Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

When Carolyn Murnick met her childhood best friend Ashley, it was like love at first sight. They were in elementary school — Ashley had just moved into the area and they became inseparable, sharing all their secrets and dreams. As often happens, as they got older they drifted apart. Ashley would move to Los Angeles, start dating young celebrities and making money dancing at clubs. Carolyn lived in New York and worked in the literary world.

There are some themes in Alisyn Camerota's new novel that may sound familiar: A young upstart reporter is trying to make it at a national news network run by a ratings-obsessed media mogul. And then there's a female senator, firmly rooted in the establishment, going up against a political newcomer, fresh from Hollywood. Camerota started writing this book many years ago, but the events of 2016 make Amanda Wakes Up feel particularly prescient.

You probably have a mental image of what NASA's space missions look like — rockets blasting off into the sky, fiery clouds of exhaust after liftoff — but what do they sound like?

Who do we become when we lose a parent? That transformation and the loss of identity and the security that surrounds it is at the heart of Zinzi Clemmons' novel What We Lose. The main character Thandi struggles with the illness and death of her mother and her place in the world as the daughter of an African-American father and a mixed-race South African mother.

In the novel The Windfall, a newly minted tech millionaire buys a big fancy house, a flashy car and leaves his middle-class life behind to rub elbows with the superrich. What follows is a delightful comedy of errors where he and his family navigate the unexpected pressures and pleasures of newfound wealth in modern India.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, tennis great John McEnroe triumphed three times at Wimbledon and four times at the U.S. Open. But all his achievements on the court did not prepare him for life off of it. After his professional career ended, he dabbled as a talk show host and as an art collector and appeared in movies and TV shows.

When we are facing a challenge in life, we're often encouraged to talk about it with a confidante, a family member or to seek professional counsel like a therapist. But some people find more comfort in silence.

In her new memoir, Sit, Walk, Don't Talk, Jennifer Howd takes readers into the world of silent meditation retreats, where, as you may imagine, there's scarcely any talking.

Howd says the practice of mediation is a viable option for pretty much anyone seeking an escape from our sometimes too-noisy world.

Actress Salma Hayek has never had anything handed to her. "I have had to fight, very, very hard for every little mediocre part I ever got," she says. When Hayek first arrived in the U.S., she was told to go back to Mexico — that she'd never be more than a maid. "They told me: You'll never work. I got to work. Then they said: It's going to be over at 35. And I'm 50. ... I take so much pleasure in proving everyone wrong. It's such a great satisfaction."

Alan Alda's father wanted him to become a doctor, but it wasn't meant to be. "I failed chemistry really disastrously ... " Alda says. "I really didn't want to be a doctor; I wanted to be a writer and an actor."

Which is exactly what happened, but Alda didn't leave science behind entirely. His new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, is all about communication — and miscommunication — between scientists and civilians.

For many people, New Orleans is practically synonymous with jazz; it's the birthplace of both the music and many of its leading lights, from Louis Armstrong to Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. But now, one organization is working to draw attention to the city's history of opera music.

Margot Sanchez has big dreams of fitting in at the new, expensive prep school her family has sacrificed to send her to. But it's summer and instead of going to the Hamptons with her rich, white friends, she's stuck working at her family's business in the Bronx.

Margot is the protagonist of Lilliam Rivera's new young adult novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez. Rivera explains that Margot is "being punished because she stole her father's credit card to charge some pants and clothes for herself, and her punishment is to work off her debts at her father's supermarket."

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You may know Paula Poundstone from the smash public radio hit other than this program: Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!

But she's also an accomplished author, now of two books — all the more an accomplishment because each took nearly a decade to write. Her latest is The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, and it's full of experiments Poundstone undertook to try to unlock the secrets happy people must surely know.

A male boss brushes up against his female employee. Off the record, a male politician makes suggestive remarks to a female reporter. These are just a couple of examples of sexual harassment that may be all too familiar to some career women.

What does it mean to be human? In Lidia Yuknavitch's new novel The Book of Joan, what's left of the human race is orbiting above the Earth, sexless and ageless, prisoners in a technological hell. Their lives are preserved through growing limbs and grafting skin. Presiding over it all is a one-time billionaire celebrity who evolved through media and technology into a despot.

The CW's Jane the Virgin is both a send-up of and a love letter to Latin telenovelas. So, not surprisingly, its plot is a little complicated. In the first season, Jane (a virgin) becomes pregnant after being accidentally artificially inseminated with sperm from Rafael, a married businessman who starts to develop feelings for Jane. On top of that, Jane's father, telenovela star Rogelio De La Vega, is back in her life. From there, things only get more dramatic.

A few years ago Laura Kipnis — a tenured professor at Northwestern — published an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In it she argued that the rules governing sexual relationships between students and professors had become draconian. The response was intense, eventually growing to include a Title IX investigation filed against Kipnis by two graduate students.

It's 2075, and America has been beset by flooding linked to climate change. The President has banned the use of fossil fuels. The southern states have broken away, looking to protect the coal mining industry. A rabid civil war is taking place. A weakened America sees new empires in China and the Middle East meddling in its affairs — and Mexico has annexed most parts of the Southwest, from Texas to California.

War movies are generally told from male perspectives, says director Niki Caro — but that doesn't have to be the case.

Her new film, The Zookeeper's Wife is an adaptation of Diane Ackerman's 2007 book. It's based on the diaries of Antonina Żabińska, who, along with her husband Jan Żabiński, saved hundreds of Jews during World War II by sheltering them in the Warsaw Zoo.

"I saw in this material a new kind of Holocaust movie ..." Caro says, "Because it was a woman's perspective and about a woman's experience of war."

Christina Ricci's film career began early — at just 10 years old, she played the adorably malevolent Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. From there, she went on to play fascinating and often dark and damaged characters, making a name for herself as an actress who could tap into complex roles.

Looking at Claire Rosen's photographs can feel like walking into someone else's dreams. One of her images shows a young girl about to be dragged into the sky by a pack of flying toy horses. Another series shows horses, hedgehogs, cockatoos and camels posed before different sumptuous feasts, as if having their own last suppers.

Undergoing treatment for cancer is hard enough by itself. And for many cancer patients who spend most of their time in a hospital, it gets even harder with the loss of basic comforts. The hospital's sterile environment, the fluorescent lights and the disposable gowns do little to make medical treatment more bearable. Nikla Lancksweert, wanted to do a little something to help with that dehumanizing experience, focusing on an alternative for those uncomfortable hospital gowns.

Like most comedians, Cristela Alonzo draws upon her own experiences for her source material. That means, as a first-generation American, Alonzo has also always tackled challenging topics in her comedy. She now lives in California, but she grew up just 9 miles from the Mexico border, in San Juan, Texas.

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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Coffee lovers, alert! A new report says that the world's coffee supply may be in danger owing to climate change. In the world's biggest coffee-producing nation, Brazil, the effects of warming temperatures are already being felt in some communities.

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