Greg Hernandez / Creative Commons

B.J. Novak cut his writing teeth on comedic TV scripts, most notably for "The Office" where he also played Ryan Howard.

Eventually, he got a book contract. Instead of a comic memoir, Novak set to work writing short fiction in One More Thing: Stories and More Stories.

Novak’s father was a ghost writer whose book Iacocca sold millions of copies but only paid a flat fee—from this, Novak learned how to negotiate the publishing world. He landed a six-figure, two-book contract with the most prestigious literary publishing company, Alfred A Knopf.

Let me start by saying that my friend who’s been in the travel business for more than 50 years has never been asked to arrange a trip to the Congo.

Named by the National Book Foundation as one of five authors under 35 to watch, Molly Antopol has distinguished herself as master of the short story in her debut collection The UnAmericans: Stories.

Antopol’s stories are mostly of American immigrants relocating for political reasons, but are not familiar tropes of an immigrant story. The humanity and vulnerability show how the universal dynamics of family and romantic love are equally nurturing, distancing, tender and messy.

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Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

When Gary Shteyngart was a young child, his mother would call him "Solnyshko," which means "little sun."

But after the Shteyngarts left Leningrad for the United States in the late 1970s, his parents were disappointed with his aspirations of being a writer. His mother melded English and Russian to come up with the pet name, "Failurchka." The translation? Little Failure. Shteyngart has adopted this name as the title for his new memoir.

With a new year upon us, this is when many of us stop to perform mental audits of our lives. I can’t help you in the gym, but I can offer you these 90 seconds of self-improvement reading in the areas of art, history and literature.

The folks who gave us the coffee-table book The Louvre: All the Paintings have accomplished the same feat with The Vatican. The slip-cased volume contains every Old Master painting on display in the Vatican, as well as hundreds of additional masterpieces and treasures in the papal collection, featuring 976 works of art in all.

When French President Francois Mitterrand and his party are seated next to Daniel Mercier at a Parisian bistro, Daniel prolongs his meal to savor his close proximity to the man, imagining he is the fourth guest at the President’s table.

When Mitterrand inadvertently leaves his hat behind, Daniel takes possession of it, wearing it as his own.

Fletcher Powell / KMUW

Time and again we've been warned not to judge a book by its cover. But when you’re looking at one of the more than 1,000 book covers designed by Chip Kidd, it’s difficult to follow that advice. Especially when you understand the amount of research and planning that have gone into each of his cover designs.

So now, Chip Kidd has written a design book titled Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design. Even though the title is a play on his name, it’s designed for “kids” ages 10 and up.

The Goldfinch is my first experience reading Donna Tartt. The title refers to a painting by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius, the greatest Old Master you've never heard of-- Rembrandt's pupil, Vermeer's teacher. Fabritius was killed when a gunpowder explosion destroyed half the town of Delft and all but a handful of his paintings.

Theo Decker is 13 years old when he sees "The Goldfinch" in contemporary New York City. In fact, the same day he first sees the painting, he takes it as he escapes from the bombed museum where it had been exhibited.

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The title of Rhidian Brook's new novel, The Aftermath, refers to the years immediately following World War II.

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman begins in 1963 with the Kessler Family spending their annual vacation at a lake cabin rental in Maine.