It's a funny thing to read a book and realize two things simultaneously. One: some people you know, whose taste you trust, will really love it. Two: some people you know, whose opinions you value, will want to toss it across the room.
For me, the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is a great example. He's one of the biggest authors in the world, a global bestseller. Millions of people love that guy, myself included. But I also know many people, readers and writers, who think he's a total sham.
In the course of a long and eventful life, author Doris Lessing was many things.
She was a mother — and a self-described "house mother" for a procession of starving artists, writers and political refugees. She was a refugee herself, from bourgeois respectability in 1940s Rhodesia. She was a campaigner against racism, a lover, an ardent communist, and a serial rescuer of cats.
J.J. Abrams already had the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises under his belt when he was offered Star Wars. He says taking on the beloved work of science fiction in addition to the others was a big decision:"It's too much power for one man!"
On-air challenge: Every answer is a made-up, two-word phrase in which the vowel in the first word is a short "e" and the vowel in the second word is a long "o." For example: A place to meditate would be a "zen zone."
Last week's challenge: There is a politician today, sometimes known by his or her full three-word name, whose initials are also the initials of a popular chain of restaurants. Who is the politician and what's the restaurant?
After several knee operations, 66-year-old Marilyn Cowser of Greenfield, Wis., found herself no longer able to Rollerblade or ride her bike.
She was advised to try a recumbent bike, but when Cowser went to her local bike shop, she found they were selling for upwards of $1,500. Cowser wasn't willing to spend that kind of money, so she went to see a guy about a half-hour away who builds recumbents in his garage.
"When I got there, he had them all out," she says. "And I got on this one and took off. I mean, I just went."
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The tone and pace of "Nebraska," Alexander Payne's latest film, is set from the very beginning. The opening scene - an elderly man, bundled up in a well-worn coat is lumbering down the shoulder of a freeway on the outskirts of Billings, Montana. He could be lost in a dementia-fueled haze or on a clearly defined mission. The truth about that man, Woody Grant, turns out to be a bit of both. Here's director Alexander Payne.
There are travelers and then there are travelers. Mike Spencer Bown is clearly the latter. For 23 years, he has wandered the Earth exploring every country on the planet. Now, he says he is hanging up his traveling shoes and returning home to Calgary, Canada. What more fitting guest could there be for our Wingin' It travel segment?
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MARTIN: Mike Spencer Bown joins us now for the studios of the BBC in London. Welcome to the program, Mr. Bown.
Author Dana Goodyear has spent a lot of time dining with foodies who champion bugs as a meal. And horses. And brains. Whales. Leaves. Weeds. Ash. Hay. Even plain dirt.
Goodyear, a staff writer for The New Yorker, set out to document the outer bounds of the extreme food culture that has taken hold among American foodies. Their quest for ever more exotic, challenging ingredients, she says, is raising fundamental questions about the nature of food itself and the assumptions that underlie what we view as acceptable to eat.
He is a Grammy Award winner, an international music superstar, New York Times best-selling author. And now Ricky Martin has yet another accomplishment to add to his already impressive resume: children's author. Ricky Martin has just released his first children's book. It is called "Santiago the Dreamer: Land Among the Stars." Martin joins us from New York City. Thanks so much for being with us.
RICKY MARTIN: Thank you so much for having me. How are you, Rachel?
I read my guilty pleasure junior year of high school; a time when for many young men guilty pleasure means something else. I heard about a book of essays by Ian Frazier that was supposedly very funny. So I asked my Mom for a ride to the mall.
Back then there was no Amazon. Well, there was, but it was in South America. Fortunately, asking Mom if she'd like to go to the mall was sort of like asking Chuck Schumer if he'd mind going on television. Three minutes later, we were in the car. Mom asked the name of the book I was getting.
