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

  • March 27 & 29:  OF ORCAS AND MEN: WHAT KILLER WHALES CAN TEACH US, by David Neiwert (encore)
     
  • April 3 & 5:  INTO THE JUNGLE, a thrilling novel that gives readers an atmospheric trip through the Amazon, with an ending that doesn't disappoint, by Erica Ferencik.
     
  • April 10 & 12: DYING OF WHITENESS: HOW THE POLITICS OF RACIAL RESENTMENT IS KILLING AMERICA'S HEARTLAND, by Dr. Jonathan Metzl
     
  • April 17 & 19:  THE SPLENDID & THE VILE: A SAGA OF CHURCHILL, FAMILY, AND DEFIANCE DURING THE BLITZ, Erik Larson's new blockbuster book

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

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.

This interview was originally broadcast in April, 2019.

The overthrow of the Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath regime in 2007 threw a war-torn nation into even deeper turmoil. Travelling to Damascus to report on the sudden exodus of Iraqis to Syria, our guest today, Deborah Campbell, met Ahlam, a refugee known in the industry as a “fixer” – someone who provides Western media with dependable information and contacts.


A literary thriller, Bearskin is set in the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains.  Rice Moore is the caretaker of this nature preserve, a man running from a sordid past, only to face a fresh crime perpetrated in his new stomping grounds: black market bear poaching.  With his past transgression gaining on him, Moore goes deep into the woods in his attempt to stop the killings. 


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.


In his newest collaboration with documentarian Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan’s Country Music is the story of the musicians: Hank Williams’s tragic honky tonk life, Dolly Parton rising to fame from a dirt-poor childhood, and Loretta Lynn turning her experiences into songs that spoke to women everywhere. Featuring interviews with the genre’s biggest stars, including the likes of Merle Haggard to Garth Brooks to Rosanne Cash, the book offers a fascinating insight into the music that lies at the very center of the American experience.


The history of country music begins where country music itself emerged: the American South, where people sang to themselves and to their families at home and in church, and where they danced to fiddle tunes on Saturday nights.


Like so many young American couples, Chris Ingraham and his wife Briana were having a difficult time making ends meet as they tried to raise their twin boys in the East Coast suburbs. One day, Chris – in his role as a “data guy” reporter at the Washington Post – stumbled on a study that would change his life. It was a ranking of America’s 3,000+ counties from ugliest to most scenic. He quickly scrolled to the bottom of the list and gleefully wrote the words “The absolute worst place to live in America is (drumroll please) … Red Lake County, Minn.”


In 1992, the United States stood at the pinnacle of world power and Americans were confident that a new era of peace and prosperity was at hand. 25 years later, those hopes have been dashed. Relations with Russia and China have soured, the European Union is wobbling, nationalism and populism are on the rise, and the United States is stuck in costly and seemingly endless wars that have squandered trillions of dollars and undermined its influence around the world. And it’s only getting worse.


In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her." Their target was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill's "Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare."


Lauren Wilkinson’s debut novel, American Spy, has been named one of the best of the year by Esquire, Time, Vogue, and a host of other outlets. Inspired by true events, the novel follows a US intelligence officer in the tail-end of the Cold War. A brilliant but often-overlooked young black woman in the boys’ club of the FBI, Marie Mitchell’s career seems to have stalled out. But when Marie is given a dangerous and shadowy assignment, it threatens to change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.

 


This encore interview was originally broadcast in June, 2019.

Thomas Pynchon once wrote, “Everyone has an Antarctic.” He was writing about Ernest Shackleton, the famed polar explorer who never reached his objective, yet whose stunning leadership and fortitude saved the lives of every one of his men, after over a year stuck in the Antarctic. 100 years later, a British explorer heard that same siren calling from the frozen continent, and set out to follow in his hero’s footsteps.


This interview was originally broadcast in August, 2019.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have spanned three administrations, costing billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and untold casualties. Additionally, more than 2.7 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001. But many of these personal stories remain untold.

  

In the waning days of 1981, the Polish government, run by a Kremlin-backed prime minster, declared martial law in the country. An early test of a new administration, President Reagan wrote in his diary that this test would signify “the last chance in our lifetime to see a change in the Soviet Empire’s colonial policy regarding Eastern Europe.”

 


It’s May 1943. The Battle of Attu between American and Japanese forces was raging on the Aleutian island, with an Arctic cold, impenetrable fog, and rocketing winds that combined to create some of the worst weather on Earth. In this unlikely place, a Silver Star-winning American sergeant discovers a Japanese surgeon’s war diary, and finds solace for his own tortured soul.

This interview originally aired in February, 2019.

The dividing line along human behavior and cultures is often blurry and little understood. Why are trains in Japan and Germany far less delayed than those in the United States and Brazil? Why are some company cultures, like Uber and United, prone to PR nightmares while others seem more calibrated? Why is the celebration of an Olympic athlete correlated to whether they’re from China, Australia, or the UK? 

  

It’s not everyday that we interview an author who has stared into Vladimir Putin's eyes while being accused of "purposely seeking to ruin U.S.-Russia relations." As President Barack Obama’s adviser on Russian affairs, Michael McFaul helped craft the United States’ policy, known as “reset,” that fostered new and unprecedented collaboration between the two countries. And then, as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, he had a front-row seat when this fleeting, hopeful moment crumbled with Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency.


China is a nation in pursuit of a new role on the global stage. But what implications will those reversing trends have on the US and the rest of the world?


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