NPR Staff

A quartet of siblings and assorted spouses, lovers and friends all spend a holiday in the English family summer house they'll have to sell. Do you think everything will go just swell for those three weeks? Or will tensions simmer, and secrets break out of storage as quarrels, tears and fatal attractions roil the old house in the summer heat? Tessa Hadley's novel The Past has already been praised in Britain, and now it's out in the U.S. She tells NPR's Scott Simon that she loves to set stories in old houses. "A house is like a metaphor.

In the mid-1960s, Tom Houck left high school to join the civil rights movement. After meeting Martin Luther King Jr. at an event, Houck decided to volunteer for King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

So, Houck made his way to Atlanta.

"I was standing outside waiting for somebody to come pick me up," Houck says, remembering the day he arrived in Atlanta. "All of a sudden, Dr. King drove down the street. He said, 'Tom, you're here.' "

Investigative reporter Dawn Anahid MacKeen's latest story is one her mother always wanted her to tell. It's about her grandfather and how he survived the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians living in modern-day Turkey were killed. (Turkey doesn't recognize the slaughter as a genocide, but says they were the result of widespread conflict across the region.) In journals that became the seeds of MacKeen's new book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey, her grandfather told the story of how he escaped a forced march through the desert.

Many Americans know Dame Maggie Smith as the elegant and formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham. But at 81, Smith is now starring in a role that's a long way from Downton Abbey. In The Lady in the Van, Smith is Mary Shepherd — a homeless woman who lived in a derelict van parked in playwright Alan Bennett's driveway for 15 years.

"She was quite happy on the street," Smith tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "But I think Alan was so distressed watching her outside his window all the time that he thought he just had to help."

We don't always act like we're supposed to. We don't save enough for retirement. We order dessert when we're supposed to be dieting. We use the tickets we bought to a concert even though we're sick. In other words: We misbehave.

Our cars are getting smarter and smarter: They may help you park or switch lanes, dictate directions if you need them, link up with your phone to play your calls and music or make sure you stop before it's too late.

America Ferrera first gained attention from her role as the quirky, spirited Betty Suarez in ABC's Ugly Betty, a role that earned her a 2007 Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy — a first for a Latina.

Eva Salina has Dutch and Jewish roots and hails from a quiet California beach town — but musically, she's traveled a path far afield from her upbringing. The Santa Cruz native says she was headed in quite a different direction when she stumbled into a love for traditional Balkan vocal music.

When Eric Weiner sat down to write his new book he had to tackle a big question first: How do you define genius?

"That's not as easy as it sounds," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "I have a slightly unusual definition ... that a genius is someone we all agree on is a genius. It's a social verdict."

Weiner traveled all over the world — to Greece, Italy, Scotland and Silicon Valley — to investigate how genius takes root and grows. His book The Geography of Genius is an exploration of how great thinkers are affected by the places and times in which they live.

Western music may have been changing the world in the 1950s, but if you happened to be in Russia you were out of luck. State censorship was in full effect in the Soviet Union, and sneaking in, say, an American rock record was close to impossible. But a few industrious music fans managed to find another way.

Stephen Coates, the leader of a British band called The Real Tuesday Weld, happened on this secret history by accident. Several years ago on a tour stop in St. Petersburg, he was strolling through a flea market when a strange item caught his eye.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Kelly McEvers.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM TRAILER, "STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS")

At around 10 in the morning, five years ago, Emma McMahon pulled up in the parking lot of a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. The high schooler was there with her mother, Mary Reed, excited to attend an event held by then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

There was a line, probably 15 people ahead of them, but luckily, McMahon already had some work to keep her busy — a clipboard stacked with college applications, Reed recalls on a recent visit with StoryCorps.

The era of the real-life whodunit series is upon us. The podcast Serial first attracted legions of listeners drawn to the question of whether a young man should have been put in prison for the murder of his former high school girlfriend. HBO's documentary The Jinx focused on a trail of murdered and missing intimates of a troubled scion of a wealthy family.

Our food-obsessed media landscape has proven fertile ground for wordplay. There are now new words to describe every food niche or gastronomical preference.

Can't stand little kids running amok in your favorite Korean fusion restaurant? You might have bratophobia. And you could be a gastrosexual if you use your cooking prowess to attract that new special someone.

