NPR Staff

Jane Hirshfield is one of our country's most celebrated poets. She's been a Guggenheim fellow. The Academy of American Poets bestowed her a fellowship for her "distinguished poetic achievement," an honor shared with Robert Frost and Ezra Pound.

Oh, and she's an ordained lay practitioner of Zen.

"I'm [also] a Universal Life minister, but that was just so I could marry some friends," she laughs.

Albert "Tootie" Heath is one of the most accomplished jazz drummers of the past 60 years. The 79-year-old has played with everyone from John Coltrane to Ethan Iverson, the piano player for The Bad Plus. Iverson and bassist Ben Street join Tootie Heath for his new album, Philadelphia Beat, named for the fertile jazz city of Heath's upbringing — where, as a young man starting out, he once piloted a group consisting only of the drums and two horns.

People don't talk about psychiatrists the way they talk about neurologists, dentists or vets. In fact, there are those who call psychiatry voodoo or pseudoscience; and, to be fair, the specialty does have a history of claims and practices that are now considered weird and destructive.

Chicago's reputation for dramatic crime and corruption predates Al Capone and Prohibition — by decades. In May, 1889, Dr. P.H. Cronin, an esteemed physician, was found in a sewer. He was naked, dead, and savagely beaten.

The investigation and trial caused an international sensation, and one of the world's first media circuses, over a story that involved Irish revolutionaries and reactionaries, secret societies, and even a French spy. Or was he British? All at a time when Chicago had been burned down, and was reborn as the fast-growing city in America.

There's a certain type of supporting character that author James Hannaham has always wanted to put into the spotlight. Critics call this character the "Magical Negro" — and you may recognize him from movies or TV shows. He's someone who "has incredible abilities and has been through some kind of hardship but it's usually a little vague ..." Hannaham tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "Whenever I see that character, I want the book or the movie or the TV show to take a detour and tell me that story."

Editor's Note: A version of this story originally ran in March 2010.

In the mid-19th century, Britain was an almost unchallenged empire. It controlled about a fifth of the world's surface, and yet its weakness had everything to do with tiny leaves soaked in hot water: tea. By 1800, it was easily the most popular drink among Britons.

The problem? All the tea in the world came from China, and Britain couldn't control the quality or the price. So around 1850, a group of British businessmen set out to create a tea industry in a place they did control: India.

For almost a century, explorers have searched the jungles of Honduras for a legendary lost city known as the White City, or the City of the Monkey God.

A team of explorers — including archaeologists and a documentary filmmaker — have just returned from an expedition in person, after using a new technology to search for evidence of ruins by plane.

"I think there's only one interesting story ... and that's struggle," says writer Thomas McGuane. Loners, outcasts and malcontents fill the pages of McGuane's latest book — a collection of short stories titled Crow Fair. There's a divorced dad who takes his young son out for an ill-fated day of ice fishing; A restless cattle breeder who takes a gamble on a more lucrative and dangerous line of works; A guy who abandons his blind grandmother by the side of a river to go get drunk, and chase after a corpse he's spotted floating by.

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho's new book Barefoot Dogs is billed as a collection of short stories, but it could easily be called a novel. Each piece provides a perspective on one horrific event: the abduction of the patriarch of a wealthy Mexican family by a drug gang.

Throughout the book, readers see how this affects children, grandchildren, mistresses and others, as the tragedy follows the family through exile in the United States and Europe

Pages