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Pacific Ocean from across the straights.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

In 1520, explorer Ferdinand Magellan called it “peaceful.” At more than 60 million square miles, the Pacific Ocean covers 30 percent of the earth’s surface -- an area larger than the landmass of all the continents combined. It is our planet’s largest and deepest ocean basin, and it has stories to tell. So, where to begin?

Author Simon Winchester sees many good starting points. His new book is “Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers.”

Ari Berman's 'Give Us the Ballot'
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Marcie Sillman discusses the approach of another presidential election year with librarian Nancy Pearl, who recommends a new book that traces the evolution of American voting rights: "Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America," by Ari Berman.

Professor Robert Reich at Town Hall Seattle on Oct. 19, 2015.
Flickr Photo/Al Garman (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1TeSMCu

Robert Reich says he’s often stopped by strangers at airports. People walk right up to him, forego any niceties, and get straight to the question: “What are we going to do?”

Reich says that makes him optimistic, because it’s not just liberals asking.

Julianna Baggot's book, 'Hariet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders'
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Marcie Sillman talks with book hugger Nancy Pearl about a book that both surprised and delighted her: "Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders," by Julianna Baggott.

Gloria Steinem and Cheryl Strayed at Benaroya Hall on Nov. 8.
Courtesy of Bre LeBeuf

Gloria Steinem doesn’t like being called an icon. She sees herself as one in a tide of women who made and make change, so she doesn’t want to be put up on a pedestal.

But she is called an icon, and has come to represent the modern struggle for women’s rights and equality.

Rainn Wilson: 'I was on the chess team. Model United Nations. Computer club. Debate club. I played xylophone in the marching band, and the Shorecrest High School Highlanders wear kilts.  So I was a skinny, xylophone player in a dress.'
Flickr Photo/Jens Schott Knudsen (CC BY NC 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1QHS5SR

Rainn Wilson – Dwight Schrute on The Office – grew up in the Seattle area and attended the University of Washington. He spoke recently with KUOW Ross Reynolds about nerd-dom, the Baha'i faith and his new book, "The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith and Idiocy."

David Hyde interviews Seattle-based biologist Anne Bikle ad University of Washington Professor David Montgomery about their new book on the beneficial role microbes play in agriculture and human health called "The Hidden Half Of Nature."

Poet Rick Barot reads his poem "After Darwish."
Courtesy of Mara Barot

Washington state poet laureate Elizabeth Austen presents a "darkly beautiful love poem" from Tacoma-based poet Rick Barot.

In his poem "After Darwish," he gives voice to the perennial human longing for a love without conflict, without loss. His poem borrows a line from Palestinian  poet Mahmoud Darwish's "I Want From Love Only the Beginning." 

'The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?' by Dale Russakoff
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Marcie Sillman gets the week's reading recommendations from Nancy Pearl, "The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?" by Dale Russakoff. This new book chronicles one big effort in Newark, New Jersey to improve its public schools. 

Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon, 1784, by Thomas Prichard Rossiter and Louis Rémy Mignot.
Public Domain

In 1777 Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette was a French aristocrat looking for military glory. Since the French weren’t at war, the 19-year-old crossed the Atlantic to join George Washington and other American revolutionaries in their fight with the British.

That’s where Sarah Vowell comes in.

Courtesy of Dean Forbes, Seattle University

Legendary science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin visited Seattle University recently to meet with students and read from her novel "The Lathe of Heaven." The work was chosen as the common text reading for SU freshman and transfer students this year.

Pacific Ocean from across the straights.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Ross Reynolds talks to writer Simon Winchester about his book "Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators and Fading Empires and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers." 

Seattle Public Library central branch, 1914 (not the first iteration - that was in 1898 on the fifth floor of the Occidental Building in Pioneer Square).
Flickr Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1WDlL39

David Hyde travels back in time through the magic of radio with writer Knute Berger to the site of Seattle's first library.  

Nancy Pearl
KUOW Photo

Marcie Sillman talks with reading guru Nancy Pearl about a series of reprints of classic children's books, including "The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit," by Carol Ryrie Brink.

Ross Reynolds talks to Doug Merlino, author of "Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts," about the legacy of mixed martial arts in the Pacific Northwest — and the superstar it created.

Nancy Pearl
KUOW Photo

Marcie Sillman talks to librarian Nancy Pearl about a favorite "comfort book" -- one that she chooses to read over and over again. This week's recommendation is "Larry's Party," by Carol Shields.

