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NPR's Book of the Day

392 episodes   Last Updated: Mar 27, 23
In need of a good read? Or just want to keep up with the books everyone's talking about? NPR's Book of the Day gives you today's very best writing in a snackable, skimmable, pocket-sized podcast. Whether you're looking to engage with the big questions of our times – or temporarily escape from them – we've got an author who will speak to you, all genres, mood and writing styles included. Catch today's great books in 15 minutes or less.


Why does poverty persist in one of the world's wealthiest countries? Because it's profitable, argues sociologist Matthew Desmond, in Poverty, By America. He tells NPR's Ayesha Rascoe why wealthier Americans benefit from forces that keep their fellow citizens from growing richer — forces like predatory financial services, stagnant wages, and rising housing costs.
Today's episode is all about tech. First, Paul Scharre of the Center for a New American Security speaks with NPR's Ari Shapiro about his new book, Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, and the ways autocratic governments can rely on AI for repressive surveillance tactics. Then, Duke University professor Nita Farahany and NPR's Ailsa Chang discuss a potential nightmare: employers' ability to track worker's brains for productivity. Farahany's new book, The Battle for Your Brain, tracks advancements in neurotechnology and advocates for cognitive liberty.
Paris Hilton is ubiquitous with early 2000s pop culture: She graced the cover of magazines, her own reality TV show and even Billboard charts. But the heiress now says she was playing a character – one she built to hide from the trauma she endured earlier in her life. In Paris: The Memoir, Hilton finally takes control of her own narrative. She spoke to NPR's Juana Summers about what made her want to start breaking down the walls between her public persona and her private life, and how paparazzi and influencer culture has changed during her time in the spotlight.
Author Dina Nayeri was young when she found out that there's a stark difference between credibility and belief – and it's a disconnect at the center of her new book, Who Gets Believed?: When the Truth Isn't Enough. Nayeri's family came to the U.S. as refugees from Iran in 1979. As she tells NPR's Juana Summers, that asylum process showed her how subjective belief can be – and she explains why, for her, the meaning of believing continued to shift, through faith and vulnerability, even as she was writing the book.
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai's new novel, Dust Child, takes a closer look at the often-fraught relationships between Vietnamese women and American soldiers during the war. In today's episode, the author tells NPR's Scott Simon how she was always fascinated by the stories of the forgotten children from those relationships – often left behind, abandoned, and raised with a deep resentment for their mixed roots. The novel follows both the perspective of that generation – trying to find a better future – and that of the servicemembers being forced, decades later, to confront their past decisions.
Edith Wilson dated and then married Woodrow Wilson while he served as president of the United States in 1915. In her new biography, Untold Power: The Fascinating Rise and Complex Legacy of First Lady Edith Wilson, author Rebecca Boggs Roberts – daughter of the late NPR founding mother Cokie Roberts – explores Wilson's influential role in her husband's administration. But as Roberts tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, at a time when women didn't yet have the right to vote, Wilson often hid her political contributions from the spotlight.
Today's episode is all about sports. First, The Athletic reporter Evan Drellich speaks with NPR's A Martinez about his investigation into the Astros' 2017 World Series win and subsequent cheating scandal, which is closely examined in Drellich's new book, Winning Fixes Everything. Then, NPR's Juana Summers sits down with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick to discuss his new graphic memoir, Change the Game, which revisits how growing up idolizing Black football players led Kaepernick to pick that sport over his promising future in baseball.
Who would Travis Bickle– the protagonist of the 1976 film Taxi Driver – be today? That question sparked the new novel by Priya Guns, Your Driver Is Waiting. It follows Damani, a queer Tamil ride-share driver who is struggling to pay her bills while people on the street around her protest for cause after cause that she can't seem to keep track of. Then she meets Jolene, who is the epitome of the privilege Damani does not have. As Guns tells NPR's Scott Simon, it's a relationship that forces her protagonist to reckon with her own preconceptions of wealth and whiteness.
Katherine May, like so many other people, found herself submerged in anxiety and restlessness during COVID-19 lockdowns. But as cities reopened, she looked for new ways to immerse herself in the awe of the natural world around her. That journey is at the center of her new book, Enchantment. And as she tells NPR's Rachel Martin, her relationship with her faith, prayer and her definition of God played a big role.
Ruthy Ramirez, the 13-year-old middle child of a Puerto Rican family in Staten Island, vanished without a trace. But more than a decade later, as the family still feels the weight of her absence, one of her sisters spots a woman who she thinks might be her sister on a reality TV show. In her new novel, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez, author Claire Jimenez explores the way loss, violence and spectacle impacts the women in the Ramirez family. And as she tells NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, there's a big divide in the way reality tv treats white women and women of color.