WGBH Forum Network | Book Tour

WGBH Forum Network | Book Tour

From WGBH News

WGBH weekly lecture podcast by authors and their latest works. Go on, live and learn a little. Check out our entire lecture archive at http://forum.wgbh.org/.More from WGBH Forum Network | Book Tour »

Most Recent Episodes

Joel Brenner: America the Vulnerable

The level of Internet crime is staggering, according to Joel Brenner. And he is not just thinking of personal identity theft or Wikileaks breaches. Instead, Brenner reports that United States businesses and government agencies are under relentless cyber-assaults 24 hours a day and they are bleeding military secrets, commercial secrets, and technology. Brenner admits that he can't tell us everything he learned about cyber-insecurity during his years in government service, but his new book America the Vulnerable reveals in chilling detail how insecure we actually are.What is a cyber-threat? What can we do - through our government and in the private sector - to defend against them? What can we not do? Do individual citizens have a role to play in promoting cyber-security?

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Allen Shawn: Twin

Allen Shawn, pianist and composer, discusses his memoir, Twin, about growing up as the twin brother of a sister with autism. When Allen Shawn and his sister, Mary, were two, Mary began exhibiting signs of what would be diagnosed many years later as autism. Understanding Mary and making her life a happy one appeared to be impossible for the Shawns. At the age of eight, with almost no warning, her parents sent Mary to a residential treatment center. She never lived at home again. Fifty years later, as he probed the sources of his anxieties in his previous memoir, Wish I Could Be There, Shawn realized that his fate was inextricably linked to his sister's, and that their natures were far from being different. Twin highlights the difficulties American families coping with autism faced in the 1950s. Shawn also examines the secrets and family dramas as his father, William, became editor of The New Yorker. Twin reconstructs a parallel narrative for the two siblings, who experienced such divergent fates yet shared talents and proclivities.

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Robert Musil's "The Confusions of Young Torless"

Harvard literary scholar Susanne Klingenstein discusses Robert Musil's The Confusions of Young T?rless as part of the Goethe-Institut Boston's "What is German?" seminar. Although at first glance, Musil's novel looks like any other of the fin-de-sicle coming of age novels set in quasi military all-boys schools, rife with sexual abuse fostered by emotional abuse, The Confusions of Young T?rless is also a philosophical book that investigates the limits of knowledge. How do we know what we know and how is what we know grounded in, or determined by who we are?

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Mira Bartok: The Memory Palace

Mira Bartok, children's book writer and essayist, reads from her memoir The Memory Palace, her first book for adults. "People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you've been through," Mira Bartok is told at her mother's memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship between Mira, her sister, and their mentally ill mother. Before she was struck with schizophrenia at the age of nineteen, beautiful piano protege Norma Herr had been the most vibrant personality in the room. She loved her daughters and did her best to raise them well, but as her mental state deteriorated, Norma spoke less about Chopin and more about Nazis and her fear that her daughters would be kidnapped, murdered, or raped. When the girls left for college, the harassment escalated—Norma called them obsessively, appeared at their apartments or jobs, threatened to kill herself if they did not return home. After a traumatic encounter, Mira and her sister were left with no choice but to change their names and sever all contact with Norma in order to stay safe. But while Mira pursued her career as an artist—exploring the ancient romance of Florence, the eerie mysticism of northern Norway, and the raw desert of Israel—the haunting memories of her mother were never far away. Then one day, Mira's life changed forever after a debilitating car accident. As she struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury, she was confronted with a need to recontextualize her life—she had to relearn how to paint, read, and interact with the outside world. In her search for a way back to her lost self, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where she believed her mother was living and discovered that Norma was dying. Mira and her sister traveled to Cleveland, where they shared an extraordinary reconciliation with their mother that none of them had thought possible. At the hospital, Mira discovered a set of keys that opened a storage unit Norma had been keeping for seventeen years. Filled with family photos, childhood toys, and ephemera from Norma's life, the storage unit brought back a flood of previous memories that Mira had thought were lost to her forever.

