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:

  • June 19 & 21  "The Third Coast" by Thomas Dyja
  • June 26 & 28  "Factory Man" by Beth Macy
  • July 3 & 5  "Bunker Hill" by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • July 10 & 12  "The Sixth Extinction" by Elizabeth Kolbert

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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.

Ways To Connect

For nearly a century, The Bassett Furniture Company was the center of life in the town of Bassett, Virginia, just as its wealthy namesake family was the foundation of the town’s prosperity.

But that all changed in the 1980s when cheaper Chinese products began flooding the American furniture market, threatening the Bassett family legacy and the livelihoods of hundreds of Virginians.

This interview was first broadcast in December of 2014.

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.  

Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. But as Artificial Intelligence continues to advance, we should ask ourselves: Can we coexist with computers whose intelligence dwarfs our own?

In his book, “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era,” James Barrat peers into the future to explore the perils of developing super intelligent machines. And he extends a heartfelt invitation to join what he calls “the most important conversation humanity can have.”

This is an encore interview and was first broadcast in June, 2014.

June 6, 2015 marks the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the invasion on the beaches of Normandy that turned the tide of fighting in World War II Europe and led to an Allied victory. 

John C. McManus, offers an insider’s look at just one of the five beaches taken by Allied troops in his book,  "The Dead and Those About to Die — D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach."

The story told by Jan Jarboe Russell in her book, “The Train to Crystal City,” will have a familiar ring to those who know about the World War II internment camp at Minidoka, Idaho.

But Crystal City, Texas, differed from camps such as Minidoka, which held Japanese and Japanese Americans relocated from the Pacific Coast after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Crystal City’s purpose is revealed in the book’s subtitle, “FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II.”

If you’re looking for an engaging summer read that makes you laugh even as it explores big themes involving family, loss, disability, and the redemptive power of a good road trip, then Jonathan Evison’s novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving may fit the bill.

This interview was broadcast first in January of 2013.

A child who heads off to kindergarten without knowing his colors or shapes may be considered academically unprepared for school.  But what if those measures mattered less, and the child's character mattered more?

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 Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in September of 2013.

The power of sports to mend rifts between nations and establish bonds of friendship and understanding was put to the test in 1934, when a group of Major League baseball players – including Babe Ruth – traveled to Japan to play a series of 18 exhibition games in 12 cities.

This is an encore interview and was originally broadcast in October 2014.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s dedication and perseverance led to the preservation of some of our greatest national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife sanctuaries. Thanks to Roosevelt’s vision and foresight, our children’s grandchildren can enjoy species that in a not-too-distant past were threatened with extinction, and visit natural areas that today remain as pristine and untouched as they were a century or more ago.

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.”

This interview was originally broadcast in November of 2014.

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.

Many of us have heard or read about the health threats posed by the overuse of antibiotics to treat common diseases. Indiscriminate use of these powerful drugs can lead to the development of resistant bacteria that are immune to the agent that is attempting to destroy them.  And antibiotics don’t just kill “bad” bacteria – they also kill the “good” bacteria that flourish in and on our bodies and protect us from disease.

This interview with Dan Fagin was originally broadcast in September of 2014.

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.

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.

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