Books

Florida Keys--Public Libraries / Flickr - CC

In more than 30 years of writing for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik has covered everything from the science of meditation to the relationship between baseball and art. Today, he joins Steve Kraske to help recalibrate the true meaning of liberalism. Then, we find out why some consider Harry Truman's presidency an accident, which nonetheless changed the course of history in its first few months.

Courtesy Tom Stroik

"One thing that a poet needs more than anything else — well, you need a sense of language — but you need people who love you. And I have that," the poet Michelle Boisseau told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam earlier this year. "I have incredible colleagues, and of course my husband Tom [Stroik], and people who believe in your work. Just keep doing it."

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Author Whitney Terrell told the story of a female soldier in his novel, The Good Lieutenant. His consultant for that book, Angela Fitle, lived it in the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom II. They share their thoughts on the female experience of war. Then children's author Brian Selznick reveals what it was like to condense his novel Wonderstruck​ into the screenplay for the just-released film version.

Bonnie Bolling remembers when she first stepped on Middle Eastern soil. A writer, Bolling was in an airport in Dubai and the call to prayer came over the loudspeakers.

She’d never heard the call, and while she definitely felt reverence, she also panicked because she didn’t know what to expect or what her own response should be. Her heart beat hard as she stopped and awaited the reactions of her fellow travelers.

“I realized I was going to experience it in a way I was going to need to write about,” Bolling says of the Middle East.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum campus with an illuminated Bloch Building on right.
Charvex / Public Domain

When the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opened the Bloch Building, its "lens" architecture was so different from the existing museum that many didn't see how the two could stand side by side. Today, the architect of the addition, Steven Holl, talks about returning to his building ten years later.

In the early 2000s, an artist from Japan came to study at the Kansas City Art Institute. She made a big impression on the arts community here ... and it made one on her as well. She shares the story behind "Thank You for Teaching Me English," now on display at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Wikimedia Commons

For as long as there has been recorded music, there have been cover songs.

Kelly Paratore

In her new book Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, Kansas City-based investigative journalist Carey Gillam makes the argument that the chemical industry — particularly Monsanto — has spent decades deceiving the public about the dangers of Roundup, the popular weed killer.

“Everyone who eats is impacted by this chemical,” Gillam says.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

John Grisham's career has taken him from attorney, to Mississippi state representative, to best-selling author. Today, we speak with the acclaimed writer about his latest legal thriller, The Rooster Bar, which explores the underbelly tactics of for-profit law schools.

Photo courtesy of Pat O'Neill

It was 120 years ago this week that George Wigert was born in Axtell, a speck of a town in rural Nebraska. Wigert would grow up to attend military school, fight in World War I, then return home to start a family.

It was just three years ago that Wigert's grandson, author and publicist Pat O'Neill, came across hundreds of letters Wigert exchanged with his mother while preparing for and fighting in what was called "the war to end all wars."

Russell Watkins / Flickr - CC

Even though the winds and rain have subsided, the carnage wrought by Hurricanes Maria and Irma have left parts of the Caribbean without power and everyday necessities. Today, we find out how recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are progressing from two Kansas City relief workers who saw the devastation firsthand. Then, learn interesting facts, folk-wisdom, and oddities of the Show-Me State, via a brand new Missouri Almanac.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

During World War I, millions of letters were sent between the American servicemen in Europe and their loved ones back home. Kansas City author and publicist Pat O'Neill focused in on 223 letters sent during the war by his grandfather. Today, we learn Sgt. George Wigert's story.

Jeff Ridenour

The opera Hansel and Gretel is based on a Grimm Brothers' fairy tale.

In this version of the story, the brother and sister are sent into the forest to gather strawberries. They get lost, encounter creatures like the Sandman and the Dew Fairy — and discover a mysterious gingerbread house where they're captured by a witch. 

A new University of Missouri-Kansas City production creates sets and costumes out of paper.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

The executive director of the Kansas City Symphony is a busy man, but Frank Byrne has carved out some time for Up To Date. Today, he leads us through a Shostakovich symphony he's been listening to a lot lately. Then, we learn about the reporting, the writing, and the living Ernest Hemingway did in Kansas City during his 18th year of life.

Intel Free Press / Flickr - CC

Kansas City has its fair share of historic buildings, but they're not always easy to find and appreciate. Today, learn how a new guidebook is bringing these sites to people's attention. Then, pediatrician Dr.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

One Missouri photographer has spent years collecting stories and making images of musicians and their most prized possession; their guitars. Today, Chuck Holley shares some of his favorites. Then, we visit with Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller about the possibility of an upcoming bubble. Shiller says many harbingers of recessions in the past are present, but something important is missing.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

More than 40 years after the Vietnam War ended, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is still helping Kansas City readers understand the nature of conflict.

Cory Weaver / Kansas City Repertory Theater

The musical Between the Lines, based off a bestselling novel by Jodi Picoult and her daughter, just made its world premiere at the KC Rep. It was a huge hit, but will it make it to Broadway? We discuss what it takes to get there with a local artistic director, a national producer and a Broadway performer.

Gordon C. James / Courtesy of Agate Publishing

Sometimes, a haircut isn’t just a haircut.

When he was growing up in Kansas City, author Derrick Barnes felt like a new kid after visiting his barber.

“Man, to get my haircut on Thursday means that when I showed up to school on Friday, I would look so fresh, and people would pay attention to me,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Not only is David Litt one of the youngest presidential speechwriters ever, but he also has the distinct (dis)honor of deplaning Air Force One in his pajamas. Today, Litt shares stories about his time writing jokes — and some serious stuff, too — for President Barack Obama.

Courtesy Andrew Johnson

In his new book, Kansas City writer Andrew Johnson stares down the tiny occurrences that make up everyday life, using observations about small things, such as people's habits of speech and social media comments, to raise big questions about humanity.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Chances are good that you've heard of Dan Brown before. (Does The Da Vinci Code ring a bell?) Today, the mega best-selling author talks about about his latest thriller, Origin, and explains why he thinks God won't survive the next hundred years. Then, we find out how reframing the gun control debate can help prevent more children being killed in gun violence.

After a photo of local high school students drinking alcohol from cups arranged in a swastika went viral, many alumnae have spoken out, focusing on a code of conduct at the school. We ask, what should schools do to respond to hate speech?

Plus, Kansas City native Derrick Barnes has written a new children's book, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Guests:

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

This is the final season for the popular Netflix series Longmire, but not for the books that inspired it. Today, their author, Craig Johnson, reveals the inspiration for his latest novel about the fictional sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, and relates what it felt like when his character came to life on screen. Then, learn what a Prairie Village husband and wife team did when their passion for amassing memorabilia about Kansas City left them with a collection too big to fit under one roof.

NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology / Flickr - CC

For some, a belief in God and adherence to fact-based scientific research are mutually exclusive. That's not the case for Katherine Hayhoe, who's had remarkable success convincing evangelical Christians that climate change is caused largely by human activity. It could be because she's a conservative Christian herself.

Elena Seibert / gretchenrubin.com

If you've ever worked with someone who had trouble following through, or dealt with a kid who's constantly pushing your buttons, you'll want to hear this conversation. Best-selling author and Kansas City native Gretchen Rubin says peoples' reactions to expectation influence their behavior in a big way.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

For centuries, refugees from all over the world have taken to the seas to escape violence and persecution in their homelands. Today, the author of a children's book published this year recounts just a few of their stories. Then, we speak to the director and producer of a new film about Gertrude Bell, who's been called the most powerful woman in the British Empire during World War I.

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