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Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon. (Courtesy of the publisher)

Book News: Author Of Sci-Fi Classic 'Flowers For Algernon' Dies

by Annalisa Quinn
Jun 18, 2014

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The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Daniel Keyes, the author of the high-school staple "Flowers for Algernon," died on Sunday, according to his publisher. He was 86. Keyes' short story "Flowers for Algernon," which he eventually turned into a novel, is narrated by a mentally disabled adult named Charlie Gordon. Charlie, who has an IQ of 68, undergoes an experimental procedure to increase his intelligence after the experiment is successfully performed on a mouse named Algernon. "If the operashun werks good Ill show that mouse I can be as smart as he is even smarter," Charlie says. "Then Ill be abel to reed better and spell the werds good and know lots of things and be like other pepul." Charlie's IQ shoots to 185, but when Algernon starts behaving strangely, Charlie knows that he, too, will begin to deteriorate. Keyes' publisher Tor wrote in a statement that "Flowers for Algernon was an key example of science fiction that tackled problems of depth and emotional consequence; Keyes made a giant contribution to the discussion of science fiction as a serious art form."
  • Ron Childress has won the 2014 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for his manuscript And West Is West. The winner gets $25,000 and a book deal with Algonquin Books. The award was created and funded by the novelist Barbara Kingsolver "to promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." According to PEN, "And West Is West travels from California to New York to Florida, from America's deserts to its cities, from military bases to art galleries to a lonely prisoner's cell, chronicling how the average person, the person who is not pulling the levers of power, can be corrupted by systems that ask them to do questionable things."
  • NPR Books launched a new series this week called "Book Your Trip," which asked for "books that featured themes or memorable scenes of transportation and transit," and organized them by form of transportation, including horses, balloons, and rocket ships, as well as some more quotidian ways of getting around. NPR's Beth Novey explains: "There were some pretty straightforward categories — train, plane, bike, boat ... but it didn't take long for things to get squirrelly. Do LSD trips count? (Yes!) Can we call 'time' a mode of transit, or do we have to say time machine? (Eh. Still not sure. We couldn't agree.) Do the dogs and cat who travel by paw in The Incredible Journey qualify for the 'by foot' list? (Sure, why not!) What do we do with James and the Giant Peach? (Create a big 'miscellaneous' list, obviously.)" Check out all the categories here.
  • In an interview with The Associated Press, Boy Meets Boy author David Levithan talks about why it's important for LGBTQ characters to be well represented in YA novels: "So much of the pain that LGBT kids go through is because they feel distanced from all of the narratives they've been given. They've been told that everyone grows up a certain way, and now their own way is diverging from that."
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Top 100 Young Adult Novels (Harriet Russell)

Your Favorites: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels

Aug 7, 2012

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It's almost a cliche at this point to say that teen fiction isn't just for teens anymore. Just last year, the Association of American Publishers ranked Children's/Young Adult books as the single fastest-growing publishing category.

Which is why we were only a little surprised to see the tremendous response that came in for this summer's Best-Ever Teen Fiction poll. A whopping 75,220 of you voted for your favorite young adult novels, blasting past the total for last year's science fiction and fantasy poll at, dare we say it, warp speed.

And now, the final results are in. While it's no surprise to see Harry Potter and the Hunger Games trilogy on top, this year's list also highlights some writers we weren't as familiar with. For example, John Green, author of the 2012 hit The Fault in Our Stars, appears five times in the top 100.

Selecting a manageable voting roster from among the more than 1,200 nominations that came in from readers wasn't easy, and we were happy to be able to rely on such an experienced panel of judges. But deciding what does and doesn't count as a young-adult novel isn't an exact science. If you're surprised not to see some of your favorite books among the winners, you might want to look at this blog post, which describes the thinking behind the tough calls.

Summer, like youth, is fleeting. But the books we read when we're young can stay with us for a lifetime. Here's hoping that when the school bell rings in a few short weeks, it will find you engrossed in just such a memorable read, selected by the NPR audience. Enjoy. (For your convenience, here's a printable version of the top-100 list, and here's a list of the 235 finalists.)

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Illustration: A robot reads a book. ( )

Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

Aug 11, 2011

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More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in. The winners of NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles. Over on NPR's pop culture blog, Monkey See, you can find one fan's thoughts on how the list shaped up, get our experts' take, and have the chance to share your own.

A quick word about what's here, and what's not: Our panel of experts reviewed hundreds of the most popular nominations and tossed out those that didn't fit the survey's criteria (after — we assure you — much passionate, thoughtful, gleefully nerdy discussion). You'll notice there are no young adult or horror books on this list, but sit tight, dear reader, we're saving those genres for summers yet to come.

So, at last, here are your favorite science-fiction and fantasy novels. (And a printable version, to take with you to the bookstore.)

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