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January 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

For the New Year, we continue to highlight Bob’s best interviews in 2013.  First, beloved writer Judy Blume has been the voice of young people’s literature for over 40 years.  The author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, the Fudge books, and many others, Blume can now add screenwriter to her resume.  Based on her 1981 novel, her film Tiger Eyes is available on Video on Demand.  Then, the former First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, has released her fourth album, Little French Songs.  It’s been called a “tightly crafted, sweet collection of French chasons” and features “Mon Raymond,” a love song to her husband, Nicholas Sarkozy.  Bruni explains that Raymond was easier to rhyme than Nicholas.

 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Today we air one of our best documentaries of 2013, End of Watch: What Happens to US Veterans Waiting for Help.  On June 102013, Army veteran Daniel Somers left behind a heartbreaking letter that began, “I am sorry that it has come to this.  The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me.”  Unfortunately, Daniel is one of 22 U.S. military veterans who take their own lives every day.  Considering that figure, coupled with the massive backlog of veterans waiting for help from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Bob wanted to find out if there is a connection.  In End of Watch: What Happens to US Veterans Waiting for Help, he talks to former VA workers who resigned in protest over VA practices and procedures, along with veterans waiting in line – currently more than 700,000 service men and women – to get the benefits they were promised upon enlisting.  What Bob learns is an infuriating and vexing mix of stories and opinions.

 

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Best of 2013 celebration concludes today with our regular news analyst,L.A. Times columnist Doyle McManus, looking back at the year that was.  Then, last year, Masterpiece’s hit show Downton Abbey stunned viewers by ending the season with tragedy.  Bob talks about what’s in store this season with actresses Phyllis Logan and Lesley Nicol, who play Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore.  Season 4 starts Sunday, January 5th on PBS.  Finally, Buzz Aldrin was the second man to step foot on the moon and the first to punch an Apollo conspiracy theorist in the jaw after the man demanded Aldrin swear on a Bible that the Moon landings were not fake.  Aldrin dedicated a chapter to the incident in his 2009 autobiography Magnificent Desolation, titled after the words that he uttered while walking on the moon.  His new book, Mission to Mars, outlines his goals for the space program and how he believes we can get humans to Mars.

 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bob talks to violinist Hilary Hahn about her new CD, In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores.  Hahn spent more than a decade commissioning new works by contemporary composers to play at the end of her concerts.  Encores, which are the performer’s way of rewarding an enthusiastic audience at the end of a concert, are short, intimate pieces between 2 and 5 minutes long.  Hahn wasn’t satisfied with the standard encore repertoire, and wondered what contemporary composers would do with the form.   She contacted composers from all over the world.  The result is a dazzling 2-CD collection of brand new encores, which she has been performing at her concerts.

 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

 Bob talks to novelist and memoirist Pat Conroy about his newest book, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son.  Then, in 2005, soul singer Leela James exploded on the music scene with her first album A Change Is Gonna Come.  Some critics have compared her sound to Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Chaka Khan.  James has four albums to her credit, an NAACP Image Award, and fans that travel far and wide to hear what soul music sounds like in the 21st century.  James talks to Bob about her career, her tour, and her recent collaboration with male vocalist Anthony Hamilton.

 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Award-winning historian Graham Robb traveled by bicycle from Portugal to the Alps, following the ancient Celtic route known as the Heraklean Way.  His new book, The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts, charts his experiences and discoveries.  Then, it’s been over 200 years since the Brothers Grimm first shared their collection of fairy tales with children and adults.  The lure of “once upon a time” captured people’s imagination, making Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Rapunzel and many others some of the Western world’s most beloved stories.  Harvard professor Maria Tatar edited The Annotated Brothers Grimm and talks with Bob about these enticing and often grisly tales.

 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

On January 12th, 2010, an earthquake ripped through Haiti’s capital city and killed an estimated 300,000 people, making the world wonder if a country could withstand any more deprivation, of both the natural and manmade kind.  Journalist Amy Wilentz was there when Baby Doc fled, and she was there decades later, just after the earthquake hit.  In her book Farewell Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti, Wilentz guides readers though the country’s long and tortured history.  Wilentz’s book is now available in paperback.  Then, neuroscientist Joshua Greene explains the relationship between morality and human evolution in his latest book Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and The Gap Between Us and Them. Greene talks to Bob about the book, and his work as director of Harvard University’s Moral Cognition Lab.

