NPR Staff

Jason Dessen, the protagonist of the new novel Dark Matter, is just a regular guy: He's 40, a devoted husband, a professor of physics at a small college, and a loving father to a teenage son.

But one day he's drugged and kidnapped and wakes up to find he's in a very different world. Not just a different world — a different life.

Blake Crouch joins NPR's Elise Hu to talk about the new book, and about why he loves imagining alternate realities.

At the outset, the Internet was expected to be an open, democratic source of information. But algorithms, like the kind used by Facebook, instead often steer us toward articles that reflect our own ideological preferences and search results usually echo what we already know and like.

Since his debut novel, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers has finessed a line between fact and fiction. His latest, Heroes of the Frontier, is a novel about a dentist who, after a bad breakup, packs up and moves to Alaska with her two young children.

Alaska is "a working state" that's "not too precious about itself," Eggers tells NPR's Scott Simon. "It's still very raw and there's still so much of it that you can discover, and be alone."

John Evans, co-owner of California's Diesel, A Bookstore, recommends three vacation reads: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan and Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk by John Doe and Tom DeSavia.

In the summer of 2004, after two decades of estrangement, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Susan Faludi received an e-mail from her father. It read:

Dear Susan,

I've got some interesting news for you. I've decided that I have had enough of impersonating a macho aggressive man that I have never been inside.

The letter was signed, "Love from your parent, Stefánie." Faludi's 76-year-old father, Steven, had had gender reassignment surgery.

In 1987, the book The Art of the Deal elevated Donald Trump from playboy developer to best-selling author.

From the opening paragraph of Trump's self-portrait as a shrewd and creative dealmaker:

"I don't do it for the money. I've got enough, much more than I'll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That's how I get my kicks."

Lately, it has felt like the terrible news just won't stop. As soon as you've wrapped your head around one story, you're pummeled by another — and then another.

When you got up this morning, did you dress for the weather? Your wife? Throw on your lucky socks?

NPR's show and podcast Invisibilia has been taking a long look at what we wear — from sunglasses to artist's frocks and hoodies — and asking how much our clothes affect us, sometimes in ways we're not aware of, or might not even like.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is hosting a meeting this week with his counterparts from other nations in the coalition against the Islamic State.

The gathering comes at a particularly turbulent time. Turkey, a key member in that coalition, is still reeling from an unexpected coup attempt. Meanwhile, ISIS appears to be on the defensive, having steadily lost territory over the past year or so.

NPR's Renee Montagne spoke with Carter on Tuesday at the Pentagon. Here are the highlights:

Big data has been considered an essential tool for tech companies and political campaigns. Now, someone who's handled data analytics at the highest levels in both of those worlds sees promise for it in policing, education and city services.

For example, data can show that a police officer who's been under stress after responding to cases of domestic abuse or suicide may be at higher risk of a negative interaction with the public, data scientist Rayid Ghani says.

Summer vacations: We wait for them all year. We pour time, energy and money into planning them. Expectations can run unreasonably high.

On this week's show, a summer edition of Stopwatch Science with Daniel Pink that explores what social science research has to say about vacations: How to make them better and what pitfalls to avoid.

Stopwatch Science

When the school year ends, some kids go to camp, summer school or daycare. But a lot of these options are expensive for families who have to come up with creative, cheaper alternatives, whether that means sending kids off to the city's rec center, or to stay with grandparents.

NPR's Lynn Neary spoke about the economic hardships of summer with KJ Dell'Antonia, who's written about the topic for The New York Times.

Cynthia Ozick is revered by those who love literature. She's written novels, but also short stories and essays. Her fiction has been nominated for various awards and she's received high praise from critics as well as her fellow writers.

But you won't find her on best-seller lists. Ozick seeks neither fame nor fortune from her writing. For Ozick, she feels it a necessity to write. "I can't not," she says.

Here's a different kind of thriller, of the sort often called "literary": Susie Steiner's Missing, Presumed follows British detective inspector Manon Bradshaw as she investigates the disappearance of Edith Hind, a university student from a well-off family.

For Jason Aaron Baca, a model from Los Gatos, Calif., his inspiration for romance cover modeling came randomly.

It sparked when he walked into a bookstore simply looking for something to read. There he saw a romance book cover.

