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Books

There's no question the Back to the Future trilogy has entrenched itself in the collective pop-culture imagination for even longer than Reagan could have imagined when he adopted the movie's catchphrase about not needing roads to appeal to The Youth. It's been a video game (twice), a theme park ride three times over, and it's common knowledge even for a generation who wasn't born until after the third installment was released.

The moment in Kate Atkinson's A God In Ruins when protagonist Teddy Todd lies to his granddaughter about an old photograph isn't a grand climax. It happens in passing, in half a sentence: She asks about the stain on an image of Teddy and his long-dead wife Nancy. It's actually the blood of one of his World War II air crew, who died in his arms after their plane was shot down. But Teddy claims it's tea, "not because she wouldn't have been interested but because it was a private thing."

The 1950s was a hinge decade for noteworthy and nation-changing civil rights events across the United States, including Brown v. Board of Education in Kansas, the bus boycott in Alabama and the National Guard-protected integration of Central High School in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, there was also a revolution brewing in bookstores and public libraries.

By design or by happenstance, a handful of children's picture books were focal points of the American movement toward integration in the '50s.

From Texas Standard:

Clay Smith of Kirkus Reviews brings us two hard-hitting books to read during April showers – both of them tackling issues swirling about in popular media and the news.

In fiction, Smith recommends God Help the Child by Toni Morrison. In the book Morrison, the only living Nobel prize winner for literature, tackles race and childhood.

Jar Jar Binks is one of the most reviled Star Wars characters. But in the hands of Ian Doescher, author of William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First, Jar Jar Binks is a savvy political operative who only plays the fool. His goal is to establish peace between his people, the Gungans and humans.

As second novels go, this one should prove a doozy. More than five decades after Harper Lee published her first — and, so far, only — novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee's publisher has announced that she plans to release a new one. The book, currently titled Go Set a Watchman, will be published July 14.

What if you could drink the elixir of life — sip from a magical spring that would make you live forever? Would you do it? That's the question at the heart of Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting, a celebrated book for young readers that's marking its 40th anniversary this year.

In the book, 10-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles upon a secret spring and the family the spring has given eternal life to. The father, Angus Tuck, takes Winnie out in a rowboat to explain how unnatural it is to live forever; how the great wheel of life has to turn:

David Williams

A Houston author who went to high school in San Antonio returns to the Alamo City for a bookstore visit.

“I am Walker Smith; I write historical novels.”

Smith has a fascinating backstory.

“My mother was a sort of beatnik type — a very literary beatnik type, [who] listened to classical and jazz. My father was a jazz musician. He was a drummer.”

They didn’t have money, but they used their library card a lot. And she could tell she had a literary bent of mind.

“It was either going to be music or it was going to be literature, so it ended up being both.”

Fans of Ayn Rand rejoice. The New American Library announced today that Rand's novel Ideal is finally being published in the form in which she intended it.

Rand, who died in 1982, wrote Ideal as a novel in 1934. But she didn't like it and set it aside. Later that year, she reworked it as a play, which The Wall Street Journal notes had its New York premiere in 2010.

Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews three jazz books out this holiday season—a singer's biography, a pianist's autobiography, and a fat coffee table book. Whitehead says they're all worth a look, though he has a couple of quibbles — and also a confession.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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