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The Book Review

The world's top authors and critics join host John Williams and editors at The New York Times Book Review to talk about the week's top books, what we're reading and what's going on in the literary world.

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  • 23.09.2022
    49 MB
    51:13
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    The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone

    For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This week’s segments first appeared in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Jann Wenner, the co-founder and longtime editor of Rolling Stone magazine, has a new memoir out — but it’s not the first book to tell his life story: In 2017, the journalist Joe Hagan published a biography, “Sticky Fingers,” that Wenner authorized and then repudiated after it included unflattering details. Hagan was a guest on the podcast in 2017, and explained his approach to the book’s most noteworthy revelations: “I made a decision, really at the outset, that I was going to be honest with him and always be frank with him,” he told Pamela Paul and John Williams. “And if I came across difficult material, I was just going to address it with him. So in that way, it kind of let some of the pressure off. And by the end, we reached a point where I really tried to present him with the most radioactive material and make him aware of what I knew, so he wouldn’t be surprised.” Also this week, we revisit a 2019 conversation among Williams and The Times’s staff book critics Dwight Garner, Jennifer Szalai and Parul Sehgal about their list ranking the 50 best memoirs of the past 50 years. No. 1: “Fierce Attachments,” by Vivian Gornick. We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 16.09.2022
    27 MB
    28:28
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    Andrew Sean Greer on Writing ‘Less’

    For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This week’s segments first appeared in 2017 and 2015, respectively. Andrew Sean Greer won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for his comic novel “Less,” about a down-on-his-luck novelist named Arthur Less who embarks on a round-the-world trip to forget his sorrows. (Greer’s new novel, “Less Is Lost,” continues Less’s adventures in the same comic vein, this time setting him loose across America.) When “Less” was published, in 2017, Greer visited the podcast and told the host Pamela Paul why he had decided to write comic fiction after five well-received but much more serious novels: “I found funny things happening all the time, and they were always my fault,” he said. “Because I was the thing out of place, with terrible misperceptions about what was supposed to happen.” Also this week, we revisit the New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan’s 2015 podcast appearance, in which he discussed his memoir “Barbarian Days,” about his lifelong love of surfing. “It’s all about this experience of beauty,” he told Paul. “You know, this certain kind of drenched experience and beauty — and the physical risks are very much footnotes.” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 10.09.2022
    34 MB
    36:01
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    Jennifer Egan and the Goon Squad

    For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This week’s segments first appeared in 2010 and 2020, respectively. Jennifer Egan’s latest novel, “The Candy House,” is a follow-up to her Pulitzer-winning novel “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” which came out in 2010. That year she appeared on the podcast and told the host Sam Tanenhaus how she had gone about organizing the book’s centrifugal structure: “What I was really interested in was trying to move through time and work with the difference between private and public. We see people and they seem to be easily categorizable — sometimes they seem like types. And I loved then taking that person that we had seen peripherally and showing us that person’s inner life in a really immediate way,” she says. “It happened very organically. … I just followed the trail of my own curiosity.” Also this week, we revisit the actor and writer Stephen Fry’s 2020 conversation with the host Pamela Paul, in which he discussed topics including Oscar Wilde, Fry’s own love of language and his book “Heroes: The Greek Myths Reimagined.” “It’s a miraculous thing about Greek mythology that there is a timeline and a chronology,” Fry says. “It’s probably reverse-engineered by Hesiod and Homer and the later poets, obviously. But nonetheless, it has a shape, a beginning and an end, which other mythic structures don’t seem to have. And they’re so deep in the — I hesitate to use such a cliché, but I can’t avoid it — in the DNA of our own culture and art that it’s part of who we are.” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 02.09.2022
    18 MB
    19:12
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    David Sedaris’s Diaries

    For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This one was originally published on June 2, 2017. The essayist and humorist David Sedaris started keeping diaries nearly half a century ago, and in 2017 he published a broad selection of entries from them in his book “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002).” On the podcast, he talked about how the diaries evolved, the kinds of details and eccentricities that tend to catch his eye, and the process of combing through thousands of pages to produce this 500-page book. “I have a hundred and, I believe, 64 volumes of my diary, and each one is thicker than this book,” he says. “And a lot of it is crazy person — tiny letters, front and back page. So this is just a tiny fraction of my diary. … I tried to detach myself, and think, Would this be of interest to anyone? I mean, a lot of it wasn’t even interesting to me. Or, it was just interesting for, you know, nostalgic reasons. So I was just looking for things that might possibly interest someone who I don’t know.” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 26.08.2022
    30 MB
    32:09
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    John Lithgow on “Drama” and Maggie O'Farrell on “Hamnet”

    For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This week’s segments first appeared in 2011 and 2021, respectively. The actor John Lithgow has been nominated for 13 Emmy Awards and has won six times, for roles as varied as the British prime minister Winston Churchill (on “The Crown”) and the extraterrestrial high commander Dick Solomon (on “3rd Rock From the Sun”). In 2011 he talked to Sam Tanenhaus, the Book Review’s editor at the time, about his memoir “Drama” and his education as an actor. “The more that an actor can accommodate himself to the truth that he will eventually be forgotten, the better off he is,” he says. Also this week, the writer Maggie O’Farrell discusses her acclaimed novel “Hamnet,” which imagines the life of William Shakespeare, his wife, Anne (or Agnes) Hathaway, and the couple’s son Hamnet, who died at 11 years old in 1596. In her 2021 podcast appearance, O’Farrell told the host Pamela Paul that she hoped to capture a sense of the young boy at its center. “I think he’s been consigned to a literary footnote,” she says. “And I believe, quite strongly, that without him — without his tragically short life — we wouldn’t have the play ‘Hamlet.’ We probably wouldn’t have ‘Twelfth Night.’ As an audience, we are enormously in debt to him.”

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  • 19.08.2022
    41 MB
    43:03
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    Robert Caro on His Career

    For the next few months, we're sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast's archives. This one was originally published on April 19, 2019. Eagerly awaiting the fifth volume in Robert A. Caro’s epic biography of Lyndon Johnson? You’re part of a big club. In the meantime, Caro published “Working,” a collection of pieces about how he writes his prizewinning books. On the podcast, Caro talked about his methods and about some of his experiences with imposing people, including the time he spoke to Lady Bird Johnson about a long and significant relationship her husband had with another woman. “That’s the only interview I ever had in my life where I couldn’t bring myself to look at the person I was interviewing,” he says.

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  • 12.08.2022
    28 MB
    29:35
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    Roaring Through Paris With ‘Kiki Man Ray’

    Mark Braude’s new biography, “Kiki Man Ray,” visits a place of perennial interest — Left Bank Paris in the 1920s — through the life of the singer, model, memoirist and muse. On this week’s podcast, Braude says that his subject thoroughly captured the spirit of her age, “a mix of deep pain and a very deep love of life” that emerged after the First World War. We’re used to reading about this age, Braude says, through the eyes of Americans in Paris, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Kiki “represents something that sometimes gets overlooked,” he says, which is “the French contribution to this scene and to this moment. People like Kiki were part of the reason why expats found France and Paris so exciting.” She was “living on a completely different rhythm and in a completely different way. She was just undeniably herself, and wasn’t putting on airs. And just loved life; she just wanted to do everything and meet everyone and go everywhere, and she did.” Also on this week’s episode, Gregory Cowles and Elisabeth Egan talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “River of Mountains” by Peter Lourie “Colony” by Anne Rivers Siddons “The Emperor’s Tomb” by Joseph Roth We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 05.08.2022
    41 MB
    43:26
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    Poems in Practice and in Theory

    Elisa Gabbert, the Book Review's On Poetry columnist , visits the podcast this week to discuss writing about poetry and her own forthcoming collection of poems, her fourth, “Normal Distance.” “When I’m writing what I would call nonfiction or an essay or just pure prose, I’m really trying to be accurate,” Gabbert says. “I’m not lying, I’m really telling you what I think. There’s very minimal distance between my persona on the page and who I really am. And then when I’m writing poetry, that persona really takes on more weight. I’m definitely creating more distance, and it really feels more like fiction or even more like theater, I might say. I’m really more creating a character that’s going to be speaking this monologue I’m writing.” Ian Johnson visits the podcast to talk about his review of “Golden Age,” a novel by Wang Xiaobo recently translated by Yan Yan. The novel, set against Mao’s Cultural Revolution, made waves in China when it was originally published there in the 1990s. “It was controversial primarily because of sex, there’s a lot of sex in the novel,” Johnson says. “The sex is not really described in graphic detail; this isn’t Henry Miller or something like that. It’s more like they’re having sex to make a point: that they’re independent people and they’re not going to be trampled by the state. And it’s very humorous — he talks about sex using all kinds of euphemisms, like ‘commit great friendship,’ stuff like that. It’s meant to be a sort of parody, a somewhat absurd version of a romance.” Also on this week’s episode, Elisabeth Egan and Dave Kim talk about what people are reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Time Shelter” by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel “The Displacements” by Bruce Holsinger “The Annotated Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, edited by Michael Patrick Hearn We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 29.07.2022
    51 MB
    53:23
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    Chaos Among Spies After the Berlin Wall Crumbles