Fans of "Doonesbury" have been doing without the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip since the summer. The strip has been on vacation. But its creator, Garry Trudeau, has not exactly been chilling at the beach. Trudeau spent the last several months in a New York film studio making a sitcom called "Alpha House." The show is being launched online on Amazon. It chronicles the misadventures of four fictional Republican senators who share a Washington, D.C., townhouse. Jon Kalish visited the set and has this story.
Oscar-winning Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki created beloved films such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. But his latest film is drawing unusually sharp criticism.
The Wind Rises is no ordinary tale: It tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the Japanese engineer who designed the Mitsubishi Zero, the fighter plane (in)famously used in kamikaze attacks in World War II.
Robert Stone won the National Book Award in 1975, for his second novel, Dog Soldiers. Since then, he's twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and nominated for or the recipient of a florist's display of other honors. Recently, when I asked some writers and English professors at a party to name the best novel ever written about Hollywood, Stone's Children of Light was the top choice.
Bill Watterson brought an end to Calvin & Hobbes in 1995, after just 10 years of writing and drawing the comic strip. But to his many devoted fans, that shockheaded boy and his tiger are as important today as they were when they first appeared in daily papers all around the country.
Memphis' Stax Records was an international sensation, putting out hits like Sam and Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming," "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the MGs and Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness." But behind the music, Stax's story features racial harmony in a city with a troubled history. There are tragedies, lost opportunities and legal disputes, but also some of the most soulful music you'll ever hear.
The International Space Station is a pretty great backdrop for a music video, and Commander Chris Hadfield didn't waste the opportunity as he was orbiting the Earth (at 17,500 miles an hour) back in the spring of 2012. The Canadian astronaut performed his own rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" — and also tweeted and blogged from orbit, making him the de facto ambassador from Outer Space.
Since Hadfield sang about Major Tom in space, we've invited him to answer three questions about some lesser-known Toms.
Typhoon Haiyan survivors walk through the ruins of their neighborhood on the outskirts of Tacloban, central Philippines, on Wednesday.
Credit Aaron Favila / AP
A Filipino man walks inside a mall that has been flooded and reportedly looted after Typhoon Hayian hit Tacloban. Yolanda, seen here spray-painted on an abandoned car, is the name given to the typhoon by Philippine authorities.
Late last week, Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines, leaving rubble for wake and cities in shambles. It was among the strongest storms ever recorded. In the days that have followed, the death toll exacted by the storm has reached breathtaking levels — more than 3,500 fatalities by last count — and the economic devastation must be measured in the billions.
Philomena is the true story of a retired Irish nurse (Judi Dench) whose child was put up for adoption — against her will, by the nuns at the convent where she gave birth — when she was a teenager, and unwed. Fifty years later, a journalist grudgingly joins in her search for that son. The British comedian Steve Coogan, who also produced the project and co-wrote the screenplay, plays the reporter.
There are about a dozen reasons I really wanted to love Alpha House, an original comedy series about four U.S. senators sharing a home on Capitol Hill. It premieres on Amazon — yes, Amazon — on Friday.
The biggest reason: often-underrated star John Goodman, playing a politician up for re-election who knows exactly what voters value in a legislator:
David (Will Forte, left) and his father, Woody (Bruce Dern, center), take time out of their quixotic journey to stop in Woody's small Nebraska hometown — where Woody's old business partner, Ed (Stacy Keach), is still nursing a grudge.
Last month, I saw the trailer for Alexander Payne's Nebraska, and only the fact that it was a Payne film made me want to see it.
The premise seemed a dead end: Bruce Dern plays an elderly man named Woody Grant living in Billings, Mont., who gets a letter saying he's won $1 million. All he needs to do is call a number and maybe buy a magazine subscription.
In Falling Upwards, writer Richard Holmes tells the story of early balloon flight--and of the nervy scientists who risked life and limb to take their experiments into the air. Among their discoveries? Insect migration and the stratosphere. Falling Upwards chronicles the balloonists who took science into the stratosphere.