Lynn Neary

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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.

When Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, We Were Eight Years in Power, was released last week, there was a big party — bigger than most book parties, because this event was also celebrating the launch of a new venture for Chris Jackson, the editor who has helped make Coates famous.

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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).

When Kelly Barrales-Saylor was a new mom, she got a lot of children's books as gifts. Most were simple books about shapes, colors and letters. There were none about science — or math.

"My editorial brain lit up and said there must be a need for this," says Barrales-Saylor, who works as an editor for a publishing company outside Chicago.

Halfway across the world, Chris Ferrie was similarly unsatisfied.

When reading to his kids, Ferrie noticed that most books used animals to introduce new words. In today's world, that just didn't make sense to him.

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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Podcasts — everyone seems to have one. And more and more people are listening to them. At the same time, sales for audiobooks are growing faster than any other segment of the publishing industry.That got me wondering: Are podcasts helping to drive listeners to audiobooks? The answer, as it turns out, is more circular than that.

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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Before a book ever gets published, it can go through a lot of changes — an editor might question the structure, the plot, the grammar. Now, there's a new layer to the process: Some writers are turning to sensitivity readers to be sure they haven't inadvertently offended someone from a different culture.

In the 1950s and '60s, if there were any children's books in a house, at least one of them was likely to be a Little Golden Book. With their golden spines and brightly colored pictures, they begged to be grabbed off a shelf by a curious child — which is exactly what their creators intended. Those beloved books celebrate their 75th birthday this year.

First introduced shortly after the start of World War II, many of them — such as The Tawny Scrawny Lion, The Saggy Baggy Elephant and The Poky Little Puppy — have become classics.

Pinball is big business in Japan. Known as pachinko, the multibillion-dollar industry is dominated by Korean Japanese, an immigrant community that has been unwelcome and ill-treated for generations.

Min Jin Lee's new novel Pachinko is about much more than the game. It's about the story of one family's struggle to fit into a society that treats them with contempt.

The Trump administration's executive order on immigration is heightening awareness of the challenges immigrants face getting into this country. Once here, children and teenagers can find themselves in circumstances completely out of their control, and those circumstances are now at the center of two recent young adult novels.

The Amazon bestseller list has become something of a political barometer of late. Recently Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis's memoir March rose to the top after President Trump criticized him for questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. Since the election, Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir that has become a guide to working class America has been at or near the top of the list. Now the classic dystopian novel 1984, written by George Orwell and published in 1948, is number one.

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The American Library Association announced its annual children's book awards Monday. While the Caldecott and Newbery medals are the best known of these honors, this year, one of the lesser-known awards might attract the most attention.

That's because the Coretta Scott King Award for best African-American author went to Rep. John Lewis and his collaborator Andrew Aydin for March: Book Three, the third installment in the civil rights leader's graphic memoir.

Free speech advocates see President-elect Trumps's testy relationship with the media and his middle-of-the-night tweets reacting to critics as evidence that he is — at best — insensitive to the First Amendment. And they say one recent controversy, the decision by Simon & Schuster to publish a book by social media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, has grown out of an atmosphere that encourages hate speech.

You might think the secrets to HGTV stardom lie in real estate savvy or creative design. But for shows like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, it's that hard-to-find combination of charm and chemistry that turns hosts into stars.

"They're fun — they make you feel like you could be friends," says Maggie Winterfeldt, editor of PopSugar Home. "These are people that you actually relate to. They're not living in mansions; they're not driving Escalades. They live an attainable lifestyle."

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