    Dan Fesperman’s 13th thriller, “Winter Work,” is set just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Stasi, East Germany’s brutal Cold War intelligence service, was busy destroying evidence. The C.I.A. was just as busy trying to learn the enemy organization’s secrets. “The C.I.A., initially, had people calling ex-Stasi agents,” Fesperman says on this week’s podcast. “They got a hold of a directory with home phone numbers of some of these Stasi foreign intelligence people. And they started cold-calling them — like salesmen, like these irritating calls we get at home, except for the Stasi it was the C.I.A. calling. ‘Hey, would you like to share your secrets with us? We can pay you.’ They were getting mostly hang-ups, a lot of angry lectures. And when that quickly didn’t work out, they then began visiting them door to door, which didn’t work a whole lot better.” Isaac Fitzgerald visits the podcast to talk about his new memoir, “Dirtbag, Massachusetts,” which recalls his troubled childhood and his eventual coming to terms with those responsible for it. “I was able to give my parents a little more grace in this book,” Fitzgerald says. “And part of that was recognizing that my story didn’t start with my birth; my story starts with the things that happened to them.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Memoirs” by Robert Lowell “Yoga” by Emmanuel Carrère We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 22.07.2022
    53 MB
    55:35
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    Diana Goetsch on ‘This Body I Wore’

    The acclaimed poet Diana Goetsch has now published “This Body I Wore,” which our reviewer, Manuel Betancourt, called an “achingly beautiful memoir” about “a trans woman’s often vexed relationship with her own body.” On this week’s podcast, Goetsch talks about her approach to writing. “My assumption always, as a poet and as a writer, is — I’m a generalist. And I just think the most idiosyncratic thing about ourselves also happens to be the most universal, if we can get to it and present it in the right way,” she says. “It was never my primary objective to give information about a transition, even if somebody’s initial attraction is prurient. They can now get that on Wikipedia or something. I particularly love artists who have what I call the common touch — Bruce Springsteen has the common touch. my old mentor William Zinsser has the common touch; the ability to say something very well, but also not exclude anyone from it at the same time.” CJ Hauser visits the podcast to talk about her new essay collection, “The Crane Wife,” the title essay of which became an online phenomenon after The Paris Review published it in 2019. She describes her attempt to overcome the idea that love needs to have a grand narrative attached to it. “In my family, we love stories. We’re sort of Don Quixote people. We’ve read so many stories and we self-mythologize and we tell stories,” Hauser says. “By the end of the book, I come out into a place of telling a kind of static love story or slow-growing love story. What does it mean to not conflate drama with love, and does love need to be dramatic? Because I think that’s a thing that I inherited.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter discusses new novels about race and racism that find freedom in satire ; and Lauren Christensen and Joumana Khatib talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin “Mating” by Norman Rush “Norwood” by Charles Portis We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 15.07.2022
    54 MB
    57:08
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    ‘Son of Elsewhere’ Recounts Life as a Young Immigrant

    In “Son of Elsewhere,” Elamin Abdelmahmoud writes about growing up in Canada after moving there from Sudan when he was 12. On this week’s podcast, he talks about that experience, including his first interactions with his new peers. “This is not a story of bigotry, this is not a story of a classic playground bully,” Abdelmahmoud says. “Most of the demons I was wrestling with in this book were actually returning to the feelings of me needing to put certain parts of my identity on the shelf. Because sometimes you don’t really have to wait for other people to reduce you, you can do that to yourself. So I came to Canada and as I was trying to fit in, for me one of the things that became obvious fairly quickly was: I don’t want to stand out. I don’t want the attention of being the new kid, the immigrant kid. I don’t want to be different.” The investigative journalist and author Sally Denton visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “The Colony: Faith and Blood in a Promised Land,” which takes readers across the border to a Mormon sect in Mexico. Denton says the idea for the book came to her in 2019, after she saw news of gunmen opening fire on a caravan of three cars from a Mormon community, killing three women and six children. “When I learned of this incident, it just struck me immediately as: There was more to this story,” Denton says. “This was not a case of mistaken identity, it wasn’t a case of people being at the wrong place at the wrong time. This was a group of women and children intentionally targeted in the most brutal and heinous way. And I was initially really moved by the tragedy, and thought it would be really important to figure out what was going on. And my main impetus was really: Why were these women and children traveling alone on one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Where were the men? Why were they unarmed, why were they unescorted?” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter talks about the growing number of independent bookstores and their increased diversity; and Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Why We Did It” by Tim Miller “Hollywood Ending” by Ken Auletta We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 09.07.2022
    54 MB
    56:56
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    Alice Elliott Dark on ‘Fellowship Point’

    In Alice Elliott Dark’s second novel, “Fellowship Point,” Agnes Lee and Polly Wister have been friends for about 80 years. Their intertwined families own homes on a Maine peninsula, and some of the book’s drama stems from their efforts to preserve the land and keep it out of the hands of developers. “The issue of land, land ownership, land conservation has always been of deep interest to me,” Dark says on this week’s podcast. “I came to that pretty quickly as I was developing this story. I decided I wanted to write something like a 19th-century-style novel, and I wanted to have it be modern. Women didn’t own land in the 19th century. They didn’t make decisions about land, even if they did own it, and having women landowners dealing with these issues seemed to me a modern version of a big, older, 19th-century-type novel.” Katherine Chen visits the podcast to discuss her new novel, “Joan,” which imagines Joan of Arc as a born fighter who becomes an avenging warrior. “I think the central image that keeps us fascinated with Joan of Arc all these years later is the mental image of a woman in armor on horseback going to war,” Chen says. “I think that image keeps us enthralled to this day because it’s as startling and surprising as it is empowering.” We also remain captivated, Chen says, by the “sheer improbability” of Joan’s story. Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news about librarians caught in the culture war over banned books ; and Elisabeth Egan and MJ Franklin talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Everything I Need I Get From You” by Kaitlyn Tiffany “Thank You For Listening” by Julia Whelan “A Word Child” by Iris Murdoch We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 01.07.2022
    47 MB
    49:24
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    A Novel About Brilliant Young Game Designers

    Gabrielle Zevin’s new novel, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,” is set in the world of video game design, and follows two friends named Sadie and Sam as they collaborate on what becomes a very successful game. “A friend of mine described the book as being what it’s like to co-parent something that’s not a child,” Zevin says on this week’s podcast. “Sam and Sadie, they are more intimate with each other than anyone else in their lives. Yet they aren’t spouses, and he’s not her child, and yet this is the most important relationship that both of them have. So I wanted to write about that: What if the most important person in your life was really your colleague and your friend?” Morgan Talty visits the podcast to discuss his debut story collection, “Night of the Living Rez,” which is set on the Penobscot Indian Nation reservation in Maine, where Talty was raised. “I was very much aware that Indigenous fiction tries to perform for a white readership, or a largely white readership, and there are instances in books that I’ve admired by Native writers that I could see this. And I always wanted to shy away from it, because I didn’t want to keep feeding into that type of storytelling,” Talty says. “Throughout the book there’s less association with Indigeneity in the characters, so it’s the characters who are front and center, it’s their human nature that’s front and center, as opposed to maybe something cultural.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris talks about how #BookTok has become a dominant driver of fiction sales ; and Dwight Garner and Alexandra Jacobs talk about what people are reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “I Used to Live Here Once” by Miranda Seymour “The Last Resort” by Sarah Stodola We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 25.06.2022
    44 MB
    45:53
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    Sensing the World Anew Through Other Species

    Ed Yong’s new book, “An Immense World,” urges readers to break outside their “sensory bubble” to consider the unique ways that dogs, dolphins, mice and other animals experience their surroundings. “I’ve often said that my beat is everything that is or was once alive, which covers billions of species, across basically the entirety of the planet’s history,” Yong says on this week’s podcast. “One thing I like about this particular topic — the sensory worlds of other animals — is that it, itself, though a singular, cohesive topic, is also the gateway to thousands of small wonders. There’s so much to learn about just in this one corner of biology.” Terry Alford visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “In the Houses of Their Dead,” an investigation of how Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth and their families were influenced by spiritualism. Alford says of Lincoln: “There’s a struggle, as best I see it, in him between the rational side and the side that desires to be comforted and to be in contact with someone you loved who’s not there anymore. He really wanted that, and he said he wanted that to a number of people. But he just felt, at the end of the day, that séance-type contact with the dead was really delusional.” Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and Joumana Khatib talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt “Blood Orange Night” by Melissa Bond “The Hack” by Wilfrid Sheed We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 17.06.2022
    45 MB
    47:39
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    Jackie, Before Marrying Jack

    Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review, curates our Group Text column — a monthly choice of a book that she feels is particularly well suited to book clubs and their discussions. On this week’s podcast, she talks about her latest pick: “Jackie & Me,” by Louis Bayard, which imagines the friendship between Jacqueline Bouvier and Lem Billings, a close friend of the Kennedys. “This is rooted in reality,” Egan says, “but Bayard runs with it and imagines conversations between Lem and Jackie, and just shows this, on one hand, fabulous life of parties and museums and fun they had together, but also sets up this ticking clock where you come to understand what Jackie really has at stake, and has to lose by committing to this life with the Kennedys.” Matthew Schneier visits the podcast to discuss Paula Byrne’s new biography, “The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym.” Pym, a British writer, began publishing novels in the 1950s. “She published six novels in pretty quick succession, and they’re great,” Schneier says of the first decade or so of her career. “Very clever, very witty, she was often compared to Jane Austen — which was a writer that she loved and appreciated, but also a kind of very easy comparison, whereas Pym’s ironies can be a little bit darker than some of Austen’s. And there’s a sense in her work that she is spotlighting characters who are not the Emma Woodhouses, who are beautiful and rich and effervescent. They’re what she ended up calling ‘excellent women,’ which is the title of I think her best starter novel. These women who are well brought up and very proper, a little bit pious, but can also be a little dowdy, a little dreary, a little bit easier to overlook.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter talks about the filmmaker Werner Herzog and his first novel , “The Twilight World”; and Jennifer Szalai and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “The Facemaker” by Lindsey Fitzharris “Meet Me by the Fountain” by Alexandra Lange

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  • 10.06.2022
    50 MB
    52:22
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    Tom Perrotta on the Return of Tracy Flick

    Few fictional characters in recent decades have been as intensely discussed as Tracy Flick. The ambitious teenage protagonist of Tom Perrotta’s novel “Election” (1998) and the ensuing film adaptation, starring Reese Witherspoon, has been reconsidered in recent years as misunderstood and unfairly maligned. On this week’s podcast, Perrotta talks about Tracy’s return in his new novel, “Tracy Flick Can’t Win.” “I think most people, when they think about Tracy Flick — I say this in all sad modesty — they’re thinking about Tracy in the movie,” Perrotta says. “‘Election’ as a book didn’t make a huge splash, and Reese Witherspoon’s performance was so powerful that I think the debate is really around Tracy in the film. And maybe to some degree me writing this book was an attempt to reclaim my own version of Tracy.” Ann Leary visits the podcast to discuss her new novel, “The Foundling,” which was inspired by the real-life story of Leary’s grandmother, who worked, in the 1930s, at a public asylum that sequestered “unfit” women. Leary did a great deal of research for the book, and felt freedom in being able to bring it to bear in a work of fiction rather than history. “I really wanted a story,” Leary says. “I could write about the widespread practice of eugenics, but I would have to kind of stick it to the place where my grandmother worked. And what I did in my novel was read about many other asylums, because there were many others. And I was able to make a fictitious place where I used things that I’d learned from the various different institutions.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and Elizabeth Harris talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “frank: sonnets” by Diane Seuss “Life Between the Tides” by Adam Nicolson “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” by Alan Sillitoe We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 04.06.2022
    51 MB
    53:24
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    One Island, Two Men and Lots of Big Questions

    Karen Jennings’s novel “An Island,” which was on the longlist for the Booker Prize in 2021, is set on a fictional unnamed island off the coast of Africa, where a man named Samuel has worked as a lighthouse keeper for more than 20 years. When a refugee washes up on shore one day, barely alive, Samuel navigates life around this stranger and flashes back to his own past, including his role in a political uprising and years that he spent in prison. On this week’s podcast, Jennings says that the book’s somewhat fable-like tone was very intentional. “I knew that if I were to write about any one specific country, then I would have to make it about that country: that country’s political events, that country’s culture,” Jennings says. “My plan was to make it more universal, and attempt to understand something greater, something more complex. And the only way that I could see to do that was to do it in this very pared-down, focused way, reducing most of the action to this fictional island and then to these brief moments — I guess kind of like highlights — from Samuel’s past.” Phil Klay, the Marine Corps veteran and acclaimed fiction writer, visits the podcast this week to talk about a new collection of his nonfiction writing, “Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War.” “There’s a huge problem when we’re regularly sending troops to kill people and sending troops at risk and the president is not forced on a regular basis to go before Congress to explain what the mission is, how it’s in the national interest, what it’s going to cost, what we’re trying to achieve,” Klay says. “I think that war is the most morally fraught thing we can do as a nation, and it demands more democratic accountability.” Also on this week’s episode, Dwight Garner and Alexandra Jacobs talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed by the Times’s critics this week: “Phil” by Alan Shipnuck “Here’s the Deal” by Kellyanne Conway We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 27.05.2022
    49 MB
    51:30
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    Remembering the ‘Great Stewardess Rebellion’

    With current-day labor movements at Amazon, Starbucks and other big employers in the news, Nell McShane Wulfhart is on the podcast this week to discuss her new book about a vivid moment in labor history, “The Great Stewardess Rebellion: How Women Launched a Workplace Revolution at 30,000 Feet.” That revolution was launched in the face of working conditions that included contracts with onerous demands about every corner of a woman’s life. “The age restrictions and the marriage restrictions and the pregnancy restrictions — obviously that was a big no-no — they had been part of the contracts for many years, I think for as long as stewardesses had been working,” Wulfhart says. “These restrictions were obviously designed to keep the work force as young as possible, as svelte as possible and as pliable as possible, because when you’re only working for a few years, you’re not that invested in getting better benefits or establishing a pension plan or fighting for your rights.” James Kirchick visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.” The sweeping story, from the days of the New Deal up through Bill Clinton’s presidency, considers the toll of homophobia in the nation’s capital. “It’s incalculable,” Kirchick says. “The governmental resources that were expended in this, the hundreds of thousands of man hours that went into rooting out, discovering and firing patriotic civil servants. The deep wells of knowledge that were denied this country based upon fear of gay people. We don’t know those numbers. And then there’s of course the impact that it had on individual gay people.” Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and Gregory Cowles talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Truth and Beauty” by Ann Patchett “Fierce Attachments” by Vivian Gornick “Role Models” by John Waters We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 20.05.2022
    34 MB
    36:07
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    Brian Morton on ‘Tasha: A Son’s Memoir’

    Brian Morton, an accomplished novelist, has turned to nonfiction for the first time in his new book, “Tasha: A Son’s Memoir.” On this week’s podcast, he discusses his mother’s life, the difficulties in taking care of her toward the end of her life and what led him to write a memoir. “I started writing a few pages about her, and I relished the freedom to write directly, to write without having to invent any characters,” Morton says. “I love to write about fictional characters, that’s my favorite part of writing. But it takes me a very long time to sort of give birth to them. And here was my mother, perhaps the most colorful character I’ve ever written about, who was right there to be written about.” Rachel Careau visits the podcast to discuss her new translation of Colette’s “Chéri” and its sequel, “The End of Chéri.” “One of the problems with her spare style is that the sentences can lack some of the words that usually oil a sentence,” Careau says of the task of translating the books. “So they can sound a little bit bare, sometimes a little syncopated. And the sound was very important to me, and I really let the sound guide me. But it’s difficult to make that bone-on-bone style flow.” Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and Joumana Khatib talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Four Treasures of the Sky” by Jenny Tinghui Zhang “The Last Samurai” by Helen DeWitt “Independent People” by Halldor Laxness We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 13.05.2022
    32 MB
    33:23
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    John Waters Talks About His First Novel

    The filmmaker, artist, author and general cultural icon John Waters visits the podcast this week to talk about his first novel, “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance.” The book features three generations of women in the Sprinkle family, and their very complicated (and antagonistic) relationships with one another. The first of them we meet is Marsha, an unrepentant thief and overall misanthrope; but Waters says he still wants us to root for her. “She’s so crazy and so terrible that you can’t believe it at first,” Waters says. “And she’s quite serious about herself, as all fanatics are. No one in this book has much of a sense of humor about themselves, which, I think, can be played funny — the same way that when I made a movie, the main thing I told every actor was, ‘Never wink at the audience. Say it like you believe every single word.’” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris discusses the winners of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes ; and Dwight Garner and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “Tacky” by Rax King “The Last Days of Roger Federer” by Geoff Dyer We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 07.05.2022
    46 MB
    48:52
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    Hernan Diaz on ‘Trust’ and Money in Fiction

