NPR Staff

Investigative reporter Dawn Anahid MacKeen's latest story is one her mother always wanted her to tell. It's about her grandfather and how he survived the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians living in modern-day Turkey were killed. (Turkey doesn't recognize the slaughter as a genocide, but says they were the result of widespread conflict across the region.) In journals that became the seeds of MacKeen's new book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey, her grandfather told the story of how he escaped a forced march through the desert.

Many Americans know Dame Maggie Smith as the elegant and formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham. But at 81, Smith is now starring in a role that's a long way from Downton Abbey. In The Lady in the Van, Smith is Mary Shepherd — a homeless woman who lived in a derelict van parked in playwright Alan Bennett's driveway for 15 years.

"She was quite happy on the street," Smith tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "But I think Alan was so distressed watching her outside his window all the time that he thought he just had to help."

Our cars are getting smarter and smarter: They may help you park or switch lanes, dictate directions if you need them, link up with your phone to play your calls and music or make sure you stop before it's too late.

America Ferrera first gained attention from her role as the quirky, spirited Betty Suarez in ABC's Ugly Betty, a role that earned her a 2007 Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy — a first for a Latina.

Eva Salina has Dutch and Jewish roots and hails from a quiet California beach town — but musically, she's traveled a path far afield from her upbringing. The Santa Cruz native says she was headed in quite a different direction when she stumbled into a love for traditional Balkan vocal music.

When Eric Weiner sat down to write his new book he had to tackle a big question first: How do you define genius?

"That's not as easy as it sounds," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "I have a slightly unusual definition ... that a genius is someone we all agree on is a genius. It's a social verdict."

Weiner traveled all over the world — to Greece, Italy, Scotland and Silicon Valley — to investigate how genius takes root and grows. His book The Geography of Genius is an exploration of how great thinkers are affected by the places and times in which they live.

Western music may have been changing the world in the 1950s, but if you happened to be in Russia you were out of luck. State censorship was in full effect in the Soviet Union, and sneaking in, say, an American rock record was close to impossible. But a few industrious music fans managed to find another way.

Stephen Coates, the leader of a British band called The Real Tuesday Weld, happened on this secret history by accident. Several years ago on a tour stop in St. Petersburg, he was strolling through a flea market when a strange item caught his eye.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Kelly McEvers.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM TRAILER, "STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS")

The era of the real-life whodunit series is upon us. The podcast Serial first attracted legions of listeners drawn to the question of whether a young man should have been put in prison for the murder of his former high school girlfriend. HBO's documentary The Jinx focused on a trail of murdered and missing intimates of a troubled scion of a wealthy family.

Our food-obsessed media landscape has proven fertile ground for wordplay. There are now new words to describe every food niche or gastronomical preference.

Can't stand little kids running amok in your favorite Korean fusion restaurant? You might have bratophobia. And you could be a gastrosexual if you use your cooking prowess to attract that new special someone.

In his new book, Eatymology, humorist and food writer Josh Friedland has collected many of these neologisms in a 21st century food dictionary.

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