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February 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

This Friday, George Clooney’s film, The Monuments Men, opens nationwide.  Based on the book by writer and World War II specialist Robert Edsel, it tells the story of the men and women who worked to save the art and antiquities of Europe during World War II.  Edsel’s most recent book is Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis and is now available in paperback.  Then, we remember Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died Sunday at the age of 46.   In 2005, he spoke with Bob about his career and his film “Capote.” Hoffman won his only Academy Award for that role as Truman Capote.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Back when segregation still ruled the South, a totally integrated music studio in Memphis began making records, and launched the careers of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave and many more.  Bob talks with writer Robert Gordon about his book, Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In his new book, Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIAJohn Rizzo writes that there was a moment early in the planning stages of the war against terror when he could have single-handedly ended the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  But he did not.  Instead, as the CIA’s chief lawyer, he prepared the government’s legal case for their use. And he says now that he’d make the same decision he made then.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Kim Fu’s debut novel For Today I Am A Boy tells the story of a Chinese immigrant family with four children. One of those little tikes is secretly transgendered.  Fu talks to Bob about her book and her gender-bending imagination. Then, the first in our series honoring Black History Month, this time we cast an appreciative light on Ma Rainey, “The Mother of the Blues.” Finally, Israeli mandolin player Avi Avital titled his latest album Between Worlds, appropriate given both the musician’s and his instrument’s ability to move easily among musical genres.  The 35-year old musician talks with Bob about his album’s blend of jazz, classical, and klezmer and the renaissance of the mandolin.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Then, actress, playwright, and screenwriter Zoe Kazan stars in director Jenee LaMarque’s new film, The Pretty One, as Laurel Audrey, a young woman who assumes her identical twin sister’s identity after her sister passes away.  The Pretty One opens February 7th. Then, a This I Believe essay from the original 1950s series. This one comes from George L. Stout, one of the “Monuments Men” depicted in the George Clooney film opening in theaters today.


Monday, February 10, 2014
In 1956, the government leaders of Mississippi created the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a secret organization that spied on Civil Rights activists.  Director Dawn Porter’s documentary, Spies of Mississippi, tells its history and airs February 10th on the PBS series Independent Lens.  Then, Bob talks to African American poet and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson about her latest book, How I Discovered Poetry.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The Death Class: A True Story about Life is a book by award-winning reporter Erika Hayasaki about a professor, Dr. Norma Bowe, and her “Death in Perspective class,” which she teaches at Kean University in Union, NJ. This hugely popular, unorthodox class has boasted a 3-year waiting list, and many of the students who have taken it have been uniquely affected by it.  Then, Bob talks to electric soul band The Honorable South about their tour and forthcoming album.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
MIT professor Craig Steven Wilder has documented a shocking history of Ivy League universities.  Not only were they funded by slave-owners and built by slave labor, many actually had slaves working on the campus – imagine slaves being whipped in Harvard yard. Most of the universities have gone to great lengths to cover up this history that is just now being fully realized.  Wilder’s book is titled Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
In 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family—her parents, husband and two sons—were vacationing in Sri Lanka.  A tsunami swept the family away, killing all but Deraniyagala.  Her book, Wave, is now out in paperback, and was an Amazon and New York Times Best Book of 2013.  Then, National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Richard Powers talks to Bob about his latest novel Orfeo.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Then, Philomena Lee, whose story inspired the Oscar nominated movie “Philomena” starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.  Philomena Lee is an 80-year-old Irish woman who spent decades searching for a son she had to give up when he was just a toddler, and she an unwed teenager.  Catholic nuns took the boy and had him adopted to a couple living in the United States – a common practice in Ireland at the time – and then refused to help Philomena re-connect with her son.  She then met a BBC journalist who helped her learn about her son’s life. Lee is joined in this interview by her daugher Jane Libberton.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Anyone who believes President Lincoln did not intend to free slaves has not met historian and City University of New York professor James Oakes. Oakes’ latest book “shatters the widespread conviction that for Lincoln and the Republicans the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery.”  He talks to Bob about the debate and his book Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865.  Then, neutrinos are super tiny, barely detectable particles responsible for some of the galaxy’s biggest explosions. Trillions of them pass through our bodies every second. They are also the subject of astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana’s new book, Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe. 