    Hernan Diaz’s second novel, “Trust,” is four books in one. Our reviewer, Michael Gorra, calls it “intricate, cunning and consistently surprising.” It starts with a novel inside the novel, about a man named Benjamin Rask, who builds and maintains a fortune in New York City as the 19th century gives way to the 20th. Diaz describes writing the uniquely structured book on this week’s podcast, and the ideas at its core. “Although wealth and money are so essential in the American narrative about itself as a nation, and occupy this almost transcendental place in our culture, I was rather surprised to see that there are precious few novels that deal with money itself,” Diaz says. “Sure, there are many novels that deal with class — we were talking about Henry James and Edith Wharton a moment ago — or with exploitation or with excess and luxury and privilege. Many examples of that, but very few examples of novels dealing with money and the process of the accumulation of a great fortune.” Paul Fischer visits the podcast to discuss “The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures,” which is about Louis Le Prince, who made what is now widely acknowledged to be the first known moving picture, and the story of his mysterious disappearance as well. “What was fascinating about Le Prince — and what I really loved as a film nerd myself — is that he seems to have been the first one of that generation to really have a vision for what the medium could be,” Fischer says. “There were a lot of people, like Thomas Edison or the Lumière brothers, who were working on moving-image projects as a kind of novelty toy. Their idea was, this can make a little bit of money, at least for a while, and then it will fade away. And there were people, like Eadweard Muybridge or the French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who were scientists and really thought moving images would be a way to deconstruct the way our bodies work, the way things move, the way nature worked. And Le Prince was really the first to write in his notebooks and speak to his family about this medium as something that would change the way we related to reality.” Also on this week’s episode, Gregory Cowles and Elisabeth Egan talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Music, Late and Soon” by Robyn Sarah “French Braid” by Anne Tyler “Poguemahone” by Patrick McCabe “The Butcher Boy” by Patrick McCabe We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 29.04.2022
    39 MB
    40:44
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    Jennifer Egan Talks About 'The Candy House'

    Jennifer Egan’s new novel, “The Candy House,” is a follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Visit From the Goon Squad.” A few characters appear in both books, but the novels are also united by Egan’s structural approach — an inventive one that, in “Goon Squad,” included a chapter written as a PowerPoint presentation, and in “The Candy House,” a chapter written as a long series of terse directives to a spy. On this week’s podcast, Egan talks about the new book, and about why she enjoys experimenting with form. “To my mind, the novel was invented to be a hungry, greedy form that could pull into itself all other kinds of discourse,” Egan says. “So in the earliest novels: graphic images, letters, legal documents. As a fiction writer, one of the fun things about working with the novel is that anything is up for grabs. If I can bend it to fiction, I will, and I’m looking around me for those opportunities all the time. It’s not easy to do it, because the danger is that you just look like you’re using gimmickry. And what I find is that the only time any kind of radical structural form works is if I can find a story that can only be told that way. It involves a lot of waiting, and a lot of trial and error.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter discusses the work of the Russian novelist Vladimir Sorokin ; and Alexandra Jacobs and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “The Palace Papers” by Tina Brown “Liarmouth” by John Waters We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 23.04.2022
    36 MB
    37:33
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    Liana Finck Reimagines the Story of Genesis

    The cartoonist Liana Finck’s new book, “Let There Be Light,” recasts the story of Genesis with a female God who is a neurotic artist. “At the very beginning of this book, she’s existing in a void and she just decides to make something,” Finck says. “And it’s all fun and games until she starts to feel some self-doubt and realizes that she hasn’t done well enough. She’s really kind of a self-portrait of me at that point. She’s well-intentioned, she’s happy and she’s very hard on herself.” Jonathan Van Ness of “Queer Eye” fame visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Love That Story.” He talks to Lauren Christensen, an editor at the Book Review. “As a queer person, we are told very early on what spaces you are able to thrive in. Beauty is often one of those spaces. There are just a lot of spaces that you can be directed to. And I love hairdressing and I love beauty and I love what I get to do on ‘Queer Eye,’” Van Ness says. “So I am eternally grateful to that. But also, I think that queer people who are feminine and who are flamboyant — as I’ve been called my entire life — are not also allowed to be information gatherers, are also not allowed to be seen as credible.” He continues: “Obviously I didn’t go to journalism school. I didn’t graduate college. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn and share my experiences with others.” Also on this week’s episode, Joumana Khatib and Dave Kim talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “In the Country of Others” by Leïla Slimani “Phenotypes” by Paulo Scott “Tamarisk Row” by Gerald Murnane We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 15.04.2022
    45 MB
    47:17
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    Elizabeth Alexander on 'The Trayvon Generation'

    Elizabeth Alexander’s new book, “The Trayvon Generation,” grew out of a widely discussed essay of the same name that she wrote for The New Yorker in 2020. The book explores themes of race, class and justice and their intersections with art. On this week’s podcast, Alexander discusses the effects of video technology on our exposure to and understanding of violence and vulnerability, and contrasts the way her generation was brought up with the lives of younger people today. “If you think about some of the language of the civil rights movement: ‘We shall overcome’ is hopeful,” Alexander says. “And if you stop there and take that literally, I would say that’s what my childhood was about. But after that comes ‘someday.’ Well, I think what we’re seeing now is that we have not yet arrived at that day.” Lucasta Miller visits the podcast to discuss her new biography, “Keats: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and One Epitaph.” “I think the popular vision is of him as this rather sort of ethereal creature, a sort of delicate flower, the embodiment of loveliness, a spiritualized essence,” Miller says. “What I really wanted to do was to get back something of the real flesh-and-blood Keats, as a real complicated human being. I’m not trying to undermine him in any way. I’m just trying to make him more complex. And I love him all the same — I love him even more, as a result.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful” by Jack Lowery “Private Notebooks: 1914-1916” by Ludwig Wittgenstein We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 08.04.2022
    46 MB
    48:49
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    Fiction About Lives in Ukraine

    While a steady stream of disturbing news continues to come from Ukraine, new works of fiction highlight the ways in which lives there have been transformed by conflict. On this week’s podcast, the critic Jennifer Wilson talks about two books, including the story collection “Lucky Breaks,” by Yevgenia Belorusets, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky. “Belorusets has been compared to Gogol in these stories,” Wilson says. “There’s a certain kind of supernatural quality to them. I think anyone looking to these books for a play-by-play of the conflict is going to be disappointed for that reason, but I think delighted in other ways.” Ben McGrath visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “Riverman: An American Odyssey,” which tells the story of Dick Conant, a troubled and charismatic man who disappeared while on a canoe trip from New York to Florida. Conant was in his 60s when McGrath met him, and had spent many years questing on various waterways. “What he learned was that there wasn’t really anything he was going to find out about himself that was going to improve things, and that the secret to finding happiness was to turn his lens outward,” McGrath says. “Rather than, in the Thoreauvian model, retreating to Walden Pond and staring into his reflection, he decided to go out into the world and to keep seeing new places and meeting new people; and by doing that, keep himself sufficiently occupied that he didn’t have to struggle too much with worrying about who he was and what his own problems were.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the literary world; and Lauren Christensen and MJ Franklin talk about what they’ve been reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Young Mungo” by Douglas Stuart “Heartstopper: Volume One,” by Alice Oseman Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels , read by Hillary Huber “Catholics” by Brian Moore We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 02.04.2022
    49 MB
    51:26
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    Life in an E.R. During Covid

    Thomas Fisher’s new book, “The Emergency,” details his life as an emergency physician at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he’s worked for 20 years. It provides an up-close look at a hospital during the pandemic, and also zooms out to address the systemic issues that afflict American health care. “This book was conceptualized prior to Covid,” Fisher says on this week’s podcast. “But Covid laid bare so much of what I intended to discuss from the beginning. So in some ways it was weirdly fortuitous. It gave the opportunity to discuss many of the details in much more vivid relief because we had this pandemic laying out all the things that have been a problem for so long.” The critic and essayist Maud Newton’s first book, “Ancestor Trouble,” details her investigations into her family’s fascinating and sometimes discomfiting history, and reflects on our culture’s increased obsession with genealogy. “Allowing ourselves to really imagine our ancestors, in all of their fullness — the difficult and bad things that they did, and of course the wonderful things that they did — can just be a really transformative experience,” Newton says. “I’ve come to find that the line between imagination and spirituality has become a lot more porous over the course of writing this book.” Also on this week’s episode, Dwight Garner and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host. We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 25.03.2022
    49 MB
    51:47
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    A Personal Tour of Modern Irish History

    Fintan O’Toole was born in Dublin in 1958, the same year that T.K. Whitaker, a member of the Irish government, published an influential report suggesting that Ireland open its doors economically and culturally to the rest of the world. O’Toole’s new book, “We Don’t Know Ourselves,” weaves memoir with history to tell the story of modern Ireland. “There’s a lot of dark stuff in the book,” he says, “there’s a lot of violence and repression and hypocrisy and abuse. But there’s also the story of a people coming to terms with itself. One of the reasons why we’re still dealing with darkness is at least we’re dealing with it. There’s a kind of confrontation with the past going on in Ireland which I think is very healthy. It’s not easy.” He continues: “One of the hopeful things about the Irish story is that it shows you that you can transform a nation — you can make it in many ways an awful lot better than it was, you can open it up to the world, you can develop much more complex, ambivalent, nonbinary senses of who you are — and yet you can still feel very much attached to a place and an identity.” Julie Otsuka visits the podcast to discuss her third novel, “The Swimmers,” which begins with a large group of characters at a public pool before becoming the powerful story of one particular woman, Alice, who is suffering from dementia. Alice is “actually there from the very beginning,” Otsuka says. “She’s there at the end of the very first paragraph. But I did not want the reader to be too aware of her. I want her to be there very peripherally, just as one of many. I want the reader to realize, as the story is going on, that it is Alice’s story, but I don’t want that to be so apparent in the beginning. I really wanted to paint the world that she had thrived in before she enters the second half of the book.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and Dave Kim talk about what people are reading. John Williams is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Lucky Breaks” by Yevgenia Belorusets “2666” by Roberto Bolaño “Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont” by Elizabeth Taylor We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 18.03.2022
    56 MB
    58:48
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    The Science Behind Mental Afflictions

