© 2024 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

NPR staffers share their fiction picks from Books We Love

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Who doesn't love a good book this time of year? It gets real dark real early, so you may as well stay inside curled up with a great story. But what story to dive into? Books we love, NPR's list of the best reads from the year, has hundreds of recommendations. Today, we bring you some fiction suggestions from four of our colleagues.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: This is Asma Khalid. I'm a White House correspondent for NPR, and I also co-host the NPR Politics Podcast. The book I Want to shine a light on is called "The Covenant Of Water" by Abraham Verghese. He's a doctor who also happens to be a novelist. And the story in this book is, on the surface, a family saga that spans three generations who are dealing with this strange condition of drownings. But ultimately, the book is really a lot deeper.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KHALID: It's a book about a bygone era in India with lessons of love, pain and human understanding. It's a book that I could not put down because the storytelling and the writing was so beautiful, and the characters were so complicated. And ultimately, the book gives you a way to find hope in the face of repeated tragedy. It was one of the best books I have read about South Asia in years.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: I am Neda Ulaby, an arts correspondent here on NPR's Culture Desk.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ULABY: I'm recommending a novel called "Western Lane." It was a finalist for the Booker Prize. It's about a young girl in a London suburb. She's 11, the daughter of Indian immigrants, whose family has become emotionally frozen and fragile after a devastating tragedy. The girl, Gopi, starts playing squash just by chance, and it turns out she's a child prodigy on the level of Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ULABY: The author, Chetna Maroo, is herself a squash player, and she's an enthralling and graceful writer. The Booker judges singled out "Western Lane" especially for its language, praising its, quote, "crystalline prose that also feels warm and tender," which can be a difficult balance to strike.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LINAH MOHAMMAD, BYLINE: My name is Linah Mohammad, and I'm a producer for All Things Considered. I'm recommending C. Pam Zhang's novel "Land Of Milk And Honey."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOHAMMAD: It's set in a future where climate change becomes so bad that a mysterious smog just engulfs the Earth. Crops die. Biodiversity vanishes. In the middle of all of this, a super-rich guy buys a mountaintop on the border between Italy and France, and he hires a chef.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOHAMMAD: She's cooking up these lavish meals using incredible and sometimes disgusting ingredients. But it's not just a story about food. It's this exploration of human nature, the allure of pleasure. It left me questioning the balance between survival and indulgence and just how much we're willing to pay for pleasure in a world that's dying.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: My name is Cory Turner, and I'm a correspondent covering education. The book I love this year is called "The Making Of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece" by Tom Hanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TURNER: It is the fictional story of the making of a kind of movie. I don't think Hanks has ever made, a comic-book superhero blockbuster. The book is a love letter to the movies and the people who make them. The heroes of this story toil largely behind the camera - the producers and assistants, director and driver, hairstylists and hard-working, clairvoyant grabbers of coffee and tacos and everything else the makers of movies want or need to keep from starving or giving up or losing their minds. There's a humanity to this book that has always been Hanks' greatest gift as an actor. Remember that scene in "The Money Pit"...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MONEY PIT")

TOM HANKS: (As Walter Fielding) Help.

TURNER: ...When a baby-faced Hanks is trapped in the carpet of his collapsing life?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MONEY PIT")

JOE PONAZECKI: (As Montgomery Shrapp) Are you in there, Fielding?

HANKS: (As Walter Fielding) Yeah. I'm here. My chest is constricted. I can't shout.

TURNER: This book is kind of like that - hilarious and tragic, ridiculous and heartbreakingly sincere all at once.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RASCOE: That was Cory Turner, who suggested "The Making Of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece," Linah Mohammad recommending "Land Of Milk And Honey," Neda Ulaby with "Western Lane" and Asma Khalid, who recommended "The Covenant Of Water." For more ideas on what to read, you can find the full list of books we love at npr.org/bestbooks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.