The Book Review

The Book Review

By The New York Times

The world's top authors and critics join host Gilbert Cruz 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. Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at nytimes.com/audioapp

Episodes

The 100 Best Books of the 21st Century

This week The New York Times Book Review rolled out the results of an ambitious survey it conducted to determine the best books of the 21st century so far. On this week’s episode, Gilbert Cruz chats with fellow editors Tina Jordan, Scott Heller and Joumana Khatib about the results of that survey and about the project itself, including the willingness of some participants to let us share their ballots with the public.
12/07/2437m 5s

Book Club: 'Headshot,' by Rita Bullwinkel

Rita Bullwinkel’s impressive debut novel, “Headshot,” follows eight teenagers fighting in the Daughters of America Cup, a youth women’s boxing tournament staged in a dilapidated gym in Reno. Each chapter details a match between fighters, bout after bout, until finally a champion is declared.We are thrown into the high-octane theater of each fight, as the boxers work to defeat their opponents. But we also explore each girl’s life, with flashes into the past and the future and into the girls’ minds as they reckon with their intense desires to make something of themselves.In this week’s episode, the Book Review’s MJ Franklin discusses the book with his colleagues Joumana Khatib and Lauren Christensen. Caution: Spoilers abound.
28/06/2434m 6s

Griffin Dunne on His Joyful and Tragic Family Memoir

Every family has its stories, and every family has its drama — and some families, like the one the actor and director Griffin Dunne was born into, have an excess of both. His uncle was the writer John Gregory Dunne, his aunt was Joan Didion and his father was Dominick Dunne, who became famous for his Vanity Fair dispatches from the trial of the man who killed his daughter (and Griffin’s sister) Dominique.On this week’s episode of the Book Review podcast, Dunne talks about his book, “The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir.” Of waiting to write it until his father, uncle and aunt had died, Dunne said he needed the distance: “I had the perspective on just how remarkable those three were as writers, what an influence they had on my life.” 
21/06/2437m 50s

10 Books to Check Out This Summer

Summer is upon us and you're going to need a few books to read. Book Review editors Elisabeth Egan and Joumana Khatib join host Gilbert Cruz to talk through a few titles they're looking forward to over the next several months.Books discussed in this episode:"Farewell, Amethystine," by Walter Mosley"The Cliffs," by J. Courtney Sullivan"Horror Movie," by Paul Tremblay"Liars," by Sarah Manguso"The God of the Woods," by Liz Moore"The Bright Sword," by Lev Grossman"Pearl," by Sian Hughes"Sandwich," by Catherine Newman"The Future Was Now," by Christopher Nashawaty"An Honest Woman: A Memoir of Love and Sex Work," by Charlotte Shane
14/06/2428m 27s

Elin Hilderbrand on Her Final Nantucket Summer Book

For many years now, Elin Hilderbrand has published a novel every summer set on the island of Nantucket. With her 30th book, 'Swan Song,' the bestselling author says she will step off that hamster wheel and try something new. On this week's episode, she and host Gilbert Cruz talk about her career, what she's reading, and what's next.
07/06/2437m 38s

Let's Talk About Percival Everett's 'James'

The broad outlines of "James" will be immediately familiar to anyone with even a basic knowledge of American literature: A boy named Huckleberry Finn and an enslaved man named Jim are fleeing down the Mississippi River together, each in search of his own kind of freedom.But where Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” treated Jim as a secondary character, a figure of pity and a target of fun, Percival Everett makes him the star of the show: a dignified, complicated, fully formed man capable of love and wit and rage in equal measure.In this week’s episode, the Book Review’s MJ Franklin discusses the book with his colleagues Joumana Khatib and Gregory Cowles. Caution: Spoilers abound.
31/05/2445m 40s

Writing About NASA's Most Shocking Moment

The year 1986 was notable for two big disasters, both of them attributable to human error and bureaucratic negligence at competing super powers: the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in the United States.The journalist Adam Higginbotham wrote about Chernobyl in his 2019 book, “Midnight in Chernobyl.” Now he’s back, with a look at the American side of the ledger, in his new book, “Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space.” On this week’s episode, Higginbotham tells host Gilbert Cruz why he was drawn to both disasters, and what the Challenger explosion revealed about weaknesses in America’s space program.“There was certainly a lot of hubris and complacency that led into this accident,” Higginbotham says. “In complex decision-making processes like those leading to the Chernobyl accident and the Challenger disaster, those concerned with making the decisions start off with a series of extremely carefully governed and defined practices for what constitutes acceptable risk and normal behavior. And then gradually over time, they subtly and almost unconsciously expand what they deem to be acceptable without even realizing it."
17/05/2443m 3s

Fantasy Superstar Leigh Bardugo on Her New Novel

In the world of fantasy fiction, Leigh Bardugo is royalty: Her Grishaverse novels are mainstays on the young adult best-seller list, her “Shadow and Bone” trilogy has been adapted for a Netflix series and her adult novels “Ninth House” and “Hell Bent” established her as a force to reckon with in the subgenre known as dark academia.Now Bardugo is back with a new fantasy novel, “The Familiar,” and it’s also her first work of historical fiction: Set during the Inquisition in 16th-century Spain, it deals with literal royalty (King Philip II of Spain) through the story of a young scullery maid who happens to possess some magical abilities. This week on the podcast, Gilbert Cruz talks with Bardugo about her career, her writing process and her decision to write a historical novel
10/05/2441m 44s

Colm Toibin on His Sequel to 'Brooklyn'

Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel “Brooklyn” told the story of a meek young Irishwoman, Eilis Lacey, who emigrates to New York in the 1950s out of a sense of familial obligation and slowly, diligently begins building a new life for herself. A New York Times best seller, the book was also adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Saoirse Ronan — and now, 15 years after its publication, Tóibín has surprised himself by writing a sequel.“Long Island,” his new novel, finds Eilis relocated to the suburbs and, in the opening scene, confronting a sudden crisis in her marriage. On this week’s podcast, Tóibín talks to Sarah Lyall about the book and how he came to write it.
03/05/2444m 19s

Book Club: Dolly Alderton's 'Good Material'

How to explain the British writer Dolly Alderton to an American audience? It might be best to let her work speak for itself — it certainly does! — but Alderton is such a cultural phenomenon in her native England that some context is probably helpful: “Like Nora Ephron, With a British Twist” is the way The New York Times Book Review put it when we reviewed her latest novel, “Good Material,” earlier this year.“Good Material” tells the story of a down-on-his-luck stand-up comic dealing with a broken heart, and it has won Alderton enthusiastic fans in America. In this week’s episode, the Book Review’s MJ Franklin discusses the book with his colleagues Emily Eakin and Leah Greenblatt. Caution: Spoilers abound!
26/04/2446m 41s

100 Years of Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster is not growing old quietly.The venerable publishing house — one of the industry’s so-called Big 5 — is celebrating its 100th birthday this month after a period of tumult that saw it put up for sale by its previous owner, pursued by its rival Penguin Random House in an acquisition bid that fell apart after the Justice Department won an antitrust suit, then bought for $1.62 billion last fall by the private equity firm KKR.With conditions seemingly stabilized since then, the company is turning 100 at an auspicious time to celebrate its roots and look to its future. On this week’s episode, Gilbert is joined by Simon & Schuster’s publisher and chief executive, Jonathan Karp, to talk about the centennial and what it means.“It was a startup 100 years ago,” Karp says. “It was two guys in their 20s. Richard Simon and Max Schuster. They were just a couple of guys who loved books. And they made a decision that they wanted to read every book they published. … The first book was a crossword puzzle book. It was a monster success. They’d actually raised $50,000 from their friends and family. They didn’t need it. They returned the money. And the company was up and running.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
12/04/2431m 22s

Looking Back at 50 Years of Stephen King

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie.” In the decades since, King has experimented with length, genre and style, but has always maintained his position as one of America’s most famous writers.On this week’s episode, host Gilbert Cruz talks to the novelist Grady Hendrix, who read and re-read many of King’s books over several years, writing an essay on each as well as King superfan Damon Lindelof, the TV showrunner behind shows such as “Lost” and “The Leftovers.”Some of the books discussed in this episode: "Carrie," "Cujo," "Duma Key," "From a Buick 8," "The Tommyknockers," "The Stand," and "The Long Walk."Some of the articles referenced:Grady Hendrix's Stephen King essaysWhen Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and J.J. Abrams met Stephen KingStephen King reviews Tom Perrotta's "The Leftovers"
05/04/241h 5m

Books That Make Our Critics Laugh

Earlier this month, the Book Review’s staff critics — Dwight Garner, Alexandra Jacobs and Jennifer Szalai — released a list of 22 novels they have found reliably funny since Joseph Heller’s landmark comic novel “Catch-22” came out in 1961. On this week’s episode, they tell Gilbert Cruz why “Catch-22” was their starting point, and explain a bit about their process: how they think about humor, how they made their choices, what books they left off and what books led to fights along the way. (“American Psycho” turns out to be as contentious now as it was when it was first published.)“There are only a very few number of books in my lifetime that have made me laugh out loud,” Jacobs says. “And some of them no longer make me laugh out loud, because the thing about humor is it’s like this giant shifting cloud, this shape-shifting thing that changes over the course of our lives and also the life of the culture.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
29/03/2430m 33s

Talking to Tana French About Her New Series

If you're familiar with Tana French, it's likely for her Dublin Murder Squad series of crime novels that kicked off in 2007 with "In the Woods." But her new book, "The Hunter," a sequel to 2020's "The Searcher," takes place outside of that series.In this episode of the podcast, speaking to Sarah Lyall about her shift to new characters, French said, "I wasn't comfortable with sticking to the detective's perspective anymore. I think from the perspective of a detective, a murder investigation is a very specific thing. It's a source of power and control. It's a way that you can retrieve order after the disruption that murder has caused. But I kept thinking there are so many other perspectives within that investigation for whom this investigation is not a source of power or control or truth and justice. It's the opposite. It's something that just barrels into your life and upends it and can cause permanent damage."
22/03/2443m 34s

Talking ‘Dune’: Book and Movies

Frank Herbert’s epic novel “Dune” and its successors have been entrenched in the science fiction and fantasy canon for almost six decades, a rite of passage for proudly nerdy readers across the generations. But “Dune” is experiencing a broader cultural resurgence at the moment thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s recent film adaptations starring Timothée Chalamet. (Part 2 is in theaters now.)This week on the podcast, Gilbert Cruz talks to The Times’s critic Alissa Wilkinson, who covers movies, culture and religion, about Herbert’s novel, Villeneuve’s films and the enduring hold of Fremen lore on the audience’s imagination.“There’s a couple things that I think are really unsettling in ‘Dune,’” Wilkinson says. “One is, the vision of Frank Herbert was, I believe, to basically write a book that questioned authoritarians and hero mythology genuinely, across the board. Any kind of a hero figure he is proposing will always have things and people come up alongside that hero figure that distort their influence. Even if they intend well, if they’re benevolent, there’s still all of this really awful stuff that comes along with it. So Paul is a messiah figure — we believe he wants good things for most of the book — and then he turns on a dime or it feels like he might be turning on a dime. You can never quite tell where anyone stands in this book. And I think that is unsettling, especially because so many of the other kinds of things that we watch — the superhero movies, “Star Wars,” whatever — there’s a clear-cut good and evil fight going on. Good and evil don’t really exist in ‘Dune.’”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
15/03/2439m 4s

