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12-22-11 UPDATE: Ian Shoales: Current Events
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In my wanderings through the audio landscape, I've spent a fair amount of time at KQED in San Francisco, where I revently had the privilege of meeting the one and only Ian Shoales.

With help of the fine folks at KQED, I am now able to present Ian Shoales' brilliant work as a part of this podcast. First up, a commentary on current events.




12-21-11: Three Books with Alan Cheuse

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John Weisman, 'Kill Bin Laden' ; Ryu Mitsuse, '10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights' ; Michael Crichton and Richard Preston, 'Micro'

If you're looking for something for everyone, you're likely to find it in one of these three books that I had the pleasure of discussing with Alan Cheuse in our latest look at books worth your valuable reading time. This time around, we looked at books that I might not have given a second glance, but on Cheuse's recommendation, I found entertainment that might otherwise have passed me by.

John Weisman's 'Kill Bin Laden' is exactly the sort of book I would not look twice at, but it was engrossing and offered a well-written fictionalization of actual events. It avoids the sort of jingoism that can taint these kinds of efforts but the fictional format lets the author do more than non-fiction. If you think you might like a tight novel about counter-terrorism at its highest level, here's the place to go.

Ryu Mitsuse's '10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights' is the polar opposite, a novel so fantastic and far-flung that it is almost beyond science fiction. Originally written in the 1960s, then updated in the 1970's Mistuse tackles the biggest issues with gods and human demi-gods. The dust jacket for the hardcover glows in the dark. Fortunately, Mitsuse has the literary and philosophical chops to handle wide-screen science fiction.

As Michael Crichton still seems to sell, even when his work is fully and pretty much seamless completed by Richard Preston, as in 'Micro,' it's quite likely we'll see more. Crichton is his own brand and his own genre; at least we can be thankful for the monsters in this one.

But what you will hear in this discussion is two readers who enjoy reading talking about the joys of reading books that are anything but literary, and that's an important point. Reading can and should be fun. Just how fun? Follow this link to the MP3 audio file to find out!



12-20-11 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read, Episode 23: David Vann, 'Last Day on Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter'
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Here's the twenty-third episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. The podcasts/radio broadcasts will be of books worth your valuable reading time. I'll try to keep the reports under four minutes, for a radio-friendly format. If you want to run them on your show or podcast, let me know.

My hope is that in under four minutes I can offer readers a concise review and an opportunity to hear the author read from or speak about the work. I'm hoping to offer a new one every week.

The twenty-third episode is a look at David Vann and his new book, 'Last Day on Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter'.

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Episode 23: David Vann, 'Last Day on Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter'




12-19-11: A 2011 Interview With Robert K. Massie

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"...she abolished capital punishment..."

—Robert K. Massie

Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert K. Massie is talking about Catherine the Great of course, the Empress of Russia in the 18th century, when the ideal of government was seen to be what we would today call a benign dictatorship. That she actually managed to live up to that description is astonishing here in the 21st, where we have yet to catch up with some of the advances she brought to her world.

Robert K. Massie has made his own advances with regards to writing biographies, having covered much of Russian history over the course of four huge books, including this one. For one thing, in spire of the page count and the scholarship involved, his books are page-turners of the first degree. You might think that he'd be taking advantage of some of our technological advances, plotting out his timelines and setting up a database of characters and events. Instead, he keeps it all in his own mind. That's astonishing.

Masssie also has a rather golden voice that is reminiscent of a famous actor whom I cannot quite name. Give the man a great character, with a great story, and you have a fantastic work to read and a great listening experience as he talks about her life and how we wrote the book. Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of our conversation at KQED.


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