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Books And Literature

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Mike Westhoff has always been blunt and brutally honest. He’s a cancer survivor who has multiple times beaten long odds. He’s a football innovator who established himself over 32 seasons as arguably the NFL’s greatest special teams coach. He has been a relentless fighter and constant achiever all his life. The 74-year-old Westhoff is as candid as ever in “Figure It Out,” an entertaining autobiography published by Mascot Books. There are plenty of chuckles, eyebrow-raising comments and inspiring lessons shared from his football journey including his years with the Colts, Dolphins, Jets and Saints.

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Longtime New Yorker writer and editor Roger Angell has died. He was 101. The New Yorker announced his death. Other details were not immediately available. Angell, the son of founding New Yorker editor Katharine White and stepson of E.B. White, contributed hundreds of essays and stories to the magazine over a 70-year career. He also edited such authors as John Updike and Garrison Keillor. Angell also was a past winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award, formerly the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

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Author and journalist Wesley Morgan is this year’s winner of the William E. Colby Award for military and intelligence writing. He was cited for his book “The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley.” The Colby award, a $5,000 prize named for the former ambassador and CIA director, is given for “a major contribution to the understanding of military history, intelligence operations or international affairs.” Morgan was a college student when he began embedding with military units in Afghanistan, more than a decade ago. He has since reported on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for The New York Times, the Washington Post and other outlets. 

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It's been nearly 10 years since "The Office” went off the air on NBC, and the show is as popular as ever. During the early days of quarantine, it found a new generation of fans on Netflix. It now plays on Peacock. Former cast members Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey have capitalized on that interest in recent years with a re-watch podcast called “Office Ladies” and now a new book about their time on the show and their friendship. The book is called “Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There.”

Author Yiyun Li has received one of the top honors for short story writers, the PEN/Malamud Award for “exceptional achievement. Li, 49, has published the collections “Gold Boy” and “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” along with five novels and two nonfiction books. She has received numerous other awards, and teaches creative writing at Princeton University. Two of her short stories, “The Princess of Nebraska” and the title work from “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” were adapted into films by Wayne Wang. The Malamud award has previously been given to Alice Munro, Saul Bellow and George Saunders among others. 

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Washington Commanders draft pick Chris Paul knows there's another more prominent Chris Paul in the sports world. Chris Paul the football player is also trying to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry. He and former Tulsa teammate Corey Taylor just released their first music video and have 100 or so more songs stashed away to be released later. This spring the veteran NBA guard with the same name is guiding the Phoenix Suns on another playoff run. The other Chris Paul is just getting started with his careers in music and the NFL and could have bigger aspirations outside sports.

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Robert Jones Jr.‘s historical novel “The Prophets” and Anthony Veasna So’s posthumous debut story collection “Afterparties” are among the winners of the 34th annual Triangle Awards, given for outstanding LGBTQ literature. So, who died suddenly in 2020 at age 28, became the first posthumous winner of the honor for best LGBTQ fiction. Jones’ novel, which imagines a love affair between two enslaved Black men, was named the outstanding debut fiction book. Other winners include Ari Banias’ “A Symmetry” for best trans and gender-variant literature, Cheryl Boyce Taylor’s “Mama Phife Represents” for best lesbian poetry and John Keene’s “Punks” for best gay poetry.

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Katsumoto Saotome, a Japanese writer who gathered the accounts of survivors of the U.S. firebombing of Tokyo in World War II to raise awareness of the massive civilian deaths and the importance of peace, has died. He was 90. A native of Tokyo, Saotome was 12 when he narrowly survived the firebombing of the city on March 10, 1945, that turned its densely populated downtown area into an inferno. More than 105,000 people are estimated to have died and a million made homeless in a single night, but the devastation has been largely eclipsed in history by the U.S. atomic bombings of two Japanese cities several months later. Saotome wrote books and opened a museum about the firebombing.

