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:

  • June 22 & 24  -  "The Tenth Parallel" with Eliza Griswold (encore)
  • June 9 & July 1  -  "The New Sultan" with Soner Cagaptay
  • July 6 & 8  -  "Into the Silence" with Wade Davis (encore)
  • July 13 & 15  -  "The Four" with Scott Galloway
  • July 20 & 22  -  "Fractured Continent" with William Drodziak (encore)

In October 2017, Reader's Corner marked a milestone with its 500th guest. Among the notable guests are bestselling authors Erik Larson, Ann Patchett, David Brooks and Candice Millard; Pulitzer Prize winners Anthony Doerr, Elizabeth Kolbert, Tracy Kidder and E.O. Wilson; National Book Award winners Timothy Egan and Nathaniel Philbrick; and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz. 

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 over 500 guests for his weekly radio show since 2003. Click here for more about our host.

Ways to Connect

A shot fired in the lobby of a Washington, D.C. , train station in 1881 would eventually claim the life of the United States’ 20th president — James A. Garfield. According to author Candice Millard, the assassination also shook the very core of the nation.

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.”

When Germany invaded its European neighbors in 1940, the United States was a long ways from being prepared. The country’s military resources had been all but drained by the Great Depression. The U.S. army was smaller than that of Belgium’s, a nation that could fit inside Maryland. Military war games were being carried out with broomsticks and eggs in place of guns and grenades, and in at least one instance, a U.S. general was forced to order tank replacement parts from a Sears and Roebuck catalog because the military couldn’t provide the items itself.

Grocery shopping is on almost everyone’s weekly list. For many households, that means driving to the supermarket, or an even larger discount mega-store, and loading our carts to the brim with our favorite brands. But grocery shopping wasn’t always this way. A century ago, small mom-and-pop grocers dotted street corners, staffed by storekeepers who packaged bulk items for customers they knew by name. Today, the retail landscape continues to change, as more of us go online for a variety of purchases.

It’s a scenario familiar to many of us: We go online and search for a product we’re interested in purchasing. Moments later, we click on our favorite news site, only to be bombarded with ads, including some for the product we were just viewing. So how did this happen? And what else might we unwittingly be sharing about our behavior, activities and tastes?

Baseball legends hold a special place in our country’s collective heart. Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are still household names generations after their feats on the baseball diamond made them famous.

But perhaps none represents the promise and hard truths of the American experience during baseball’s golden age better than pitching great Satchel Paige.

This week we are mourning the loss of one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors – George Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy gained world-wide fame for his Oscar-winning role as Dragline in Cool Hand Luke in 1967. Over the course of his long career, he appeared in more than 200 films, including The Dirty Dozen , the Airport series, The Eiger Sanction, Death on the Nile, and as Captain Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series of the 1980s.

Few would put the name Juan Pujol alongside Eisenhower, Churchill and Roosevelt – the Allied giants of World War II.  Yet, this underachieving chicken farmer from Barcelona could very well be the pivotal figure in one of the 20th century’s most important events: the Allied landings in Normandy during the summer of 1944.

Baseball has inspired many works of fiction – including Chad Harbach’s bestselling novel, The Art of Fielding. But while the action is centered around a college team and its star shortstop, Henry Scrimshander, this is much more than a baseball book. The fallacy of perfection, the inevitability of change and the power of friendship are just a few of the multi-layered themes explored in the novel, which is now out in paperback.

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.

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.

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