Readers Corner

Generations have grown up with the tales spun by Charles Dickens, and that’s particularly true around the holidays. Characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and young Tiny Tim have become cultural icons, and a reminder to take stock of our lives, celebrate each day, and care for those around us.

In his powerful debut novel, “Spoils,” Brian Van Reet transports his readers to the messy, murky front lines of the Iraq War, and a morally complex landscape, where the U.S. mission of winning hearts and minds is anything but clear. The fog of war is felt by American soldiers, Islamic jihadists, and the innocent Iraqi civilians caught in the cross hairs, and Mr. Van Reet tells their intertwining stories with an emotional intensity and precision that is utterly believable. His book is a testament to the power of fiction to mine deeper truths.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of Casablanca, perhaps the most beloved of all Hollywood films. Somehow, this love story set in war time seems as relevant today as when it first lit up the silver screen back in 1942. People who’ve never even seen the movie still recognize its famous lines, and references to Casablanca abound in novels, plays, musicals, and other productions.

The war that became known as World War I began over 100 years ago and ushered in a new type of warfare – one built underground, in trenches, instead of above ground, on horses. In his book, To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild brings the war to life in a stark and dramatic new way.

This interview was originally broadcast in May, 2017.

The decades after World War II were a golden age when many people around the world enjoyed an increasingly good quality of life. But by the early 1970s, the good times had all but vanished as energy shortages, financial crises and rising unemployment shook economies in America and around the world.

Our radio show Reader's Corner, hosted by Boise State University President Bob Kustra, is celebrating a major milestone this month. The program's 500th guest is scheduled for the weekend of October 27.

Sam McPhee

Once in a great while, I interview an author who has more insights and ideas than can possibly be contained in a 30-minute conversation. Such was the case when I spoke with Emily Ruskovich about her debut novel, Idaho, and so we feature the second part of the interview here.

Emily Ruskovich’s novel, Idaho, begins with a family in northern Idaho who experiences an unthinkable, mysterious tragedy. Left behind is a mother of two in prison, and another woman — who barely knows her — trying to make sense of it all. It seems impossible that the two little girls who once played together in the open fields of beautiful Mt. Iris are gone.

Fifty years after he was assassinated at age 39, Malcolm X remains a controversial and somewhat mysterious figure. During his short but eventful life, he was a minister with the Nation of Islam who went on to found his own mosque, a fiery militant who advocated “any means necessary” to attain racial justice, and a brilliant, charismatic speaker whose legacy is still being determined.

Scott Anderson holds the unique distinction of having a full issue of The New York Times Magazine devoted to his story. That speaks both to the quality of his work, as well as to its immense relevance.

This episode originally was broadcast in March, 2017.

Humans think, feel and plan for the future. We say hello, and goodbye. We design and use tools to our advantage. But what if animals can do these things, too? What if we’ve just never really understood how to discern animal intelligence? Biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal challenges us to think more like an animal in his new book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”

Hollywood usually is viewed as a symbol of the American Dream. But in the 1930s and ’40s, it became a symbol of something much darker: the Communist threat to American values that must be publicly rooted out at all costs.

 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is revered as an 18th century genius who composed some of the most sublime music ever written.  The fact that a starling became his beloved pet during one of the most creative and productive periods of his short life has perplexed historians and music lovers for years. Yet the unlikely story of the great composer and his common bird is a true one, and today’s guest, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, explores it in detail in her new book, titled “Mozart’s Starling.”

At the turn of the 20th century, the most popular entertainment acts in the country were found under the Big Top. The circus offered daring acts of bravery, wild animals, comic antics and the collection of human oddities known as the Freak Show.

With the 2017 total solar eclipse less than two weeks away, excitement is reaching a fever pitch in Idaho and other places across the country where this stunning celestial event will be visible.

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