literature

These days, political discourse may feature the occasional soaring oratory, but more often, it comes down to talking heads yelling at each other. Maybe what the world needs now is the kind of politics found only in books. As we approach the 2016 presidential election, we take a moment to explore the best books about politics with KCUR's Bibliofiles.

Guests:

Kansas City author and teacher Whitney Terrell embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq about a decade ago — writing for publications such as Slate Magazine and The Washington Post. Some of the stories he heard became the basis for his third novel, The Good Lieutenant, an eye-opening look at women in the military.  

  The dog days of summer are just around the corner ... or maybe they’re already here. One way that kids can beat them is with a great book. Our panel of librarians were here again with their favorite titles of the summer.

Guests:

  • Debbie McLeod, retired librarian.
  • Dennis Ross, director of youth services at the Johnson County Public Library.
  • Lacie Griffin, collection development specialist at the Johnson County Public Library. 

Books:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Juan Felipe Herrera's official duty is to be the "lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans."

That's how the Library of Congress begins its job description for the United States poet laureate. In other words, the poet-in-chief "seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry."

Ernest Hemingway honed his writing style as a cub reporter in Kansas City, however, his later years were spent in Cuba. We look at a new movie about that period in Hemingway's life and whether a new generation of readers is finding its way to his works.

Guests:

  • Bob Yari, director of Papa Hemingway in Cuba, the first U.S. film shot entirely in Cuba since 1959.
  • Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway.
  • Steve Paul is a Hemingway scholar

Jane Austen lived centuries ago, yet she still inspires best-sellers and box-office hits. What's the secret to her staying power? This is a search for the authors who embody those Austen-esque qualities today, including some unexpected picks that might surprise you. Plus, a second look at Austen's least popular novel: Mansfield Park.

Guests:

Taylor Galscock

Walter Bargen served as the first poet laureate of Missouri, in 2008 and 2009. His poems, essays, and stories have been published in more than 300 magazines.

In advance of his appearance in Kansas City this Tuesday, KCUR aired an excerpt from the New Letters on the Air archives, when Bargen read a poem and spoke with Angela Elam about the sometimes strange role of the public poet.

Being scared doesn't make my list of top five emotions. It's not even in the top 20. I actively dislike both roller coasters and horror movies. (In fact, a Donald Duck fire safety video I saw when I was 4 scared me enough that I can still recall scenes from the movie, vividly.) And though I'm not Polyannaish in my reading taste, I'm not a thrill seeker, either. Live radio supplies me with plenty of adrenaline.

So it's saying a lot that the weekend before Kansas author Cote Smith came on Central Standard to talk about the anxiety-laced world he created in his new novel Hurt People, I found myself glued to my seat for hours, heart thumping along to the words on the page.

It's Leavenworth, Kan., in the 1980s. Two young boys. One escaped convict. Two recently divorced parents too absorbed in their own struggles to fully supervise their children. An apartment-complex swimming pool. A mysterious new friend. 

Meet the Leavenworth-born novelist behind this vision.

Guests:

The owners of a popular children's bookstore in Brookside are moving on to their new project: an immersive "explorastorium" for children's literature, to be called The Rabbit Hole. The inside scoop on this couple's love affair with stories, books, paper-mache... and each other. 

Guests:

In the Landry Park series for teen readers, local author Bethany Hagen pictures the year 2300. From class warfare to energy sustainability issues, it's a dark vision informed by the author's own experience growing up in Kansas City.

Guests:

  • Bethany Hagen, author, Landry Park and Jubilee Manor
Pexels / Creative Commons

The con-man may be someone  you want to avoid in real life, but he is a beloved figure in literature. Why do readers and writers love the con artist so? And why is he always a "he"? Lots of reading recommendations, plus the story of a local writer who's not only written about the con-man; he's also been one.

Guests:

Witnessing the death of his brother, moving to Bleeding Kansas during the border war, losing his father and protecting his family. All of this happened in the life of Billy Cody before he ever turned into the legend known as "Buffalo Bill."

Guest:

She’s written 21 books which have been translated into 35 languages. Her list of awards — which includes a Presidential Medal of Honor — could practically fill a book itself. Chilean-American author Isabel Allende joins Steve Kraske to talk about her latest book, her inspirations and her eventful life.

When we explored the life of Charlie Parker earlier this year, we were told that you can't talk about the history of jazz without talking about drugs. Is that true about the arts in general?

Guests:

  • Jan Schall, curator, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  • Clancy Martin, writer
  • Chuck Haddix, host, The Fish Fry on KCUR

Roger Coleman's new book begins with a curse on Kansas City. It's the dreaded curse of dullness. Coleman spent 42 years as a minister in midtown, Kansas City and started writing five years ago when he saw the city becoming younger, more vibrant and more open. He wanted to document that shift. His protagonist is a boy whose mission is to lift the curse of dullness. His journey takes him all over town.

Guest:

Shelf Life

Sep 11, 2015

Before Will Leathem opened Prospero's Books in Midtown, he was a Republican political consultant and a touring musician. On this Portrait Session show, Will talks about poetry, politics and the first book he published: 'Leavened 911, a compilation of stories and essays by Kansas Citians about the September 11 attacks.

Guest:

Creative Commons

Whitney Terrell's novel, The King of Kings County, delves into the history of racial covenants and white flight in Kansas City; the author pulls no punches about that. But the characters who populate the novel and their personal dramas are purely fictional. Ten years after the novel was published, upheaval in Ferguson and a downtown renaissance in Kansas City may inspire us to see something new in the story.

Guest:

  • Whitney Terrell, author, The King of Kings County

Schoolchildren have been admiring Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird for generations. With the publication of Go Set A Watchman, readers are learning about a side of Atticus they're having a hard time stomaching. But fictional characters change all the time in their private lives with their authors.

Guest:

  • Catherine Browder, author of three collections of fiction, associate in UMKC's Creative Writing Program

Bill Martin studied with revered lamas in India. He was also the charismatic founder of a money-making church, and ultimately, a sufferer from mental illness who died in a hospital for the homeless. Years later, his son tries to understand the man who raised him.

Guest:

Epic Summer

Jun 16, 2015

If summertime means being out of school, think again. Crestview Elementary is one of two schools in the metro experimenting with a year-long schedule. So we attempt to redefine summer, with great literature set amid sweltering summer heat and a roadtrip in search of a frozen dessert called "pineapple whip."

Guests:

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

Between teaching at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, writing for the Kansas City Star, and hosting Up To Date, you might think KCUR’s Steve Kraske doesn’t have time to spend reading. But you'd be wrong.

The voracious non-fiction reader has brought some titles from his bookshelf to share. He spoke with the authors of three of his picks on Up To Date.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

LaShonda Katrice Barnett remembers going out with a quarter to buy the latest issue of The Call for her grandmother. Now, Barnett has written a novel about the trailblazing founder of a fictional African-American newspaper called Jam on the Vine. If it resembles The Call, that's no coincidence. 

Guest:

  • LaShonda Katrice Barnett, author, Jam on the Vine

From Narnia to The Hunger Games, young adult literature has an age-old obsession with right versus wrong. But moral conundrums on teens' bookshelves are more complex than ever. What does the changing moral landscape say about growing up today? 

Guests: 

  • Melissa Lenos, associate professor of English, Donnelly College
  • Naphtali Faris, early literacy manager, The Kansas City Public Library
Carl Van Vechten / Creative Commons, Wikimedia

The prolific author best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God got her start as an anthropologist, listening to the stories and songs of former slaves in Florida in the 1930s. About fifty years later, a Kansas City woman found a connection with her own history and community in the voices Hurston captured. Her one-woman play about Zora Neale Hurston now takes her all over the world.

Guests:

Creative Commons, Wikimedia

Her children's books shaped ideas about the Midwestern experience for multiple generations worldwide. She's been gone more than sixty years, but her influence remains strong; even now, fans and scholars attend a yearly Laurapalooza festival in her honor. Her autobiography has just recently been published, but good luck finding a copy. The first print run has sold out and the second will not even fill existing orders.

Patrick Quick / KCUR

It’s cold outside, so now is the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

Central Standard took the opportunity to seek out some of the best books about Kansas City history. After all, even if you can't get outside to explore the city, you can still do it from the comfort of your home.

Local historian Monroe Dodd and Missouri Valley Special Collections manager Eli Paul gave us their recommendations of the best books for local history lovers, focusing on those that are a really good read.

Penguin Group

As 2015 gets off to a chilly start, it's the perfect time to cozy up with some of 2014's hottest reads. Up to Date's Book Doctors share some of their favorite titles from last year. 

From Jeffrey Ann Goudie, freelance writer and book reviewer:

Best Books Of 2014 For Children And Teens

Dec 12, 2014

Books have the remarkable ability to enthrall, captivate and inspire. When kids are trapped indoors during the cold winter months books  can transport them into new and fascinating worlds.

On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske and three Johnson County librarians review their top picks in children's literature. 

The Best Children's Books of 2014:

From Kate McNair, young adult librarian at the Johnson County Library: 

The KCUR Arts team asked for submissions on December 5, 2014. Since then we’ve received more than 200 poems, essays, and short stories to consider. From those, we’ve already selected the first few months of Word episodes.

But we still have a lot of submissions to read, and because we want to give all of them a thoughtful review, we’re hitting “Pause” and closing submissions for now. More information is here.

Thank you for your interest in WORD.

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