NPR Staff

This week, 40-year-old singer-songwriter Ryan Adams unveiled an unlikely new project: a song-by-song cover of Taylor Swift's bestselling album 1989. Adams has a huge body of work, some of it enormously acclaimed — and he's not the first person listeners might have associated with one of the most dominant figures in contemporary pop music.

Kevin Henkes was just a teenager when he decided he wanted to write picture books. He landed his first book contract when he was still in college.

"People used to assume that I had kids long before I did," he tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. He eventually had children of his own, but that didn't change his writing process the way one might have expected.

Julia Holter wants to be known as a good storyteller, not just someone who makes pretty music. She grew up studying classical music and listening to pop, though her songs don't easily fall into either category. Holter recently sat down with NPR's Ari Shapiro to discuss two characters on her new album, Have You In My Wilderness, that showcase her storytelling acumen.

Writer Percival Everett is a man of the West: the region, for him, is a place of calm and comfort, danger and extremes. His new collection of short stories, Half an Inch of Water, is set largely in Wyoming, where Everett lived for a time and which he says might be his favorite state. ("It's so sparsely populated," he says as praise.)

But the prolific author wrote his new book far away from that iconic landscape.

"I wrote these while I was in Paris," Everett tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I was living in Paris, and for some reason I started writing ranch stories.

For those who have never seen the show American Ninja Warrior: Imagine an Army obstacle course, redesigned by Dr. Seuss and a team of rock-climbing acrobats. Competitors have to thread their way through the daunting obstacles, completing a number of stages before they can hope to finish the whole thing.

As an album title, Introducing Darlene Love sounds like a throwback, in the spirit of Here's Little Richard or Meet the Beatles. In fact, it's something closer to a joke: The woman behind these songs has been making music for 50 years, and it only took a few decades for people to learn her name.

Ten albums in, Patty Griffin isn't slowing down. Her new album tackles love and humanity with a sound straight out of the juke joint and a passion that surges from each song. It also marks a milestone in the artist's personal life: She began writing it just as she was staring down her 50th birthday.

Do you keep up with international news?

This quiz will give you a chance to find out.

The wildly successful prime-time soap opera Empire is back: Season 2 kicks off next week.

The Season 1 finale brought in 17 million viewers — despite the conventional wisdom that the days of broadcast television drawing in audiences like that are over.

Antony Britton literally dug his own grave — and it very nearly killed him.

Britton, an escape artist in the tradition of Harry Houdini, had been attempting a stunt Houdini made famous: Britton was handcuffed, shackled, plopped in a grave and buried under 6 feet of dirt.

There's something to know about that particular "Buried Alive" stunt: Even Houdini himself couldn't pull it off. In fact, part of the reason it's still remembered today is that Houdini failed, and nearly died along the way.

When Chinelo Okparanta started writing her novel Under the Udala Trees, she didn't have to look far for inspiration into her main character's tragic backstory.

"My mother watched her father die in the war, the same way my protagonist does," the Nigerian-American author tells NPR's Arun Rath. She's referring to the 1967 Biafran War in Nigeria — a civil war that was catastrophic for the Igbo people, who had tried to secede from Nigeria and form their own nation of Biafra.

Mary McGrory became a columnist in a time when women in journalism were still called "doll." She wrote a nationally syndicated column for more than 50 years, first for The Washington Star and then for The Washington Post, and in 1975 she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

You probably never will see most of Jason deCaires Taylor's public art projects firsthand — at least, not without goggles and fins.

Most of his sculptures stand at the bottom of the sea. His life-size statues — ghostly figures of men, women and children — seem to walk the ocean floor as they hold hands, huddle, even watch TV.

There have been a number of movies about the War on Drugs and the latest, Sicario, takes the "war" part of that phrase very seriously.

Emily Blunt stars as an FBI agent recruited into a U.S. anti-drug operation. The operation works with Mexican security forces to take down drug cartel kingpins — and crosses physical and moral borders in the process.

What kind of messages get ignored? What kind prompt you to do something?

Those are questions that a small group of behavioral scientists at the White House has been working on since early last year.

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team is seeking ways to improve government efficiency and access to government programs through easy, low-cost interventions.

Welcome to the third session of the Morning Edition book club! Here's how it works: A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We'll all read it. Then, you'll send us your questions about the book. About a month later, we'll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.

When Juan Felipe Herrera came to NPR's Washington studio, the poet laureate carried a sketch pad of drawings and scribbles of poems in the works. Herrera is the child of Mexican migrant farmworkers. He grew up following the seasons as his parents picked crops in the heat and dust of California's fields.

Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Jill Scott's new album Woman takes a deep dive into what it means to love.

Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer are British actresses and best friends — who just happen to also play British actresses and best friends on TV.

In HBO's Doll & Em, fictional (but familiar) versions of each take center stage: A successful actress named Emily invites her childhood friend Dolly to come out to Hollywood to be her personal assistant after a bad breakup.

For a kid, moving can be hard — even if it's just from one town to another. But when Michael W. Clune was a young boy, his family made a much more drastic move: from Ireland to the U.S.

It was rough. Clune had a hard time fitting in because of his Irish accent and Irish clothes. At school, there were cliques and bullies.

"Learning to deal with other people was a real challenge," Clune tells NPR's Arun Rath, "one that left me feeling isolated quite a bit."

Home was a refuge, for a while — until his parents started fighting. They divorced when he was 12.

Among the first firefighters on the scene when wildfires broke out in eastern Washington this summer was a crew of juveniles — inmates, actually. The crew, teens aged 15 to 19, were building fire lines and digging trenches. Hard work, in difficult conditions.

Last month, one teenager escaped from the work camp and later shot himself during a standoff with police. He has since recovered.

The program, however, may not. One of the few of its kind in the country, it is now under review.

Actress and writer Mindy Kaling has had an accomplished career, from her role as the vapid Kelly Kapoor on The Office to creating and starring in her own show, The Mindy Project.

But don't call her "seasoned."

"Seasoned means old," she tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Kaling, of course, is young — and busy. That's a big takeaway from her new book, Why Not Me?, which takes readers through parts of Kaling's life with the same energy and fearlessness that mark her comedy.

Gary Clark Jr., the blues-guitar wunderkind from Austin, Texas, who grew up into a solo star, titled his latest LP The Story of Sonny Boy Slim in a nod to his own nickname and whirlwind ascent. But there's a song on the album whose name might better represent its overall tone: "The Healing."

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he would require background checks on all Syrian migrants and war refugees before allowing them into the United States.