    In “A Molecule Away From Madness,” the neurologist Sara Manning Peskin writes about the errant molecular activity that underlies many serious mental afflictions. Peskin’s book, reminiscent of the work of Oliver Sacks, conveys its scientific information through narrative. “I wanted to capture how this actually unfolds in real time,” she says on this week’s podcast. “For a lot of us, we go to doctors and you get a diagnosis and it’s as if that diagnosis has always existed. But in fact, the diagnosis was invented by someone who discovered something. And the history behind these diseases is often lost.” J. Kenji López-Alt visits the podcast to discuss his latest book, “The Wok: Recipes and Techniques.” López-Alt comes from a family of scientists, and is known for his science-based approach to home cooking. “I was cooking for a number of years in restaurants, and all through that time I had a lot of questions,” he says. “For me, it’s natural to ask why we do something, why is this working the way it does? And in restaurants, just by the nature of how a restaurant works and the goal of a restaurant, which is more speed and consistency, you don’t have a lot of time to really focus on thinking about those types of questions or experimenting with them. So I had this backlog of questions built up in my head that eventually I started to get to explore.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “I Was Better Last Night” by Harvey Fierstein Books about shame We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 11.03.2022
    59 MB
    01:02:27
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    How People First Arrived in the Americas

    Scholars have long believed that the first Americans arrived via land bridge some 13,000 years ago, when retreating glaciers created an inland corridor from Siberia. Jennifer Raff, an anthropological geneticist at the University of Kansas, tells a different story in “Origin.” According to Raff, the path to the Americas was coastal rather than inland, and what we’ve thought of as a bridge was a homeland inhabited for millenniums. Raff talks about the book on this week’s podcast. “In recent years, the ability to obtain complete genomes from ancient ancestors has really given us new insights — extraordinary new insights — into the histories not only of individuals and populations but also of our ancestors globally,” Raff says. “We can now identify the populations who originally gave rise to the ancestors of Native Americans. And we can identify extremely important evolutionary events in that process going back, starting about 26,000 years ago. So we can use genetics to identify biological histories, to characterize biological histories, and even identify populations which we had no idea existed based on archaeology alone.’ Ira Rutkow visits the podcast to talk about “Empire of the Scalpel: The History of Surgery.” Rutkow says the idea for the book evolved over the course of 50 years, and that he wrote it for the general public and surgeons alike. “I was dismayed, over the course of my surgical practice, at how little patients understood about the whys and wherefores of what a surgeon did, or how a surgeon becomes a surgeon,” he says. And he was “shocked” when he would ask colleagues historical questions — “When did anesthesia come about? When did Lister discover antisepsis?” — and “they would have no idea.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world, and Elisabeth Egan and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “The Days of Afrekete” by Asali Solomon “A Word Child” by Iris Murdoch “The Examined Life” by Stephen Grosz “The True American” by Anand Giridharadas We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 04.03.2022
    58 MB
    01:00:44
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    Two New Memoirs About Affliction

    In 2017, Frank Bruni suffered a stroke while sleeping in the middle of the night, an event that led to blindness in his right eye. His new memoir, “The Beauty of Dusk,” examines not only his physical condition but the emotional and spiritual counsel he sought from others in order to deal with it. On this week’s podcast, he discusses the experience, including his initial reaction to it. “I woke up one October morning and I felt like I had some sort of smear — some gunk or something — in my eye, because the right side of my field of vision had this dappled fog over it,” Bruni says. “I think like a lot of boomers, I had this sense of invincibility. When I was diagnosed, at one point, with mild gout, I took Allopurinol every day and that was solved. When my cholesterol was un-ideal, I took a statin, and that was solved. I kind of thought modern medicine solves everything and we boomers, with our gym workouts, et cetera, are indestructible. So for hours I thought, ‘This is just an oddity.’ I took a shower and washed my eye, but the fog didn’t go away. I thought, ‘Maybe I haven’t had enough coffee.’ I thought, ‘Maybe I had too much wine last night.’ It was a good 12 to 24 hours later before I accepted, something is really wrong here.” Meghan O’Rourke visits the podcast to talk about her latest book, “The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness,” which is also about personal pain and the larger context around it. O’Rourke spent many years experiencing symptoms that were misdiagnosed or dismissed. “I just kept getting sicker and sicker, but it took so long to realize, OK, something is quite wrong.” She attributes some of this delayed realization to the “problem of subjectivity,” especially when younger. “None of us know what others are experiencing, so I thought, ‘OK, maybe pain is normal. Maybe brain fog is normal. Maybe I just should never eat dessert. It really did take maturing into my 30s and getting really sick to cross that line where it became unignorable.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world, and Dwight Garner and Alexandra Jacobs talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “Black Cloud Rising” by David Wright Faladé “The Founders” by Jimmy Soni We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 25.02.2022
    47 MB
    49:23
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    The Invention of the Index

    You probably take the index for granted. It might be hard to remember that the handy list of subjects at the back of a book, with the corresponding page numbers on which each subject is discussed, had to be invented. This happened in the early 13th century, and on this week’s podcast, Dennis Duncan talks about his new book, “Index, a History of the,” and about the earliest examples of the form. “What’s really interesting is, it’s invented twice at the same time,” Duncan says. “So it’s one of those inventions, like the light bulb or like mathematical calculus — the moment is so ripe for it that two people in separate places invent it. So the index gets invented once in Paris, and at the same time in Oxford. and there are very slight differences between what these inventions look like.” Brendan Slocumb visits the podcast to talk about his debut novel, “The Violin Conspiracy.” Slocumb is himself an accomplished violinist, and the book — both a mystery and a musical-coming-of-age story — was inspired, in part, by an experience he had as a teenager. “When I was a senior in high school, we came home from a family trip, and my violin — I actually make reference to it in the novel — my 1953 Eugene Lehman violin was stolen, along with a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t care about,” Slocumb says. “If your instrument is taken, as a musician, it’s like a part of you is missing. I felt like I was missing a limb. It was right before I was supposed to go to college. It was supposed to take me through school, and I had nothing. It was a devastating experience.” Also on this week’s episode, Lauren Christensen and MJ Franklin talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “The Chiffon Trenches” by André Leon Talley “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison “How to Be Perfect” by Michael Schur We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 18.02.2022
    52 MB
    54:25
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    Jennifer Haigh on 'Mercy Street'

    Jennifer Haigh’s new novel, “Mercy Street” — which Richard Russo calls “extraordinary” in his review — is about a woman named Claudia who works at a women’s clinic in Boston. It’s also about the protesters outside. On this week’s podcast, Haigh says the novel was inspired in part by her own time working on a clinic’s hotline. “Obviously I am strongly pro-choice or I wouldn’t have been volunteering at this clinic,” Haigh says. “But until this experience, I knew very little about what abortion actually means in a person’s life. And I think that’s true for many people who have strong convictions about abortions. Most people don’t know very much about it. It’s ironic when you consider, this is such a common experience, right? We know that about one in four American women will at some point have an abortion. And yet there’s such a climate of secrecy around this procedure that most of them don’t feel free to talk about it honestly. And many never tell anyone that they’ve done this. The result being that the average person knows very, very little about this experience.” Megan Walsh visits the podcast to talk about her new book, “The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It Matters.” And why does it matter? “We tend to think about China in quite binary terms these days, as friend or foe,” Walsh says. “If we do properly pay attention to what people are genuinely trying to process and think about in China — which is peculiar, diverse, strange, innovative, some of it’s terrible, some of it’s amazing — I feel like we get an alternative way of understanding the complexities at the heart of a country which we are defining ourselves against, and we have an opportunity to also understand without seeing it as a sort of monolith.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world, and Jennifer Szalai and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “The Power Law” by Sebastian Mallaby “Eating to Extinction” by Dan Saladino We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 11.02.2022
    52 MB
    55:03
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    A Spiritual, Dangerous Quest in the Himalayas