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
After graduating from Harvard in 2001, BJ Novak moved to Los Angeles to begin a comedy career. Things worked out for him. Novak played Ryan Howard in the NBC comedy The Office for its entire eight-year run, and he also had a hand in writing, directing and producing the show.  In April 2013, Knopf announced a seven-figure, two-book deal with Novak. The first is out now. It’s a collection of “Woody Allen”-like stories titled One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. Then, when Michael Hainey was a small boy, his father died suddenly, leaving a stunned and broken family. There was never any talk in the household about Hainey’s father or how he died, a hole that Hainey filled with obsessive imaginings. When Hainey grew older than his father had been at the time of his death, he decided to investigate the circumstances, and the result is the memoir, After Visiting Friends and it’s now available in paperback.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
More than twenty years after his debut novel, The CommitmentsRoddy Doyle returns to the band of working class Irish youths who brought soul music to Dublin in the 1980s.  In The Guts, front man Jimmy Rabbitte is now forty-seven, married with four children, and has bowel cancer. Then, Ransom Riggs is a writer and filmmaker whose 2011 book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children landed on the New York Times best-seller list and stayed there for the next 63 weeks.  Inspired by his collection of mysterious 19th century photographs – think children levitating — Riggs created a single story out of his eclectic pictures.  The tale continues in his new sequel Hollow City.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
A 2004 research study concluded that child care ranked sixteen out of nineteen in activities that gave working women the most pleasure. Housework beat out parenting.  In the last few decades, there have been hundreds of ways that the experience of parenting has changed. Jennifer Senior writes about them in a new book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. Then, four-time Grammy award-winning jazz singer Dianne Reeves is back with her first studio album in 5 years. Guest artists Esperanza Spalding, Lalah Hathaway, Gregory Porter and others join Reeves’ powerful vocal on Beautiful Life, a soul-jazz recording of covers and new tunes. 
Friday, February 21, 2014
Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Then, we take a moment to remember influential African-American poet and authorAmiri Baraka who died earlier this year. Finally, Bob talks to Betty Medsger about her new book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.  It’s about the historic l971 break-in to the FBI’s office in Media, Pennsylvania. The burglars stole all of the files in the office, which revealed that the FBI was engaged in secret and illegal spying and dirty tricks operations against anti-war activists, civil rights groups, and other American dissidents.  Despite a massive manhunt, the FBI never found the culprits.   In her book, Medsger reveals the identity of some of the burglars for the first time.  Bob also talks to two of the burglars, John and Bonnie Raines. In l971, John Raines was a professor of religion at Temple University; Bonnie Raines, his wife, was raising their three small children.   Betty Medsger was a Washington Post reporter who received some of the purloined documents, and broke the story.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Laura Lippman wrote her first seven books while working fulltime as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. She left journalism in 2001, but kept a deadline driven writing style, publishing a book nearly every year. The latest, After I’m Gone, revolves around a cold case investigation into the disappearance of Felix Brewer.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Bob talks to author and psychologist Eileen Cronin about her book Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience. Then, Bob talks with children’s book writer Daniel Pinkwater about Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Even though writer Carl Hiaasen is a best-selling novelist, he has never given up his day job as a columnist for the Miami Herald. His new book, Dance of the Reptiles, is a compilation of some of his best pieces, on topics ranging from the serious to the ridiculous. Then, Bob speaks with Rosanne Cash about her first new album in four years, The River & The Thread. The record was inspired by her trips to Dyess, Arkansas about two years ago to participate in the restoration of her father’s boyhood home.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
New Yorker staff writer George Packer profiles the mystique and power of Amazon in his article “Amazon Is Good for Customers. But Is It Good for Books?” This article is in The New Yorker’s February 17 & 24, 2014 issue. Then, Golden Globe-winner and Oscar-nominated director Hany Abu-Assad’s (Paradise Now, 2006) new film, Omar, tells the story of a young Palestinian baker who spends his nights fighting against the Israeli military. Omar is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards and is in theaters now.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news. Next, during her time as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton logged nearly a million miles hopscotching across the globe. For 300,000 of those miles, Kim Ghattas was along for the ride. She’s a reporter for the BBC and has now written an inside account of Clinton’s time as Secretary of State titled The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power and it’s now out in paperback. Finally, the 86th annual Academy Awards will be handed out on March 2nd. Bob talks with Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday about who she thinks will win — and who she thinks should win at this year’s Academy Awards.