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:

  • December 12 & 14  "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream" by Thomas Dyja
  • December 19 & 21  "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
  • December 26 & 28  "38 Nooses" by Scott Berg pt1
  • January 2 & 4  "38 Nooses" by Scott Berg pt2

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For questions about Reader's Corner, or to access 2003-2010 interviews, please contact Janelle Brown, producer.

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.  

This interview was originally broadcast in May, 2014.

The author of two short story collections, a memoir, and now two novels, Anthony Doerr’s fiction has won a raft of awards. He is the recipient of four O. Henry Prizes, three Pushcart Prizes, the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, the National Magazine award and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, the largest prize in the world for a single short story.

Doerr's latest novel, "All the Light We Cannot See,"  was recently a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in May, 2014

Fans of novels depicting dystopian societies need look no further than our nation’s Congress for real-life examples of governance run amok. That’s the message from our guest, former U.S. Representative Mickey Edwards, author of "The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans."

Edwards argues that blind allegiance to party affiliation has turned lawmakers into followers rather than leaders, with many voting their party line more than 90 percent of the time.

In a brutal labor camp in a remote part of western China, a man imprisoned for 20 years plots his escape.  In Beijing, an ambitious foreign correspondent stumbles into a web of secrets that are more valuable than he ever dreams. And in London, British intelligence agents who bear little resemblance to James Bond scramble to pursue a surprising and intriguing lead.

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

In honor of Veteran's Day, we're broadcasting this interview with Adam Makos.  The program was originally broadcast in March, 2014.

On December 20th, 1943, a crippled B-17 bomber desperately headed for the safety of the German coast and the North Sea. Piloted by a 21-year-old American airman on his first combat mission, it had been strafed by enemy fire after dropping a bomb load on the German town of Bremen. With half its crew dead or injured, its tail nearly blown away and gaping holes in its fuselage, the besieged bomber struggled to stay aloft.

“Three shots. That's all it takes to change the course of American history.”

Those lines are from Rod Gramer’s new thriller, “The Good Assassin.” The novel is both a page-turner in the best sense of the word, and a thoughtful exploration of the national security issues that make headlines daily.

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in April, 2014.

Without question, dogs play a major role in the daily lives of many of us. In the United States alone, there are 83.3 million pet dogs, and 47 percent of all American households include at least one dog.

Brian Hare finds the popularity of dogs far from surprising. In his book, “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think,” Dr. Hare and his co-author and wife Vanessa Woods describe how dogs evolved from wolves to become “man’s best friend.”

For decades after slavery ended, African Americans continued a mighty struggle against a caste system grounded in racism. Pervasive discrimination kept many blacks from building decent lives in the southern states they called home. Faced with few choices, they undertook one of the largest migrations in our nation’s history, with more than 6 million making their way to Midwestern, Western and Eastern cities between 1915 and 1970.

As America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, it’s a fitting time to remember the man who helped lay the early groundwork for the idea of wilderness as a national treasure.  President Theodore Roosevelt’s dedication and perseverance led to the preservation of some of our greatest national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife sanctuaries.

This Reader's Corner interview initially was broadcast in January, 2014.

During the summer of 2007, a city kid from Seattle lived out an adventure most wannabe cowboys only dream of.

Bryce Andrews spent a year working on the Sun Ranch — an expansive area of rangeland in the breathtaking wilderness of southwest Montana — mending fences, riding horses, roping cattle and transforming himself into a true ranch hand. It fulfilled his heart’s desire to live among the wild. And, as Andrews writes, it “might have been a simple, pretty story, if not for the wolves.”

When the chemical company Ciba purchased a huge swath of forested land in Toms River, New Jersey, back in 1949 and laid plans to build a major factory on the site, the local citizenry mostly thought it was a good thing.

During the ensuing years, that positive opinion pretty much remained in place, as the town grew, property values increased and good-paying jobs at the plant strengthened the local economy.

But as the plant continued to generate an increasing amount of hazardous waste, there were early signs something might be amiss.

This Reader's Corner interview originally was broadcast in July of 2013

When President Franklin Roosevelt selected mild-mannered University of Chicago history professor William Dodd to serve as America’s ambassador to Nazi Germany in 1933, neither man had an inkling of the coming terror. In fact, Dodd accepted the post in part because he believed his light duties would allow him time to complete his exhaustive history of the American South.

The rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest is dotted with historic cities and sea ports. But today’s well-established metropolises belie the imagination and tenacity that it took to settle this wild and remote region.

In 1809, John Jacob Astor -- a young, ambitious New York businessman -- saw the potential of the Northwest coast as a great trading emporium for the western half of the United States. Astor dispatched a land and sea party that he hoped would arrive at what is now Astoria, Oregon. The plan was to set up a Jamestown-like colony and establish a fur trading empire.

This is an encore broadcast of the interview with David Robertson.  The conversation was originally broadcast in January of 2014.

It’s hard to image a world without LEGO’s. The plastic building blocks have been a foundation of children’s imaginative play for nearly 60 years. But back in 2009, LEGO nearly was no more.

Antibiotics are ubiquitous in modern human life. Along with their well-known medical applications, they also are routinely used in agriculture, including our increasingly industrial production of meat.

But as resistant strains of bacteria continue to emerge, health authorities around the world are growing alarmed at the increasing impotence of antibiotics to fight disease. In fact, they worry we are on the verge of a total breakdown in the overall usefulness of these drugs. It’s a scenario of horrifying scope to those who understand the implications for human health.

Generations of western leaders have puzzled over how to manage their nation’s relationship with Russia – and headlines in recent months, especially from Ukraine, have only deepened this long-standing challenge.

But Daniel Treisman, in his book "The Return: From Gorbachev to Medvedev," argues that western notions about Russia as an antagonistic and autocratic behemoth are, at best, oversimplified.

This Reader's Corner interview was first broadcast in January, 2014

Pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio, and it’s likely you’ll learn about the latest fluctuation in world financial markets, or about a protest or uprising tied in some way to religion. 

When an oil rig explodes, a factory building collapses, or a water supply is tainted, the finger pointing often starts and stops with the multinational corporation behind the operation.

In recent years, big business has been implicated in a plethora of scandals and accidents that have cost lives and damaged the environment. We tend to think of these corporations as monolithic entities that march in lockstep and have singular goals, but as today’s guest points out, that’s hardly the case.  

Businesses seeking to increase productivity, athletes striving to improve their performance, and couples intent on strengthening their relationship share this in common: To get what they’re after, they’ll need more than motivation. They’ll need commitment.

Heidi Reeder is an expert on how commitment enables organizations and individuals to reach their goals. Her new book, "Commit to Win," unpacks 40 years of research by psychologists and economists to bust the many myths about commitment and explain why it’s important.

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