Book Club: Let’s Talk About ‘Erasure,’ by Percival Everett

It’s not often that the Academy Awards give the publishing world any gristle to chew on. But at this year’s Oscars ceremony — taking place on Sunday evening — one of the Best Picture contenders is all about book publishing: Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” is adapted from the 2001 novel “Erasure,” by Percival Everett, and it amounts to a scathing, satirical indictment of publishers, readers and the insidious biases that the marketplace can impose in determining who tells what stories.Obviously, we recommend the movie. But even more, we recommend Everett’s novel. In this week’s episode, the Book Review’s MJ Franklin discusses the book with his colleagues Joumana Khatib, also from the Book Review, and Reggie Ugwu, a pop culture reporter at The Times. Caution: Spoilers abound for both the book and the movie.Have you read “Erasure” or seen “American Fiction,” or both? We’d love to know what you thought. Share your reactions in the comments and we’ll try to join the conversation.We’ll get you started:Joumana Khatib: “I’d read Percival Everett before. I love watching his mind on the page. He’s funny, he's irreverent, he’s sarcastic. There’s nobody that writes like him. And I have to tell you that ‘Erasure’ totally blew me away, just because of the sheer number of textures in this book. … It’s obviously a parodical novel. It’s obviously unbelievably satirical and it’s just outrageous enough that it keeps the momentum without feeling schlocky or shticky.” …Reggie Ugwu: “He has a great sense of pace, like he never wastes time. … You can tell that it’s the work of a very sophisticated and mature writer who knows exactly what to leave on the page and exactly what he can cut. There are some moments where I marveled when he would just leap the plot forward in a few lines.”Send your feedback about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general, to books@nytimes.com.
08/03/2444m 23s

Tommy Orange on His "There There" Sequel

Tommy Orange’s acclaimed debut novel, “There There” — one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018 — centered on a group of characters who all converge on an Indigenous powwow in modern-day Oakland, Calif. His follow-up, “Wandering Stars,” is both a prequel and a sequel to that book, focusing specifically on the character Orvil Red Feather and tracing several generations of his family through the decades before and after the events of “There There.” This week, Orange visits the podcast to discuss “Wandering Stars” as well as the book he has read most in his life, Clarice Lispector's "The Hour of the Star." Orange explained how he decided to write a historical novel while sticking with the characters and story line from his earlier book.“I got drawn in by this part of history because it was so specific to my tribe,” Orange says. “I don’t necessarily love reading historical fiction, but if it’s driven from the interior and it’s character driven, it’s compelling to me. So figuring out the types of humans they might have been or things they might have thought or felt, that was a way for me to try to figure out how to make them real. and that’s sometimes on a sentence level and sometimes on a, like, what are their motivations or what are they doing in their day-to-day lives? What do they want?”
01/03/2437m 46s

The Rise and Fall of The Village Voice

Tricia Romano’s new book, “The Freaks Came Out to Write,” is an oral history of New York’s late, great alternative weekly newspaper The Village Voice, where she worked for eight years as the nightlife columnist. Our critic Dwight Garner reviewed the book recently — he loved it — and he visits the podcast this week to chat with Gilbert Cruz about oral histories in general and the gritty glamour of The Village Voice in particular.“You would pick it up and it was so prickly,” Garner says. “The whole thing just felt like this production that someone had really thought through, from the great cartoons to the great photographs to the crazy hard news in the front to the different voices in back. It all came together into a package. And there are still great writers out there, but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. No one has really taken over, to my point of view. ... There’s no one-stop shopping to find the great listings at every club and every major theater, just a great rundown of what one might be interested in doing.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
23/02/2436m 16s

Let's Talk About 'Demon Copperhead'

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “Demon Copperhead,” a riff on “David Copperfield” that moves Charles Dickens’s story to contemporary Appalachia and grapples engagingly with topics from poverty to ambition to opioid addiction, was one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2022. And — unlike an actual copperhead — “Demon Copperhead” has legs: Many readers have told us it was their favorite book in 2023 as well.In this week’s spoiler-filled episode, MJ Franklin talks with Elisabeth Egan (an editor at the Book Review) and Anna Dubenko, the Times’s newsroom audience director, about their reactions to Kingsolver’s novel and why it has exerted such a lasting appeal.
16/02/2442m 22s

4 Early-Year Book Recommendations

The early part of a year can mean new books to read, or it can mean catching up on older ones we haven’t gotten to yet. This week, Gilbert Cruz chats with the Book Review’s Sarah Lyall and Sadie Stein about titles from both categories that have held their interest lately, including a 2022 biography of John Donne, a book about female artists who nurtured an interest in the supernatural, and the history of a Jim Crow-era mental asylum, along with a gripping new novel by Janice Hallett.“It’s just so deft,” Stein says of Hallett’s new thriller, “The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels.” “It’s so funny. It seems like she’s having a lot of fun. One thing I would say, and I don’t think this is spoiling it, is, if there comes a moment when you think you might want to stop, keep going and trust her. I think it’s rare to be able to say that with that level of confidence.”Here are the books discussed in this week’s episode:“Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne,” by Katherine Rundell“The Other Side: A Story of Women in Art and the Spirit World,” by Jennifer Higgie“The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels,” by Janice Hallett“Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum,” by Antonia Hylton(Briefly mentioned: "You Dreamed of Empires," by Álvaro Enrigue, "Beautyland," by Marie-Helene Bertino, and "Martyr!" by Kaveh Akbar.)
09/02/2434m 29s