In his new book, Eatymology, humorist and food writer Josh Friedland has collected many of these neologisms in a 21st century food dictionary.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

We often hear about school districts that struggle with high poverty, low test scores and budget problems. But one district has faced all of these and achieved remarkable results.

In just over three years, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson, who oversees the Jennings School District in Jennings, a small city just outside St. Louis, has led a dramatic turnaround in one of the worst-performing systems in Missouri.

A year ago, NPR's Weekend Edition met four Howard University seniors. Ariel Alford, Taylor Davis, Kevin Peterman and Leighton Watson gave us a peek into life on the precipice of adulthood.

Now they've arrived.

Alford has spent the past few months as a student teacher in Washington, D.C., finishing her final requirement before getting her degree. Davis stayed in Washington too. Watson moved just a couple hours away, to Richmond, Va., where he works in finance.

Medical researchers are in a constant search for truth. Each study is supposed to be another step toward that goal. But it's pretty obvious that many studies just don't hold up. Think about the contradictory advice about what you should eat or drink. We've heard that coffee is bad for you, then sometimes it's good for you. Same goes for soy and even eggs, which have been in and out of favor. Scott Hensley, host of NPR's Shots blog, talked with Rachel Martin about the year in health and medical research.

It's tough to talk about football without talking about concussions. Deep into the NFL season now, viewers continue to hear about these injuries on a near-weekly basis, as they regularly sideline stars and journeymen alike, regardless of position.

Music lovers were shocked and saddened to hear of the death singer Natalie Cole on New Year's Eve. Cole was 65.

She was the daughter of jazz icon Nat King Cole but went on to create her own legacy, selling millions of albums across a wide range of genres and winning nine Grammy awards.

Two of Natalie Cole's younger sisters, twins Casey and Timolin Cole, run a nonprofit called The Nat King Cole Generation Hope, which is dedicated to supporting music education in public schools.

In the face of growing protests, police departments across the country are pledging to try to reduce the use of deadly force.

This week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his police department will double its supply of Tasers and will train officers to use them.

The Fayetteville, N.C., police department will spend the next year and a half trying to implement 76 recommendations issued in December by the Department of Justice. Those recommendations range from better record keeping and better information-sharing to trying to reduce the racial disparity in traffic stops.

In 2014, Charlotte Wheelock and her husband, Nick Hodges, were hoping to find a new start. Struggling to raise their two young children, they left their home in Albuquerque, N.M., and struck out for Seattle to find better jobs.

But before they could get established there, Nick was hospitalized with spinal stenosis — a condition that left him temporarily paralyzed below the waist. Soon, they found themselves without a place to live.

At the outset, biographer Sonia Purnell didn't know much about Clementine Churchill. "I confess, like millions of others, I had absolutely no idea who Winston Churchill's wife was," Purnell tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

But then Purnell stumbled onto a letter from 1940, when Winston Churchill had just become prime minister. It was the middle of World War II, and England was in a very bad state.

In Memoriam 2015

Dec 30, 2015

Many musical voices fell silent in 2015. We lost soul singers and opera stars, blues and folk guitarists, saxophonists and percussionists, plus composers, conductors, producers, and other visionaries. Explore their musical legacies here.


Diane Charlemagne

Feb. 22, 1964 — Oct. 28, 2015

When you think of music in 2015, you have to think of Kendrick Lamar. To Pimp a Butterfly recently scored 11 Grammy nominations, more than any other artist, and "Alright" became an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement against police abuse.

NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, in which thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.

When Tracy Hart says she's from "a tobacco-pickin', Southern, white trash family," she says that she means that in the "most endearing way."

Critics expect big things from the band Charlie Belle. They released two EPs this year, and were tagged by many as a band to watch — all with the band's two members not even out of high school.

Mona Haydar is a Muslim — and she wants to talk about it.

So much so, in fact, that she set up a stand outside a library in Cambridge, Mass., with a big sign reading "Ask a Muslim." Along with a free cup of coffee and a doughnut, Haydar offered passersby an opportunity for conversation.

She says the idea occurred to her husband, Sebastian, and her over dinner one evening. As they were eating, she says, Sebastian remarked: "What if we did something kind of crazy?"

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