Mallory Yu

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, big parts of the U.S. economy just turned off. Voluntary social distancing and lockdowns, like those during the first wave in March, were necessary to help "flatten the curve" of COVID-19's spread throughout the country, but these lockdowns had ripple effects on the economy.

The new podcast Anything for Selena, from NPR member station WBUR, doesn't begin with the late singer's biography or her most popular songs. Instead, it starts on the U.S.-Mexico border, with a narrator describing the creosote plants that grow there in vivid sensory terms.

"It has this unforgettable smell when it rains," the voice says. "It's slightly floral, but mostly it's this very specific, cool earthy desert aroma. And there's usually a calm clear breeze, which carries these concentrated little pockets of fragrance."

After breaking through in 2019 and collaborating with Beyonce in early 2020, Megan Thee Stallion has been riding an even bigger wave of popularity this summer due to the song she's featured in with superstar Cardi B. "WAP" shot to No. 1 on iTunes' songs chart, in spite of controversy over its sexually explicit lyrics. But the rapper is also involved in another recent controversy, which has raised important questions about Black women and violence.

"If history is written by winners," author Maria Sherman says, "music history is written by rock critics, and they don't typically get along with boy bands."

For reasons that she explores in her new book, Larger Than Life: A History Of Boy Bands From NKOTB To BTS, Sherman says boy bands don't get the same respect as other music acts, especially their rock peers.

What are you reading during the pandemic? We've been asking that question to a range of writers and they've responded with suggestions for fantasy, poetry, new fiction, old fiction, web comics, fairy tales and more. You can find recommendations below from Ben Philippe, Jade Chang, Raina Telgemeier, Tess Taylor and Thomas Pierce — and we'll add more as the summer goes on.

This past weekend, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling brought a lot of criticism on herself with a series of tweets that many read as transphobic. She seemed to have been set off by an article on access to menstrual hygiene supplies during a global pandemic that referenced "people who menstruate."

Over her decades-long career, Tracee Ellis Ross has starred in beloved shows such as Black-ish and Girlfriends. But as she sees it, her latest role is her most daunting one yet. In The High Note, available to stream on Apple TV on May 29, she plays a superstar singer named Grace Davis, who's facing career stagnancy. Meanwhile, Davis' personal assistant Maggie (played by Dakota Johnson) has musical ambitions of her own as an aspiring producer.

In a decade, Harry Styles has gone from teenage heartthrob to a global pop star in his own right. As he's distanced himself from his adolescent years as a member of One Direction, he's become his own person, starring in the 2017 blockbuster Dunkirk, hosting Saturday Night Live and creating music that pulls from a variety of influences.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

What if the scariest thing isn't a monster in your life, but the emotional demons in your own family? That is an idea Shaun Hamill writes about in his debut novel. NPR's Mallory Yu treats us to the story.

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