NPR Staff

Not long after publishing his first book, London designer Thomas Thwaites found himself with no real job and in relationship trouble. His book, The Toaster Project — about his attempt to build a toaster from scratch — was a huge success, but he found the whole business of being a celebrity thinker a hard act to follow.

To be human is to worry about getting by, doing better, finding love and accepting the march of mortality. Thwaites decided to try to escape the burden of being human — and he would do it by becoming a goat.

Jodie Foster has entertained audiences on screen for decades, but more recently, she's been behind the camera, directing. And in her newest film, Money Monster, it's a behind-the-scenes character who gets to call the shots.

George Clooney plays financial guru Lee Gates, who dishes out stock market tips and money advice on his hit TV show. It's business as usual until an intruder arrives on set and takes Gates hostage during a live broadcast. From that point on, it's his longtime producer Patty Fenn — played by Julia Roberts — who's really in charge.

Amir Attaran, a professor in the School of Public Health and the School of Law at the University of Ottawa, isn't afraid to take a bold stand.

He has written a commentary for the Harvard Public Health Review, published this week, with the headline, "Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means that Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed."

Louise Erdrich's new novel LaRose opens with a tragedy: An Ojibwe man is out hunting for deer and accidentally shoots and kills his best friend's 5-year-old son, Dusty. The hunter has a 5-year-old son of his own, and so, in keeping with a practice from the Ojibwe tribe's past, 5-year-old LaRose goes to live with Dusty's family.

Rapper Kate Tempest has become kind of a sensation, winning awards as both a performer and a poet. In her hit debut album, Everybody Down, she told the story of Becky and Harry, two Londoners in their 20s who are struggling with work, love and drugs.

Now she has expanded that story into a novel called The Bricks That Built The Houses. She tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that when the idea for the story first came to her, she knew it would be both an album and a book.


Interview Highlights

On Becky

For decades, Mother's Day has been a difficult time of year for Cheryl Coleman. She says it's been 35 years since she's seen her son.

Just a few months ago, the price of a barrel of crude oil reached a 30-year low. That price has inched up since then, but still, it remains 60 percent lower than it was in the summer of 2014.

On this Mother's Day, here's a bit of wisdom: "Having a child is usually just a long patience."

Those words are spoken by a nurse in the new novel Eleven Hours. Her name is Franckline and she works in a hospital maternity ward. That long patience she's talking about is the patience a woman needs when she's in labor — the patience to ride through hours of pain and worry.

A Bigger Splash positively swims with jealousy, intrigue and lust. Set on the rugged Italian island of Pantelleria, the new film features rock star Marianne Lane — played by Tilda Swinton — who's staying there with her lover, Paul. All's well until Marianne's ex, Harry, appears on the scene, full of manic energy and with his nubile young daughter in tow.

Another kink to the proceedings? Marianne's recuperating from surgery on her vocal cords, rendered virtually mute as she tries to recuperate.

Growing up Muslim in Canada had its challenges for Zarqa Nawaz, starting with school lunch. Her mother insisted on sending Nawaz off with home-cooked chicken that smelled of cumin, when all she wanted was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like all the other kids. Years later, Nawaz has turned a lifetime of culture clashes into a career as a writer and filmmaker. In her work, she uses humor to humanize a religion she loves, but others fear.

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