Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, puppetry artist Basil Twist and neuroscientist Beth Stevens work in wholly unrelated fields, but they do have at least one thing in common.

Along with 21 others, they are winners of the 2015 "genius" grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Games for Change / Creative Commons

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, and Sheryl WuDunn were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Their latest book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity looks at people with great ideas who are making the world a better place and calls upon all of us to do our part.

Walking With Dante

Sep 28, 2015
Freeparking :-I / Creative Commons

"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of Dante Aligheri's 14,000 line epic poem, The Divine Comedy. But it's only the first part of Dante's long pilgrimage through the afterlife. He first enters the circles of hell, filled with beasts and sinners doomed to the Inferno for crimes like gluttony, lust, and treason. 

Gerry Lauzon / Creative Commons

Volkswagen is having a moment. Not a good moment, but it's certainly a moment. VW owners are glaring at their vehicles with suspicion after it was revealed the automaker's diesel vehicles were designed to cheat on emissions tests.

Hopefully, VW is not capturing its moment with a selfie because that could be deadly. Plus, selfies are so easy to take, a monkey can do it and maybe even make some money from it.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Raouf Mama is a beloved storyteller by children and adults familiar with his books Why Goats Smell Bad and Why Monkeys Live in TreesHis love of storytelling stems from a long and honorable oral tradition that goes back to the ancient empire of Mali, when people preserved the lessons of life in memory instead of on the written page.

Raouf says we each have a story of belonging and identity. He uses his stories to entertain, comfort, and most of all as a tool to enlighten students.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I first met cartoonist Bill Griffith back in the 1980s. I arranged for us to tour a Boston-area Hostess Twinkie plant, which sounds like a weird first date but makes perfect sense if you're familiar with his creation "Zippy the Pinhead," an unwitting surrealist who swims happily through a sea of taco sauce, processed cheese and, well, Twinkies.

Frankieleon / Creative Commons

There was a time when hard work brought most Americans a decent wage, a secure life, and opportunities to aim for a better life. George Packer says that's no longer the case for too many Americans.

Institutions that once anchored middle-class Americans are either collapsing or morphing into faceless institutions that benefit the wealthy, Packer says. Health and educational outcomes are significantly lower for the poor, who are also incarcerated at higher rates. 

Andrew Filer/flickr creative commons

Katha Pollitt, is best known for her column in The Nation, where her work has appeared since 1980. She's a feminist, a keen observer of American culture, and the author of two books of poetry and four essay collections. One of those essays, “Learning to Drive,” appeared in The New Yorker 13 years ago, and has recently been adapted into a film starring Patricia Clarkson and Sir Ben Kingsley. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Gary Franks was the first black Republican elected to the U.S. Congress in nearly 60 years when he took office in 1991. Since his political career ended in the late 1990s, he hasn’t been heard from in Connecticut.

Spokane Focus / Creative Commons

Joyce Carol Oates has been writing since before she could read, making "books" by drawing and coloring characters in her tablet. She preferred upright chickens and cats in confrontational poses and tried hard to make her books look like the ones read by adults.  

She's wanted to be a writer since inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Those books changed her life and by extension, ours. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Caroline Jacobs is a grown woman with children of her own. But by all accounts, she's a wimp. She would prefer to suffer in silence than stand up for herself or anyone else -- until she couldn't stand it anymore.  

One night, while at a public meeting and in a crowded room, she stood up, pointed her finger at the one she loathed, and shouted "F%$# You" to her nemesis. With that one phrase, she was ready to face her past. 

エルエルLL / Creative Commons

WNPR has a radio project and we want to get you involved. The idea is simple: we provide a theme; you call our hotline with your story.

The theme: Tell us one thing you remember from last week and why it was memorable to you. It doesn't have to be a long story - between 5-20 words is plenty, unless you want to add a little more. The point is that we can all tell a story and it doesn't have to be a chore. 

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Hunter S. Thompson was one of those writers whose lives start to matter more than their art. From almost the beginning, life and art were intentionally interwoven. Thompson's outsized appetites for drugs and food and stimulation were set into his hyperbolic prose. The story of the wrier was the story of the story. He was hardly the first to do it, but he did it in a fashion that made both the lifestyle and prose of Norman Mailer seem comparatively restrained. 

Salvador Dalí / Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Among the 176 items associated with Lewis Carroll's novel Alice's Adventure in Wonderland at Yale's Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is a limited edition of the book signed and illustrated by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí.

