Reader's Corner

BSPR News: Fri at 6 p.m. & Sun at 11 a.m. | BSPR News/Music: Fri at 6 p.m.

Welcome to Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show and podcast hosted by Boise State University president emeritus and former Illinois Lieutenant Governor Bob Kustra.  Reader's Corner features lively conversations with leading writers, including Pulitzer, National Book Award, and Nobel Prize winners and many best-selling authors. Listen each week for thoughtful interviews about issues and ideas that matter.

Coming up on Reader’s Corner

  • July 31 & August 2:  UNRIGGED: HOW AMERICANS ARE BATTLING BACK TO SAVE DEMOCRACY, by David Daley
     
  • August 7 & 9:  OVERGROUND RAILROAD: THE GREEN BOOK AND THE ROOTS OF BLACK TRAVEL IN AMERICA, by Candacy Taylor
     
  • August 14 & 16: WASHINGTON BLACK, gripping historical fiction by Esi Edugyan, one of NYTimes 10 Best Books of 2018 (encore)
     
  • August 21 & 23: PUTIN'S PEOPLE: HOW THE KGB TOOK BACK RUSSIA AND THEN TOOK ON THE WEST, the definitive account of the rise of Putin and Putinism, by Catherine Belton

About Bob Kustra and Boise State Public Radio

Listen to our shows at your convenience with our free Reader's Corner app from the App Store or Google Play and at Readers Corner with Bob Kustra on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  

Subscribe to the weekly Reader's Corner podcast email.

We welcome feedback!  Contact us here.

Ways to Connect

Author and journalist David Daley, is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on gerrymandering.  His first book charted the troubling evolution of gerrymandering and voter manipulation in the United States. 


Daniel Okrent’s The Guarded Gate tells the chilling story of how anti-immigration activists of the early twentieth century — most of them well-born, many of them progressives — used the bogus science of eugenics to justify closing the immigration door in 1924.


Juan Gabriel Vásquez's most recent novel is The Shape of the Ruins.

When a man is arrested at a museum for attempting to steal the bullet-ridden suit of a murdered Colombian politician, few notice. But soon this thwarted theft takes on greater meaning as it becomes a thread in a widening web of popular fixations with conspiracy theories, assassinations, and historical secrets.


This is an encore presentation.

Bestselling novelist Pam Jenoff's work frequently appears on the New York Times bestseller list.

Her latest novel, The Lost Girls of Paris, is based upon the real-life women of the British Special Operations Executive service, who served as secret agents in occupied France during WWII. Told from the perspectives of the woman who ran the spy ring, an agent who risked everything in service of her country, and a widower working to uncover the fate of them all, Jenoff’s story is a remarkable story of heroism, betrayal, and friendship.

  

A Long Petal of the Sea, is an epic novel spanning decades and crossing continents that follows two young people as they flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in search of a place to call home

In the late 1930s, when General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee.  Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning, and over the course of their lives they will face trial after trial, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.

The New York Times Book Review said of the book:  “… one of the strongest and most affecting works in Isabel Allende’s long career.” 

Beijing Payback, a debut thriller, was named one of 5 books not to miss by USA Today and garnered favorable reviews by NPR, the New York Times, the LA Review of Books, and others.   The story takes place in Southern California and China.  A Chinese American college basketball player named Victor Li learns that his father was murdered — and that perhaps his father was not quite the person he was thought to be. 


This is an encore presentation.

On February 18, 1965, an overflowing crowd packed the Union at England’s Cambridge University to witness a historic televised debate between James Baldwin, the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and William F. Buckley Jr., America's most influential conservative intellectual.


Emily Nemen’s The Cactus League, as the title tells us, is set in the Arizona desert, around Scottsdale, during spring training for major league baseball.  The novel is narrated by a sportscaster and while nominally the story of Jason Goodyear, the star outfielder for the fictional Los Angeles Lions, Goodyear’s story is interspersed with the stories of other richly drawn characters -- the batting coach, aging sports agent, the players, owners, ballpark staff and the hangers on.


Imperiled Ocean is an exploration of the earth's last wild frontier, filled with high-stakes stories that explore a vast territory undergoing tremendous change.  Journalist Laura Trethewey set out in 2015 on 'an extended listening tour' to hear some of these stories.  She learned that for reasons of money… migrants die, cruise ships steer around the law, and plastic is made, sold and discarded faster than it can be collected and disposed of. 


This is an encore presentation.

While not a household name, Burton K. Wheeler may have been the most powerful politician Montana ever produced, and he was one of the most influential and controversial members of the United States senate.   A New Deal Democrat and lifelong opponent of concentrated power, he consistently acted with a righteous personal and political independence that has all but disappeared from the public sphere. 


