This month, NPR's Backseat Book Club hits the high seas for an adventurous novel called Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus. The book begins in 1841, and is based on the sprawling true-life tale of Manjiro, whose destiny was almost determined before birth as a son in a long line of fishermen. But a storm blew his life on a new course, and he became one of the first Japanese to set foot in America.
In this photo from 2009, Syrian President Bashar Assad (left) stands with then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a welcoming ceremony for Saleh at the presidential palace in Damascus. As the violence continues in Syria, the U.S. and other countries are hoping to convince Assad to step down from power, as Saleh did.
Credit / AP
This frame grab made from an amateur video provided by Syrian activists on Monday purports to show the massacre in Houla on May 25 that killed more than 100 people, many of them children. The level of violence may erode Russia's support for Assad's regime.
Republican Mitt Romney is running on the strength of his business background. He says he knows how to fix the economy, in part because of his success at Bain Capital. But history is not necessarily on Romney's side. Very few businesspeople have made it to the White House.
The transition from business to politics isn't necessarily an easy one.
President Obama greets diners at Reid's House Restaurant in Reidsville, N.C., last fall. While there, he talked to a college student about the importance of education — one of the ideas Obama comes back to often.
NPR is examining what the American dream means to our culture, our economy and our politics. On Morning Edition, we'll explore what Republicans think of the American dream. In this installment, the view from President Obama.
The American dream — the idea that in this country anyone can rise from humble beginnings and succeed — is deeply woven into our national psyche. It's a promise that draws immigrants to our shores. And it's a staple on the campaign trail.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is leading a $2 billion health care experiment in the state, aimed at changing the way the sickest people in Oregon get health care. Here, he speaks during a press conference in Portland earlier this month.
There was a time when U.S. House colleagues Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman, Democrats from neighboring congressional districts in northern New Jersey, called themselves friends.
But congressional redistricting means Pascrell and Rothman will face off in the state's Democratic primary on Tuesday for one congressional seat. And despite their long friendship, the race has been anything but collegial.
Franz Kafka (shown here circa 1905) is considered one of the 20th century's most influential writers. Before his death in 1924, he had published only short stories and a single novella, The Metamorphosis.
Credit Natan Dvir / Polaris
Franz Kafka, who died in 1924, studied Hebrew in Germany during the last two years of his life. This is one of eight notebooks of his Hebrew studies that are part of the Israeli National Library's collection. Israel and an elderly Israeli woman are wrangling over Kafka documents that may include unpublished manuscripts.
Credit Natan Dvir / Polaris
Eva Hoffe, shown here in a garden near her home in Tel Aviv, has Kafka's papers, but has not allowed outsiders to see them.
The author Max Brod was Kafka's friend, literary agent and biographer. Kafka wanted him to burn his papers upon his death. But Brod published some of the work and bequeathed the remainder to his secretary, Esther Hoffe (shown here).
A mountain-born treasure of American folk music, Doc Watson, died Tuesday in North Carolina at age 89.
His manager said in a statement that Watson died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, after abdominal surgery last week.
Watson was born in Deep Gap, N.C., in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in a three-room house he shared with eight brothers and sisters. He revolutionized not just how people play guitar but the way people around the world think about mountain music.
Congress is considering legislation allowing the government to search through Internet traffic for early warnings of cyberattacks. The bills are controversial — worries about government surveillance have led to protests online.
The government does have a tool that could calm fears about this kind of legislation — it just doesn't use it.
America is the land of opportunity — that's the bedrock of the American dream. Many expect each generation to do better than the last.
That dream of economic mobility is alive and well for Pam Krank and her husband, Brian McGee. The two are proud owners of The Credit Department Inc., a successful business in the Minneapolis suburb of Mendota Heights.
"Mostly manufacturing companies around the world will hire us to study their customers and tell them how much ... unsecured credit they should grant to each customer," Krank explains.
It's a long, detailed look at how the president has "placed himself at the helm of a top secret 'nominations' process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical."
For the past two months, the Philippines and China have been locked in a standoff over territory in the South China Sea that both countries claim.The Philippine navy accused Chinese boats of fishing illegally in the area. Protesters in the Philippines are shown here marching in Manila earlier this month.
Credit Philippine Navy / AP
Filipino naval personnel look at giant clam shells onboard a Chinese fishing vessel at the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea last month. Both countries claim the area, but say they are seeking a diplomatic solution.
An Afghan girl takes part in a boxing training session around in a training room at the Kabul stadium, in Kabul in January 2011.
Credit Ahmad Shafi for NPR
Saber Sharifi has been recruiting and training female boxers in Afghanistan over the past five years. He has often faced resistance from the families of the girls, but there are now 30 boxers on the team, and one will be going to the London Olympics this summer.
A local resident entertains visitors to the Kawah Kamojang geothermal field in West Java. He puts a length of bamboo to the steam coming from the ground to make a whistle, then throws soda cans into the vent, which shoots them high into the air. The Dutch colonial government drilled Indonesia's first geothermal wells at Kamojang in 1926, when the country was still known as the Dutch East Indies.
Credit Yosef Riadi for NPR
Geysers puffing steam and bubbling, sulfurous hot springs are plentiful in the Kawah Kamojang geothermal field in West Java. The field is located in a caldera, the crater of a volcano that has erupted and collapsed.
Indonesia, the country with the world's largest number of active volcanoes, is betting that all the hot rocks will provide a clean and reliable energy source for the future.
The country is believed have 40 percent of the world's geothermal energy resources. But making geothermal energy economically feasible will require adjusting the country's heavily subsidized energy prices. And that issue is a political hot potato.