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Petra Mayer: Friend to Books & Book Festivals

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Petra Mayer. Photo by Darian Woehr for NPR

Our friend Petra Mayer, books editor for NPR and a champion of fiction genres including fantasy and romance, passed away this week at age 46.

Petra was a frequent and enthusiastic session host and interviewer at our National Book Festivals beginning in 2016, when she moderated the festival’s first session devoted to romance novels:

She returned to the festival in 2016 to interview Gene Luen Yang; hosted literary power couple Katie Kitamura and Hari Kunzru in 2017; and discussed the historical novels of Margaret George and Philippa Gregory in 2019.

The NPR statement announcing her death read, in part, “Mayer was a proud nerd with a penchant for science fiction, comics and cats … She shared those passions with readers and listeners through her reviews of sci-fi, fantasy, romance, thrillers and comics, her trusty on-the-scene reporting at Comic-Con, and her contributions to the Book Concierge, NPR’s annual literary-recommendation tool. She brought her zeal to the guest chair on occasional ‘Pop Culture Happy Hour’ podcast episodes.”

She also brought that zeal to her work for the Library of Congress at the National Book Festival, and we will all miss her very deeply.

Just a few weeks ago, Petra spoke with Elizabeth Hand and Alex Michaelides, about their books “The Book of Lamps and Banners” and “The Maidens,” respectively, at our 2021 virtual National Book Festival. You can watch that talk below: