Books

Kyle Smith/KCUR

They're difficult, they're demanding, they're egocentric, passionate, creative — and they make for great book fodder. KCUR's Bibliofiles discuss the best books about artists.

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Kansas City Artists Interpret "Alice In Wonderland"

Oct 20, 2015

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has inspired countless unique interpretations within art, literature, dance, theatre, music and film. We take a look at some local artists' versions as the story turns 150 years old.

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In the newspapers, Pulitzer-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., writes about the very real world we live in, commenting on race relations and politics. On this edition of Up to Date, we talk with him about his columns and his latest novel, "Grant Park".

Courtesy Aaron Barnhart

The story of Kansas abolitionist John Brown — the wild-eyed man who killed pro-slavery settlers in response to the sacking of Lawrence before the Civil War — has been told so many times he's now a historical figure of mythical proportions. Few people, however, know the story of August Bondi, who fought alongside Brown in less-murderous Free State skirmishes.

Jen Mann

Mouthy blogger and New York Times bestselling author Jen Mann is at it again.

In her latest book, Spending the Holidays With People I Want to Punch in the Throat, the Overland Park writer takes down "humblebraggers," elves and bell-ringers alike. 

Whether its her love/hate relationship with chocolate covered peanut butter balls, or her love/hate relationship with her kids being home on winter break, she's got something to say. 

Here is an excerpt from the book, in which Mann lists the things she hates most about the holidays:

Daniel Handler and Brian Selznick are royalty when it comes to children's literature. Handler is the mastermind behind Lemony Snicket, and Selznick wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret​, which became a Martin Scorsese film. They talk with Steve Kraske about ideas, writing and imagination.

After the mortgage meltdown and bank bailouts that kicked off the Great Recession, many were pointing fingers at those who were supposed to foresee these catastrophes, economists. Steve Kraske talks with one who defends his profession, saying economists' ideas have contributed $1 trillion to this country’s economy.

Guest:

  • Robert Litan, author of "Trillion Dollar Economists: How Economists and Their Ideas Have Transformed Business"
Chronicle Books

Up to Date host Steve Kraske makes no bones about it, he does not like cats. Find out if Francesco Marciuliano and KCUR staffers can change his mind as they explore Marciuliano's humorous book, You Need More Sleep: Advice From Cats.

A new short-story collection, "I Was A Revolutionary" looks at Kansas history from a multitude of takes -- from Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence during the Civil War to the Populist era to the meat-packing plants of today. We take a closer look at the stories on this edition of Up to Date.

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Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll's classic character, turns 150 this year. The Kansas City Public Library is kicking off a two-month celebration of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland tonight with a lecture by Lewis Carroll scholar Mark Burstein.

We invite Burstein and a librarian to discuss the huge cultural influence of the book.

Guests:

Jeff Tigchelaar
Certain Streets at an Uncertain Hour (Woodley Press, 2015)

Writing free verse is playing tennis with the net down, Robert Frost famously said, and yet in the decades since his dismissal of the form many poets have ventured to win that game. Frost also once wrote to a friend that irony is a kind of guardedness, that at bottom the world isn’t a joke and humor is the most engaging cowardice — dour, almost dictatorial pronouncements.

Andrew Malan Milward
I Was A Revolutionary (HarperCollins)

 

As a place and as an idea, Kansas has a rich, textured history, including everything from bloodthirsty abolitionists to the first woman elected to public office, Susanna Salter. And for every widely known story about America’s 34th state, another remains more or less forgotten.

Consider the legacy of Nicodemus, Kansas, an all-black homestead founded in the decades after the Civil War, or the annihilation of the People of the South Wind, the Kaw Nation, also known as the Kansa, who gave their name to the territory that settlers — often German, Irish, Polish, or Balkan immigrants in the process of becoming white — stole from them.

Much of the state’s secret past is like this: sad, contentious, bloody, and thought-provoking. Sometimes it’s downright weird. In other words, fertile ground for storytellers.

Andrew Malan Milward’s new collection, I Was a Revolutionary, grows complex narratives from these obscure and captivating historical fragments. His writing is quiet, beautiful, and harrowing, bringing life to people and places you thought you knew. It’s a book powered by the past, if not consumed by it.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill has battled through a political world dominated by men to get where she is today. She talks about that journey in her memoir, Plenty Ladylike.

Senator McCaskill will speak at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 16 at Unity Temple on the Plaza. For admission information, visit www.rainydaybooks.com.

Simon & Schuster

It's been a long, strange trip for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.   