    Harley Rustad’s new book, “Lost in the Valley of Death,” is about an American adventurer named Justin Alexander Shetler, who went on a quest in the Himalayas that ended in his disappearance. One of Shetler’s heroes was Christopher McCandless, whose story was told in Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.” On this week’s podcast, Rustad discusses Shetler’s life, including his use of social media and how that dovetailed — and didn’t — with his spiritual journey. “He was a very good-looking guy. He’s somebody that could be potentially quite easy to roll your eyes at and write off. There are a fair amount of shirtless selfies on his Instagram account,” Rustad says. But that curated image, the author says, doesn’t necessarily reflect the full truth. Rustad continues: “I think there was something that he was deeply trying to search for. And his social media accounts, while they gave him a platform to potentially inspire people — something that he really, really longed for and struggled with was solitude. And right now it’s almost impossible to achieve that true solitude in this world of deep, profound connectivity. And so as much as he validated and found value in that platform, it also was impossible; it created this barrier for him to achieve something pure.” Jessamine Chan visits the podcast to discuss her debut novel, “The School for Good Mothers,” which imagines a future where parents (mostly women) get sent to government-run reform school. “The standards in the book are purposefully set up to be impossible,” Chan says, “to draw attention to the way that our culture and society and government sets up such punishing standards for moms. So if the moms do succeed, it’s really by chance.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world, and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Mercy Street” by Jennifer Haigh “After Me Comes the Flood” by Sarah Perry “Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 04.02.2022
    55 MB
    57:27
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    Ruta Sepetys Talks About 'I Must Betray You'

    Ruta Sepetys writes Y.A. historical fiction that draws plenty of adult readers as well. Her new novel, “I Must Betray You,” is about a Romanian teenager who is blackmailed to become an informer for a Communist regime. On this week’s podcast, Sepetys talks about why she turned her focus to the epochal events of 1989, and about what she wants readers to see in them. “What I want to get across is the strength and fortitude of the Romanian people, particularly the young people,” Sepetys says. “Oftentimes what we don’t think about is that these authoritarian regimes or totalitarian regimes, they often are disassembled from within. And that’s what happened here. And it was the young people, on Dec. 21, who took to the streets, completely unarmed, and in some cases were attacking tanks with their bare hands. They put themselves in harm’s way. The courage, it blows my mind. And the leader gunned them down, until the military switched sides and sided with the people.” The novelist Jami Attenberg visits the podcast to talk about her first memoir, “I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home.” Having written about fictional characters for so long, Attenberg says it was initially a challenge to make herself the central figure. “It was really hard at first because I couldn’t see myself in that way,” she says. “At some point I did have to make a decision of which version of myself I was going to show to the world, because there are so many versions that are possible.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world, and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “The Black Prince” by Iris Murdoch “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” by Olga Tokarczuk “Death Be Not Proud” by John Gunther We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 28.01.2022
    52 MB
    54:33
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    Imani Perry Talks About 'South to America'

    Imani Perry’s new book, “South to America,” joins a tradition of books that travel the South to find keys to the United States: its foundations, its changes and its tensions. Perry, who was born in Alabama, approaches the task from a variety of angles, and discusses some of them on this week’s podcast. “It includes personal stories,” Perry says. “It is a book about encounters. It is a book about the encounter with history but also with human beings. And as part of it, self-discovery, to try to understand why a Southern identity is so centrally important to me, and why it’s so centrally important to the formation of this country.” Oliver Roeder visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Seven Games,” a history of checkers, backgammon, chess, Go, poker, Scrabble and bridge that also asks why we play. “The simplest answer is, they’re fun,” Roeder says. “We enjoy playing them as a pastime. Another answer is, they’re practice. Games are very simplified, distilled models of the real world in which we live. So for example, a game like poker allows us to practice dealing with uncertainty and hidden information. We don’t know our opponents’ cards. And of course, we see situations like that in real life all the time.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world, and Dwight Garner and Alexandra Jacobs talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “The Betrayal of Anne Frank” by Rosemary Sullivan “Devil House” by John Darnielle We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 21.01.2022
    58 MB
    01:01:25
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    The Chinese Language Revolution

    Jing Tsu’s new book, “Kingdom of Characters,” is about the long and concerted efforts of linguists, activists and others to adapt Chinese writing to the modern world, so that it could be used in everything from typewriters and telegraphs to artificial intelligence and automation. On this week’s podcast, Tsu talks about that revolution, from its roots to the present day. “The story of the Chinese script revolution and how it came to modernize is really a story about China and the west,” she says. “Because without the Jesuit missionaries first coming to China in the 16th century, and trying to understand what the Chinese language was — the Chinese didn’t really see their language any differently than the way they’ve always seen it. So what happened was, as these Western technologies came in, along with imperialism and colonial dominance, China had to confront that it had to either play the game or be completely shut out. So this was a long process, an arduous process, of how to get itself into the infrastructure of global communication technology.” Kathryn Schulz visits the podcast to talk about “Lost and Found,” her new memoir about losing her father and falling in love. “It is, I think, the closest I could come to the book I wanted to write,” Schulz says. “The gap between what you want to do and what you are able to do is always enormous, and the struggle for writers is to close it to the best of your abilities. But kind of unusually for me, I did have a very clear sense of this book from the beginning.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan “2666” by Roberto Bolaño “The Anomaly” by Hervé Le Tellier We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 14.01.2022
    48 MB
    50:57
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    Robert Gottlieb on ‘Garbo’ and ‘Babbitt’

    The writer and editor Robert Gottlieb does double duty on this week’s podcast. He talks about the life and career of Sinclair Lewis, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of “Babbitt,” Lewis’s best-selling novel about the narrow-mindedness and conformity of middle-class America in the first half of the 20th century. But first, he talks about his own new book, “Garbo,” a biography of the movie star Greta Garbo, whose impact on the culture was matched by the sense of mystery that surrounded her. “I understood the power of the impact, but I didn’t really understand — because I hadn’t been seeing her movies, I was too young — I didn’t really understand what she was on the screen and how she got to the screen in the first place. So as usual, it was curiosity that led me to write about her,” Gottlieb says. “No one had ever seemed like her before, and no one has ever seemed like her since. So to trace what those qualities were became the subject of the book. Carl Bernstein visits the podcast to discuss his new memoir, “Chasing History.” The book is about a time before Bernstein and Bob Woodward became household names for their Watergate reporting. Subtitled “A Kid in the Newsroom,” Bernstein’s memoir focuses on the years 1960 to 1965, when he worked at The Evening Star in Washington, then the chief rival of The Washington Post. He was first hired as a copyboy when he was only 16. “I was spending a lot of time at the pool hall,” Bernstein says of his life before he got the job. “I was getting terrible grades in school. I was working Saturdays at a low-rent department store in a bad part of town.” At the newspaper, he saw a clearer future. “The greatest reporters of their time, many of them were in this newsroom. And I saw what they were doing, and I studied what they were doing and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Jennifer Szalai and Molly Young talk about the books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: Books about Stoicism “How Civil Wars Start” by Barbara F. Walter We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 07.01.2022
    58 MB
    01:00:29
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    The Second Annual Listeners’ Questions Episode

    Throughout the year, we hear from many of you, and are always glad when we do. From time to time, we try to answer some of your questions on the podcast. This week, for the second time, we dedicate an entire episode to doing just that. Some of the many questions addressed this week: Who are literature’s one-hit wonders?What are some of our favorite biographies?What are empowering novels about women in midlife?How do we assign books to reviewers?Who are writers that deserve more attention?How does the practice of discounted books work? Providing the answers are the book critic Dwight Garner, the editors Lauren Christensen, MJ Franklin and John Williams, and the reporters Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth Harris. Pamela Paul is the host. We mention many more books than usual on this episode. Here’s a list for reference: “A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole “Gilead,” by Marilynne Robinson “The Master and Margarita,” by Mikhail Bulgakov “The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt “The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt “Natural Opium,” by Diane Johnson “In Trouble Again,” by Redmond O’Hanlon “Into the Heart of Borneo,” by Redmond O’Hanlon “Venice,” by Jan Morris “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac “Minor Characters,” by Joyce Johnson “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” by James Boswell “William James,” by Robert D. Richardson “Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley,” by Peter Guralnick “Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley,” by Peter Guralnick “Samuel Pepys,” by Claire Tomalin “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” by Jerry Hopkins “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” by Paul Elie “Virginia Woolf,” by Hermione Lee “The Stone Angel,” by Margaret Laurence “Memento Mori,” by Muriel Spark “The Friend,” by Sigrid Nunez “What Are You Going Through,” by Sigrid Nunez “The Journals of John Cheever” “A Manual for Cleaning Women,” by Lucia Berlin “The Blood of the Lamb,” by Peter De Vries “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” by James Baldwin “Sula,” by Toni Morrison “Lot,” by Bryan Washington “Little Fires Everywhere,” by Celeste Ng “The Yellow House,” by Sarah M. Broom “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” by Jesmyn Ward “The Topeka School,” by Ben Lerner “Modern Lovers,” by Emma Straub The fiction of Randall Kenan “Popisho,” by Leone Ross “Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters “The Magician,” by Colm Toibin “When We Cease to Understand the World,” by Benjamín Labatut “Say Nothing,” by Patrick Radden Keefe “Empire of Pain,” by Patrick Radden Keefe “Bad Blood,” by John Carreyrou The poetry of Emily Dickinson The poetry of Ada Limón “Piranesi,” by Susanna Clarke “Klara and the Sun,” by Kazuo Ishiguro We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 23.12.2021
    57 MB
    01:00:13
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    David Sedaris’s Diaries and Paul McCartney’s Songs

