Summer Reads By NPR Authors
As the temperatures rise and vacation days are on the horizon, there's no better season to enjoy a good book. From essays, and pop-culture analysis to memoirs and biographies, these NPR personalities have drawn upon their reporting and personal experiences in this list of new books. For your next summer read, check out these new and upcoming selections from our very own NPR authors.
It. Goes. So. Fast.
By Mary Louise Kelly
Co-host of NPR's All Things Considered
Operating Instructions meets Glennon Doyle in this new book by famed NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly that is destined to become a classic—about the year before her son goes to college—and the joys, losses and surprises that happen along the way.
The time for do-overs is over.
Ever since she became a parent, Mary Louise Kelly has said "next year." Next year will be the year she makes it to her son James's soccer games (which are on weekdays at 4 p.m., right when she is on the air on NPR's All Things Considered, talking to millions of listeners). Drive carpool for her son Alexander? Not if she wants to do that story about Ukraine and interview the secretary of state. Like millions of parents who wrestle with raising children while pursuing a career, she has never been cavalier about these decisions. The bargain she has always made with herself is this: this time I'll get on the plane, and next year I'll find a way to be there for the mom stuff.
Well, James and Alexander are now seventeen and fifteen, and a realization has overtaken Mary Louise: her older son will be leaving soon for college. There used to be years to make good on her promises; now, there are months, weeks, minutes. And with the devastating death of her beloved father, Mary Louise is facing act three of her life head-on.
Mary Louise is coming to grips with the reality every parent faces. Childhood has a definite expiration date. You have only so many years with your kids before they leave your house to build their own lives. It's what every parent is supposed to want, what they raise their children to do. But it is bittersweet. Mary Louise is also dealing with the realities of having aging parents. This pivotal time brings with it the enormous questions of what you did right and what you did wrong.
This chronicle of her eldest child's final year at home, of losing her father, as well as other curve balls thrown at her, is not a definitive answer—not for herself and certainly not for any other parent. But her questions, her issues, will resonate with every parent. And, yes, especially with mothers, who are judged more harshly by society and, more important, judge themselves more harshly. What would she do if she had to decide all over again?
Mary Louise's thoughts as she faces the coming year will speak to anyone who has ever cared about a child, a parent or a spouse. It. Goes. So. Fast. is honest, funny, poignant, revelatory, and immensely relatable.
Listen to the author interview on NPR's Book of the Day podcast: HERE
The Best Strangers in the World
By Ari Shapiro
Co-host of NPR's All Things Considered
From the beloved host of NPR's All Things Considered, a stirring memoir-in-essays that is also a love letter to journalism.
In his first book, broadcaster Ari Shapiro takes us around the globe to reveal the stories behind narratives that are sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always poignant. He details his time traveling on Air Force One with President Obama, or following the path of Syrian refugees fleeing war, or learning from those fighting for social justice both at home and abroad.
As the self-reinforcing bubbles we live in become more impenetrable, Ari Shapiro keeps seeking ways to help people listen to one another; to find connection and commonality with those who may seem different; to remind us that, before religion, or nationality, or politics, we are all human. The Best Strangers in the World is a testament to one journalist's passion for Considering All Things—and sharing what he finds with the rest of us.
Listen to the author interview on Fresh Air: HERE
By Steve Drummond
Senior editor and executive producer at NPR
The story of how a little-known junior senator fought wartime corruption and, in the process, set himself up to become vice president and ultimately President Harry Truman.
Months before Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that the United States was on the verge of entering another world war for which it was dangerously ill-prepared. The urgent times demanded a transformation of the economy, with the government bankrolling the unfathomably expensive task of enlisting millions of citizens while also producing the equipment necessary to successfully fight—all of which opened up opportunities for graft, fraud and corruption.
In The Watchdog, Steve Drummond draws the reader into the fast-paced story of how Harry Truman, still a newcomer to Washington politics, cobbled together a bipartisan team of men and women that took on powerful corporate entities and the Pentagon, placing Truman in the national spotlight and paving his path to the White House.
Drawing on the largely unexamined records of the Truman Committee as well as oral histories, personal letters, newspaper archives and interviews, Steve Drummond—an award-winning senior editor and executive producer at NPR—brings the colorful characters and intrigue of the committee's work to life. The Watchdog provides readers with a window to a time that was far from perfect but where it was possible to root out corruption and hold those responsible to account. It shows us what can be possible if politicians are governed by the principles of their office rather than self-interest.
Listen to the author interview on NPR's Morning Edition: HERE
Wannabe, Reckonings with the Pop Culture That Shapes MeBy Aisha HarrisCo-host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour
Aisha Harris has made a name for herself as someone you can turn to for a razor-sharp take on whatever show or movie everyone is talking about. Now, she turns her talents inward, mining the benchmarks of her nineties childhood and beyond to analyze the tropes that are shaping all of us, and our ability to shape them right back.
In the opening essay, an interaction with Chance the Rapper prompts an investigation into the origin myth of her name. Elsewhere, Aisha traces the evolution of the "Black Friend" trope from its Twainian origins through to the heyday of the Spice Girls, teen comedies like Clueless, and sitcoms of the New Girl variety. And she examines the overlap of taste and identity in this era, rejecting the patriarchal ethos that you are what you like. Whatever the subject, sitting down with her book feels like hanging out with your smart, hilarious, pop culture–obsessed friend—and it's a delight.
By Sarah McCammon
National Correspondent for NPR
The first definitive book that names and describes the growing social movement of people leaving the white evangelical church: The Exvangelicals.
Growing up in a deeply evangelical family in the Midwest in the '80s and '90s, Sarah McCammon was strictly taught to fear God, obey him, and not question the faith. Persistently worried that her gay grandfather would go to hell unless she could reach him, or that her Muslim friend would need to be converted, and that she, too, would go to hell if she did not believe fervently enough, McCammon was a rule-follower and—most of the time—a true believer. But through it all, she was increasingly plagued by fears and deep questions as the belief system she'd been carefully taught clashed with her expanding understanding of the outside world.
After spending her early adult life striving to make sense of an unraveling worldview, by her 30s, she found herself face-to-face with it once again as she covered the Trump campaign for NPR, where she witnessed first-hand the power and influence that evangelical Christian beliefs held on the political right.
Sarah also came to discover that she was not alone: she is among a rising generation of the children of the culture wars who are growing up and fleeing the fold, who are thinking for themselves and deconstructing what feel like the "alternative facts" of their childhood, while searching for new understandings of meaning, purpose and community.
Rigorously reported and deeply personal, The Exvangelicals is the story of the people who make up this generational tipping point, including Sarah herself. Part memoir, part investigative journalism, this is the first definitive book that names and describes the post-evangelical movement: identifying its origins, telling the stories of its members, and examining its vast cultural, social, and political impact.
Available for preorder: HERE
More Than FriendsBy Rhaina Cohen
Producer and editor for NPR's Enterprise Storytelling unit
More Than Friends is an immersive look at a category-defying relationship: a friendship that's also a life partnership. The book's intimate profiles of people in these committed friendships unsettle widespread assumptions about relationships—like the idea that sex is a defining feature of partnership or that people who raise kids together should be in a romantic relationship with each other. Their stories challenge the privileged status of romantic relationships in American culture and law and point toward a society that offers a more expansive set of options for a fulfilling adult life. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, More Than Friends is set to come out around Valentine's Day 2024. In the meantime, you can add the book on Goodreads and check out Rhaina's viral Atlantic article about these friendships.
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