From homecoming queen to state auditor to two-term U.S. senator in one of the most competitive states in the country, the journey has been an uphill battle. 

McCaskill talks about navigating a political world dominated by men in her memoir, Plenty Ladylike

Here's an excerpt from the book, in which she describes the challenges she faced as a female lawyer in the Missouri House of Representatives:

Plenty Ladylike, by Claire McCaskill with Terry Ganey

Not everyone can find joy in office supplies, but author James Ward has. In this edition of Up to Date, we talk about his book, The Perfection of the Paperclip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession.

Guest:

  • James Ward, author of The Perfection of the Paperclip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession

A book is often evaluated by the words it contains, but what value does a book with no words have? It turns out that wordless books can bolster creativity for both children and adults.

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If there's a sandwich of deli meat and processed cheese in your lunchbox, you might have the military to thank for it. On this edition of Up to Date, we talk about how convenience foods leaped from combat zones to your kitchen.

Guest:

  • Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the Military Shapes the Way You Eat

Forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has helped solve many mysteries in real life, on the bookshelf and on the small screen. On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske spoke with the prolific author of the Temperance Brennan mystery novels and the inspiration for the TV series Bones.

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Beth Lipoff / KCUR

As a city ages, buildings and other structures can fall into disrepair and eventually end up abandoned and forgotten. 

In his book, Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences, photographer Matthew Christopher seeks out these places and tries to tell their stories through the lens of his camera.

Dial Books

Summer vacation has officially started and for many parents, that means a lot of free time to fill for their kids.

How about a trip to the ancient Martial Empire or to a faraway desert island? These summer reading picks will take your young ones to some of the most remote edges of the earth.

Johnson County Librarians Dennis Ross and Kate McNair and retired librarian Debbie McLeod selected some titles to keep kids and teens reading all summer long.

Recommendations for ages 3-10

  • Smick! By Coreen Cronin, illustrated by Juana Medina. Ages 3 – 6.
  • Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton, Ages 4 - 8.
  • Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, Ages 5-10.
  • Billy’s Booger: a Memior (Sorta) by William Joyce and his younger self. Ages 5 – 10.
  • Princess In Black by Shannon Hale, Ages 6-9. 

Historian David McCullough tells Steve Kraske what four years of research revealed about brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Hear what role their sister Katharine played and the characteristics that made them successful in their quest to fly.   

Guest:

  • David McCullough is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of The Wright Brothers.

 On this edition of Up to Date we look at two approaches to being happy with what you do: finding a way to make your passion your work, or making better decisions in the job you have.

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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:

The Best Books About Summer

Jun 15, 2015

Summer can be defined by so many things: weekends spent lounging at the lake, barbecues and fireworks on the Fourth of July, the all-night chirps of cicadas and quick bursts of light from fireflies. 

Feelings of summer nostalgia have inspired authors to write profound literature on the subject. On KCUR's Central Standard, Gina Kaufmann discussed the best books about summertime with our book critics Jeffrey Ann Goudie, Mark Luce and Kaite Stover. Below are their picks for best books about summer, along with some picks from KCUR staffers.

   Jeffrey Ann Goudie, freelance journalist and book critic: 

  • The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

Kaite Stover, readers' service representative, Kansas City Public Library

  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  • Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp
  • The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  • Foolscap by Michael Malone (adult)
  • City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (adult, coming October 2015)

Last month, NPR’s Morning Edition announced the second session of its book club. A few members of the Kansas City chapter share their opinions of the selected book, A God In Ruins.

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There's a better way to prepare  your loved ones for your death. Local author Annie Presley sits down with Steve Kraske to discuss her workbook Read This... When I'm Dead: A Guide to Getting Your Stuff Together for Your Loved Ones.  They also look back on some of her more memorable moments as a political fundraiser. 

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George Hodgman is a writer and editor who's lived in New York and worked for places like Vanity Fair and Simon & Schuster.

After a childhood spent dreaming of New York and an adulthood caught up in the whirlwind of an intense career, he came home to Missouri to care for his ailing mother. Still, people from the small towns of his youth still think of him as the guy who went to New York.

So when he wrote a memoir, Bettyville, not about the glitzy social engagements in New York but about his childhood in Missouri, that meant something to people.

Just last week, he returned to Madison, Missouri — which had 554 residents as of the 2010 census — and gave a talk in a church basement. He regaled the town with stories about itself.

Dwight Eisenhower came into the presidency with a storied background as a U.S. Army general, but when he got into office, he did his best to keep the country out of wars.

On Wednesday's Up to Date, we discuss how he used his strategic experience to keep the peace.

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