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:

  • July 3 & 5  "Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution" by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • July 10 & 12  "The Sixth Extinction" by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • July 17 & 19  "Smarter Than You Think" by Dan Hurley
  • July 24 & 26  "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach

Listen to Reader's Corner podcast on your iPhone or iPad with the free app.

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

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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