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 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

  • May 29 & 31:  IMPERILED OCEAN: HUMAN STORIES FROM A CHANGING SEA, by Laura Trethewey
     
  • June 5 & 7:  THE CACTUS LEAGUE, the highly acclaimed debut novel by Emily Nemens
     
  • June 12 & 14:  IN EXTREMIS: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF WAR CORRESPONDENT MARIE COLVIN, by Lindsey Hilsum (Encore)
     
  • June 19 & 21:  BEIJING PAYBACK, a debut thriller by Daniel Nieh

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

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.

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."


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