    David Sedaris’s second volume of diaries, “A Carnival of Snackery,” covers the years 2003 to 2020. On this week's podcast, he talks about the diaries, and about being on the road again — we caught him in Montana, a stop on his sprawling reading and signing tour. “I’ve been surprised by what people are willing to — ‘You want us to show proof of vaccination? OK, we’ll do it. You want us to wear a mask the entire time? OK, we’ll do it,’” Sedaris says. “And then the book signings have lasted as long as they always did, so people are still willing to wait in line. I’ve really been touched by that. And I’m willing to make whatever sacrifices I need to.” He added: “I’m just so grateful to be out again.” The poet Paul Muldoon visits the podcast to talk about his work editing Paul McCartney’s two-volume collection “The Lyrics.” He says becoming involved with the project was an easy choice. “Through his career, as a Beatle, of course, and then with Wings and his solo career, he’s been a force in my life and certainly in the lives of many people who were even vaguely sentient through the 1960s and since,” Muldoon says of McCartney. “What’s fascinating about his career with the Beatles is that they were, of course, very much of their moment, they were defined by their moment — including, at the risk of sounding a bit banal — the optimism that was associated in the U.K. with the postwar period. But of course, extraordinarily, they went on to influence their moment also; they came to define their moment, and to define the rest of us, actually. It was a very interesting phenomenon. So yeah, I was thrilled to be involved, and continue to be thrilled to be involved.” Muldoon also talks about, and reads from, his new poetry collection, “Howdie-Skelp.” Also on this week’s episode, Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Middlemarch” by George Eliot “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 17.12.2021
    55 MB
    57:54
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    The Life of a Jazz Age Madam

    In 2007, Debby Applegate won a Pulitzer Prize for “The Most Famous Man in America,” her biography of the 19th-century preacher and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. Applegate’s new book, “Madam,” is another biography, of a very different subject: Polly Adler, who ran a brothel and had many famous friends during the Jazz Age in New York City. On this week’s podcast, Applegate describes the challenges of running a business in the underworld. “You have to depend on your reputation,” Applegate says. “You can’t advertise, you can’t sell your product in a normal market square. So you have to cultivate your own kind of word of mouth and your own kind of notoriety. Polly worked out of small but luxurious apartments that were hidden away and constantly moving, so she could stay one step ahead of the cops or other crooks. What Polly did was use that small town but big city of Manhattan, which was really thriving in those years between World War I and World War II, and she became a critical player — a ‘big shot,’ as the gossip columnists called her.” Matthew Pearl visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “The Taking of Jemima Boone,” about the kidnapping of Daniel Boone’s daughter in 1776. Pearl is well known as a novelist, and he says that this work of nonfiction has many of the elements he looks for in any good story. “Jemima is such a strong and incredible character to work with,” he says. She was one of the Boones’ 10 children, though “not all of them survived into childhood or adulthood, and Jemima was one who was very close with her father, in particular, and she had really her father’s spirit of persistence and independence.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world, and Dwight Garner and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week: “The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails” “Accidental Gods” by Anna Della Subin We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 10.12.2021
    62 MB
    01:05:29
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    A New Oral History of HBO

    James Andrew Miller has written a series of oral histories about some our biggest cultural institutions: “Saturday Night Live,” Creative Artists Agency and ESPN. His new book, “Tinderbox,” follows HBO from its start in 1972 through its transformative “Sopranos” years and up to the present day. “One of the things that struck me was just how emotional people were,” Miller says on this week’s podcast. “First of all, HBO was a place that people didn’t date, they married. There were people that were there for 20 years, 25 years, 30, 35 years. They stayed there for their careers, and they were very, very wedded to it. I’m not bragging about this, but there were at least — more than — a dozen people who cried during interviews, who called me back the next day and said, ‘Now I have PTSD revisiting some of what I went through.’” He says he learned that “this was not just a place that people checked in on a time clock and left; it was like a tsunami that washed over their lives.” Mayukh Sen visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America.” “Five of the seven women whom I focus on in this book are no longer with us,” Sen says, “and in the absence of their presence I really wanted to understand how they spoke and how they wanted to present themselves to the world. And I really wanted to find them speaking in their own words. So the way I sought that out was to find their memoirs, or cookbooks with memoiristic passages or any interviews they gave throughout their lifetime that really presented them speaking without that kind of filter.” Also on this week’s episode, Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Now Beacon, Now Sea” by Christopher Sorrentino “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles “Ghost Light” by Frank Rich “Fairyland” by Alysia Abbott “Life Inside” by Mindy Lewis

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  • 03.12.2021
    63 MB
    01:06:36
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    Talking About the 10 Best Books of 2021

    Earlier this week, several editors at The New York Times got together (virtually) for a live taping of the podcast to discuss the Book Review’s list of the year’s 10 Best Books. (If you haven’t seen the list yet and don’t want spoilers before listening, the choices are revealed one by one on the podcast.) In addition to the 10 Best Books, the editors discuss on this episode some of their favorite works from the year that didn’t make the list. Here are those additional books the editors discuss: “The Magician” by Thomas Mann “Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro “Razorblade Tears” by S.A. Cosby “Wayward” by Dana Spiotta “Dirty Work” by Eyal Press “Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney “The Life of the Mind” by Christine Smallwood “Crossroads” by Jonathan Franzen “The Prophets” by Robert Jones Jr. “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart

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  • 25.11.2021
    58 MB
    01:01:14
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    Ann Patchett on ‘These Precious Days’

    The novelist and Nashville bookstore owner Ann Patchett’s latest book is a collection of essays, “These Precious Days.” It’s anchored by the long title piece, which originally appeared in Harper’s Magazine, about her intimate friendship with a woman who moved to Nashville for cancer treatment just as the coronavirus pandemic started. On this week’s podcast, Patchett talks about the collection, and about where writing essays fits into her creative life. “I write essays while I’m writing novels too sometimes, but it’s wonderful to have something you can finish,” she says. “I can start a novel and it will take me three years sometimes to finish it, and no one reads it as I’m writing it. So if I write an essay, it’s almost like sending up a flare saying: I’m still here, I’m still alive. I’m a very project-oriented person, and somehow writing an essay feels closer to, say, making Thanksgiving dinner than it does writing a novel. It’s like, I’m going to do this and it’s going to take me a couple of days. But it’s not going to take me years.” Corey Brettschneider, a professor of political science at Brown University, visits the podcast to talk about the Penguin Liberty series , a group of books he’s editing about modern issues in liberty and constitutional rights. He says he wants the project to be used in schools, but also hopes it will find a much broader audience as well. “I certainly would hope that professors would use this, but really I think if we’re going to continue on as a democracy — and I don’t think that, as we learn about Jan. 6, that this is hyperbole, I think that we are under threat when it comes to a very different idea of what government is supposed to look like that’s prevailing in much of the public right now. And how are we to combat it?” he says. “I think in order to really take seriously the idea that we’re going to defend liberty in any defensible, robust sense, we have to know what it is, and that means that citizens have to think about these things.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Alexandra Jacobs talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed by the Times’s critics this week: “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks, 1941-1995” edited by Anna von Planta “On Consolation” by Michael Ignatieff

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  • 19.11.2021
    53 MB
    56:04
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    Ross Douthat on Dealing With Lyme Disease

    The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is used to writing about politics and ideas at play in the broader world, but with his new book, “The Deep Places,” he has written a memoir about his own harrowing experience with Lyme disease. Given the mysteries surrounding the disease, Douthat’s story is also very much about his interactions with — and outside of — the medical establishment. “I was relatively open-minded at an intellectual level to the possibility that there are diseases that existing medical science doesn’t know how to treat,” Douthat says on this week’s podcast. “What I was not prepared for was actually just how bad these diseases could be, and also just how extreme, when you have something like this, you can be willing to get. Eventually I followed what is the outsider medical approach to treating chronic Lyme.” Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review, visits the podcast to discuss her latest pick for our Group Text, “O Beautiful,” by Jung Yun. The novel is about a Korean American woman who has traded a modeling career for journalism. She inherits an assignment in the oil fields of North Dakota from a former teacher and love interest. “She gets there and quickly discovers that what Richard, her professor, has set up for her isn’t really the story that she wants to tell,” Egan says. “And she starts to unravel her own story, and it becomes a novel about insiders and outsiders, and about this town that’s completely ill equipped for this influx of somewhat desperate people who are there to work and live in really, really unpleasant and sometimes dangerous conditions.” Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and Andrew Lavallee talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Resuscitation of a Hanged Man” by Denis Johnson “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart “The Overstory” by Richard Powers

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  • 12.11.2021
    72 MB
    01:15:47
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    Alan Cumming Talks About ‘Baggage’

