Usually I find out about new and exciting books via book blogs or newspaper/magazine reviews. I also like to browse the library and pick books at random that catch my eye. When I’m in the bookstore I text myself titles that look intriguing. Well, I’ve found a new source for finding new titles: NPR.
NPR does at least one author interview a week. I find them fascinating. The interviews introduce me to books I may not have otherwise heard about or even had interest reading. But listening to the author speak in detail about how s/he came up with the idea, the places her/his research took him, or her/his reasons for writing the book has me now emailing titles to myself. I thought I’d share a few of the titles and the interviews that captivated my attention.
This is a story about North Korea. The author acquired a visa and traveled to North Korea to round out his research, to get a feel for life in the country. I admit, I don’t know much about North Korea other than it is a totalitarian state and a closed society. I watched a documentary last year about North Korea’s Annual Games. It followed two girls who were training for it. We got a glimpse of their lives at home and what life is like in such a society. It was fascinating and so odd. One of the many strange details that stuck out was the wall radio. Each family has a radio attached to the wall in the main room of their house that delivers state information and they can never turn off.
I was fascinated by Johnson’s own accounts of his experiences in North Korea-his minders, watching people in the park steal chestnuts, being directed to what the state wants him to see. Johnson has created a story that tries to capture what life is like behind the curtain in North Korea.
I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout in grade school. I sold Girl Scout cookies and went to Girl Scout Camp. I loved it. But I have to tell ya, I knew absolutely nothing about the woman who founded the organization. So when I caught this interview on the Diane Rehm show I was stunned to learn about Juliet Gordon Low, the woman responsible for the Scouts, and this fascinating, privileged, and sorrowful life she led. It sounded like something out of an Edith Wharton novel.
I learned more about Girl Scout history in that one morning than I did the entire time I was part of a troop. My curiosity was thoroughly piqued and another book was added to the pile.
I have a little thing for all stories spy related. I tuned in during the middle of the interview. The title of her book immediately caught my ear. Listening to her describe her life entranced me further. I’ve read accounts written by real spies and watched fictional movies and tv shows of fictional spies. However, the true accounts of someone growing up the child of a spy I’ve yet to encounter. I was fascinated by this idea of growing up in secrecy not knowing what your parent’s line of work truly is, how strange and scary that could be. Some of the callers who shared their stories really astonished me and took me aback. It’s so surreal to know that real people are living these things that seem so outlandish and fantastical. It’s great tv, but scary and stressful living.
Akash Kapur was born to an Indian father and an American mother. He grew up straddling both countries and cultures. After spending several years in the US, he decided to return to India. He discusses how different the India of his childhood is to the India of today. He has ambivalent feelings about the growth and modernization. It has done amazing things for the countries but such quick and explosive growth has also been unsettling in ways.
This is just a sample of the books that NPR has made me aware of. I have already purchased and begun reading Born Under An Assumed Name. Listening to the author interviews really engages my interest in a way that standard reviews don’t. I appreciate being exposed to new stories that I might otherwise have not known about.