Reader's Corner

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Welcome to Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show and podcast hosted by Boise State University President Bob Kustra. Now in its 14th year, Reader's Corner features lively conversations with leading writers, including many winners of top literary prizes and authors of bestsellers. Join us each week for thoughtful interviews about issues and ideas that matter today.

Coming up on Reader's Corner:

  • June 1 & 3  -  "The Way We Never Were" with Stephanie Coontz
  • June 8 & 10  -  "Janesville" with Amy Goldstein (encore)
  • June 15 & 17  -  "The New Wild West" with Blaire Briody
  • June 22 & 24  -  "The Tenth Parallel" with Eliza Griswold (encore)

In October 2017, Reader's Corner marked a milestone with its 500th guest. Among the notable guests are bestselling authors Erik Larson, Ann Patchett, David Brooks and Candice Millard; Pulitzer Prize winners Anthony Doerr, Elizabeth Kolbert, Tracy Kidder and E.O. Wilson; National Book Award winners Timothy Egan and Nathaniel Philbrick; and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz. 

Access our archive of interviews.

Listen to previous episodes anytime on our free app from the App Store or Google Play.

Subscribe to the weekly Reader's Corner email podcast.

Read our book reviews in the Idaho Statesman.

We welcome feedback and ideas for shows. Contact us here.

Bob Kustra has interviewed over 500 guests for his weekly radio show since 2003. Click here for more about our host.

Ways to Connect

The descriptive phrase, “The Wild West,” brings to mind images of gunslingers, dusty miners and pioneering families eager to forge a fresh start in an inhospitable place. But in a new book, journalist Blaire Briody takes us on a tour of America’s contemporary Wild West: the badlands of North Dakota, under which reside an estimated 4.3 billion gallons of recoverable oil, making it the largest oil reserve in the lower 48 states.


This encore program originally was broadcast in March, 2018.

The Great Recession ultimately left millions of Americans without jobs and devastated entire communities. The bruises have lingered, perhaps nowhere more so than in the industrial communities of our nation’s heartland, in places like Janesville, Wisconsin. Janesville was home to the oldest operating General Motors plant until it shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas in 2008.

  

Looking at the past through rose-colored glasses is nothing new – we’ve been doing it in various forms for centuries.  But when it comes to family life, that yearning for a simpler, happier time can be particularly potent. Mid-century television shows such as “Leave it To Beaver” and “Ozzie and Harriett,” celebrated the nuclear family, where Dad was the breadwinner, Mom managed the house and kids, and everything seemed to run smoothly.  But was life really so great back then, or was this simply an illusion?


This interview was originally broadcast in January, 2018.

Over thousands of years, dogs have earned the title of man’s best friend. Yet even as their companionship brings us personal joy and satisfaction, we may wonder what’s going on inside their heads. Do they adore us as much as we adore them, or do they just see us as reliable dispensers of food?

  

The state of public education is a constant concern these days -- for families, for legislators, for teachers and experts. Many are questioning methods embraced by American school systems as we see other countries besting us, particularly in math and science.

China is among the countries rising to the top. That makes us wonder: Have they figured out something about educating kids that we haven’t? Or is China simply churning out students who excel at taking tests, but who are left behind when it comes to free thought and creativity?

Russia is certainly in the headlines these days – but for the next 30 minutes, we’re setting aside talk of election meddling and diplomats to discuss a work of fiction. The novel, and it’s a bestseller, is A Gentleman in Moscow, and it’s written by today’s guest, Amor Towles.

This interview was originally broadcast in January, 2018.

For most of its history, America has struggled to maintain a balance between fantasy and fact. According to today’s guest, Kurt Andersen, our country is now in a moment where we feel entitled to believe whatever we want, regardless of the evidence. How this happened, and why we should be concerned, is the subject of his book, Fantasyland, How America Went Haywire, A 500-Year History.  


When it comes to getting cash to make ends meet, many Americans don’t take their business to the local bank. Instead, they rely on alternative financial systems such as check cashing stores and payday lenders.  Despite high interest rates and sometimes exorbitant fees, these services fill a vital need for those living paycheck to paycheck, and who, for a variety of reasons, distrust banks.


This encore Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in September, 2017.

Scott Anderson holds the unique distinction of having a full issue of The New York Times Magazine devoted to his story. That speaks both to the quality of his work, as well as to its immense relevance.


Our country was founded on the very idea that a free people should not be ruled by kings and queens. That said, there is an undeniable and lasting allure associated with monarchies. And that’s particularly true when it comes to Great Britain.


This is an encore program, originally broadcast in July, 2017.

Thanks to technological advances like the Internet, we have access to more information than ever before.  Gone are the days when we argued at length with friends over a piece of trivia – instead we pull out our smart phones and instantly get the answer.


From the moment we first laid eyes on them, Americans have been captivated by mustangs — with their strength, their determination and their wild nature. They have been featured in countless Western paperbacks, movies and songs through the years, and we’ve named war planes and muscle cars after them.


Sheriff Walt Longmire, his sidekick Henry Standing Bear and the wide open spaces of Absaroka County are the fictional creations of author Craig Johnson – but they also have found their way into popular culture. In addition to the bestselling series of novels, there is a real-life Longmire Days festival that each summer draws thousands of fans to Buffalo, Wyoming; a website where you can purchase Longmire-for-Sheriff bumper stickers and other memorabilia; and a hit Netflix original series starring Robert Taylor as the beloved sheriff.


Most people are familiar with the phrase “a born leader,” but are leaders truly born?


During the final days of World War II, a group of American soldiers encountered a German spy carrying nothing but photos of beautiful white horses. The story behind those photos was even more surprising. Nearby, on a farm behind enemy lines, the Nazis had stockpiled some of the world’s most valuable horses as part of an ambitious breeding program to develop the perfect war horse. But with the Russian army fast approaching from the east and the Third Reich on the verge of defeat, these precious animals were now in great danger. The German spy had an audacious request: Would the Americans step forward to save them?
 


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