President Obama's favorite book of 2015 wasn't policy analysis or political history, he tells People magazine. The president's favorite book of the year was a novel, "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff. The book, which tells the story of a marriage from each spouse's point of view, was a finalist for this year's National Book Award. When she heard the news, Groff, who lives in Florida, tweeted "I just died, came back to life, read again, died again."
But what was Groff's favorite book of the year? Two poetry collections are among her top picks: "How to Be Drawn" by Terrance Hayes and "The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out" by Karen Solie. Her complete list is at The Millions, which is in the middle of its annual -- 13th annual! -- Year in Reading, in which dozens of writers and critics share the favorite books they've read during the year, new and not. This year's contributors, so far, include Terry McMillan, Joyce Carol Oates, Saeed Jones, Alexander Chee, Celeste Ng, Claire Messud, Emily St. John Mandel and Garth Risk Hallberg, longtime site contributor and author of one of the biggest books of the fall, "City on Fire."
Newly announced California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia talks to KPCC about his plans for the position. Gioia, former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, knows his way around grant programs. "It would be very easy for a poet laureate to spend most of his or her time in the Bay Area or the Los Angeles area," he said. "I want to reach out to smaller towns, rural communities, mid-sized towns -- places that usually don't get the kind of cultural programming that the metropolitan centers do." The California poet laureate, who serves for two years, gets a $5,000 annual stipend.
Love it or loathe it, it was one of the most successful storytelling efforts of 2015: Serial is back. In its first season, the wildly popular podcast did a deep dive into a forgotten murder case, asking if there was reason to believe Adnan Syed, who is in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, might be innocent. In Season Two, Serial examines the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal, who was a prisoner of the Taiban for five years; his release was first celebrated, then Bergdhal was charged by the Army with desertion for walking away from his base in Afghanistan, which led to his capture. The first episode, "Dustwun," is up now, and subsequent installments will appear weekly until it reaches a conclusion.