Lynn Neary

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The Library of Congress today named Tracy K. Smith as the nation's new poet laureate. NPR's Lynn Neary spoke with her about her new role.

Murder. For writer Anthony Horowitz, that's where it all starts. He says everyone is fascinated by murder — just look at Foyle's War, his BBC mystery series. The show is set in the U.K. during World War II, but that wasn't its selling point.

"If I had gone to the BBC and said I wanted write about, I don't know, the social history of 1940 to '47, they would have probably said no," Horowitz explains. "When I said, 'I've got a whole series of terrific murders which take place in that time,' they opened the door."

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Novelist Ann Brashares' parents divorced when she was young. "It wasn't an amicable split ..." she says, "And in some way the divisions just kept going, even to this day they do." Those experiences inspired Brashares — who wrote the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series — to write her new novel, The Whole Thing Together.

Many people are drawn to Emily Dickinson because of her mysterious life — the brilliant poet rarely left her family home in Amherst, Mass., and her work wasn't recognized until after her death.

But British film director Terence Davies says it was her poetry, more than her personal life, that drew him in. Davies discovered Dickinson on television. An actress was reading one of her poems and afterwards Davies immediately ran out to buy one of her collections.

There's a role reversal underway in political publishing. For years, conservative publishers have thrived as their readers flocked to buy books aimed directly at taking down the party in power. Now, with Republicans in control, they have to rethink their strategy. Left leaning publishers meanwhile are hoping to take advantage of the new political landscape.

Regnery books — which marks its 70th anniversary this year — is the grand old dame of conservative publishing. Dinesh d'Souza, Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham have all published with Regnery.

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Nickolas Butler's second novel, The Hearts of Men, unfolds over three generations at a Boy Scout camp in Wisconsin, and explores what it means to be a good man in a changing America.

"I was sorting through some feelings about being a young dad with a young son and thinking about my own dad," Butler says. "... And there you go. ... I had this book inside me at this time. It needed to get out."

In the 1950s and '60s, if there were any children's books in a house, at least one of them was likely to be a Little Golden Book. With their golden spines and brightly colored pictures, they begged to be grabbed off a shelf by a curious child — which is exactly what their creators intended. Those beloved books celebrate their 75th birthday this year.

First introduced shortly after the start of World War II, many of them — such as The Tawny Scrawny Lion, The Saggy Baggy Elephant and The Poky Little Puppy — have become classics.

Pinball is big business in Japan. Known as pachinko, the multibillion-dollar industry is dominated by Korean Japanese, an immigrant community that has been unwelcome and ill-treated for generations.

Min Jin Lee's new novel Pachinko is about much more than the game. It's about the story of one family's struggle to fit into a society that treats them with contempt.

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