Reader's Corner

Reader's Corner

From Boise State Public Radio

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Most Recent Episodes

How Voters And Historians View Presidential Greatness With Robert W. Merry

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? We're discussing presidential performance with Robert W. Merry. He is the author of Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and the Historians. It's now out in paperback. Where They Stand takes an in-depth look at what Mr. Merry calls "America's favorite game," rating the presidents. In the book, Mr. Merry examines polls conducted over the years, as well as metrics developed to rank those who have led our nation. He also shares fascinating anecdotes and insights about our past presidents, including how and why

How Voters And Historians View Presidential Greatness With Robert W. Merry

Author Saladin Ambar Malcolm X And Global Politics In A Global Era

Fifty years after he was assassinated at age 39, Malcolm X remains a controversial and somewhat mysterious figure. During his short but eventful life, he was a minister with the Nation of Islam who went on to found his own mosque, a fiery militant who advocated "any means necessary" to attain racial justice, and a brilliant, charismatic speaker whose legacy is still being determined. Today's guest, Saladin Ambar, offers insights into how Malcolm X continued to change and refine his philosophy and politics near the end of his life in his book "Malcolm X at Oxford Union." The book offers analysis and context for a speech Malcolm X gave as part of a debate at Oxford University – a speech that until Mr. Ambar's book, has received little academic scrutiny. Mr. Ambar teaches political science at Lehigh University.

A Fascinating Look Into "Stalin's Last American Spy" With Author Kati Marton

What does it take for someone with seemingly every advantage in life to turn on their friends, their family and their country, all in the name of a cause? Today's guest, Kati Marton, explores that question in her new book, True Believer: Stalin's Last American Spy. True Believer is the amazing true story of an American named Noel Field who spied for the Soviet Union during the 1930s and,'40s . Ultimately, Field was kidnapped and tortured by the KGB and forced to testify against his own Communist comrades. His family, including his wife, his brother and an adopted daughter, also were imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain when they went to search for him. The story Ms. Marton tells is filled with danger, misplaced loyalties, and betrayal. Kati Marton is the author of several books including Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America , which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and she is a former correspondent for NPR and ABC News. Ms. Marton will be coming

A Fascinating Look Into "Stalin's Last American Spy" With Author Kati Marton

How ISIS Came To Be A Worldwide Threat With Author Joby Warrick

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. In "Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS," Mr. Warrick traces the history of ISIS back to its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi . During the Iraqi War, Zarkawi managed to turn a couple dozen misfits, extremists and thugs in a Jordanian prison into a terrorist army that is again thriving. Today, ISIS continues to spread its brand of militant Islam, raising its banner over large swaths of Syria and Iraq. Joby Warrick joined the Washington Post's national staff in 1996. He has covered national security, intelligence and the Middle East, and currently writes about the environment. Prior to his work at The Washington Post, Warrick reported for The News and Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. "Black Flags" was named a best book of 2015 by The New York Times, the

Why American's May Not Want Another Great President, With Aaron David Miller

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. We selected The End of Greatness for this program prior to the November general election, not knowing who would win the presidency, or what the national mood would be. As President Obama's eight years in office come to an end, and Donald Trump is sworn in as the next president, Dr. Miller's book offers a thoughtful perspective on how the concept of greatness plays out at the highest level of government. Dr. Miller is vice

Why American's May Not Want Another Great President, With Aaron David Miller

Author JD Vance Shares His Memoir Of A Family And Culture In Crisis

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. J.D. Vance, tells us in plain language what it was like to be raised in a family of proud, poor and loving-yet-broken hillbillies in his bestseller, "Hillbilly Elegy." In his recollections of growing up in a home marred by substance abuse and poverty, he offers a glimpse of the dysfunction and trauma suffered by many children in our growing class of poor Americans. He also offers his personal reflections on why it is so hard to break that cycle. Mr. Vance is a veteran who served

A True Story Of Cold War Espionage With Author David E. Hoffman

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 documents he shared were of immense strategic value at a time when tensions between the two superpowers were at their peak. Today's guest, David Hoffman, tells this riveting story –which reads like a spy novel but is in fact nonfiction — in his bestseller, The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal. It's now out in paperback. Mr. Hoffman is a contributing editor at The Washington Post. From 1995 to 2001, he served as Moscow Bureau Chief, and later as

What Happened In Cuba's Bay of Pigs With Author Jim Rasenberger

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. In the book, he details how a US-backed invasion of Cuba was launched by a CIA-trained Cuban exiles. The plan was to start an uprising that would result in the overthrow of communist dictator, Fidel Castro. But the invasion was marred by miscalculations and setbacks, and ended up being arguably the biggest military blunder in American history. The failed operation was an embarrassment to president John F. Kennedy, only three months into his term in office, as well as to the CIA. The Cuban exiles

How Winston Churchill Became "Hero Of The Empire"

Throughout history, brave souls have answered the call to serve their countries, and to risk it all on the battlefield. But few, perhaps, have done it with more guts and gusto than Winston Churchill. In her latest book, "Hero of the Empire," Candice Millard introduces us to a young Churchill who believed early on that he was destined to lead, and who thirsted for a chance to be a war hero — mostly so he could be recognized for it. During the Boer War of 1899, in which the British Empire drove into Southern Africa, he got his chance. Ms. Millard is a former writer and editor for National Geographic magazine. Both of her previous books, "The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey," and "Destiny of the Republic," about President James A. Garfield, landed on The New York Times bestseller list. Her work also has appeared in Time Magazine, Washington Post Book World, and the New York Times Book Review. Ms. Millard was a guest on our program in 2012 to discuss "Destiny of the

Historian John Bieter On The People, Land And Myths Of The Owyhee Canyonlands

Owyhee County is Idaho's second largest county and yet one of its least populated. Despite its emptiness, Owyhee County has a rich history, one that has been thoroughly explored and documented by today's guest, John Bieter. Bieter is a professor of history at Boise State University who specializes in immigration and Basque studies. His new book, Showdown in the Big Quiet, explores the region's historical and political history. The Big Quiet, as it's sometimes known, is a place where miners battled to make their fortunes in Idaho's largest gold mines, frontiersmen and cattle ranchers came to tame the land, and Basques emigrated to try their hand at sheepherding. It is a county that has attracted fugitives like convicted murderer Claude Dallas, and government agencies looking to build new bombing ranges. Even though nearly 80 percent of the land in Owyhee County is owned by the federal government, there is an enduring belief that individual rights reign supreme. Bieter won a 2015 Idaho

Historian John Bieter On The People, Land And Myths Of The Owyhee Canyonlands

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