Arts & Life

Arts & Life

Janet Webster Jones, owner of Source Booksellers in Detroit, shares her top nonfiction reads: Why Grow Up? by Susan Neiman, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and A History Of Food In 100 Recipes by William Sitwell.

Jesmyn Ward was in her twenties when she first read James Baldwin's 1963 essay collection The Fire Next Time. Ward felt that Baldwin's essays — compiled in a year which included Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'I Have A Dream' speech and the Birmingham church bombings — are especially resonant today and tease out similar racial tensions.

Publishing is a notoriously risky business.

A publishing house might give a first-time author a six-figure deal, only to see the book flop. It's always been hard to predict what will sell. Now publishers are getting some help from data that tells them how readers read — and that makes some people nervous.

The Transportation Safety Administration is reminding Batman enthusiasts to check their superhero weapons when they fly.

According to the TSA, people keep trying to carry "batarangs" — the sharp, metal bat-shaped weapons that Batman throws at his enemies — onto planes, only to have them confiscated at airport security checkpoints.

Agents have confiscated batarangs at multiple airports, including in San Francisco, where these showed up in a carry-on bag.

Editor's note: As you'll see right away, this column includes a word that is offensive to many.

Ask star and co-creator Issa Rae about the many times the word "nigga" surfaces in her new HBO comedy Insecure — a wonderfully unassuming comedy about the life of a sometimes-awkward young black woman in Los Angeles — and she's got a simple answer.

This is how she and her friends talk to each other.

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Comedian Ali Wong is so committed to her work that she estimates that she performed on stage almost every day for 11 years before her daughter was born. In fact, she was 7 1/2 months pregnant when she filmed her first comedy special, Baby Cobra, for Netflix.

"In every generation and among every nation, there are a few individuals with the desire to study the workings of nature; if they did not exist, those nations would perish."

-- Al-Jahiz, The Book of Animals

In 185 AD, Chinese astronomers recorded a supernova. Among more detached details of its appearance, there is this: "It was like a large bamboo mat. It displayed the five colors, both pleasing and otherwise."

Good, Evil And Long Black Tentacles Make A 'Monstress'

Aug 2, 2016

Gaudy beauty and extravagant horror twine around each other, as elegant as their subjects' sinuous hair and garments, in the remarkable comic Monstress. Its lavish visuals, intricate world building and deft pacing will doubtless land it on many "Best of" lists for 2016. But writer Marjorie Liu's nervy, idiosyncratic characterizations are what really set this story apart.

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In honor of MTV's 35th birthday Monday, the network has launched MTV Classic, a new channel featuring programming from the '90s and '00s. On the same day, we also wish a happy birthday to NPR Music and Pop Culture Happy Hour's Stephen Thompson, who celebrates with an interview on All Things Considered about how MTV Classic is redefining which popular culture fits into the current environment for nostalgia.

Writer Jay McInerney became famous in the 1980s for Bright Lights, Big City, a semi-autobiographical novel about a young man who parties in the cocaine-dusted clubs of Manhattan, but the drama in his latest book is more domestic in nature.

Also set in New York City, Bright, Precious Days is the third book in a trilogy about married couple Russell and Corrine Calloway. McInerney tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he began the Brightness Falls series with an idea of the "perfect couple."

Over on cable TV and streaming services, summertime doesn't mean an end to critically heralded programming, as evidenced by the recent return of Mr. Robot (on the USA Network) and the launch of Stranger Things (on Netflix). But over on the major networks, lighter fare still dominates, which brings us to ABC's recently launched reboot of the vintage game shows $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game.

The 1966 film Batman: The Movie was shot between the first and second seasons of the television show. It used the same sets as the TV show, the same characters, costumes, the same story formula, and — most importantly — adopted the same tonal jiu-jitsu: high silliness executed with grave seriousness.

Lisbon is a city of plazas, parks, overlooks and gardens. For more than a century, these beautiful public spaces were graced by Art Noveau and Moorish-style kiosks — small, ornate structures that provided chairs and shade and served traditional Portuguese snacks and drinks.

Perhaps you've heard the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that goes, "There are no second acts in American lives." Some may beg to disagree. After all, for many people, there are indeed second acts. One such example is singer and actress Heather Headley, who epitomizes this in ways few others do. Headley is a native of the twin-island republic Trinidad and Tobago in the South Caribbean, where she started singing and playing the piano in church at a very young age. She moved with her family to the United States in the early '90s.

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'Dark Matter' Is A Jet-Propelled Science Thriller

Jul 31, 2016

Your time is valuable. I know that. There are roughly a billion books published every year and you've only got time to read a few of them. There are important books and acclaimed books and books you can put down like junk food — like sitting on the couch in your underwear and eating that whole bag of barbecue potato chips because there's no one there to tell you not to. You have to make some choices.

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Sharon Jones' career didn't take off until she was in her 40s (making her an inspiring story for millennials everywhere — you have another 20 years before you have to move out of your parents' house!). Now she leads the band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and has just released a new documentary called Miss Sharon Jones!

We've invited her to play a game called "Let's shake on it" — three questions about handshakes. Click the audio link above to hear how she does.

Dentist Protagonists In Literature

Jul 30, 2016
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Bad Moms is a movie about good moms who try to go bad. Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn play suburban Chicago mothers who find themselves ground down by the daily cycle of school drop-offs and pick-ups, soccer games, supermarket runs, errands, chores and endless worries. One night they wind up at the same bar after a PTA meeting and together they decide to let loose.

Family stories get passed between generations, and like a lot of cherished possessions, they sometimes get nicked, smudged, frayed, or otherwise changed.

Nadja Spiegelman has written a memoir of a mother she thought she knew, which resonates through the recollections of the grandmother she might have misunderstood.

Her mother is Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker, and her father is Art Spiegelman, the graphic novelist. In fact, her father's Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel Maus is dedicated to Nadja.

The free-floating, perverse mischief of Dame Darcy — graphic artist, musician, fortuneteller and worldmaker extraordinaire — is on display in the title of her big new book. Meat Cake Bible isn't the same book it would be if it were called The Meat Cake Bible. The latter would be a straightforward thing: Simply, a collection of the comic Dame Darcy published from 1993-2008. Take away the "the," though, and Meat Cake Bible can be read as "Meat, Cake, Bible!" — a parade of potent delicacies, possibly a children's chant. Or it could be "Meat. Cake.

I can remember the weeks before starting school at Skidmore College, furiously trying to finish Gregory Howard Williams' memoir, Life on the Color Line. The book had been assigned as our freshman reading assignment — part of the First-Year Experience at the liberal arts school in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Four years later, Williams spoke at our graduation.

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If you think about Wall Street movies, you probably think about a world of macho frat boys.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG SHORT")

MAX GREENFIELD: (As mortgage broker) Trust me. I'm not driving a 7-series without strippers.

Nina Barrett, owner of Bookends and Beginnings in Evanston, Ill., recommends three vacation reads for All Things Considered's Pack These Pages series: The Royal We by Heather Cox and Jessica Morgan, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld and

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