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Petra Mayer

The winners of this year's Whiting Awards have been announced; the $50,000 prize is aimed at allowing emerging writers to focus full-time on their work — or to branch off in new directions.

"Each of these winners has a rare literary gift," Whiting Director of Literary Programs Courtney Hodell says via email. "Our hope is that the Whiting Award will offer encouragement and support as they continue to dig deep into their art to nurture the work that sings it."

Leigh Bardugo's new Rule of Wolves opens with a little vignette of terror: A winged monster attacking a rural farm. But readers of her Grishaverse books will know this isn't just any monster — it's the king himself, Nikolai of Ravka.

The stories in Haruki Murakami's new collection, First Person Singular, have a sort of fractal nature — you're reading a story by a middle-aged Japanese man in which a middle-aged Japanese man is telling you a story (and sometimes that story involves him telling other stories). You get drawn into the spiral, and soon you're in that strange world where many of his stories exist, a place full of his favorite things (jazz, baseball, the Beatles, though surprisingly few cats this time) and yet unmistakably odd, existing at a slight, unexplained angle to reality.

Author and Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro has explored multiple settings over the course of his career, from the English country house in 1989's The Remains of the Day to the dystopian future of 2005's Never Let Me Go. But no matter where he sets his stories, they're always deeply felt and deeply human.

Three novels and two story collections — selected from a longlist of 15 — remain in contention for this year's Aspen Words Literary Prize.

The $35,000 prize honors fiction that "illuminates vital contemporary issues," and this year's finalists span the globe, covering everything from Native American land ownership questions to the intersections of Blackness and queerness to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Past Golden Globe winners Sarah Jessica Parker and Taraji P. Henson kicked off the announcement of this year's nominees, in a livestream simulcast by the Today show.

Netflix led the pack with 22 nominations for motion pictures and 20 for TV; Mank garnered the most movie nominations with 6, and The Crown matched that on the TV side with 6 nominations of its own.

Last fall, former President Barack Obama told Stephen Colbert that he was "shocked" Dolly Parton hadn't gotten a Presidential Medal of Freedom during his time in office. "That was a screwup," he said. "I think I assumed she had already got one."

When I found out about The Ex Talk, I absolutely had to read it (even though, as a rule, I don't love contemporary romances) because it's set at a Pacific Northwest public radio station. Office rivals Shay and Dominic — she's a veteran producer, he's a cocky J-school grad who won't shut up about his master's degree — end up having to pose as exes to host a new dating and relationships show for their struggling station. Naturally, they fall for each other.

The morning after her powerful performance of "The Hill We Climb" at the inauguration of President Biden, poet Amanda Gorman hit another high point: She took the top two slots on Amazon's bestseller list — for titles that won't be out until the fall.

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Denver's beloved local chain — founded in 1971 — has been having a rough year. Several of its locations had to close temporarily because of the pandemic, making a massive dent in sales.

This year's National Book Awards ceremony was an evening with a message: We can do better.

The online-only event included a montage of Black winners past — narrated by LeVar Burton — with this admission: From 1936 to 1999, only 13 writers of color won a National Book Award.

In London's Hyde Park, there's a heartbreaking series of sculptures called the Animals in War Memorial — heavily laden bronze donkeys struggling through a gap in an enormous curved wall. It honors creatures from elephants to glow worms, who served alongside humans in war; as the memorial says, "they had no choice."

The 15 nominees for this year's Aspen Words Literary Prize span the globe and the headlines — from Uganda to Palestine to Miami to rural North Dakota, and even a nameless Wilderness that's not quite in the world we know.

Wherever they are, the characters in these novels are grappling with issues that we're all familiar with, whether in headlines or in our own lives.

"The books on this longlist examine subjects that cut across racial, economic, political and sexual divides," Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur said in a statement.

On a storm-tossed sea, a blind young man with crow-shaped scars carved into his chest and a jewel-eyed, trouble-prone sea captain are heading for an uncertain, probably terrible destiny. And a street beggar-turned-High Priest struggles to maintain position and power in a treacherous city.

In Rebecca Roanhorse's new fantasy novel Black Sun, all paths lead towards the city of Tova, where a coming eclipse could signal rebirth — or disaster.

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature has been given to the U.S. poet Louise Glück for what the Swedish Academy calls "her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal."

Glück is the 16th woman to win a literature Nobel, and she already has a bookshelf's worth of heavyweight awards: a National Book Award, a National Humanities Medal and a Pulitzer Prize for her 1992 collection The Wild Iris.

This year's MacArthur Fellows — recipients of what's commonly known as the Genius Grant — are engineers and writers, scientists and musicians, artists and scholars and filmmakers. They've mapped the universe and the human brain, created new worlds and picked apart what makes our own world tick.

The National Book Foundation has announced the 25 finalists for this year's National Book Awards, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, literature in translation, and young people's literature.

This year's authors are a diverse group that includes several debuts — from Deesha Philyaw and Douglas Stuart in the fiction category, and Tommye Blount and Anthony Cody in poetry.

Yadriel is a lot of things: He's queer, he's trans, he's Latinx and he's a brujo, born to free the souls of the dead so they can pass over — or he would be if only his family could accept him as he is. They carry on the ancient traditions of guiding the dead and healing the living, but only men can free spirits. And they don't believe Yadriel's truly a man.

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This month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Oh, I remember reading "The Illustrated Man" when I was a kid in school. NPR's Petra Mayer reports on his legacy.

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George Orwell's "Animal Farm" turns 75 this week. The book is now considered a classic, but NPR's Petra Mayer reminds us that it almost wasn't published at all.

Lauren Beukes' new Afterland takes place in a world that exists not long after our own — a very near future in which a terrible virus has wiped out almost all the men in the world, leaving a scant few million, mostly held in government research facilities.

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Want to social-distance in style this fall? Couturiers at Viktor & Rolf — known for campy, high-concept looks — are introducing a fall collection they're describing as "three wardrobes for three mindsets in extraordinary times of change." Those three mindsets: Anxiety, Confusion and a hopeful ending with Love.

In the early 1960s, Rudolfo Anaya was teaching high school during the day and writing at night, struggling to find the voice that would bring his first novel alive.

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