'Killers of the Flower Moon': Book and Movie Discussion

Former New York Times film critic A.O. Scott joins to talk both David Grann's "Killers of the Flower Moon," which continues to sit near the top of the bestseller list, and Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated film adaptation. Spoilers abound for both versions. (Also, for history.)
02/02/2438m 33s

Talking the Joys and Rules of Open Marriage

Molly Roden Winter and her husband, Stewart, have been married for 24 years. But since 2008, by mutual agreement, they have also dated other people — an arrangement that Winter details in her new memoir, “More: A Memoir of Open Marriage.”In this week’s episode, The Times’s Sarah Lyall chats with Winter about her book, her marriage and why she decided to go public.“I didn’t see any representations of either people who were still successfully married after having opened it up or people who were honest about how hard it was,” Winter says. “The stories that were coming out were either, ‘Oh, we tried it. It didn’t work,’ or ‘We’re born polyamorous and it’s just the best and I just feel love pouring out of me 24/7.’ Neither of those things was true for me. I felt like I had learned something really profound through this journey of opening my marriage, and I wanted to share it."
26/01/2438m 38s

Our Early 2024 Book Preview

It's gonna be a busy spring! On this week’s episode, Gilbert Cruz talks with Tina Jordan and Joumana Khatib about some of the upcoming books they’re anticipating most keenly over the next several months.Books discussed in this week’s episode:“Knife,” by Salman Rushdie“James,” by Percival Everett“The Book of Love,” by Kelly Link“Martyr,” by Kaveh Akbar“The Demon of Unrest,” by Erik Larson“The Hunter,” by Tana French“Wandering Stars,” by Tommy Orange“Anita de Monte Laughs Last,” by Xochitl Gonzalez“Splinters,” by Leslie Jamison“Neighbors and Other Stories,” by Diane Oliver“Funny Story,” by Emily Henry“Table for Two,” by Amor Towles“Grief Is for People,” by Sloane Crosley“One Way Back: A Memoir,” by Christine Blasey Ford“The House of Hidden Meanings: A Memoir,” by RuPaul
19/01/2425m 20s

Steven Soderbergh on His Year in Reading

Every January on his website Extension765.com, the prolific director Steven Soderbergh looks back at the previous year and posts a day-by-day account of every movie and TV series watched, every play attended and every book read. In 2023, Soderbergh tackled more than 80 (!) books, and on this week's episode, he and the host Gilbert Cruz talk about some of his highlights. Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode:"How to Live: A Life of Montaigne," by Sarah Bakewell"Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining,'" by Lee Unkrich and J.W. Rinzler"Cocktails with George and Martha," by Philip GefterThe work of Donald E. Westlake"Americanah," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie"Pictures From an Institution," by Randall Jarrell"Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will," by Robert M. Sapolsky
12/01/2442m 59s

Book Club: 'The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store'

James McBride’s novel “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” was one of the most celebrated books of 2023 — a critical darling and a New York Times best seller. In their piece for the Book Review, Danez Smith called it “a murder mystery locked inside a Great American Novel” and praised its “precision, magnitude and necessary messiness.”On this week’s episode, the Book Review editors MJ Franklin, Joumana Khatib and Elisabeth Egan convene for a discussion about the book, McBride, and what you might want to read next.
22/12/2338m 53s

How to Tell the Story of a Giant Wildfire

John Vaillant’s book “Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World” takes readers to the petroleum boomtown of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, in May 2016, when a wildfire that started in the surrounding boreal forest grew faster than expected and tore through the city, destroying entire neighborhoods in a rampage that lasted for days.On this week’s episode, Vaillant (whose book was one of our 10 Best for 2023) calls it a “bellwether,” and tells the host Gilbert Cruz how he decided to put the fire itself at the center of his story rather than choosing a human character to lead his audience through the narrative.“It was a bit of a leap," he says. "It was a risk. But it also felt like, given the role that fire is increasingly playing in our world now, it really deserved to be focused on, on its own merit, from its own point of view, if you will.”
15/12/2341m 27s

Our Critics' Year in Reading

The Times’s staff book critics — Dwight Garner, Jennifer Szalai and Alexandra Jacobs — do a lot of reading over the course of any given year, but not everything they read stays with them equally. On this week’s podcast, Gilbert Cruz chats with the critics about the books that did: the novels and story collections and works of nonfiction that made an impression in 2023 and defined their year in reading, including one that Garner says caught him by surprise.“Eleanor Catton’s ‘Birnam Wood’ is in some ways my novel of the year,” Garner says. “And it’s not really my kind of book. This is going to sound stupid or snobby, but I’m not the biggest plot reader. I’m just not. I like sort of thorny, funny, earthy fiction, and if there’s no plot I’m fine with that. But this has a plot like a dream. It just takes right off. And she’s such a funny, generous writer that I was just happy from the first time I picked it up.”Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode:“Be Mine,” by Richard Ford“Onlookers,” by Ann Beattie“I Am Homeless if This Ia Not My Home,” by Lorrie Moore“People Collide,” by Isle McElroy“Birnam Wood,” by Eleanor Catton“Biography of X,” by Catherine Lacey“Madonna: A Rebel Life,” by Mary Gabriel“The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy, and the Wild Life of an American Commune,” by Alexander Stille“The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions,” by Jonathan Rosen“Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State,” by Kerry Howley“The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight,” by Andrew Leland“Fatherland: A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets,” by Burkhard Bilger“King: A Life,” Jonathan Eig“Larry McMurtry: A Life,” Tracy Daugherty“Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey,” by Robert “Mack” McCormick“Roald Dahl, Teller of the Unexpected: A Biography,” by Matthew Dennison“The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality,” by William Egginton“Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World,” by Naomi Klein“The Notebooks and Diaries of Edmund Wilson”“Zero at the Bone: Fifty Entries Against Despair,” by Christian Wiman“Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals,” by Oliver BurkemanWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
08/12/2337m 12s

