books

The first time you see 'sand piracy,' it might sound surreal — a misguided Pixar villain whose lackeys race down the beach with empty buckets and sinister intent, doomed to fail in the face of a resource that spans the whole ocean.

Then you find out about someone stealing 1,300 feet of sand from a beach in Jamaica, or the many sand miners whose dredgers suck sand from the ocean floor by the ton and, suddenly, it doesn't sound as funny — or as impossible — as it did before.

Sometimes all it takes for love to blossom is a chance encounter — or a murder and a mystery. This month, I've picked three books that prove love finds a way, no matter the circumstances of a first meeting or the reasons couples are stuck together. When sparks are flying and hearts and minds are open, there's no stopping these happily ever afters.

July Fourth is a day when America celebrates its independence.

But this July Fourth, I am reflecting on another part of the American experience — the enslavement of my fellow Africans. That's because I have just finished reading Barracoon, the book in which Zora Neale Hurston presents the story of Cudjo Lewis, who was on the last ship that brought slaves across the Atlantic. It took 60 years for her book to be published. Now it is a best-seller.

Donald Hall, a former poet laureate of the United States whose writing explored everything from nature to mortality to the toss of a baseball, has died at the age of 89.

Hall died on Saturday at his family farm, known as Eagle Pond, in the small town of Wilmot, N.H. His death was announced by his literary agent, Wendy Strothman.

Hall was a prolific author who began writing when he was just 12 years old. Over the course of a career that spanned more than seven decades, he wrote over 40 books, about half of which were works of poetry.

Andrew Pollack is a school safety activist, a founder of Americans for Children’s Lives and School Safety and father of Meadow Pollack, one of the 17 victims from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Dr. Sandra Calvert is the Director of the Children’s Digital Media Center and a child psychologist at Georgetown University. She was part of the American Psychological Association in 2015 where she explored the impact of violent video games on children’s brains.

When my brother, sister, and I were growing up, our dinner conversation would inevitably turn scatological at some point, the grosser the better: A kid puked on the teacher's desk, another tracked in dog poop. "Must we talk about this at dinner?" our mother would protest. To which we would answer, "When else are we supposed to talk about it?"

Updated at 12:50 a.m. ET

Philip Roth, whose novel American Pastoral won a Pulitzer in 1998 but who was best-known for the controversial and explicit 1969 Portnoy's Complaint, has died at age 85.

Roth's biographer Blake Bailey, who confirmed his death to NPR, says the author was surrounded by friends and family.

"I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave." That was one of the first questions that Zora Neale Hurston asked 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis when she traveled from New York to Mobile, Ala., to interview him in the summer of 1927.

Atlas Obscura

Zora Neale Hurston, one of the best known writers of the Harlem Renaissance — and the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God — has a new book. Well, that's not quite right; it's actually an old book that is only now being published. It's called Barracoon, and it's based on a series of conversations Hurston had with Cudjo Lewis, who was brought to this country aboard the last ship that carried slaves across the Atlantic. 

One of the two women at the center of Meg Wolitzer's absorbing new novel, The Female Persuasion, is a legendary feminist named Faith Frank. Faith, who's in her 60s when the story begins, seems to be modeled on Gloria Steinem: She's charismatic, sexy and witty. We're told that Faith is not "a firebrand or a visionary; her talent was different. She could sift and distill ideas and present them in a way that made other people want to hear them."

The romance genre is a juggernaut that continues unabated.

It's a billion-dollar industry that outperforms all other book genres, and it's remarkably innovative, with a strong tradition of independent and self-publishing.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes herself as an "optimist who worries a lot." And lately, it seems, there has been much to worry about.

Albright's new book, Fascism: A Warning, starts by describing how Hitler and Mussolini came to power in the 20th century, then warns about today's authoritarian rulers in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Turkey and Russia.

Courtesy of the Food Network

Guests for Sundial on Thursday, March 22, 2018:

Pachinko by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee made the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books List of 2017. The book was a National Book Award Finalist in the fiction category and was warmly received nationwide.  It took Lee almost 20 years to complete the book and she joined the program last year to reveal how she drew on her life experiences to do so. 

Leslie Ovalle / WLRN News

Guests for Sundial on Wednesday March 14, 2018:

We revisited a past interview with Haitian-American novelist and short story writer Edwidge Danticat. She spoke with us in 2017 about her book, The Art of Death, which she wrote as part of her journey after her mother's passing.

The winners of the 2018 Whiting Awards don't have much of a track record. None on this list has the laundry list of accolades you may be accustomed to seeing for literary prize winners. Several don't even have a second book to their names.

But that's the idea here.

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