Reader's Corner

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Welcome to Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show and podcast hosted by Boise State University President Bob Kustra. Now in its 14th year, Reader's Corner features lively conversations with leading writers, including many winners of top literary prizes and authors of bestsellers. Join us each week for thoughtful interviews about issues and ideas that matter today.

Coming up on Reader's Corner:

  • February  24 & 26  "The Soul of an Octopus" with Sy Montgomery
  • March  3 & 5  "The General vs. The President" with H.W. Brands
  • March  10 & 12  "The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving" with Jonathan Evison
  • March  17 & 19  "Daredevils" with Shawn Vestal

Access our archive of interviews.

Listen to previous episodes anytime on our free app from the App Store or Google Play.

Subscribe to the weekly Reader's Corner email podcast.

Read our book reviews in the Idaho Statesman.

We welcome feedback and ideas for shows. Contact us here.

Bob Kustra has interviewed nearly 500 guests on his radio show since 2003.

Ways to Connect

This interview was first broadcast in January of 2015.

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.

For as long as humans have walked the Earth, we’ve been making changes to it – oftentimes with little or no comprehension about the far-reaching consequences of our actions. But in her book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert opens our eyes to the powerful and possibly catastrophic mass extinction unfolding right in front of us. 

This interview was originally broadcast in September of 2013.

On June 17th, 1775, a ragtag army of colonial patriots faced off against the most powerful army of the 18th century. Their goal was to prevent the British regulars from occupying the hills surrounding Boston in order to put an end to a months-long siege of the city. What ensued proved to be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, and marked a tipping point for the colonists.

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.  

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.”

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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