10 Best Books of 2023

It’s that time of year: After months of reading, arguing and (sometimes) happily agreeing, the Book Review’s editors have come up with their picks for the 10 Best Books of 2023. On this week’s podcast, Gilbert Cruz reveals the chosen titles — five fiction, five nonfiction — and talks with some of the editors who participated in the process.Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode:“The Bee Sting,” by Paul Murray“Chain-Gang All-Stars,” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah“Eastbound,” by Maylis de Kerangal“The Fraud,” by Zadie Smith“North Woods,” by Daniel Mason“The Best Minds,” by Jonathan Rosen“Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs,” by Kerry Howley“Fire Weather,” by John Vaillant“Master Slave Husband Wife,” by Ilyon Woo“Some People Need Killing,” by Patricia EvangelistaWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
28/11/231h 12m

Talking Barbra Streisand and Rebecca Yarros

Book Review reporter Alexandra Alter discusses two of her recent pieces. The first is about Georgette Heyer, the "queen of Regency romance," and recent attempts to posthumously revise one of her most famous works in order to remove stereotypical language. The second looks at Rebecca Yarros, author of one of this year's most surprising and persistent bestsellers: the "romantasy" novel "Fourth Wing." Then, staff critic Alexandra Jacobs joins Book Review editor Gilbert Cruz to discuss her review of Barbra Streisand's epic memoir, "My Name is Barbra."
10/11/2333m 11s

Why is Shakespeare's First Folio So Important?

In 1623, seven years after William Shakespeare died, two of his friends and fellow actors led an effort to publish a single volume containing 36 of the plays he had written, half of which had never been officially published before. Now known as the First Folio, that volume has become a lodestone of Shakespeare scholarship over the centuries, offering the most definitive versions of his work along with clues to his process and plenty of disputes about authorship and intention.In honor of its 400th anniversary, the British Library recently released a facsimile version of the First Folio. On this week’s episode, The Times’s critic at large Sarah Lyall talks with Adrian Edwards, head of the library’s Printed Heritage Collections, about Shakespeare’s work, the library’s holdings and the cultural significance of that original volume.
03/11/2328m 14s

Happy Halloween: Scary Book Recommendations

You don’t need Halloween to justify reading scary books, any more than you need sand to justify reading a beach novel. But the holiday does give editors here a handy excuse to talk about some of their favorite spooky reads. On this week’s episode, the host Gilbert Cruz talks with his colleagues Tina Jordan and Sadie Stein about the enduring appeal of ghost stories, Gothic novels and other scary books.Titles discussed:“Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death,” by Deborah Blum“Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury“Rebecca,” by Daphne du Maurier“Don’t Look Now: And Other Stories,” by Daphne du Maurier“The Exorcist,” by William Peter Blatty“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” by Alvin Schwartz“Ghosts,” by Edith Wharton“Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of Ghost Stories,” by various“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” by M.R. James“The Hunger,” by Alma Katsu“The Terror,” by Dan Simmons“The Little Stranger,” by Sarah Waters“Affinity,” by Sarah Waters“The Paying Guests,” by Sarah Waters“The Haunting of Hill House,” by Shirley Jackson“Hell House,” by Richard Matheson“House of Leaves,” by Mark Z. Danielewski“A Haunting on the Hill,” by Elizabeth Hand“The Virago Book of Ghost Stories,” edited by Richard Dalby“The Turn of the Screw,” by Henry James
27/10/2333m 39s

How Did Marvel Become the Biggest Name in Movies?

In 2008 — the same year that Robert Downey Jr. appeared in the action comedy “Tropic Thunder,” for which he would earn his second Oscar nomination — he also appeared as the billionaire inventor and unlikely superhero Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” the debut feature from the upstart Marvel Studios.Downey lost the Oscar (to Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”), but Marvel won the day. In the 15 years since “Iron Man” came out, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded to 32 films that have earned a staggering $26 billion and changed the world of moviemaking for a generation. In a new book, “MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios,” the writers Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales and Gavin Edwards explore the company’s scrappy beginnings, phenomenal success and uncertain hold on the future, with lots of dish along the way.On this week’s episode, Gonzales and Robinson join the host Gilbert Cruz to talk all things Marvel.
20/10/2333m 56s

What Big Books Have Yet to Come Out in 2023?

