasons to visit Paris, food lovers say the best time is autumn.

"The fall is the best time to eat in France," says longtime Paris resident and culinary historian David Downie. "Everyone knows that. It's when everything comes in. It's the harvest season."

"A busybody." That's how Raven Judd describes her 10-month-old daughter Bailey.

"She loves tummy time. She likes to roll over. She'd dive if you let her," says the 27-year-old mother from Washington, D.C.

There is one thing, though, that will get her baby girl to stop what she's doing: when her mother reads her favorite book, the aptly named My Busy Book.

Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer, after all.

At least, that's the unanimous conclusion of an international group of forensic experts who inspected samples from the Chilean poet's exhumed remains. Official documents say Neruda succumbed to his prostate cancer and a related wasting sickness known as cancer cachexia in September 1973 — but researcher Aurelio Luna told a news conference Friday that the 16-member panel was "100 percent convinced" the official cause of death is wrong.

As we near Halloween, witches, ghosts and zombies are escaping from our screens and appearing all around us — on store shelves and at costume parties. But the other place scary stuff lives year-round is on the page. We asked some experts about their favorite scary reads.

Tananarive Due, author of Ghost Summer and The Living Blood

As someone who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder, novelist John Green sometimes feels like his mind is spiraling uncontrollably.

"It starts out with one little thought, and then slowly that becomes the only thought that you're able to have," Green says. "It's like there's an invasive weed that just spreads out of control."

Sometimes, when Philip Pullman is tired or anxious, a floating speck appears in his field of vision. "I first saw it when I was playing the piano and I couldn't read the music because there was a damn dot in the way," he says, as we sit in the pleasantly jumbled living room of his farmhouse in Oxfordshire.

The floating dot will expand into a flickering ring of light, like a miniature, personal aurora. It can happen when he's driving, and he'll pull over to wait it out, or sleep it off when he's at home.

American author George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a polyphonous meditation on death, grief and American history.

Saunders, widely lauded for his short stories, was considered the favorite to win the award. His novel centers on the death of Abraham Lincoln's beloved son Willie and the night that Lincoln reportedly spent in the graveyard, devastated by his grief and lingering by his son's body.

Richard Wilbur, the former poet laureate and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner renowned for his elegant, exquisitely crafted formal poetry has died at the age of 96.

Amy Tan loves jazz and classical music. "I have a Steinway, which was my life's dream," she says, sitting at her grand piano in the middle of her New York living room. When Tan listens to a piece of music, she imagines stories to go with it, so she always listens when she writes.

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