On November 8, 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés first met Montezuma, the Aztec emperor. This introduction – the prelude to the Spanish seizure of Mexico City and to European colonization of the mainland of the Americas – has long been the symbol of Cortés’s bold and brilliant military genius. Montezuma, on the other hand, is remembered as a coward who gave away a vast empire and touched off a wave of colonial invasions across the hemisphere.

But is that actually what happened?


This is an encore presentation

Oleg Gordievsky is hardly a household name in the United States, but his story is one of unparalleled intrigue, danger, and spy craft.  In his book, The Spy and the Traitor, author Ben Macintyre tells the thrilling tale of the Cold War’s greatest double agent. The son of two KGB agents, Gordievsky became the Soviet Union’s top spy in the UK, only to become disillusioned with the regime and begin working with British intelligence to foil countless Soviet plots, risking his life again and again.

  

In “Tightrope,” authors Kristof and WuDunn issue a plea – deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans – to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure.

The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up, in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. 


In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Winston Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” On Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.  


This is an encore presentation.

During the last presidential election, many lower- and middle-class white Americans were drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But have the resulting policies actually placed those very Americans at a greater risk of sickness and death?

  

Over the past few decades there has been a revolution in terms of who controls consumer knowledge and information. This rapid change has imperiled the way we think. We shop with Amazon, socialize on Facebook, turn to Apple for entertainment, and rely on Google for information. 

But is there a hidden price we’re paying beyond that cheap shipping and low monthly subscription?


In Erica Ferencik’s hypnotic, violent, and unsparing thriller -- named by the New York Times Book Review as one of the Summer 2019’s Best Thrillers -- a young woman leaves behind everything she knows to take on the Bolivian jungle, but her excursion abroad quickly turns into a fight for her life.


This is an encore presentation.

Until a few decades ago, the killer whales of the Puget Sound were frequently captured by the dozen and sold for entertainment at marine parks across the U.S. Today, these incredible creatures are the subject of new protections, and increased scientific inquiry.  But their waters remain under threat. Pollution and marine traffic continue to wraek havoc, and orcas’ ability to thrive is still very much in doubt.

  

The Idaho Traveler explores the often ignored treasures of small-town Idaho, from historic buildings and sites to the mom-and-pop restaurants that offer the best pie and breakfast in the Gem State. Interviews with long-time residents and newcomers alike illustrate this paean to Idaho and capture the essence of what defines Idaho's unique character.


This is an encore presentation.

Derek Black grew up at the center of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet, and his godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek was 19, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show and a growing voice in white nationalism. But after enrolling in college and growing his circle of friends outside a cloistered and racist movement, Derek began to question those beliefs.


Trump and His Generals is Peter Bergen's riveting account of what happened when the unstoppable force of President Trump met the immovable object of America's national security establishment--the CIA, the State Department, and, above all, the Pentagon. If there is a real "deep state" in DC, it is the national security community, with its deep-rooted culture and hierarchy.

The men Trump selected for his key national security positions, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and H. R. McMaster, were products of that culture.  Trump wanted generals, and he got them. Three years later, they would be gone, and the guardrails were off.  Lucid and gripping, the book brings urgently needed clarity to issues that affect the fate of us all. But clarity, unfortunately, is not the same thing as reassurance.


The Troubles in Northern Ireland had deep roots.  Northern Ireland was created in 1921, when Ireland was partitioned between the North and South.  While Southern Ireland became the Irish Free State, Northern Ireland's population was split: the majority were unionists and wanted to remain within the United Kingdom.  A significant minority, however, mostly Catholics, were nationalists who wanted a united Ireland independent of British rule.


This is an encore presentation.  

Chris Bohjalian is a bestselling novelist whose work frequently appears on the New York Times bestseller list.  His newest thriller, The Flight Attendant, focuses on Cassandra Bowden, an airline worker who wakes in a Dubai hotel room with a hangover, a head full of foggy memories, and a dead man lying next to her. A powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night, The Flight Attendant is one of those books you pick up and don’t put down until the last page.


There is much to fear in the dark corners of cyberspace. From well-covered stories like the Stuxnet attack which helped slow Iran’s nuclear program, to lesser-known tales like EternalBlue, the 2017 cyber battle that closed hospitals in Britain and froze shipping crates in Germany in midair, we have entered an age in which online threats carry real-world consequences.


In America, domestic violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime, and yet it remains locked in silence, even as its tendrils reach unseen into so many of our most pressing national issues, from our economy to our education system, from mass shootings to mass incarceration to the #MeToo movement.

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