On this week’s episode, a look at the rest of the year in books — new fiction from Alice McDermott and this year’s Nobel laureate, Jon Fosse, a journalist’s investigation of state-sanctioned killings in the Philippines, and a trio of celebrity memoirs. Discussed in this week’s episode:“The Vulnerables,” by Sigrid Nunez“Day,” by Michael Cunningham“Absolution,” by Alice McDermott“A Shining,” by Jon Fosse“Romney: A Reckoniung,” by McKay Coppins“Class,” by Stephanie Land“Some People Need Killing,” by Patricia Evangelista“The Kingdom, the Power and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism,” by Tim Alberta“My Name is Barbra,” by Barbra Streisand“The Woman in Me,” by Britney Spears“Worthy,” by Jada Pinkett Smith
13/10/2324m 41s

What It's Like to Write a Madonna Biography

Madonna released her first single in 1982, and in one guise or another she has been with us ever since — ubiquitous but also astonishing, when you consider the usual fleeting arc of pop stardom. How has she done it, and how have her various personae shaped or reflected the culture she inhabits? These are among the questions the renowned biographer Mary Gabriel takes up in her latest book, “Madonna: A Rebel Life,” which casts new light on its subject’s life and career.On this week’s episode, the host Gilbert Cruz chats with Gabriel about all things Madonna, and revisits the context of the 1980s’ music industry that she conquered.
06/10/2336m 29s

Audiobooks are the Best

You love books. You love podcasts. Ergo, we assume you love audiobooks the way we do — we hope you do, anyway, because this week we’ve devoted our entire episode to the form, as Gilbert Cruz is joined by a couple of editors from the Book Review, Lauren Christensen and Tina Jordan, to discuss everything from favorite narrators to regional accents to the ideal listening speed and the way audiobooks have to compete with other kinds of media.
29/09/2326m 42s

Zadie Smith on Her New Historical Novel

Zadie Smith’s new novel, “The Fraud,” is set in 19th-century England, and introduces a teeming cast of characters at the periphery of a trial in which the central figure claimed to be a long-lost nobleman entitled to a fortune. Smith discusses her new novel with Sarah Lyall.Also on this week’s episode, the Times reporters Alexandra Alter and Julia Jacobs discuss a recent controversy involving the National Book Awards and their decision to drop Drew Barrymore as this year’s master of ceremonies in solidarity with the Hollywood writers’ strike.
22/09/2334m 57s

Elon Musk's Biography and Profiling Naomi Klein

Elon Musk, the billionaire South Africa-born entrepreneur whose business interests include the electric car company Tesla, the private rocket company SpaceX and the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), is the richest person in the world — and the subject of an expansive new biography by Walter Isaacson, whose earlier subjects famously include the Apple founder Steve Jobs. Our critic Jennifer Szalai discusses her review of the Musk biography.Szalai also discusses her recent Times Magazine profile of the writer and activist Naomi Klein, whose new book, “Doppelganger,” examines the “mirror world” of online conspiracy theories and paranoia and its effect on real-world politics.
15/09/2324m 26s

Talking to Stephen King and September Books to Check Out

Stephen King’s new novel, “Holly,” is his sixth book to feature the private investigator Holly Gibney, who made her debut as a mousy side character in the 2014 novel “Mr. Mercedes” and has become more complicated and interesting with each subsequent appearance. King appears on the podcast this week to tell the host Gilbert Cruz about Holly’s hold on his imagination and the ways she overlaps with parts of his own personality. Along the way, he also tells a dad joke, remembers his friend Peter Straub, and discusses his views on writing and life.Also on this episode, Cruz talks with Joumana Khatib about some of the month’s most anticipated new titles. Here are the books discussed in this week’s September preview:“The Fraud,” by Zadie Smith“Elon Musk,” by Walter Isaacson“The Iliad,” by Homer. Translated by Emily Wilson“Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier,” by Marisa Meltzer“Land of Milk and Honey,” by C. Pam Zhang“American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15,” by Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson
08/09/2338m 48s

Amor Towles Sees Dead People

The novelist Amor Towles, whose best-selling books include “Rules of Civility,” “A Gentleman in Moscow” and “The Lincoln Highway,” contributed an essay to the Book Review recently in which he discussed the evolving role the cadaver has played in detective fiction and what it says about the genre’s writers and readers.Towles visits the podcast this week to chat with the host Gilbert Cruz about that essay, as well as his path to becoming a novelist after an early career in finance.Also on this week’s episode, Sarah Lyall, a writer at large for The Times, interviews the actor Richard E. Grant about his new memoir, “A Pocketful of Happiness,” and about his abiding love for the book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
18/08/2352m 50s

What to Read in August

Sarah Lyall discusses a new thriller in which a scuba diver gets swallowed by a sperm whale and Joumana Khatib gives recommendations for five August titles.Books discussed on this week's episode: “Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World,” by Yepoka Yeebo“The Bee Sting,” by Paul Murray“The Visionaries: Arendt, Beauvoir, Rand, Weil, and the Power of Philosophy in Dark Times,” by Wolfram Eilenberger“Pet,” by Catherine Chidgey“Happiness Falls,” by Angie Kim“Whalefall,” by Daniel Kraus
11/08/2326m 37s

Ann Patchett on Her Summery New Novel

Ann Patchett returns to the podcast to talk about her new novel, "Tom Lake,"  waxes poetic on Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" (which plays a big part in her book), and talks about the joys of owning an independent bookstore.
04/08/2337m 13s

It's Getting Hot Out There

The author Jeff Goodell joins to talk about his book  “The Heat Will Kill You First,”  about the consequences of a warming planet. Times critic Jennifer Szalai also discusses three books about the natural world.
28/07/2341m 34s

Colson Whitehead and His Crime Novel Sequel

Gilbert Cruz is joined by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead, who talks about his novel "Crook Manifesto" and Harlem in the '70s. He also reflects on his famous post-9/11 essay about New York City.
21/07/2329m 3s

