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 17 & 19  "The Big Truck Went By" with Jonathan Katz part 1
  • June 24 & 26  Jonathan Katz part 2 and Haiti quake survivor and Boise State Professor Jason Herbeck
  • July  1 & 3  "Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga" with Pamela Newkirk
  • July  8 & 10  "The Billion Dollar Spy" with David Hoffman

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

Ways to Connect

With 70 percent of its land owned by the federal government, the Great Basin is known as America’s last frontier. It’s home to ghost towns, endless sagebrush and secretive government test sites. Paradoxically, the Great Basin also is the fastest growing urban region in the United States, thanks to the cities of Boise, Salt Lake City, Reno and Las Vegas that perch on its rim.

On May 30th, 1912, Wilbur Wright died peacefully in his own bed in the family home in Dayton, Ohio. He was 45 years old. The cause of death was typhoid, which he may have contracted from eating tainted clam broth in a Boston restaurant. But Orville Wright and members of the Wright family believed Wilbur’s death was attributable to the stress he experienced fighting their archenemy and main competitor, Glenn Curtiss. In Orville Wright’s mind, Curtiss had killed his older brother.

Imagine a world where you are driven to work by a driverless car, your morning news is written by a computer, and your lunch is prepared by a robot. In such a world, it would not be a stretch to wonder if humans were about to become obsolete. We’ve already seen this scenario play out in movies and popular novels.  But according to today’s guest, there are reasons to worry about how new technologies are reshaping the real world right now.

Those of us who grew up playing the board game “Monopoly” likely remember the thrill of landing on an up-for-grabs Boardwalk or Park Place, and buying the pricey properties with our stash of brightly colored fake money. We might also recall the feeling of trepidation when we landed on those same properties after they had been purchased and improved by someone else, knowing we would have to pay an exorbitant rental fee before we could once again pass “Go” and collect our much-needed $200.

Leon Panetta’s long service to our country is surely unique in the number of incredibly high level and tough assignments he has held and held to acclaim.  A lawyer, he has directed the U.S.

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

Those lines are from Rod Gramer’s 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.

History books are full of stories about the dangers and deprivations endured by soldiers who fought in the Civil War. What may be less well known are the challenges faced by journalists of the day who risked everything to get to the front lines of battle.

On May 1st, 1915, crowds lined New York’s harbor to bid farewell to nearly 2,000 family, friends and crew aboard the world’s fastest civilian liner — the Lusitania. The luxurious British ship was bound for Liverpool, England, more than 3,000 miles away. World War I was entering its 10th month, but civilian ships and their passengers were widely considered off-limits from enemy assault. Although the great liner would pass through waters patrolled by German U-boats off the coast of Britain, few worried about the dangers.

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. The imports threatened the Bassett family legacy, as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of Virginians.

This interview was originally broadcast in July, 2015

On July 8th, 1879, the USS Jeannette left San Francisco and sailed northward toward uncharted Arctic waters. Its ambitious destination: the North Pole, a place that had captured the imagination of 19th century scientists, explorers and the public, but that remained shrouded in mystery and wild scientific speculation. If the expedition succeeded, the American ship and its crew would be the first to discover what really existed at the top of the world.

  This is an encore of this interview which was first aired in March of 2015.

Jonathan Evison’s novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving , is an engaging read that will definitely make you laugh. But it’s not a lightweight book by any means. Family, loss, friendship and disability are just some of the big themes it explores.

This is an encore interview with Matt Richtel.  It was originally broadcast in November, 2014.

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

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 program was originally broadcast in April of 2015.

Antibiotics are wonder drugs that can thwart disease and save lives. But they also have the potential to trigger new health problems when used indiscriminately, according to medical doctor and microbiologist Martin J. Blaser.

This interview was originally broadcast in December, 2013:

A continuation of a conversation with Daniel James Brown, author of The New York Times bestseller, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The book, now out in paperback, recounts the amazing true story of a group of young Americans who,  against all the odds, won a gold medal in the signature rowing event at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

This interview for Reader's Corner was originally broadcast in December of 2013:

In the summer of 1936 the world was transfixed by the grandeur of the Olympic Games in Berlin, and by a determined group of young Americans. In front of high-ranking Nazi officials, including Adolf Hitler, they overcame impossible odds to snatch victory from both the German and Italian crews in the Games’ signature rowing event.

This interview was originally broadcast in February of 2015

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.

Hot dogs and popcorn under the sweltering summer sun at the local ball park is an image embedded into American culture. But for the players jogging into the dugout, sweat dripping from their caps, baseball is more than just America’s pastime, it’s their career. And it’s a career unlike any other.  With 162 regular season games in 182 days, major league baseball places unique demands on the players, their families, and those who work in a variety of roles to support the team.

This program was originally broadcast in April, 2015

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, 2005.

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