"I said, 'You know what? This is something that I can actually do. This is something that, you know, it's going to take a lot of work to get a body like those guys on the cover," he tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "At that moment right there I kind of realized that this is something I am definitely going to go after."

If you've stepped foot in a comic book store in the past few years, you'll have noticed a distinct shift. Superheroes, once almost entirely white men, have become more diverse.

There's been a biracial Spider-Man, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, and just last week, Marvel announced that the new Iron Man will be a teenage African-American girl.

Joining this lineup today is Kong Kenan, a Chinese boy who, as part of a reboot of the DC comics universe, is one of four characters taking up Superman's mantle.

Journalist Gay Talese has never shied away from controversial topics. He took on the mafia in Honor Thy Father and dove deep into America's sex life in Thy Neighbor's Wife. But even Talese paused when he first heard about the Manor House Motel in Aurora Colo., back in 1980. Innkeeper Gerald Foos had outfitted his motel with a special platform which allowed him to spy on his guests — and he invited Talese to take a peek as well. Talese, a man of seemigly insatiable curiosity, did just that. But Foos demanded anonymity, so Talese decided not to write about the experience.

What does it mean to be middle class in America?

When All Things Considered's Ari Shapiro asked people in New York City's Times Square, the answers were all over the place.

"You're struggling, like, paycheck to paycheck, and you're going, 'Oh shoot, I want to go into H&M, but you know what, I'll do it next week when I get paid again,' " said Erin Kennedy, a 44-year-old who runs a gym in the Bronx.

Building manager Bob Berger, who's in his 60s, also identifies as middle class, but this New Yorker's experience differs greatly.

"The middle class is disappearing" has been a standard line during this election cycle. As it turns out, it's not wrong.

Before the folk rock band The Lumineers released their newest album, Cleopatra, in April, they played a series of secret shows. Emphasis here on "secret."

"There was a large concern about the album being sort-of released via grainy video and leaked out online," said Wesley Schultz, the band's lead singer.

So the band decided to lock up people's phones — not take them away, exactly, but just lock them up for the show. Like a timeout.

Nicole Dennis-Benn's debut novel takes readers to a Jamaica that tourists rarely visit. "This is no paradise. At least not for us," she writes.

The characters in Here Comes the Sun are working-class women. They struggle with money, sexuality and the pressures of tourism squeezing their small community of River Bank.

Twenty-eight years ago, Morning Edition launched what has become an Independence Day tradition: hosts, reporters, newscasters and commentators reading the Declaration of Independence.

It was on this date 240 years ago that church bells rang out over Philadelphia, as the Continental Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Below is the original text of the Declaration, alongside photos of the NPR staff members and contributors who performed the reading.

Suki Kim spent 10 years researching and visiting North Korea. In 2011, she spent six months teaching at a university in Pyongyang — and working undercover as a journalist.

During that time, Kim secretly documented the lives of 270 of North Korea's elite — young men who were being groomed as the country's future leaders — at the center of the country's regime change.

Donald Trump laid out his plan for the economy, criticizing globalization and policies that promote free trade, in a speech in Monessen, Pa., on Tuesday.

NPR's politics team has annotated Trump's speech. The portions we commented on are bolded, followed by analysis and fact check in italics. We will update further.

The speech follows:

Sorry to disappoint Trekkies who still believe, but the actual USS Enterprise did not really take up much space.

That famous starship of Mr. Spock and Capt. James Tiberius Kirk in the original Star Trek TV series — which turns 50 this year — was a model. Quite a large one, to be fair: 11 feet long and about 200 pounds, made out of blow-molded plastic and wood. But not life-sized.

And for more than a decade, it hung in the gift shop of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C.

Can a computer write a sonnet that's indistinguishable from what a human can produce? Computer scientists at Dartmouth College tried to answer that question with a competition that NPR's Joe Palca reported on as part of his series, Joe's Big Idea.

For the last couple of months, we've brought you our series, Hanging On, about the increasing pressure on the middle class in 2016.

Now, we bring you Hanging On: 2029.

What's your night sky look like?

For most of the world, it's not a pretty sight. A new study has found that 80 percent of the world can't see the stars at night because of light pollution.

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