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Then, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Bill Ayers was dubbed a “domestic terrorist” and his relationship with candidate Barack Obama was extensively studied under the right-wing talk show microscope.  In his new memoir, the co-founder of the Weather Underground presents himself as an activist committed to social justice and education. His book is titledPublic Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident.

 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The chief economist for Google says that the field of statistics is turning into a “sexy” discipline.  In his book, Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, Dartmouth professor Charles Wheelen explains how and why that’s changing – and why we all should care about the amount of data growing every year.  Wheelen’s book is now out in paperback.  Then, Bob talks to veteran documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman about his newest film, At Berkeley. It’s in select theaters now, and will be broadcast nationwide on PBS in January. Bob talks to 83 year old documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman about his newest film, “At Berkeley.” It’s in select theaters now, and will be broadcast nationwide on PBS January 13th.

 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Filmmaker Patrick Creadon’s documentary, If You Build It, tells the story of designers and activists Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller’s “Project H Design.”  Miller and Pilloton spent a year in a rural North Carolina high school teaching students how to help their struggling community.  Bob talks with Creadon, Miller and Pilloton about their experiences. Then, three time Caldecott Medal winner David Wiesner is the master of wordless fantasy picture books.  The illustrator of the contemporary classics Tuesday, Sector 7, andFlotsam, his most recent book is about a predatory cat named Mr. Wuffles.

 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The cognitive and moral life of babies is the subject of Paul Bloom’s newest book, Just Babies.  A leading experimental psychologist, Bloom examines the most amazing research in child psychology that helps explain why adults do the things they do.  Then, LeVar Burton is back. The beloved host of Reading Rainbow, the children’s program that made books TV-friendly, is now debuting the Reading Rainbow App for kids of the digital age.  Within 36 hours of its release, the Reading Rainbow app was the #1 educational app in the country.  Burton will also discuss his pre-Reading Rainbow television career, starring in iconic roles on Roots and Star Trek.

 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bob talks to Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim about her newest documentary, The Square.  It’s about the Egyptian revolution that began with the overthrow of 30 year dictator Hosni Mubarak in January of 2011, through the military coup against the country’s first elected President, Mohammed Mori of the Muslim Brotherhood, last June.  Noujaim and her crew survived arrests, multiple beatings by police and the army, and injury to make the film.  It’s told from the perspective of several protesters who became friends, including a young, unemployed college graduate, the Egyptian-Scottish actor who starred in the Kite Runner, and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Square has been shortlisted for an Oscar, and will premiere on Netflix January 19th.

 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news. Then, New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear’s new book, Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture, tracks the history and impact of America’s extreme eating and foodie culture. Finally, the latest installment of our ongoing series This I Believe.

 

Monday, January 20, 2014

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday we bring back Bob’s conversation with several Memphis residents who knew King and were active during the civil rights struggle of the 1960’s.  All three guests touch on the city’s sanitation workers’ strike which brought Dr. King to Memphis.  Maxine Smith led the city’s chapter of the NAACP from 1962 until 1996, Frank McRae was a local white minister who supported the sanitation workers marching for their rights and dignity and Benjamin Hooks was a close friend of King’s and went on to serve as executive director of the NAACP.  

 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dave Eggers calls Ishmael Beah “arguably the most read African writer in contemporary literature.”  Beah’s 2007 best-selling memoir, A Long Way Gone, was an account of his life as a boy soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone.  Now he’s written a novel that explores the war’s aftermath and the world he left behind.  The core story in Radiance of Tomorrow revolves around two friends, Benjamin and Bockarie, who encounter a heap of obstacles as they try to retake their posts as teachers in their hometown after a devastating civil war.   Then, best-selling crime writer and MWA Grand Master Sara Paretsky’s latest book has her famous private investigator, V.I. Warshaski, doing a favor for her closest friend.  Critical Mass is Paretsky’s 17th book to feature Warshawski, a character Kirkus Review called, “a kind of grownup Nancy Drew—smart, gutsy, and able to balance thinking with acting.”

 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Daniel Menaker has been the fiction editor for The New Yorker long enough to have a book’s worth of stories to tell about the job. My Mistake is his tell-all, behind-the-scenes account of the goings-on at the fabled magazine. But more than gossip, it’s also a very personal account of Menaker’s battle with cancer and the deaths of people close to him.  Then, Bob talks to best-selling novelist Gary Shteyngart about his new memoir, Little Failure.  Shteyngart was born in the Soviet Union in l971, and emigrated with his parents to the U.S. when he was seven. He says it was like going from a monochromatic world to blinding Technicolor.  And it wasn’t an easy transition.  Shteyngart says he was the second most hated kid at his American elementary school, and earned the nickname “the red hamster.”