McFreshCreates / Flickr Creative Commons

If you know how to read, you're probably pretty good at recognizing words. But, new words like "egg corn," "crema" and "slendro" are challenging our concept of what makes a word.  Yet these very words were recently added to Merriam-Webster's unabridged online dictionary.

Steven L. Shepard / Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs

Officials in France and the United States are celebrating the actions of three brave passengers aboard a train who thwarted an attack. Did these passengers do what you're supposed to do in that situation? This hour, we hear from a retired FBI special agent who will tell us how bystanders should respond to violence.

Dragons Rule!

Aug 20, 2015
William O'Connor - William O'Connor Studios

She who controls the dragon controls the world.

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion are the most recent dragons to capture our attention, thanks to "Game of Thrones," the wildly popular HBO hit that's placed dragons front and center in our imagination.

Lydia Brown / WNPR

In her graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, cartoonist Roz Chast brings humor to the difficult topic of aging parents. Last year, the book earned her the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kirkus Prize for nonfiction. Now, it's being featured alongside some of her other work as part of the Distinguished Illustrator Exhibition Series at the Norman Rockwell Museum. 

Andrea López/flickr creative commons

My motto on The Book Show is: Life is short, but it can be ever so wide.

Join me and my book buddies for a call-in show recommending terrific books to read in all categories. If you're in a book club, please tell us what you've read and enjoyed.

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Travis Hugh Culley is an author and a playwright. He holds an MFA in writing from the Art Institute of Chicago, which is remarkable, since Culley was illiterate until about age 17. 

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Mystic Seaport hosted its 30th annual marathon reading of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick aboard the Charles W. Morgan last weekend, America’s oldest commercial ship still afloat. 

Ginny/flickr creative commons

My motto on The Book Show is: Life is short, but it can be ever so wide.

Join me and my book buddies for a call-in show recommending terrific books to read in all categories. If you're in a book club, please tell us what you've read and enjoyed.

Dominick D / Creative Commons

Two funny men. Two funny books. 

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend follows the life of Martin Short, a funny man who spent his childhood staging elaborate one-man variety shows  in his attic bedroom before bringing us enduring and endearing characters like Ed Grimley, Irving Cohen and Jimmy Glick.  

Marc Nozell / Creative Commons

The life of the black Republican is pretty lonely these days, but it hasn’t always been that way. Black Americans were deeply rooted in the party of Lincoln for decades to avoid joining a Democratic Party controlled by "devils from below the Mason-Dixon line."


My motto on The Book Show is: Life is short, but it can be ever so wide.

Join me and my book buddies for a call-in show recommending terrific books to read in all categories. If you're in a book club, please tell us what you've read and enjoyed.

Stalin's Ghost

Jul 14, 2015
Eugene Zelenko / Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Stalin's only daughter grew up the beloved pet of a man responsible for a decades-long campaign to arrest, torture, execute or forcibly imprison millions of Soviet citizens, including children and members of his own family. That's what we know now.

This week, the long-awaited sequel to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird hits bookshelves. Since it was announced, questions were raised about Lee's involvement in the release of this book. But now the conversation has changed to the content of the book. A New York Times review reveals the much beloved character of Atticus Finch was a racist during the Brown v. Board of Education era of the 1950s.

Which Writers Get Museums?

Jul 7, 2015
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Mark Twain has many literary sites; yet Henry James has none. You can visit Edith Wharton's house but not Shirley Jackson's. You can walk where Wallace Stevens walked but you can't buy a ticket to go through his front door. And can you believe there's no single museum devoted to all American writers-- yet?

New England is about to get two great new writers’ museums: The Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts and-- if we're lucky-- the Maurice Sendak Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Today we look at who gets a writer's house and why-- and what sort of experience we’re looking for when we make pilgrimages to the desks of our literary heroes.

Facebook, courtesy of Daniel Sandoval

Daniel Sandoval is a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army and Connecticut resident who recently added the title of "author" to his list of accomplishments. 

Innovation in the Arts: The Search Continues

Jul 2, 2015
Adam Lyon / Flickr Creative Commons

It's hard to imagine: the idea that the arts, the grand bastion of our creative genius, may soon be bankrupt. But are new ideas really an unlimited commodity, or wont we one day exhaust them all? Some say we already have; that the bulk of what's being churned out by today's filmmakers, musicians and writers, are simply re-imaginings of the ideas of their predecessors.