Great Books from The First Half of 2023

Gilbert Cruz is joined by fellow editors from the Book Review to revisit some of the most popular and most acclaimed books of 2023 to date. First up, Tina Jordan and Elisabeth Egan discuss the year’s biggest books, from “Spare” to “Birnam Wood.” Then Joumana Khatib, MJ Franklin and Sadie Stein recommend their personal favorites of the year so far.Books discussed on this week’s episode:“Spare,” by Prince Harry“I Have Some Questions for You,” by Rebecca Makkai“Pineapple Street,” by Jenny Jackson“Romantic Comedy,” by Curtis Sittenfeld“You Could Make This Place Beautiful,” by Maggie Smith“The Wager,” by David Grann“Master, Slave, Husband, Wife,” by Ilyon Woo“King: A Life,” by Jonathan Eig“Birnam Wood,” by Eleanor Catton“Hello Beautiful,” by Ann Napolitano“Enter Ghost,” by Isabella Hammad“Y/N,” by Esther Yi“The Sullivanians,” by Alexander Stille“My Search for Warren Harding,” by Robert Plunket“In Memoriam,” by Alice Winn“Don’t Look at Me Like That,” by Diana Athill
14/07/2338m 14s

The Magic of Literary Translation and 'Bridget Jones' at 25

The editors of The Book Review talk about the nitty gritty of literary translation. And then, a conversation about the legacy of the novel “Bridget Jones’s Diary."What makes translation an art? How does a translator’s personality affect their work? Why do we see so many translations from some countries and almost none from others? These are just some of the questions addressed in a recent translation issue of the Book Review, which Gilbert Cruz breaks down with the editors Juliana Barbassa and Gregory Cowles.Also on this week’s episode, Elisabeth Egan and Tina Jordan discuss “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” published in the U.S. 25 years ago this summer. “I discovered, looking back at back into Bridget’s life on the eve of my 50th birthday, she was not as funny to me as she used to be,” says Egan, who wrote an essay about the novel called “Bridget Jones Deserved Better. We All Did.”
07/07/2336m 11s

Remembering Cormac McCarthy and Robert Gottlieb

Recently, two giants of modern American literature died within a single day of each other. Gilbert Cruz talks with Dwight Garner about the work of Cormac McCarthy’s work, and with Pamela Paul and Emily Eakin about the life and legacy of Robert Gottlieb.
23/06/2342m 14s

What It’s Like to Write an MLK Jr. Biography

Jonathan Eig’s book “King: A Life” is the first comprehensive biography in decades of Martin Luther King Jr., drawing on reams of interviews and newly uncovered archival materials to paint a fuller picture of the civil rights leader than we have received before. On this week’s podcast, Eig describes the process of researching and writing the book, and tells the host Gilbert Cruz how he tracked down resources that were unavailable to earlier biographers.“I was a newspaper reporter for a long, long time — and you know, working on daily stories, if you got five days to work on a story, it was a luxury. Now I’ve got five, six years to work on a story, and I take full advantage of that," Eig says. "It took me two years to find, even though I knew it was out there, this unpublished autobiography that Martin Luther King’s father wrote. Nobody had ever quoted from it. ... Stuff like that just gets me really, really pumped up.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
16/06/2332m 50s

Summer Book Preview and 9 Thrillers to Read

There’s no rule that says you have to read thrillers in the summer — some people gobble them up them year round, while others avoid them entirely and read Kafka on the shore — but on a long, lazy vacation day it’s undeniably satisfying to grab onto a galloping narrative and see where it pulls you. This week, Gilbert Cruz talks to our thrillers columnist Sarah Lyall about some classics of the genre, as well as more recent titles she recommends.Also on this week’s episode, Joumana Khatib offers a preview of some of the biggest books to watch for in the coming season.Here are the books discussed in this week’s episode:“Rebecca,” by Daphne du Maurier“Presumed Innocent,” by Scott Turow“The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt“Going Zero,” by Anthony McCarten“What Lies in the Woods,” by Kate Alice Marshall“My Murder,” by Katie Williams“The Quiet Tenant,” by Clémence Michallon“All the Sinners Bleed,” by S.A. Cosby“Crook Manifesto,” by Colson Whitehead“Nothing Special,” by Nicole Flattery“Daughter of the Dragon,” by Yunte Huang“The Sullivanians,” by Aledxander Stille“The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store,” by James McBride“Silver Nitrate,” by Silvia Moreno-GarciaWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
09/06/2335m 29s

On Reading ‘Beloved’ Over and Over Again

For readers, a book’s meaning can change with every encounter, depending on the circumstances and experiences they bring to it each time. On this week’s podcast, Gilbert Cruz talks to Salamishah Tillet, a Pulitzer-winning contributing critic at large for The Times, about her abiding love for Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved” — in which a mother chooses to kill her own daughter rather than let her live in slavery — and about the ways that Tillet’s personal experiences have affected her view of the book.“I was sexually assaulted on a study abroad program in Kenya.” Tillet says. “And when I came back to the United States, I entered an experimental program that helped people who were sexual assault survivors, who were suffering from PTSD. Part of the process was like, you had to tell your story over and over again, because the idea was that the memory of the trauma is almost as visceral as the moment of the trauma. And so … looking at what Morrison does in her novel, she’s dealing with trauma and she’s moving, going back and forth in time. So I actually experienced this on a personal level.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
02/06/2320m 29s

Remembering Martin Amis

The writer Martin Amis, who died last week at the age of 73, was a towering figure of English literature who for half a century produced a body of work distinguished by its raucous wit, cutting intelligence and virtuosic prose.On this week’s podcast, Gilbert Cruz talks with The Times’s critics Dwight Garner (who wrote Amis’s obituary for the paper) and Jason Zinoman (who co-hosts a podcast devoted to Amis’s career, “The Martin Chronicles”) about the life and death of a remarkable figure who was, as Garner puts it, “arguably the most slashing, articulate, devastatingly clear, pungent writer of the last 25 years of the past century and the first almost 25 of this century.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
26/05/2327m 4s

