Author Simon Garfield loves maps. His home in London is full of them — that's where they're stocked, hanging on walls and piled on shelves. So when Garfield was looking for a new topic to write about, not surprisingly, maps won out.
His new book is called On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Works.
On one spring day in the early 1970s, writer David Esterly paused to admire a stunning wooden carving inside a London church.
"On the panel behind the altar, I saw these extraordinary cascades of leaves and flowers and fruits, carved to a fineness and fluent realism, which seemed to me breathtaking," Esterly recalled in an interview with Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
Once, in an age long past, "epic" was a dirty word.
Way back when I was a young nerd growing up in the Midwest in the 1980s — long before I became a professional writer — histories of magic rings and chronicles of ancient evils were not exactly mainstream fare. Indeed, to publicize one's knowledge of Elvish sword-names and Orcish myth was to contract a kind of voluntary leprosy.
George Saunders' latest book is called Tenth of December: Stories.
It's become commonplace to say that good fiction "wakes us up." The speaker usually means that he — a righteous, likable person, living in the correct way — becomes, post-reading, temporarily even more righteous and likable.
Resurrection, Tolstoy's last and darkest novel, works differently.
It's a shocking and impolite book, seemingly incapable of that last-minute epiphanic updraft or lyric reversal that lets us walk away from even the darkest novel fundamentally intact.
Host Rachel Martin delves into the physics behind Roald Dahl's childrens' classic, James and the Giant Peach. Physics students at the University of Leicester calculated that it would take 2,425,907 seagulls to lift James' Giant Peach, making Roald Dahl's number (501), entirely insufficient.
On-air challenge: This week's puzzle celebrates ringing in the new year. Take the letters Y-E-A-R. Add one letter and scramble to make a new word that answers the clue. For example, by adding the letter B to Y-E-A-R, with the clue "maker of aspirin," the answer would be "Bayer."
Attention American history buffs, here's a name you might not have heard before: Robert Ingersoll. According to author Susan Jacoby, he was "one of the most famous people in America in the last quarter of the 19th century."
"He went around the country," Jacoby tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "He spoke to more people than presidents. He was also an active mover and shaker behind the scenes of the Republican Party."
Troupe member Philipp Egli says the genius of Mummenschanz lies in simplicity. The most beautiful pieces, he says, start with black space and some people on stage.
The Swiss troupe Mummenschanz isn't a band of white-faced pantomimers. The experimental group uses costumes and masks in their witty, wordless performances. The troupe is marking its 40th anniversary with a five-month tour.
Mummenschanz's original founders (from left) Andres Bossard, Floriana Frassetto and Bernie Schurch.
It's the moment fantasy fans have been waiting for (really!): After more than 20 years, and 13 doorstopper volumes, the last book in the best-selling Wheel of Time series comes out Tuesday. The series unfolds an epic battle between good and evil — think Game of Thrones but more so: more characters, more magic, more tiny little world-building details, more everything.