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Lynn Neary

Perhaps best known for his novel A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul was a controversial figure in the literary world. The Nobel Prize-winning writer died on Saturday at his London home, the author's agent confirms to NPR. He was 85.

His wife Nadira Naipaul, who was at his side when he passed, said he was "a giant in all that he achieved and he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavor," The Associated Press reports.

Gillian Flynn's wildly successful Gone Girl helped spawn a batch of best-selling mystery novels featuring complex female protagonists. That was sweet revenge for Flynn, whose first novel, Sharp Objects, had been turned down by publishers who didn't think people wanted to read stories about less-than-perfect women. Now, Sharp Objects has been adapted as a limited series, debuting Sunday on HBO, starring Amy Adams.

Every year at BookExpo, the publishing industry's annual conference, a few books emerge as front-runners in the competition for readers. This year, There There by Tommy Orange is one of those books. Set in Oakland, Calif., it explores the lives of Native Americans who live in cities, not reservations — lives like that of its author, who himself grew up in Oakland.

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There's a well-known Russian folktale, "Snegurochka," that tells the story of an elderly couple who yearn to have a child; they create a little girl out of snow, and she comes to life. In her novel The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey reimagined that story and set it in her home state of Alaska — and now the story has made one more leap, to the theatre at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage.

Novelist Richard Powers lives in a house perched on a hillside, just on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "It's very much a tree house," he says with a laugh. "That's why I live here."

His latest book, The Overstory, brought him to the old growth forests of Tennessee. The novel follows the lives of nine different people, all determined to save ancient trees from destruction. Their lives become entwined as they fight to save virgin forests, with unforeseen consequences.

Great artists are known to have big egos — they can suck up all the air in a room if given half a chance. And living in the shadow of such greatness can stunt a person's growth, which is exactly what happens to the central character in Tom Rachman's new novel, The Italian Teacher. Rachman takes us through the life of Pinch Bavinsky, from his childhood adoration of his famous father to the disappointments of adulthood, and in the process, explores what it means to be an artist.

In his latest book, A Long Way From Home, Australian novelist Peter Carey takes on his country's racist past, but he gets there by a circuitous route. The book begins as a kind of madcap adventure, as the characters hit the road in a race designed to test the endurance of cars. Halfway through, the adventure turns into a confrontation with history and an odyssey of self discovery.

Writer Sherman Alexie last week issued a statement admitting he "has harmed" others, after rumors and allegations began to circulate about sexual harassment. Without providing details, Alexie said "there are women telling the truth," and he apologized to the people he has hurt. Now, some of those women have come forward to speak to NPR about their experiences with him.

It was no accident that W.E.B. Du Bois called his book The Souls Of Black Folk, says Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History Of Racist Ideas In America. Du Bois wasn't looking for a catchy title — he was reacting to the reality of his times.

"Racist Americans were making the case that black people did not have souls," Kendi says. "And the beings that did not have souls were beasts."

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Asymmetry is a book whose title tells the tale: It's made up of two disparate stories with no apparent connection, and a third story that just hints at the link between the two. Debut author Lisa Halliday won the prestigious Whiting Award for her work — and while you may not have heard of her, you probably have heard of Colson Whitehead, Jeffrey Eugenides, Alice McDermott and Jonathan Franzen, all of whom are fellow Whiting winners

Take a little Hitchcock and a touch of Gone Girl. Add in a mysterious author and rumors of a very big price tag. Stir them all together and you come up with a rare bird: A debut novel that hits number one on the New York Times bestseller list in its first week on the market.

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It seems fitting that 2017 has been bookended by two novels about women and power. When the year began, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which depicts a future where women are stripped of all power, began making its way to the top of best-seller lists. As 2017 draws to a close, another dystopian novel has made it onto some prominent top ten lists: Naomi Alderman's The Power.

Among the many movies opening for the holidays is one with a new take on an old story. The Man Who Invented Christmas, starring Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer, is about Charles Dickens and the creation of A Christmas Carol. It's a distinctly literary tale — which isn't surprising, since one of the film's producers is a well known bookseller taking his first dip in the world of film.

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Amy Tan loves jazz and classical music. "I have a Steinway, which was my life's dream," she says, sitting at her grand piano in the middle of her New York living room. When Tan listens to a piece of music, she imagines stories to go with it, so she always listens when she writes.

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George Smiley is back.

For the first time in 25 years, John le Carré has written a new novel featuring the spy at the center of some his most popular books. The new release, A Legacy of Spies, is a kind of prequel to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963), the book that made le Carré famous and changed spy novels forever.

In A Legacy of Spies, le Carré goes deep into Smiley's past, re-examining the role he and his cohorts played in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, a story of betrayal and deception that ends badly at the Berlin Wall.

If you've seen the hit musical Hamilton — or even if you've only heard about it — you might want to know more about the founding father who was the United States' first Secretary of the Treasury. And if so, the Library of Congress just made it easier to go right to the source.

Back when Amazon first introduced the Kindle, and e-books were all the rage, a lot of people thought printed books and the stores that sell them were going the way of dinosaurs. But a decade later, print is outselling digital, and many independent bookstores are thriving. Even Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar stores (seven so far).

They call her the queen of summer, because writer Elin Hilderbrand has perfected the kind of book you can devour while sitting on the beach or by a lake, or pretty much anywhere on a hot summer day. She sets her stories in Nantucket, a summer paradise where she lives year round.

Hilderbrand fell in love with summer when she was young, at the cottage her family rented on Cape Cod. Her father set down some strict rules for the kids, including the most important one: If the sun was shining, they had to spend the whole day at the beach.

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The Library of Congress today named Tracy K. Smith as the nation's new poet laureate. NPR's Lynn Neary spoke with her about her new role.

Murder. For writer Anthony Horowitz, that's where it all starts. He says everyone is fascinated by murder — just look at Foyle's War, his BBC mystery series. The show is set in the U.K. during World War II, but that wasn't its selling point.

"If I had gone to the BBC and said I wanted write about, I don't know, the social history of 1940 to '47, they would have probably said no," Horowitz explains. "When I said, 'I've got a whole series of terrific murders which take place in that time,' they opened the door."

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Novelist Ann Brashares' parents divorced when she was young. "It wasn't an amicable split ..." she says, "And in some way the divisions just kept going, even to this day they do." Those experiences inspired Brashares — who wrote the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series — to write her new novel, The Whole Thing Together.

Many people are drawn to Emily Dickinson because of her mysterious life — the brilliant poet rarely left her family home in Amherst, Mass., and her work wasn't recognized until after her death.

But British film director Terence Davies says it was her poetry, more than her personal life, that drew him in. Davies discovered Dickinson on television. An actress was reading one of her poems and afterwards Davies immediately ran out to buy one of her collections.

There's a role reversal underway in political publishing. For years, conservative publishers have thrived as their readers flocked to buy books aimed directly at taking down the party in power. Now, with Republicans in control, they have to rethink their strategy. Left leaning publishers meanwhile are hoping to take advantage of the new political landscape.

Regnery books — which marks its 70th anniversary this year — is the grand old dame of conservative publishing. Dinesh d'Souza, Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham have all published with Regnery.

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