Essential Neil Gaiman and A.I. Book Freakout

Are you ready to dive in to the work of the prolific and inventive fantasy writer Neil Gaiman? On this week’s episode, the longtime Gaiman fan J.D. Biersdorfer, an editor at the Book Review, talks with the host Gilbert Cruz about Gaiman’s work, which she recently wrote about for our continuing “Essentials” series.Also this week, Cruz talks with the Times critic Dwight Garner about “The Death of the Author,” a murder mystery that the novelist Stephen Marche wrote with the assistance of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence programs. Is A.I. in fact a harbinger of doom for creative writers?Here are the books discussed in this week’s episode:“American Gods,” by Neil Gaiman“Good Omens,” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett“Stardust,” by Neil Gaiman“Coraline,” by Neil Gaiman“The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” by Neil Gaiman“The Sandman,” by Neil Gaiman“The Hyphenated Family,” by Hermann Hagedorn“Monsters,” by Claire Dederer“The Death of the Novel,” by Aidan MarchineWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
19/05/2331m 33s

Pulitzer Winners

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday, bestowing one of America’s most prestigious awards in journalism and the arts on writers across a range of categories. Among the winners were three authors who had also appeared on the Book Review’s list of the 10 Best Books of 2022: the New Yorker staff writer Hua Hsu, for his memoir “Stay True,” and two novelists who (in a first for the Pulitzers) shared the prize in fiction, Barbara Kingsolver for “Demon Copperhead” and Hernan Diaz for “Trust.”On this week’s episode, Hsu and Diaz chat with the host Gilbert Cruz about their books and what it’s like to win a Pulitzer.“I wish I had a more articulate thing to say, but it was just truly weird,” Hsu tells Cruz about learning he was the inaugural winner in the memoir category. (Before this year, memoirs were judged alongside biographies.) “It was a thrill, but it was also just truly a weird out-of-body experience.”For Diaz, the Pulitzer announcement came while he was at a fried chicken and waffle restaurant in South Carolina, where he was on tour to promote his book’s paperback release. “I totally lost it,” he says. “I had to go out and, I’m a little bit embarrassed to confess it but I was weeping sitting on the curb. And these three lovely older ladies come by and they ask me, Oh sweetheart, honey, are you OK? I’m not exactly sure what I said, but I shared the good news with them and suddenly all four of us were hugging in the middle of the street. So it was a good moment.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
12/05/2334m 0s

Book Bans and What to Read in May

Book-banning efforts remain one of the biggest stories in the publishing industry, and on this week’s episode of the podcast, our publishing reporters Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth Harris chat with the host Gilbert Cruz about the current state of such attempted bans and how they differ from similar efforts in the past.“It is amazing to see both the upward trend in book bans but also the ways that the process of getting bans has evolved,” Alter says. “This has happened really quickly. … We’ve seen a lot of the book bans that have taken place in the last couple of years coming from either organized groups or from new legislation, which is a big shift from what librarians had tracked in the past, where they would see usually just a couple hundred attempts to ban books each year. And most of those were from concerned parents who had seen what their kid was reading in class or what their kid brought home from the public library. And usually those disputes were resolved quietly. Now you have people standing up in school board meetings reading explicit passages aloud.”Also on this week’s episode, Joumana Khatib takes a look at some of the biggest new books to watch for this month.Here are the books discussed in this week’s episode:“Chain-Gang All-Stars,” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah“King: A Life,” by Jonathan Eig“Quietly Hostile,” by Samantha Irby“Yellowface,” by R.F. KuangWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
05/05/2326m 25s

Eleanor Catton on ‘Birnam Wood’

Eleanor Catton’s new novel, “Birnam Wood,” is a rollicking eco-thriller that juggles a lot of heady themes with a big plot and a heedless sense of play — no surprise, really, from a writer who won Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize for her previous novel, “The Luminaries,” and promptly established herself as a leading light in New Zealand’s literary community.On this week’s podcast, Catton tells the host Gilbert Cruz how that early success affected her writing life (not much) as well as her life outside of writing (her marriage made local headlines, for one thing). She also discusses her aims for the new book and grapples with the slippery nature of New Zealand’s national identity.“You very often hear New Zealanders defining their country in the negative rather than in the positive,” she says. “If you ask somebody about New Zealand culture, they’ll begin by describing something overseas and then they’ll just say, Oh, well, we’re just not like that. … I think that that’s solidified over time into this kind of very odd sense of supremacy, actually. It’s born out of an inferiority complex, but like many inferiority complexes, it manifests as a superiority complex.”A word of warning, for listeners who care about plot spoilers: Toward the end of their conversation, Catton and Cruz talk about the novel’s climactic scene and some of the questions it raises. So if you’re a reader who prefers to be taken by surprise, you may want to finish “Birnam Wood” before you finish this episode.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
28/04/2333m 7s

David Grann on the Wreck of the H.M.S. Wager

David Grann is one of the top narrative nonfiction writers at work today; a staff writer at The New Yorker, he has previously combined a flair for adventure writing with deep historical research in acclaimed books including “The Lost City of Z” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” His latest, “The Wager,” applies those talents to a seafaring tale of mutiny and murder, reconstructing the fate of a lost British man-of-war that foundered on an island off the coast of Patagonia in the 18th century. On this week’s podcast, Grann tells the host Gilbert Cruz that one of the things that most drew him to the subject was the role that storytelling itself played in the tragedy’s aftermath.“The thing that really fascinated me, that really caused me to do the book,” