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:

Note: Listeners who tuned in Reader's Corner last Friday, the 13th at 6pm heard breaking coverage of the Paris attacks in place of our show.  We'll re-air the interview with Marc Levinson this Friday, the 20th.
  Nov. 20:  "The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America" by Marc Levinson

Nov. 22  "The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving" a novel by Jonathan Evison

  • Nov 27 & 29  "In the Kingdom of Ice" by Hampton Sides
  • Dec 4 & 6  "The Arsenal of Democracy" by AJ Baime

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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 was originally broadcast in July, 2015

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 is an encore of this interview which was first aired in March of 2015.

Jonathan Evison’s novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving , is an engaging read that will definitely make you laugh. But it’s not a lightweight book by any means. Family, loss, friendship and disability are just some of the big themes it explores.

Grocery shopping is on almost everyone’s weekly list. For many households, that means driving to the supermarket, or an even larger discount mega-store, and loading our carts to the brim with our favorite brands. But grocery shopping wasn’t always this way. A century ago, small mom-and-pop grocers dotted street corners, staffed by storekeepers who packaged bulk items for customers they knew by name. Today, the retail landscape continues to change, as more of us go online for a variety of purchases.

This is an encore interview with Matt Richtel.  It was originally broadcast in November, 2014.

We’ve all heard the message by now: Texting while driving is dangerous. Yet each year, texting is a factor in more than 280,000 automobile accidents in the United States. And texting behind the wheel has now surpassed drunk driving as the number one cause of death for teenagers in our country.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Two years later, the Berlin Wall was inexplicably opened, allowing East Germans free access to the West for the first time since 1961.

This program was originally broadcast in April of 2015.

Antibiotics are wonder drugs that can thwart disease and save lives. But they also have the potential to trigger new health problems when used indiscriminately, according to medical doctor and microbiologist Martin J. Blaser.

It’s a scenario familiar to many of us: We go online and search for a product we’re interested in purchasing. Moments later, we click on our favorite news site, only to be bombarded with ads, including some for the product we were just viewing. So how did this happen? And what else might we unwittingly be sharing about our behavior, activities and tastes?

This interview was originally broadcast in December, 2013:

A continuation of a conversation with Daniel James Brown, author of The New York Times bestseller, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The book, now out in paperback, recounts the amazing true story of a group of young Americans who,  against all the odds, won a gold medal in the signature rowing event at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

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.

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.