Ross Reynolds interviews former King County prosecutor Christopher Bayley about his new book, “Seattle Justice: The Rise and Fall of the Police Payoff System in Seattle." 

Richard Dawkins illustrated with Dr. Spock.
Flickr Photo/Surian Soosay (CC BY 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1PJnmEH

Richard Dawkins is a prolific author, scholar and evolutionary biologist. His most recent book,“Brief Candle In The Dark,” is a follow-up to his earlier memoir, “An Appetite For Wonder.”

In it he chronicles the second half of his life, from his Oxford days through his brilliant and controversial career.

Nancy Pearl
KUOW Photo

Marcie Sillman gets a historically-inspired mystery novel suggestion from book maven Nancy Pearl. "Tabula Rasa," by Ruth Downie, is the latest in a series based on the history of the Romans in the British Isles.

Mario Gómez, the eldest miner, was the ninth to be rescued from the San José Mine during 'Operación San Lorenzo'
Wikimedia Commons/Gobierno de Chile (CC BY 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1G8kkaZ

In August 2010, the world’s attention was captured by the 33 Chilean miners trapped 2,300 feet underground at a mining facility located north of Chile’s capital, Copiapó.

Five years later, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar’s new book, "Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free," unveils the true story of each of the men. 

Shortlists for the National Book Awards went public Wednesday, halving the number of nominees to just 20 finalists. Among the books that have survived the second round of cuts, a few clear favorites are beginning to emerge — while others have been displaced by less familiar names.

The full lists of finalists can be found below.

Nancy Pearl
KUOW Photo

Marcie Sillman talks with librarian Nancy Pearl about a unique way of transmitting history: through poetry of the era. Pearl's reading recommendation this week is a new anthology from Michael Hulse and Simon Rae called "The 20th Century in Poetry."

Author Robert Dugoni at a book signing at the Tin Room Bar & Grill in Burien, Wash., in 2009.
Flickr Photo/Michael @ NW Lens (CC BY NC ND)/http://bit.ly/1LrjXIy

Ross Reynolds interviews best selling Northwest writer Bob Dugoni about his  new crime novel, "Her Final Breath," the second in his series focusing on Seattle detective Tracy Crosswhite. Dugoni used two local police officers to help get the facts of police procedure right: Seattle detective Jennifer Southworth, who was in part the inspiration for the Tracy Crosswhite character, and  King County Sheriff's department detective Scott Tompkins.

Updated at 8:09 a.m. ET

Investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich has been awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, the Swedish Academy announced Thursday. Alexievich is the first writer from Belarus to win the prize.

Alexievich won "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time," according to the citation for the award.

Ten years ago, Stephenie Meyer put a twist on the whole boy-meets-girl thing.

In her young adult novel Twilight, girl meets vampire and, later, werewolf. The supernatural romance between Bella and Edward sparked a saga that includes four best-selling books translated into more than 50 languages and five blockbuster movies.

Nancy Pearl
KUOW Photo

Marcie Sillman gets a reading recommendation from librarian Nancy Pearl, who suggests that if you are a fan of Terry Pratchett, you may like "The Murdstone Trilogy: A Novel," by Mal Peet.

Children's book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, points to a 3-year-old fan Marcus Gabrielli as he signed autographs in New York.
AP Photo/Mike Appleton

Did Maurice Sendak, author of "Where The Wild Things Are," talk to kids about his work?

It was 1991, and Sendak had come into the KUOW studios for an interview with Ross Reynolds on “Seattle  Afternoon.”  

Author Walter Mosley and his father in front of their home in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Waltermosley.com

People usually remember as far back as the generation that raises them, says writer Walter Mosley.

Mosley had come into KUOW’s studios to speak with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds. It was 1992, and his third book, "White Butterfly," had just been published.

Easy Rawlins, Mosley’s main character, emerged from those memories. Easy was a fixer, a guy who does favors for people.

Such a little bandaid for a big ouch!
Courtesy Bond Huberman

When writer Eula Biss was pregnant, she absorbed some of the fear about vaccines.   

“Fear is almost contagious itself, and so I caught some fears,” she told KUOW’s Jeannie Yandel.

Ross Reynolds interviews novelist Stephanie Clifford about her New York Times best seller “Everybody Rise,” the story of  a 26-year-old from Maryland who tries to fit in with the wealthy New York elite. It's a contemporary take on Edith Wharton's "House of Mirth". 

Clifford  based her book on her experience of culture shock after moving from Seattle to the East Coast. When she’s not writing novels Clifford is a a New York Times reporter covering courts.

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