Petra Mayer

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."

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People looking for holiday gift ideas have a resource - the NPR Book Concierge. It's a page with more than 400 book titles selected by NPR critics and staff. NPR Books editor Petra Mayer is here to explain how it works. Hey there, Petra.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: And let's first talk about what this is. This is not exactly one of those lists where the top books are listed one through 10 or whatever.

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.

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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.

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Goodbye to Mr. Creosote. Goodbye to the naked organist. Goodbye to Brian's mum, and to all her screeching sisters. Goodbye to Terry Jones, who has consumed his final wafer-thin mint.

Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale ended on a cliffhanger: The rebellious handmaid Offred stepping into a mysterious black van, on her way to freedom — or to arrest.

Welcome to the 50th San Diego Comic-Con!

A good convention is almost a ritual space — a time and place away from time and place. Once you step through that glass door and swipe your badge, you could be anywhere, anywhen; the hours pass by outside and you don't notice. It's almost as if the rest of the world doesn't exist — you are at Comic-Con. You have always been at Comic-Con. What I'm trying to say, here, is that I've barely been here 24 hours and I already don't know which way is up or really what day it is. Mallory, I hope you're less disoriented than I am.

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