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Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and author Frank Wilczek has been honored with this year's prestigious Templeton Prize, recognizing individuals whose life’s work embodies a fusion of science and spirituality. The 70-year-old is renowned for his boundary-pushing research into the fundamental laws of nature. The John Templeton Foundation says Wilczek has “transformed our understanding of the forces that govern our universe” while also applying the insights of his field to “great questions of meaning and purpose.” The Templeton is one of the world’s most lucrative individual awards, currently at more than $1.3 million. Past winners include Jane Goodall, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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English actor Daisy Edgar-Jones stars this summer in the big screen adaptation of “Where the Crawdads Sing." Delia Owens debut novel became an unlikely phenomenon thanks at least in part to Reese Witherspoon, who selected it for her book club in 2018 and, with longtime film executive Elizabeth Gabler, acquired the rights to produce a feature film. Edgar-Jones plays the part of Kya, a girl who grows up largely alone in the marshes of North Carolina. She said director Olivia Newman has "imbued the story with a lyricism and a fairy tale quality that’s so beautiful.” The film opens in theaters nationwide on July 15.

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Oscar winner Geena Davis has a memoir coming out this fall, titled “Dying of Politeness.” HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, announced Tuesday that the book will be published Oct. 11. The publisher says Davis will share “laugh-out tales” about her modeling career and provide candid accounts of such films as “Tootsie,” “The Accidental Tourist” and “Beetlejuice” and co-stars such as Susan Sarandon of “Thelma & Louise,” Madonna from “A League of Their Own” and ex-husband Jeff Goldblum from “The Fly.” Davis says in a statement that the book will reveal how acting helped transform her into a person in charge of her own life.

The long-rumored memoir by Bono, U2′s frontman, is coming out this fall. Alfred A. Knopf announced Tuesday that the book, first signed up in 2015 but not officially disclosed at the time, will be called “Surrender.” Reports that the signer-activist had a deal date back to at least 2019. The book’s subtitle is “40 Songs, One Story,” a reference to the structure of “Surrender”: 40 chapters, each named for a U2 song. The band’s many hits include “With Or Without You,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Joshua Cohen’s “The Netanyahus,” a comic and rigorous campus novel based on the true story of the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking a job in academia, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Many of the winners in the arts Monday were explorations of race and class, in the past and the present.James Ijames’ “Fat Ham,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” set at a Black family’s barbecue in the modern South, received the Pulitzer for drama. The late artist Winfred Rembert won in biography for “Chasing Me to My Grave," as told to Erin I. Kelly.

An author’s online essay on why she used plagiarized material in a novel pulled earlier this year has itself been removed after editors found she had again lifted material. Jumi Bello’s  “I Plagiarized Parts of My Debut Novel. Here’s Why” appeared just briefly Monday on the website lithub.com. Bello’s debut novel, “The Leaving,” had been scheduled to come out in July. Riverhead Books canceled it in February. Lit Hub editor Jonny Diamond said Monday that the plagiarized material concerned passages about the history of plagiarism; several commentators on social media had found similarities between Bello’s writing and work from other sources.

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A Reuters photographer who was killed while covering fighting in Afghanistan was part of a team that took home the Pulitzer for feature photography. Danish Siddiqui and his colleagues Adnan Abidi, Sanna Irshad Mattoo and Amit Dave won for images depicting the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Their work, which was moved from the breaking photography category by the judges, “balanced intimacy and devastation, while offering viewers a heightened sense of place,” the committee wrote. Siddiqui had been embedded with Afghan special forces in July and was killed as the commando unit battled for control of a crossing on the border between southern Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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First lady Jill Biden has thanked U.S. troops deployed to Romania, where they are serving as a check against Russian aggression. Biden on Friday began a four-day trip to Europe to see first hand the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She served Friday dinner to U.S. service members, and delivered bottles of ketchup, which elicited cheers from the troops because there is a shortage of the condiment on the base. Biden also videotaped reading a children's book with Staff Sgt. Sharon Rogers in a virtual story time session for Rogers’ son, Nathan. Biden will spend Mother's Day meeting with displaced families in a Slovakian village on the border with Ukraine. 

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A private university in Mississippi has awarded the third Angie Thomas Writers Scholarship. It is named for the author of “The Hate U Give” and other bestselling young adult novels. Incoming freshman Dee Holden will receive four years of tuition, room and board at Thomas’ alma mater, Belhaven University in Jackson. Holden is a U.S. citizen living in Yantai, China. She submitted creative writing samples to apply for the scholarship. The university says Thomas took part in an online meeting April 25 to tell Holden about the award. Belhaven established the scholarship to honor Thomas, a 2011 graduate.

