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 16 & 18  "Failure to Adjust" with Edward Alden
  • June 23 & 25: Encore: Kati Marton, “True Believers”

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

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Read our book reviews in the Idaho Statesman.

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

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

Ways to Connect

What does it take for someone with seemingly every advantage in life to turn on their friends, their family and their country, all in the name of a cause? Today’s guest, Kati Marton, explores that question in her new book, True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy. 

Every once in a while, you come across individuals who make you feel better just for having encountered them. As today’s guest, David Brooks, puts it, “They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.”

This program was originally broadcast in May of 2016

Nearly a century ago, the Chicago White Sox faced the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series. The games attracted big crowds, widespread enthusiasm and plenty of action from the so-called “sporting men” who placed bets on who would win each contest. Gambling was an integral and accepted part of baseball at the time, but for this Series, something seemed off. The White Sox were heavily favored to win, but they lost to the Reds five games to three. Speculation quickly surfaced that the Series had been rigged.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of Casablanca, perhaps the most beloved of all Hollywood films. Somehow, this love story set in war time seems as relevant today as when it first lit up the silver screen back in 1942. People who’ve never even seen the movie still recognize its famous lines, and references to Casablanca abound in novels, plays, musicals, and other productions.

The decades after World War II were a golden age when many people around the world enjoyed an increasingly good quality of life. But by the early 1970s, the good times had all but vanished as energy shortages, financial crises and rising unemployment shook economies in America and around the world.

Washington, Lincoln and FDR are revered as leaders who helped shape the course of history. They are often referred to as “great” presidents. But is it possible to have a great president today? And is greatness a quality that Americans even want in their chief executive?

Aaron David Miller examines the history of the U.S. presidency to explore those questions in his book, The End of Greatness.  In the book, Dr. Miller makes the case that greatness as a presidential virtue is largely overrated – and that it occurs too infrequently to be relevant to current politics.

At the turn of the 20th century, the most popular entertainment acts in the country were found under the Big Top. The circus offered daring acts of bravery, wild animals, comic antics and the collection of human oddities known as the Freak Show.

Following one of the most divisive and contentious elections in history, it is easy to say that we are a nation in cultural crisis. But what does that actually mean? In the Rust Belt, as well as in rural Appalachia, it means factories closing and good jobs shipped overseas in less than a generation. It means an uptick in drug abuse and violence in the home, an erosion of the education system and trust in our government, and the disintegration of children’s dreams for a better future than that of their parents.

In our complex and data driven world, scientists are facing a major challenge to understand and document plant and animal species that may be in the process of disappearing. Climate change, habitat fragmentation, pollution and population growth are among the threats that are pushing some species toward extinction.

This program was originally broadcast in December, 2016.

Humans think, feel and plan for the future. We say hello, and goodbye. We design and use tools to our advantage. But what if animals can do these things, too? What if we’ve just never really understood how to discern animal intelligence? Biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal challenges us to think more like an animal in his new book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”

As anyone with children, or grandchildren, knows, parenting isn’t easy. Children and adolescents are growing up in a complex and connected world where smartphones, video games, organized activities and friends vie for their attention. At the same time, parents aren’t exactly always sure what their job description should be – or how to best nurture their child.

As every reader knows, novels can transport us to unexpected places. They also can shine new light on places we thought we already knew. Today’s guest, Shawn Vestal, manages to do both in his debut novel, Daredevils.

  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, friendship, loss and disability are just some of the big themes it explores.

Six decades ago, President Harry Truman made a decision to fire an incredibly popular general with near celebrity status: General Douglas MacArthur. Was it a good decision? Only the future would tell.

It was a difficult decision at a critical time. The Cold War had reached a crisis point. People around the world lived in fear of the atomic bomb and the Chinese had joined the Korean War against the United States and its allies.

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