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:

Note: Listeners who tuned in Reader's Corner last Friday, the 13th at 6pm heard breaking coverage of the Paris attacks in place of our show.  We'll re-air the interview with Marc Levinson this Friday, the 20th.
  Nov. 20:  "The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America" by Marc Levinson

Nov. 22  "The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving" a novel by Jonathan Evison

  • Nov 27 & 29  "In the Kingdom of Ice" by Hampton Sides
  • Dec 4 & 6  "The Arsenal of Democracy" by AJ Baime

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

Ways to Connect

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.

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.

This Reader's Corner interview was first broadcast in January, 2014

Pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio, and it’s likely you’ll learn about the latest fluctuation in world financial markets, or about a protest or uprising tied in some way to religion. 

Businesses seeking to increase productivity, athletes striving to improve their performance, and couples intent on strengthening their relationship share this in common: To get what they’re after, they’ll need more than motivation. They’ll need commitment.

Heidi Reeder is an expert on how commitment enables organizations and individuals to reach their goals. Her new book, "Commit to Win," unpacks 40 years of research by psychologists and economists to bust the many myths about commitment and explain why it’s important.

It took Edward Curtis just a few years after arriving in the small town of Seattle in 1887 to establish a reputation as one of its finest portrait photographers. Uneducated and self-taught, he quickly became one of the most respected lensmen in America and was summoned to capture images of President Theodore Roosevelt and even the president’s daughter’s wedding.

Ask just about anyone their opinion about politics and the federal government and two words you are likely to hear in response are: dysfunction and gridlock.    

But Ira Shapiro, knows firsthand of an era not all that long ago when big personalities in the U.S. Senate worked together to solve big problems.

In May, Anthony Doerr visited Reader's Corner to talk about his new novel, "All the Light We Cannot See." Ten years in the writing, the book tells the stories of a blind French girl and a German boy during World War II and how their lives eventually intertwine.

"This program is an encore and was originally broadcast in November of 2013"

“Iron Mike” Webster was one of the most revered and beloved Pittsburgh Steelers of all time. The Hall of Fame center was a tough, hardworking and disciplined player who gave everything he had to football.

But after retiring from the NFL in 1990, he suffered a severe decline in both physical and mental health. When he died 12 years later at age 50, his body made one of its most significant contributions to the sport, and to the fellow players he loved.

The office of the President of the United States is among the most highly visible institutions anywhere in the world. The person who occupies the office is subject to intense scrutiny – and while some of that is negative, the president oftentimes also serves as a symbol of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a diverse American citizenry.

But what happens when there is a disconnect between the high expectations Americans have for what their president can accomplish, and the reality of how the office functions in today’s Washington?

For John Thavis, the timing couldn’t have been better. His book, “The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church,” was released in February 2013, just as Pope Benedict XVI announced he would be the first pope in 600 years to resign.

It was a stroke of luck that put his book – the culmination of nearly 30 years as a journalist covering the Vatican – in exactly the right place at the right time.

Preparing students to excel in a fast-changing world is a concern for many nations. Some countries, including our own, have implemented a variety of education reforms over recent decades, only to see piddling results. Others, including  Finland, South Korea and Poland, have realized major gains.