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Seth Mnookin: The Panic Virus and Childhood Vaccines

Journalist Seth Mnookin discusses the controversy around childhood vaccines and his book The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear. In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist with a history of self-promotion, published a paper with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The media seized hold of the story and, in the process, helped to launch one of the most devastating health scares ever. In the years to come Wakefield would be revealed as a profiteer in league with class-action lawyers, and he would eventually lose his medical license. Meanwhile one study after another failed to find any link between childhood vaccines and autism. Yet the myth that vaccines somehow cause developmental disorders lives on. Despite the lack of corroborating evidence, it has been popularized by media personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy and legitimized by journalists who claim that they are just being fair to "both sides" of an issue about which there is little debate. Meanwhile millions of dollars have been diverted from potential breakthroughs in autism research, families have spent their savings on ineffective "miracle cures," and declining vaccination rates have led to outbreaks of deadly illnesses like Hib, measles, and whooping cough. Most tragic of all is the increasing number of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. In The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? The answer helps explain everything from the persistence of conspiracy theories about 9/11 to the appeal of talk-show hosts who demand that President Obama "prove" he was born in America.

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Richard Wolffe: Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House

Richard Wolffe, journalist and MSNBC political analyst, talks about what he considers a defining moment in the Obama presidency. His new political biography is Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House. Richard Wolffe drew on his unrivaled access to the West Wing to write a natural sequel to his campaign biography, Renegade: The Making of a President. He traces an arc from near death to resurrection that is a repeated pattern for Obama, first as a candidate and now as president. Starting at the first anniversary of the inauguration, Wolffe paints a portrait of a White House at work under exceptional strain across a sweeping set of challenges: from health care reform to a struggling economy, from two wars to terrorism. Revival is a road map to understanding the dynamics, characters, and disputes that shape the Obama White House. It reveals for the first time the fault lines at the heart of the West Wing between two groups competing for control of the president's agenda. On one side are the Revivalists, who want to return to the high-minded spirit of the presidential campaign. On the other side are the Survivalists, who believe that government demands a low-minded set of compromises and combat. At the center of this story is a man who remains opaque to supporters, staff, and critics alike. What motivates him to risk his presidency on health care? What frustrations does he feel at this incredible time of testing?

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Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein discuss Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between. Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein achieved bestselling fame with their first book, Plato and a Platypus Walked Into a Bar, a survey of key philosophical concepts through jokes. This newest book is a hilarious take on the philosophy, theology, and psychology of mortality and immortality. That is, Death. Philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Camus, and Sartre have been wrestling with the meaning of death for as long as they have been wrestling with the meaning of life. Fortunately, humorists have been keeping pace with the major thinkers by creating gags about dying. Death's funny that way--it gets everybody's attention.

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Megan A. Volpert: Performance Poetry

Megan A. Volpert reads from her latest poetry collection, the desense of nonfense.

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Atlantic: Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

Simon Winchester, master raconteur, tells a series of gripping and little-known tales of the Atlantic, the ocean he calls "the inland sea of modern civilization." Simon Winchester is a bestselling author, journalist and broadcaster. Prior to writing, he studied and worked in the field of geology.

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Kwame Anthony Appiah: How Moral Revolutions Happen

Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah discusses honor and its place in social and political movements throughout modern history through his new book is The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen. Long neglected as an engine of reform, honor emerges at the center of our modern world in Kwame Anthony Appiah's The Honor Code. Over the last few centuries, new democratic movements have led to the emancipation of women, slaves, and the oppressed. But what drove these modern changes, Appiah argues, was not imposing legislation from above, but harnessing the ancient power of honor from within. In gripping detail, he explores the end of the duel in aristocratic England, the tumultuous struggles over footbinding in nineteenth-century China, and the uprising of ordinary people against Atlantic slavery. Finally, he confronts the horrors of "honor killing" in contemporary Pakistan, where rape victims are murdered by their relatives. He argues that honor, used to justify the practice, can also be the most effective weapon against it.

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