Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer is an editor (and the resident nerd) at NPR Books, focusing on genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads. You can also hear her on the air, and on the occasional episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Previously, she was an associate producer and director for All Things Considered on the weekends. She handled all of the show's books coverage, and she was also the person to ask if you wanted to know how much snow falls outside NPR's Washington headquarters on a Saturday, how to belly dance, or what pro wrestling looks like up close and personal.

Mayer originally came to NPR as an engineering assistant in 1994, while still attending Amherst College. After three years spending summers honing her soldering skills in the maintenance shop, she made the jump to Boston's WBUR as a newswriter in 1997. Mayer returned to NPR in 2000 after a roundabout journey that included a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a two-year stint as an audio archivist and producer at the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She still knows how to solder.

Author Lois Duncan has died at the age of 82. She was the queen of teen thrillers, a pioneer in the young adult suspense genre.

Long before vampires sparkled or hunger was a game, Duncan was writing tense, scary stories for teenagers. Books like Down a Dark Hall and Stranger With My Face kept a generation of readers up at night.

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Beatrix Potter is famous for her charming tales of mice and rabbits, most notably Peter Rabbit, who was given this piece of sage advice.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIOBOOK, "THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT")

The free-speech organization PEN American Center says it is giving its 2016 PEN/Allen award to author J.K. Rowling. The prize honors "a critically acclaimed author whose work embodies its mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity."

The most prestigious prizes in American children's books were given out this morning: the John Newbery Medal for literature and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustration.

Matt de la Peña becomes the first Hispanic author to win the Newbery, for his book Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson. It's the story of a young boy riding the city bus with his grandmother, and wondering why their family doesn't have a car.

We get so many books in the mail — hundreds every week — that we can't read them all, and sometimes all we can do with a book is say hey, that looks interesting, and file it away on the shelf.

That's what happened to Anita Anand's book Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, which was definitely the One That Got Away from me this year. I put it aside with vague good intentions, and then I forgot about it — until Princess Sophia ended up in the news.

Marlon James has won this year's Man Booker literary award for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. James is the first Jamaican-born author to win the prestigious prize, which has only been open to writers outside the British Commonwealth for the past two years.

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Historical romance is big business — it's the most popular subgenre of a billion-dollar industry. You can read about pirates, knights, Regency rakes and just about anything else. But for a long time, you couldn't read about black history. Until Beverly Jenkins came along.

Jenkins calls herself a "kitchen table historian." She doesn't have a history degree, but she does have a mission: To light up the parts of black history you don't learn in school.

The swarms of fans are gone from San Diego, and the elaborate displays that spilled out of the city's convention center during Comic-Con have been dismantled. Nonetheless, the studios and networks are already planning next year's show, because Comic-Con is the sweet spot for a peculiar kind of advertising that's at its peak here.

It's called immersive — or experiential — marketing, and it has taken off in the past few years. I ventured onto the convention floor to check out some of the displays, like the the giant installation for the TNT network show The Last Ship.

Nicole Perlman was the first woman to get a screenwriting credit on a Marvel Studios movie, for last year's big hit Guardians of the Galaxy.

Perlman has been tapped to write the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, too, but first she's navigating a slightly less galactic challenge: Writing her first comic book.

What better place to prepare for that than San Diego Comic-Con?

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: Making delicious, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs in only about an hour — with a surprising piece of kitchen equipment.

While our intern is diligently tallying up the 18,000 nominations that came in for the Summer of Love reader poll (sorry, Intern Laura!), we thought we'd take the time to introduce you to the expert panel that will help us wrestle this massive list down to 100 finalists.

We're bringing back our famous summer reader poll this year, and as the days get longer (and the nights get hotter), we think it's the perfect time to celebrate romance.

Whether you love historicals, paranormals, inspirationals, young adult, Amish, romantic suspense, contemporaries (or, like some people around here, you'd be perfectly happy never leaving the Regency), we want to hear about it! And with your help, we'll spend this summer putting together a great big bonbon box of 100 delicious love stories.

Famed British crime writer Ruth Rendell died this past weekend in London. She was 85 and had suffered a stroke in January.

Best known for her long-running Inspector Wexford series — which was adapted for television — she pioneered a psychological approach to thriller writing. She also wrote darker, more contemplative books as Barbara Vine. In her later years, she was made a baroness and took up Labour Party politics.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

The protest over a free speech award to Charlie Hebdo continues to grow.

Earlier this week, six authors withdrew from the PEN American Center's annual gala in response to the organization's decision to give the French satirical magazine its Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

Tiny Cooper is your new boyfriend (well, not mine, he doesn't swing that way). Readers met the flamboyant high school football player and would-be musical impresario as a side character in the 2010 novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson and fell in love — about as quickly as Tiny did with each of his 18 exes.

Fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett was prolific: He wrote more than 70 books, dozens of them about the Discworld — a flat planet borne through space by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle. Pratchett died Thursday at age 66. He had been suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Much like Fifty Shades of Grey, After is an epic, erotic fan fiction that's being repackaged by a major publishing house. But where Fifty Shades was inspired by the Twilight books, After is loosely based on real people: The British boy band One Direction. And the first volume of After has just hit stores — but let's rewind a little, to those words, "fan fiction." I know, you're probably making a face right now, but bear with me.

Australian author Garth Nix anticipated the boom in young adult literature almost 20 years ago with Sabriel, a dark and delightful tale of a young woman from a long line of necromancers tasked with making sure the dead stay dead. Sabriel and its sequels Lirael and Abhorsen were set in two neighboring countries divided by a mysterious wall: to the south, unmagical Ancelstierre, roughly analogous to 1920s England — and to the north, the Old Kingdom, saturated by magic and menaced by the roaming Dead.

This is a story about love. It's a story about bad things happening to good people, about memory and perseverance — and comic books. But most of all, it's a story about a voice. A mellow, smooth voice, just right for late-night jazz.

The final book in Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy comes out this week — The Magician's Land. It's a literary fantasy, inspired by Narnia and Harry Potter, that tells the story of what happens to brilliant young wizards when they grow up and have to deal with the world.

Grossman was promoting the novel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, and as I discovered, he's a fantastic — and slightly terrifying — person to see Comic-Con with. He has no problem taking unspoken insecurities and dragging them out into the light.

This afternoon, millions of fez-wearing fans around the world will tune in to a very special episode of Doctor Who. The venerable British sci-fi series turns 50 today — though the time traveling alien Doctor himself is probably somewhere on the wrong side of 1,000.

From scrappy, low-budget beginnings (bubble-wrap monsters, anyone?), Doctor Who has become a global phenomenon. Only soap operas can match it for longevity and popularity. So what's the secret to the Doctor's appeal?

Go to your nearest paperback rack, and odds are, you'll see two or three, or four, or — well, a lot of books by Debbie Macomber, an author The Sacramento Bee has dubbed "the reigning queen of women's fiction."

Macomber has 170 million books in print; the newest, Rose Harbor in Bloom, has just been released. Her publisher, Random House, celebrated Macomber's selling power earlier this month with a fan retreat at the Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville, where 400 women gathered for a weekend of tea, knitting and literary friendship.