    The actor and author Alan Cumming was happily surprised that his best-selling first memoir, “Not My Father’s Son,” inspired many readers who had suffered their own childhood traumas. But he was disappointed, he says on this week’s podcast, when people characterized him as having “triumphed” or “overcome” his adversity. “I haven’t, I haven’t, I absolutely haven’t,” he says. And he stresses that point in his new memoir, “Baggage.” “We all have baggage, we all have trauma, we all have something,” he says. “But the worst thing to do is to pretend it hasn’t happened. to deny it or to think that you’re over it. And that’s what I felt was in danger of happening with the way that my first book was reacted to. So in this I’m trying to say: You never get over it, it’s with you all the time.” He adds: “You have to be very vigilant about your trauma. If you deny it, it will come back and bite you in the bum.” Allen C. Guelzo visits the podcast to discuss “Robert E. Lee: A Life,” his new biography of the Confederate leader. “Since it had been at least 25 years since another serious biography of Lee had been published — this was by Emory Thomas, in 1995 — it seemed to me that the time was right to begin a re-evaluation of Lee, and especially to ask questions about Lee from someone like myself coming from what was, quite frankly, a Northern perspective,” Guelzo says. “After all, all the books I’ve written up to this point have been about Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause in the war, and I thought it might be productive to look at Robert E. Lee through the other end of the telescope.” Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Alexandra Jacobs and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed by the Times’s critics this week: “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart “Solid Ivory” by James Ivory

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  • 05.11.2021
    75 MB
    01:18:53
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    Huma Abedin Talks About 'Both/And'

    In her new memoir, “Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds,” Huma Abedin writes about her Muslim faith, her years working alongside Hillary Clinton and, of course, her relationship with her estranged husband, the former Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner. On this week’s podcast, Abedin says that writing the book was “the most therapeutic thing I could have possibly done,” and that writing about her marriage and its time in the tabloids gave her perspective. “Now that I am on the other side, I can say with confidence: I don’t think what I went through is all that singular,” she says. “What’s different is that I had to go through it on the front page of the news. So I know there is a sisterhood and brotherhood of people out there in the world that have had to endure betrayal and have had to figure out how to move on with their lives. And these are the conversations that I still am called into; the people who stop me on the street and ask me a simple question: ‘When does it stop hurting?’ ‘Should I stay?’ ‘When do I leave?’” Gary Shteyngart visits the podcast to discuss his new novel, “Our Country Friends,” about seven friends (and one nemesis) spending time together in one Hudson Valley property during the early months of the pandemic. The novel’s drama, Shteyngart says, comes from people confronting their “deepest selves,” as Chekhov’s characters did when they left Moscow for rural surroundings. “When you’re stuck in the countryside, no matter where you are, life just goes so much slower than it does in the city, and you’re able to really begin to think about your place in the world,” Shteyngart says. “There’s definitely a feeling of time slowing down and you’re able to ascertain your true relationships. If you love someone, you love them more in the country. If you hate them, you hate them more in the country. Everything is turned up to 11.” Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Dave Kim and Sarah Lyall talk about what they’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Man in the Holocene” by Max Frisch “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle “Perfect Little Children” by Sophie Hannah “The Flight Attendant” by Chris Bohjalian

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  • 29.10.2021
    68 MB
    01:11:29
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    Katie Couric Talks About 'Going There'

    In her new memoir, “Going There,” Katie Couric writes about her career as a host of “Today and the first woman to anchor the “CBS Evening News” solo. She also, as the title suggests, writes about difficult personal subjects, including the deaths of her father and of her first husband. On this week’s podcast, she says the most difficult part of the book to write was about her former “Today” colleague Matt Lauer and his downfall over allegations of sexual misconduct. “My feelings were so complicated, and they definitely evolved over time,” Couric says. “I felt like I was almost doing my own therapy sessions. I did original reporting — which sounds so pretentious — but I actually revisited some people who were affected by his behavior, and it was really, really helpful. And I talked to a lot of experts about this. I reached out to people who had written extensively about men in power. This was at the time it happened, because I was really trying to make sense of it in my head. I talked to gender studies people, I talked to lawyers who have represented victims. It was a real mission for me, and a lot of soul-searching honestly.” John McWhorter visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.” “I think that there is a certain kind of woke person who is caught in a frame of mind where the idea is that how you show that you’re a good person is by showing that you are woke — that you’re aware, for example, that racism exists, and it’s not just the N-word and people burning crosses on people’s lawns,” McWhorter says. “You want to show that you’re aware of this. But it’s narrowed to the point where a certain kind of person thinks that showing one’s awareness of that is the key, regardless of what you prescribe’s effects upon actual Black people. So although it’s the last thing these people would suspect about themselves, They do not think of Black people as more important than their own showing that they are not racist. That is a woke racist, as far as I’m concerned.” Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed this week by The Times’s critics: “The End of Bias” by Jessica Nordell “Colorization” by Wil Haygood

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  • 22.10.2021
    70 MB
    01:13:51
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    One Factory and the Bigger Story It Tells

    In “American Made,” Farah Stockman writes about the downfall of manufacturing employment in the United States by focusing on the lives of workers at one Indianapolis factory that was relocated to Mexico. Stockman, a member of The New York Times editorial board, talks about the book on this week’s podcast. “I really think we’ve seen unions in a death spiral,” she says. “And part of the reason is globalization. You had so many people who fought for these manufacturing jobs to be good-paying jobs, and decent jobs that you could raise a family on. They didn’t used to be, but they were after the labor movement had a long struggle and a long fight. And as soon as we start seeing pensions and health care and decent wages, and as soon as Blacks and women start getting that stuff, now factories can move away. They can go to other countries. And it really undercut unions’ ability to demand things and to strike. And you saw a lot less appetite among workers for asking for stuff like that, because now everybody just has to beg those factories to stay.” Benjamín Labatut visits the podcast to discuss his book “When We Cease to Understand the World,” a combination of fact and fiction about some of the most ground-shifting discoveries in physics. Labatut explains why he gave himself license to imagine the lives and thoughts of some of the scientists featured — Einstein, Schrödinger and Heisenberg among them. “What I’m trying to do is for people to understand just how mad these ideas seemed at the time to the very people who discovered them,” Labatut says. “And I had to use these characters for people to get a sense of how brutal the beauty was that these men were seeing for the first time.” Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Gal Beckerman and Lauren Christensen talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “Dirty Work” by Eyal Press “Invisible Child” by Andrea Elliott “Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney

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  • 15.10.2021
    57 MB
    59:33
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    Thomas Mallon on the Career of Jonathan Franzen

    Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, “Crossroads,” has generated a lot of discussion, as his work tends to do. The novelist and critic Thomas Mallon, who reviewed “Crossroads” for us, is on the podcast this week to talk about the book and to place it in the context of Franzen’s entire career. “He is fundamentally a social novelist, and his basic unit of society is the family,” Mallon says. “Always families are important in Franzen, and we move outward from the family into the business, into the town, into whatever the larger units are. His novels are likely to remain as indicators of what the world was like at the time he was writing. This new novel is a little bit different in that he’s going back 50 years. The Nixon era is now, definitely, historical novel material.” Joshua Ferris visits the podcast to talk about his new novel, “A Calling for Charlie Barnes.” “It’s basically about a guy who has floundered all his life until the moment that he gets pancreatic cancer,” Ferris says. “His diagnosis is a little back and forth, he’s not really being honest with too many people in his life about what’s going on. But eventually this rather thundering and life-changing disease happens to him. He’s got to deal with it, he’s got to get an operation and go through chemo and all the rest of it. And he changes his life. That’s sort of the plot of the book, I suppose. But it’s narrated by a tricky fellow who is related to him and determines the narrative as much as Charlie himself.” Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and our new book critics, Molly Young and Alexandra Jacobs, introduce themselves and talk about their approaches to literary criticism. Pamela Paul is the host. We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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  • 08.10.2021
    55 MB
    57:40
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    Andrea Elliott on ‘Invisible Child’

    In 2013, the front page of The New York Times devoted five straight days to the story of Dasani , an 11-year-old Black girl who lived in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. Now, Andrea Elliott, the reporter of that series, has published her first book, “Invisible Child,” which tells the full story of Dasani and her family up to the present day. On this week’s podcast, Elliott discusses how she came to focus her reporting on Dasani. “I’ve always believed as a journalist that the story shows itself to you, and you just have to do the work of being there and being present for as long as possible until it becomes more clear,” Elliott says. “In the very beginning, I had three families I was following at that shelter. And I had this approach that a lot of journalists take, that you need to capture three different families to give a sense of the spectrum of experience. But what I think becomes more important to the reader is to be able to identify deeply with one story, one protagonist, and follow that person.” Dasani became that person, in part, Elliott says, because “she was somebody who, at a very young age, could articulate in a moving and profound way her experience. And that’s a rare trait even in adults.” The stand-up comedian, actress, producer and publisher Phoebe Robinson visits the podcast to discuss her new book of essays, “Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes.” “Book writing is a completely different style of writing than stand-up,” Robinson says. “Stand-up, there’s a rhythm and you’re aware of the laughs and how they’re hitting. With a book you can really have more flavor with it; you can be vulnerable, you can slow it down, have some down beats, you could be really funny. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to write stand-up versus book writing. They both have their challenges.” Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host. Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”: “The Diary of a Country Priest” by Georges Bernanos “The Magician” by Colm Toibin “The Outlaw Ocean” by Ian Urbina

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