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:

  • February 16 & 18  -  " President McKinley" with Robert Merry
  • February 23 & 25  -  "Enemy of the Good" with Matthew Palmer (encore)
  • March 2 & 4  -  "Janesville" with Amy Goldstein
  • March 11 & 13  -  "The Perfect Horse" with Elizabeth Letts

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.

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The turn of the 20th century was a momentous time in U.S. history. After defeating imperial Spain in a brief but consequential war, America had expanded its global reach, with a footprint that stretched from Cuba and Guam to the Philippines. The country was developing and harnessing new technology like no other nation, its economic and diplomatic power was soaring, and it had nudged Europe and Japan toward a collective policy with China that favored U.S. interests.

This program was first broadcast in November, 2017

With more than 500 million citizens in its 28 member states, the European Union has long embodied the dream of a united Europe, where the free movement of goods, capital, services and workers would lead to greater economic and political clout for all. But in recent years, the fissures within the EU have deepened. The Syrian refugee crisis, the economic downturn, a spate of terrorist attacks and the Greek financial bailouts have roiled the EU.

This episode of Reader's Corner was originally broadcast in June of 2017.

The re-election of Barack Obama in November of 2012 dealt a stunning defeat to the Republican Party. As the GOP reeled from the loss and began laying plans to win in 2016, a small group of shadowy and wealthy figures gathered at the request of Charles and David Koch, otherwise known as the Koch brothers. Their secret agenda: To map out plans to systematically and inequitably influence our political system.

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?

This encore program was originally broadcast in September, 2017.

Hollywood usually is viewed as a symbol of the American Dream. But in the 1930s and ’40s, it became a symbol of something much darker: the Communist threat to American values that must be publicly rooted out at all costs. 

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.  

This is an encore of the program which was originally broadcast in August of 2017.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is revered as an 18th century genius who composed some of the most sublime music ever written.  The fact that a starling became his beloved pet during one of the most creative and productive periods of his short life has perplexed historians and music lovers for years. Yet the unlikely story of the great composer and his common bird is a true one, and today’s guest, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, explores it in detail in her new book, titled “Mozart’s Starling.”

This is an encore program which originally aired in November of 2017.

Generations have grown up with the tales spun by Charles Dickens, and that’s particularly true around the holidays. Characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and young Tiny Tim have become cultural icons, and a reminder to take stock of our lives, celebrate each day, and care for those around us.

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 that is now entering its sixth and final season.

This interview was originally broadcast in June, 2017.

In recent years, the powerful and at times unexpected impacts of globalization have sent shock waves through our country’s political, economic and social systems. The promise that open trade and investment would bring new jobs, economic growth and price stability has not materialized for many Americans, who have seen their standard of living stagnate or diminish. At the same time, there is widespread disagreement about what our country needs to do to more effectively compete in the current global marketplace.

The world of foreign diplomacy is a secretive one, and for those of us on the outside, it is also largely inaccessible. Veteran diplomat and author Matthew Palmer pulls back the curtains on this hidden world with suspense novels that offer an insider’s perspective on conflicts and cultures in far corners of the globe. And he’s done it again in his new book, titled Enemy of the Good.

In 1961, the world watched as tensions flared and the Berlin Wall went up, trapping East Germans inside a Communist regime. What was less well known was what was happening under that wall. Away from the glare of television cameras and public demonstrations, defectors and West Germans engaged in clandestine efforts to build tunnels and help East Germans escape.

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 war that became known as World War I began over 100 years ago and ushered in a new type of warfare – one built underground, in trenches, instead of above ground, on horses. In his book, To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild brings the war to life in a stark and dramatic new way.

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