Petra Mayer

Journalist and activist George M. Johnson's new memoir is an unvarnished look at growing up black and queer in New Jersey and later Virginia. Johnson draws readers into his own experiences with clear, confiding essays — from childhood encounters with bullies to sexual experiences good and bad, to finding unexpected brotherhood in a college fraternity, all of it grounded in the love and support of his family.

Grady Hendrix's new novel stars a group of determined women who confront a supernatural threat in their community — and while vampires aren't real (as far as we know), Hendrix says The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires has its roots in his own real life.

Cartoonist and literary jokester Tom Gauld usually lampoons classic novels and the predicaments of the writing life. But in his new book, Department of Mind-Blowing Theories — collecting comics from his ongoing column in New Scientist magazine — he turns his pen to the realm of science (and occasionally science fiction).

You've seen it all over your Twitter feed. Half your friends are probably playing it — yes, Nintendo's Animal Crossing is the video game of the moment, and it is a great way to keep yourself soothed and distracted.

Gene Luen Yang is known as a cartoonist — the author of American Born Chinese and the New Super-Man comics, he's received a MacArthur genius grant for his work, and the Library of Congress named him as its Ambassador for Young People's Literature in 2016.

But for years, Yang was a computer science teacher at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif., and his new book Dragon Hoops, chronicles a year he spent observing the school's incredibly talented basketball team as they strove for the state championship.

N.K. Jemisin is fresh off of winning three Hugo Awards in a row for her powerful Broken Earth trilogy — set on a world wracked with constant geological upheavals, where only the despised and exploited people known as orogenes can calm the quakes.

Judy Vogel's life is falling apart. Or really, it HAS fallen apart: Once, she was a successful children's book author whose work was adapted for TV. Now, a couple of flops and a nasty case of writers' block have reduced her to grinding out content for a wellness website; her estranged husband Gary, whose anxiety has stunted his music career, lives in the basement because they can't afford to divorce — a situation they're hiding from their sullen teenager Teddy. And her best friend is dying of cancer.

Flatiron Books, publisher of the controversial new novel American Dirt, has cancelled the remainder of author Jeanine Cummins' book tour after what it called "specific threats to booksellers and the author." This follows several individual event cancellations. [Disclosure: Flatiron Books, publisher of American Dirt, is among NPR's financial supporters]

The "riot baby" in Tochi Onyebuchi's slim, devastating new novel is Kev, born amidst the chaos of the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Kev is the sort of character who's often reduced to a statistic, in books or outside them: He's young, he's black, he's in prison — while out in the world, his sister Ella is the one who wields mysterious, terrifying magical powers.

Goodbye to Mr. Creosote. Goodbye to the naked organist. Goodbye to Brian's mum, and to all her screeching sisters. Goodbye to Terry Jones, who has consumed his final wafer-thin mint.

Violet Speedwell is a "surplus woman." She lost her brother and her fiancé to World War I, and she's been living quietly ever since, learning to accept that she's not going to have a husband or a family.

Violet is the protagonist of Tracy Chevalier's new novel, A Single Thread. When we meet her in 1932, she's had enough of sitting at home, taking care of her grieving, difficult mother. She wants a life of her own, so she moves to nearby Winchester, where she meets a group of women who make embroidered kneeling cushions for Winchester Cathedral.

Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale ended on a cliffhanger: The rebellious handmaid Offred stepping into a mysterious black van, on her way to freedom — or to arrest.

Petra: It's Saturday! (Or actually, as we're posting this it's now Sunday) I feel the need to reiterate this, lest I forget what day it is or which direction is up! Saturday tends to be the day people bust out their best cosplays — I saw some truly amazing getups, including countless Deadpools (Deadspool?), a lot of women dressed as Loki and Doctor Strange, a really well-done armored Cersei Lannister, Missandei of Naath carrying her own head, and my personal favorite, Logan and Jessica from Logan's Run, complete with life-clocks in their palms.

Mallory: It's Friday! By this point in the con, the crowds are much crowdier, the lines for everything are much longer, the cosplay is starting to come out ... we're in the full swing of things, folks.

Welcome to the 50th San Diego Comic-Con!

A good convention is almost a ritual space — a time and place away from time and place. Once you step through that glass door and swipe your badge, you could be anywhere, anywhen; the hours pass by outside and you don't notice. It's almost as if the rest of the world doesn't exist — you are at Comic-Con. You have always been at Comic-Con. What I'm trying to say, here, is that I've barely been here 24 hours and I already don't know which way is up or really what day it is. Mallory, I hope you're less disoriented than I am.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Knock knock!

Who's there?

THE FUNNIEST PANEL OF SUMMER POLL JUDGES WE'VE EVER HAD!

Voting in this year's Summer Reader Poll is in full swing — and if you still haven't voted, you can do that here — so it's time to meet our expert panel of professional funny people ... who I wish were writing this copy, because maaaan they're all way more hilarious than I am. But in fact, they'll be helping curate our final list of 100 favorite funny reads.

Voting for the 2019 poll is now closed. Thanks for your input! Stay tuned – the final list of 100 favorite funny books is coming in August!

If you could use a laugh right about now — and I think we all could — the NPR Books Summer Reader Poll is here for you! This year, we want to hear all about your favorite funny books and stories, and we don't just mean comedy writing. If it makes you laugh (or giggle, or even snicker quietly), we want to hear about it!

Before she was a novelist (and occasional NPR contributor), Arkady Martine was a Byzantine historian and an apprentice city planner — and that expertise is on display in her new book A Memory Called Empire. It's the story of an ambassador from a small, independent space station on the edge of a huge, devouring galactic empire, who arrives in the imperial capital and is almost immediately launched on a wild ride of intrigue, courtly manners, poetry and plotting.

Renowned British actor Albert Finney has died at 82; his family confirmed the death in a short statement, saying he "passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side."

The Aspen Institute has announced this year's nominees for its annual prize — 16 titles (including several short story collections and quite a few debut authors) that, in the Institute's words, address "a vital contemporary issue."

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Back in May, we asked you to tell us about your favorite comics and graphic novels — and you rose to the challenge. We got more than 7,000 nominations, so while you all are lolling around in the frosty air conditioning (or outside in the sun ... weirdos) we've been working away to whittle those thousands of nominations down to an awesome list of 100. Also, OK, I read a lot of Elfquest. For work! Really!

It was a bright hot day in June. Or possibly July. And the clocks almost certainly weren't striking thirteen, because they don't do that in this country.

But it WAS the summer of 1984. I was 9 years old, and my father was handing me a beat-up paperback with an anonymous-looking white and green cover; his old college copy of George Orwell's 1984. "Here," he said. "I think you're ready for this." My dad has always had a weirdly inflated sense of my intellectual abilities.

I was in New York for the weekend, visiting a friend who lives on West 27th Street. We'd been in at an event in Brooklyn; in the cab home, the radio had been saying something about an explosion in Chelsea, on 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh — four blocks from her home.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ELISE HU, HOST:

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, one of the biggest phenomena isn't just inside the convention center, it's all around. Yes, there are billboards and installations trumpeting things like Doctor Strange and Fear the Walking Dead. But the crowds of people here aren't looking up; they're mostly staring down at their phones, playing Pokémon Go.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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."

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