 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

John Wooden was by far the most successful college basketball coach ever. “The Wizard of Westwood” led his UCLA Bruins to ten NCAA Basketball Division 1 championships, more than twice as many as any other coach. In addition to his unquestionable on-court success, he also imbued his players, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, with indelible life lessons for success.  Seth Davis, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and analyst for CBS Sports, is the author of Wooden: A Coach’s Life. Then, we hear a new commentary from children’s book writer and illustrator Daniel Pinkwater.

 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news. Then, the first time Sue Monk Kidd heard about Sarah Grimke she was intrigued.  In an act of rebellion against her wealthy, slave-owning family, Sarah traveled the country speaking out against slavery in the years before the Civil War.  A fictionalized Sarah is at the heart of Kidd’s new novel, The Invention of Wings.  Her first-person narrative is weaved together with that of Hetty “Handful” Grimke’, an enslaved girl given to Sarah for her 11th birthday.  This is Susan Monk Kidd’s third book. Her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was a huge best-seller and, like this new one, an Oprah Book Club pick.  Finally, the latest installment of our ongoing series This I Believe.

 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bob talks to novelist Chang-Rae Lee about his newest book, On Such a Full Sea.  Lee teaches writing at Princeton University.  His earlier novel, The Surrendered was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  Then, Patty Larkin joins Bob in the performance studio to play songs from her new album Still Green.  Her 13th recording, much of the album was written in a primitive shack on the remote dunes of Cape Cod.   You can hear Larkin playing no less than seven instruments on the album —-acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, bass, slide, keyboards and kalimba.

 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When mathematics PhD candidate Anjan Sundaram decided to leave Yale University for the Congo and journalism, it didn’t seem the best career move.  But a stringer gig from the Associated Press gave him a job and the opportunity to immerse himself in this often overlooked society.  Sundaram’s debut book is Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo.  Then, John Wood left his job as an executive at Microsoft to start Room to Read, a nonprofit that builds libraries and schools in the developing world.  The program is run on a business model as opposed to a traditional not-for-profit, and Wood joins Bob to explain why it works.  Wood is the author of Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy and it’s now available in paperback.

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dennis Rodman called his controversial trip to North Korea “basketball diplomacy,” harkening back to the “ping pong diplomacy” that helped thaw relations between the US and China in the 1970s. But is it an apt comparison? We’ll ask Nicholas Griffin, author of the new book, Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World.  Then, of the 28 Japanese men prosecuted as “Class A” war criminals in the aftermath of World War II, only one was set free.  Shumei Okawa, the lone civilian, was ruled mentally insane and escaped prosecution.  The man who made that ruling was Major Daniel Jaffe, a U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan.  More than 60 years later, Jaffe’s grandson, Eric Jaffe, takes a second look at the evidence and explores the story in a new book, A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II.

 

Thursday, January 30, 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.

 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Then, journalist and historian Nick Turse spent 10 years researching Pentagon archives and interviewing Vietnam War veterans and survivors for his book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Turse’s book is now out in paperback.

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bob remembers legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, who died Monday at the age of 94.  Seeger wrote or co-wrote many of our most iconic folk songs which include, “If I Had a Hammer,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and popularized the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”  They spoke in 2008 when Seeger was the subject of a documentary on PBS.

 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dennis Rodman called his controversial trip to North Korea “basketball diplomacy,” harkening back to the “ping pong diplomacy” that helped thaw relations between the US and China in the 1970s. But is it an apt comparison? We’ll ask Nicholas Griffin, author of the new book, Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World.  Then, of the 28 Japanese men prosecuted as “Class A” war criminals in the aftermath of World War II, only one was set free.  Shumei Okawa, the lone civilian, was ruled mentally insane and escaped prosecution.  The man who made that ruling was Major Daniel Jaffe, a U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan.  More than 60 years later, Jaffe’s grandson, Eric Jaffe, takes a second look at the evidence and explores the story in a new book, A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II. 

 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Then, journalist and historian Nick Turse spent 10 years researching Pentagon archives and interviewing Vietnam War veterans and survivors for his book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Turse’s book is now out in paperback.