NPR book editor Petra Mayer joins host Jeremy Hobson to talk about the new "Hunger Games" prequel, "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," and give a few other book suggestions — both new and previously published.
"Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" by Suzanne Collins
"If you remember, President Snow was — up until the very last minute — the Big Bad of the original Hunger Games series, and he was pretty gruesome with his bloody breath and his fixation on roses. So this is his backstory, and Collins does an interesting job of building the world of Panem just after the rebellion, long before the Capitol was the sort of glittering, Nero's Rome palace of decadence it became. It's not as tight or exciting as the original series (and obviously we know how it ends), but if you just want to spend time in that world, you'll enjoy it."
"Get a Life, Chloe Brown" by Talia Hibbert
"Well, in true romance fashion, we have to end with a Happy Ever After, because readers know, it's not a romance unless it's got a happy ending. One of my favorite books recently has been "Get a Life, Chloe Brown," which is absolutely delightful. The heroine is a computer geek and mostly a shut-in because she has chronic fatigue syndrome, and at the beginning of the book she a near-miss with an out of control car, and decides she's going to GET A LIFE. Which of course involves the hot, red-headed handyman at her apartment complex. It's a wonderful read — it's got all the romance fluff and angst you want, but it's very grounded in the realities of Chloe's life with chronic illness. And if you enjoy it, the sequel is out next month, about Chloe's sister Dani."
"The Giver Quartet" by Lois Lowry
"I feel slightly odd recommending this series because I feel like EVERYONE ought to have already read it — but if you haven't, get you to a library! Lois Lowry’s The Giver is the grandmommy of the recent YA dystopia boom, and once you've read it, you'll see its influence all over the place. It's a subtler than a lot of books that came later; emotions drive the plot — love, particularly the love of parents for children, longing, greed, fear — but it may be even more powerful."
"The Murderbot Diaries and Network Effect" by Martha Wells
"You might think the name sounds kinda scary, but I promise Murderbot is utterly delightful. Murderbot — because that's what it calls itself — is a cyborg, part human part robot, basically a super-powered bodyguard who's owned by a corporation and rented out to private citizens as protection. But this particular unit has hacked its own systems and surreptitiously freed itself from corporate control. and all it really wants to do is be left alone to watch its favorite shows. If you liked Ann Leckie's Ancillary books — which are also very richly imagined sci-fi about an AI's development into a fully-fledged person — but you wish the main character was just more grumpy and sweary, I promise you will love Murderbot."
"Hollywood Park" by Mikel Jollett
"This is a really striking memoir by Jollet, who plays in a band called the Airbone Toxic Event. His family was part of Synanon — which started as a drug rehab program in the late 1950s but became a viciously violent cult. And part of it was that kids were separated from their parents and raised in a sort of orphanage — so the book starts with Mikel's mother breaking him and his brother out of the orphanage and taking them to live with their grandparents. Obviously we know what he became, since he's a well-known musician and now an author — but the book is absolutely harrowing, describing what life was like for him and his family in the aftermath of the cult. It's gorgeous and absolutely gripping."
"From Scratch" by Allen Salkin
"I read a statistic that in April, Food Network was the number one cable network overall on weekends, and the number two non-news network during the week, and I can tell you from personal experience it's pretty much the number one network all the time in my house. So I decided it was a good time to re-read Salkin's exhaustive and extremely entertaining history of the network. I should point out that this book came out in 2013 so it's not entirely current but still, if you're one of those people who loves a good Wikipedia wormhole — you know, you get interested in something and then you have to learn all about it, this is a great read. Plus there's lots of gossip!"
This segment aired on June 5, 2020.