Reader's Corner

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Welcome to Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show and podcast hosted by Boise State University President Emeritus: Professor of Public Service Bob Kustra. Now in its 15th 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:

  • Aug 10 & 12  -  "Forged in Crisis" with Nancy Koehn
  • Aug 17 & 19  -  "Educated" with Tara Westover
  • Aug 25 & 27  -  "The Gifted Generation" with David Goldfield
  • Aug 31 & Sept. 2  -  "The Unbanking of America" with Lisa Servon
  • Sept. 7 & 9  -  "A Path Appears" with Nicholas Kristof

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 podcast email.

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

Every once in a while, you come across individuals who make you feel better just for having encountered them. As today’s guest, David Brooks, puts it, “They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.”

This program was originally broadcast in May of 2016

Nearly a century ago, the Chicago White Sox faced the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series. The games attracted big crowds, widespread enthusiasm and plenty of action from the so-called “sporting men” who placed bets on who would win each contest. Gambling was an integral and accepted part of baseball at the time, but for this Series, something seemed off. The White Sox were heavily favored to win, but they lost to the Reds five games to three. Speculation quickly surfaced that the Series had been rigged.

Washington, Lincoln and FDR are revered as leaders who helped shape the course of history. They are often referred to as “great” presidents. But is it possible to have a great president today? And is greatness a quality that Americans even want in their chief executive?

Aaron David Miller examines the history of the U.S. presidency to explore those questions in his book, The End of Greatness.  In the book, Dr. Miller makes the case that greatness as a presidential virtue is largely overrated – and that it occurs too infrequently to be relevant to current politics.

Following one of the most divisive and contentious elections in history, it is easy to say that we are a nation in cultural crisis. But what does that actually mean? In the Rust Belt, as well as in rural Appalachia, it means factories closing and good jobs shipped overseas in less than a generation. It means an uptick in drug abuse and violence in the home, an erosion of the education system and trust in our government, and the disintegration of children’s dreams for a better future than that of their parents.

In our complex and data driven world, scientists are facing a major challenge to understand and document plant and animal species that may be in the process of disappearing. Climate change, habitat fragmentation, pollution and population growth are among the threats that are pushing some species toward extinction.

This program was originally broadcast in December, 2016.

As anyone with children, or grandchildren, knows, parenting isn’t easy. Children and adolescents are growing up in a complex and connected world where smartphones, video games, organized activities and friends vie for their attention. At the same time, parents aren’t exactly always sure what their job description should be – or how to best nurture their child.

  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, friendship, loss and disability are just some of the big themes it explores.

What’s it like to be an octopus? Is it anything like being a human? Is it even possible to know?

Two hundred and twenty-eight years ago this April, George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States.  Since then, 44 Americans have taken that solemn vow, most recently Donald Trump.  History has yet to judge our most recent presidents. But as we look farther into the past, which presidents have stood the test of time and are revered today?  And which ones are now viewed as less successful leaders, or even as failures?

Domestic terrorism has taken many forms since the horrific events of September 11th. From these disparate acts, a sinister pattern of domestic terrorism has emerged as American Muslim men and women are radicalized from afar by extremist groups like ISIS.

Peter Bergen, is an internationally recognized expert on terrorism, a documentary producer and CNN’s national security analyst. In his latest book, titled United States of Jihad, Mr. Bergen discusses the social and political influences that can transform average Muslim Americans into homegrown terrorists.

These days, the terrorist organization known as ISIS has much of the world on high alert. How this happened is the subject of a book by today’s guest, Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick.

When Sally Ride flew into orbit aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, she made history. As the first American woman in space, Ride helped change perceptions about what women could accomplish and inspired a new generation of girls to literally reach for the stars. But Ride was more than an icon for the U.S. space program – she also was a complex, private woman with singular talents and skills, who continued to contribute to science and education until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2012.

At the height of the Cold War, a seemingly unassuming Soviet electronics engineer reached out to several Americans he encountered in Moscow and offered his services. While he was initially ignored, the engineer, Adolf Tolkachev was eventually accepted by the CIA’s Moscow station as a volunteer spy for the United States. Over a number of years, and under the nose of the ever-watchful KGB, Tolkachev passed on highly classified information about Soviet military technology to U.S. intelligence operatives.

The recent death of Fidel Castro has once again placed Cuba in the spotlight as the world remembers the fiery dictator who sparred with 11 US Presidents, and questions are what lies next for his country.

One of the most infamous incidents between the US and Cuba involved the ill-fated invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs in 1961.  Jim Rasenberger writes about this tense time in his book "The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs.  It's now out in paperback.

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