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Best-selling author Dave Eggers is offering high school seniors in South Dakota’s second-largest city free copies of his book “The Circle” and copies of four books by other authors that were removed from the district’s schools. School administrators in Rapid City deemed the books inappropriate for high school students and and marked the district’s copies as surplus to be destroyed. Eggers said, “The mass destruction of books by school boards is an unconscionable horror, and the freethinking young people of South Dakota shouldn’t be subjected to it." Eggers said Rapid City seniors can receive any of the books that were pulled from the high school at no cost to them by emailing collaborator of his.

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Primary elections in Ohio have set the stage for a more competitive phase of the midterm primary season, with closely watched races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia scheduled for later this month. In Ohio on Tuesday, “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance, buoyed by Donald Trump's endorsement, won the contentious Republican Senate primary. Vance’s win ends a bitter contest that, at one point, saw two candidates nearly come to blows on a debate stage. Ohio was seen as a test of Trump's hold on his party. The former president has staked his reputation as a GOP kingmaker on his ability to pull his chosen candidates across the finish line.

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Janelle Monáe has brought a bit of the future to the Met Gala, donning a glittering Ralph Lauren look. The Grammy-nominated singer left their hats at home for a sparkling headpiece attached to a black and white figure-hugging gown. They playfully tell The Associated Press that the look is “gilded glamour from the future. Monáe, who recently said they are nonbinary, has been focusing heavily on sci-fi recently, releasing a book called the “Memory Librarian” that elaborates on the Afrofuturistic album “Dirty Computer.” Monáe is one of hundreds of invitees at Monday's Met Gala, which raises money for the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute.

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Former ABC News anchor Charles Gibson has essentially disappeared from public view since his 2009 retirement. But he's back now, prodded by his daughter Kate. The two are doing a podcast together on books and writing called “The Book Case." The debut episode released Monday featured a conversation with Oprah Winfrey. The two will recommend books to read and interview authors, as well as make an effort to encourage young people to read more. Gibson said he wanted to cut the cord and not hang around following retirement, which he said he's enjoying. He says it's hard to watch the news these days because he's always editing it in his head.

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Poetry magazine, one of the country’s oldest and most prominent literary publications, will for the first time have a Black editor. Adrian Matejka, an educator, former state laureate of Indiana and prize-winning poet, begins his new job May 16. Matejka’s hiring was announced Tuesday by the Poetry Foundation, a Chicago-based organization that oversees Poetry. Like numerous literary institutions, the Poetry Foundation has been addressing criticisms over diversity and social awareness. Two years ago, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, the president and board chairman resigned amid criticism over the foundation's response.

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Sonia Sanchez has received the Jackson Poetry Prize, an $80,000 award that continues a recent wave of lifetime achievement honors for the 87-year-old poet, educator and activist. “Over her 7-decade career, Sonia Sanchez has distinguished herself as a major figure in American letters,” the judges’ citation reads in part. Sanchez was a founding member of the Black Arts Movement in the late 1960s and is widely regarded as a pioneering teacher of Black studies. Her poetry collections include “Homecoming,” “Love Poems” and “Shake Loose My Skin.”

Legislation greatly expanding the rights of parents to know anything their children tell a teacher or school counselor and allowing them to sue if information is withheld is headed to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. The parental rights bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Kaiser was approved by the House on Monday. A second measure requiring schools to list all their library books and allow review for new books also passed. Neither got any Democratic votes. The broad expansion of the state’s parents’ bill of rights allows lawsuits against any school district or official for violations and requires them to prove they did not interfere with the parent’s rights.  

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Nobel laureate Louise Glück is still breaking new ground at age 79. The celebrated poet has completed her first prose narrative. “Marigold and Rose: A Fiction” runs 64 pages, unfolding like a fable as Glück imagines the thoughts of infant twins. “Marigold and Rose” originates in a very contemporary way. Videos of Glück's granddaughters Emmy and Lizzy were sent to her online by her son from California during a time she was unable to visit because of the pandemic. She told The Associated Press in a recent phone interview that watching the videos became an obsession to her.

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