Reader's Corner

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Welcome to Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show hosted by Boise State University President Bob Kustra that features lively conversations with some of the nation’s leading authors about issues and ideas that matter today.

Join us each week at Reader’s Corner for thoughtful interviews centered around books and articles that help shape our world.

Coming up on Reader's Corner:

  • Oct. 2 & 4: "Boys in the Boat" by Daniel James Brown, Part 1
  • October 9 & 11:  "Boys in the Boat" by Daniel James Brown, Part 2
  • Oct 16 & 18: "Dragnet Nation" by Julia Angwin
  • Oct 23 & 25:  "Missing Microbes" by Martin Blaser

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For questions about Reader's Corner, or to access archive interviews, please contact Janelle Brown, producer.

Ways To Connect

This interview for Reader's Corner was originally broadcast in December of 2013:

In the summer of 1936 the world was transfixed by the grandeur of the Olympic Games in Berlin, and by a determined group of young Americans. In front of high-ranking Nazi officials, including Adolf Hitler, they overcame impossible odds to snatch victory from both the German and Italian crews in the Games’ signature rowing event.

On May 30th, 1912, Wilbur Wright died peacefully in his own bed in the family home in Dayton, Ohio. He was 45 years old. The cause of death was typhoid, which he may have contracted from eating tainted clam broth in a Boston restaurant. But Orville Wright and members of the Wright family believed Wilbur’s death was attributable to the stress he experienced fighting their archenemy and main competitor, Glenn Curtiss. In Orville Wright’s mind, Curtiss had killed his older brother.

This interview was originally broadcast in February of 2015

The epic battle between man and machine has long been part of our culture, folklore and philosophy. But bestselling author Nicholas Carr makes the case that increasing automation is raising the stakes in this battle– and he is not at all sure we will remain masters of our creations.

In his book, "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us," Carr explores how a growing reliance on computers and computer software is rapidly changing the way Americans live, play, work and learn.

Hot dogs and popcorn under the sweltering summer sun at the local ball park is an image embedded into American culture. But for the players jogging into the dugout, sweat dripping from their caps, baseball is more than just America’s pastime, it’s their career. And it’s a career unlike any other.  With 162 regular season games in 182 days, major league baseball places unique demands on the players, their families, and those who work in a variety of roles to support the team.

This program was originally broadcast in April, 2015

The year is 1956. The place is a village outside Moscow. Boris Pasternak, Russia’s greatest living poet, hands a copy of his unpublished novel “Doctor Zhivago” to an Italian book scout intent on smuggling it out of the country. Understanding the risks of his action, Pasternak reportedly comments, “You are hereby invited to my execution.”

Baseball has inspired many works of fiction – including Chad Harbach’s bestselling novel, The Art of Fielding. But while the action is centered around a college team and its star shortstop, Henry Scrimshander, this is much more than a baseball book. The fallacy of perfection, the inevitability of change and the power of friendship are just a few of the multi-layered themes explored in the novel, which is now out in paperback.

This interview was originally broadcast in November, 2005.

In 2005, Reader's Corner had the privilege of welcoming author Samuel Pisar to the program.  He was one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust, an adviser to President John F. Kennedy, a friend and admirer of Idaho Senator Frank Church and a world renowned international lawyer. Over the course of an hour – twice as long as the interview was scheduled to last  –  Dr. Pisar shared stories from his extraordinary life, including how he survived the Nazi death camps and finally managed to escape.

Those of us who grew up playing the board game “Monopoly” likely remember the thrill of landing on an up-for-grabs Boardwalk or Park Place, and buying the pricey properties with our stash of brightly colored fake money. We might also recall the feeling of trepidation when we landed on those same properties after they had been purchased and improved by someone else, knowing we would have to pay an exorbitant rental fee before we could once again pass “Go” and collect our much-needed $200.

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in February, 2015

In the world of empire building, success is a numbers game.  That’s the premise of a book by today’s guest, Jacob Soll, titled The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations.

On July 8th, 1879, the USS Jeannette left San Francisco and sailed northward toward uncharted Arctic waters. Its ambitious destination: the North Pole, a place that had captured the imagination of 19th century scientists, explorers and the public, but that remained shrouded in mystery and wild scientific speculation. If the expedition succeeded, the American ship and its crew would be the first to discover what really existed at the top of the world.

This interview was first broadcast in January of 2015.

Everyone knows how to gain physical strength – go the gym, lift weights, do calisthenics, or engage in other muscle-building activities. 

But what about gaining mental acuity? Is it possible to increase intelligence, and if so, how?

Dan Hurley explores this question in his book; Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power.

For as long as humans have walked the Earth, we’ve been making changes to it – oftentimes with little or no comprehension about the far-reaching consequences of our actions. But in her book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert opens our eyes to the powerful and possibly catastrophic mass extinction unfolding right in front of us. 

This interview was originally broadcast in September of 2013.

On June 17th, 1775, a ragtag army of colonial patriots faced off against the most powerful army of the 18th century. Their goal was to prevent the British regulars from occupying the hills surrounding Boston in order to put an end to a months-long siege of the city. What ensued proved to be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, and marked a tipping point for the colonists.

For nearly a century, The Bassett Furniture Company was the center of life in the town of Bassett, Virginia, just as its wealthy namesake family was the foundation of the town’s prosperity.

But that all changed in the 1980s when cheaper Chinese products began flooding the American furniture market, threatening the Bassett family legacy and the livelihoods of hundreds of Virginians.

This interview was first broadcast in December of 2014.

Back in the early 1930s, Chicago had the distinction of being the fourth largest metropolis in the world. The city was a melting pot of race, ethnicity and culture, and a place where some of the world’s most celebrated architects, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs would find their inspiration.

In his book, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, Thomas Dyja makes the case that much of what defined America, particularly from the end of World War II until 1960, came from Chicago.  

Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. But as Artificial Intelligence continues to advance, we should ask ourselves: Can we coexist with computers whose intelligence dwarfs our own?

In his book, “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era,” James Barrat peers into the future to explore the perils of developing super intelligent machines. And he extends a heartfelt invitation to join what he calls “the most important conversation humanity can have.”

This is an encore interview and was first broadcast in June, 2014.

June 6, 2015 marks the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the invasion on the beaches of Normandy that turned the tide of fighting in World War II Europe and led to an Allied victory. 

John C. McManus, offers an insider’s look at just one of the five beaches taken by Allied troops in his book,  "The Dead and Those About to Die — D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach."

The story told by Jan Jarboe Russell in her book, “The Train to Crystal City,” will have a familiar ring to those who know about the World War II internment camp at Minidoka, Idaho.

But Crystal City, Texas, differed from camps such as Minidoka, which held Japanese and Japanese Americans relocated from the Pacific Coast after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Crystal City’s purpose is revealed in the book’s subtitle, “FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II.”

If you’re looking for an engaging summer read that makes you laugh even as it explores big themes involving family, loss, disability, and the redemptive power of a good road trip, then Jonathan Evison’s novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving may fit the bill.