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 & Professor of Public Service Bob Kustra.  Reader's Corner features lively conversations with leading writers, including many winners of top literary prizes and best-selling authors.  Listen each week for thoughtful interviews about issues and ideas that matter today.

Coming up on Reader's Corner:

  • August 23 & 25 - "The Fighters" with CJ Chivers
  • August 30 & Sept. 1 - "Saudi America" with Bethany McClean (encore)
  • September 6 & 8 - "Putin's World"  Angela Stent
  • September 13 & 15 - "Washington Black" by Esi Edugyan

About Bob Kustra

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

Esi Edugyan is the author of the book, Washington Black.  The novel won the prestigious Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  The paperback edition of the book is out now.


This encore program originally aired in January, 2019.

Fracking has upended the global energy map, transforming America into the world’s top producer of oil and natural gas. With the influence of Saudi Arabia and Russia shrinking as the goal of “energy independence” comes into focus, America’s energy policy would seem to be on a clear and positive trajectory. But the truth is more complicated.


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.


This encore interview was first broadcast in January, 2019.

Over a five-year period starting in 1968, petty criminals and protesters, decorated veterans and the occasional used-car salesman seized commercial jets nearly once a week. With visions of ransom money, fame, or merely escape to exotic locales, these hijackers changed the course of modern travel and transportation security.


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?


Daniel Mason's novel, The Winter Soldier, follows Lucius Krzelewski, a 22-year-old medical student living in Vienna when World War I breaks out. Eager to do his part and allured by the vision of the noble, battlefield medic, Lucius enlists. But when he arrives on the front line, the reality of his situation comes into focus: the other doctors have fled, only a strange and secretive nurse remains, and Lucius has never even held a scalpel. A story of war and family, love and history, The Winter Soldier is a gripping novel equally stocked with mystery, excitement, and a brutal history.


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


This encore interview originally aired in January, 2019.

Personal stories of lives affected by terrorism have been the well-trod terrain of many books, films, and television. More recently, a new crop of journalists and writers have attempted to shed light on the question plaguing many in the international community: Who are these young men and women leaving home to join ISIS, the Taliban, and other terrorist groups?

Marie Colvin was one of the foremost war reporters of her generation, risking her life covering conflicts in Chechnya, East Timor, Kosovo, and the Middle East. Killed in an artillery attack in Syria in 2012, Colvin left behind a profound record of the victims of wars that she covered, and a reputation as an unflinching and nonconformist reporter.


Sam McPhee

This encore interview was originally broadcast in October, 2017.

Once in a great while, an author who has more insights and ideas than can possibly be contained in a 30-minute conversation.  This is the second part of the interview with Emily Ruskovich about her debut novel, Idaho.

This encore conversation first was broadcast in October, 2017.

Emily Ruskovich's debut novel, Idaho, centers on a mysterious and shocking act that fractures the lives of an entire family, and looks at the influences and reverberations from that event covering a span of nearly 50 years.  In June 2019, the novel won the International Dublin Literary Award, one of the most prestigious honors in the industry, and the largest prize awarded to a single-work of English literature.

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. 

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. 

This encore interview was originally broadcast in December, 2018.

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.

  

The grizzly bear is one of North America’s few remaining large predators. With a diminished range, grizzlies are again spreading across the West. But in the valleys where once they were king, grizzlies are finding the landscape they’d known for eons utterly changed by this millennia’s most dominant animal: humans.


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.


This interview originally aired in November, 2018.

California has long been a bellwether of the country’s progressive and reactionary politics. But the state that introduced us to Ronald Reagan and Harvey Milk has also confronted many of the challenges the rest of the country now faces, decades before the rest of us.

  

Oleg Gordievsky is hardly a household name in the United States, but his story is one of unparalleled intrigue, danger, and spy craft.


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.


This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in November, 2018.

Energy has been a driver of some of the most important events from the last century. From World War I onward, oil has been key factor in the economies and foreign policies of every major player on the global stage. But with rapid technological developments and the unconventional oil boom, that power is shifting.

  

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. 


America’s constitutional system of checks and balances has endured for more than two centuries. This is due, in part, to two unwritten political norms: respectful tolerance between opposing political parties, and a measure of restraint by the administration in power. Yet at contentious times in our history, those guardrails of democracy have been put to the test.


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.


For decades, North Korea has operated as a prime example of a “hermit kingdom” – a nation ruled by a despotic family regime, where propaganda and historical, political, and economic theatre are a daily ritual for the country’s 25 million citizens.


Pages