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:

  • March 27 & 29  "Toms River" by Dan Fagin
  • April 3 & 5  "Missing Microbes" by Martin Blaser
  • April 10 & 12  "Night Heron" by Adam Brookes

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Subscribe to the Reader's Corner email podcast.

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

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Cuba is a mere 90 miles from the United States, a puddle-jump flight or a long swim across the straits of Florida. Yet, for more than a half-century, that distance at times has loomed much greater, as U.S.-Cuba tensions played out across the world stage and here at home. That situation is changing – and dramatically so.

Last December, after 18 months of secret talks, President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana. The news sparked intense reactions and a flurry of speculation.

This interview was originally broadcast in September, 2014

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.

Every new technology has its critics. Whether it’s a fancy new digital gadget with a seemingly endless number of functions, or an addictive new app for your Smart Phone, the latest and greatest inventions can sometimes give us reason to pause.

Years ago, Clive Thompson was pessimistic about the impact of new technologies like the Internet on modern life, too. But over time, his opinion changed as he observed how new digital tools enabled people to be more creative and effective.

This interview was originally broadcast in May, 2013.

This is a continuation of our interview with Terrie Williams, author of The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species. 

Courtesy Terrie Williams

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in April 2013.

In 2008, a young monk seal abandoned on a sandy Hawaiian beach captured the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Playful and inquisitive, the seal quickly developed a love for all things human. When local fishermen objected to his presence, environmental officials made an unprecedented decision to move him across the ocean to the Santa Cruz, California, lab of a marine biologist.

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.

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.

Soll cites poor accounting practices as the culprit that led to the storming of the French Bastille, the defeat of King Philip the Second’s Spanish Armada and the epic Enron debacle that was felt around the world.  Poor accountability, he writes, has repeatedly led to “financial chaos, economic crimes, civil unrest, and worse.”

This interview was originally broadcast in August of 2014.

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.

Courtesy of WashingtonInstitute.org

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France that claimed 17 lives sent shock waves around the world and heightened concerns about growing tensions between Islamic extremists and the West.

Aaron Zelin, is an expert on global jihadist groups, and he researches global terrorist organizations such as ISIS, how they operate and how they are changing. 

This interview was originally broadcast in May of 2014.

It’s no secret that the zero-sum game of Cold War politics often led U.S. policymakers into global alliances that had more to do with anti-communist expediency than lofty democratic ideals. One relatively unknown Cold War episode involves the 1971 atrocities against the Hindus of Bangladesh that led to war between India and a U.S.-supported military dictatorship in Pakistan.

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.

This is an encore broadcast of part 2 of the interview with Scott W. Berg, it was originally aired in October of 2013.

This interview was originally broadcast in October of 2013.

The Dakota War of 1862 and its aftermath would likely be among the most remembered stories of American frontier expansion in the 19th Century if not for one thing: The American Civil War, which was happening at the same time. As a result, the extraordinary story of the rebellion by Little Crow and his Dakota followers is largely overshadowed in history books and the American psyche by accounts of the brutal bloodletting on eastern battlefields called Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

This interview with Isabel Wilkerson was originally broadcast in October of 2014.

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.

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.

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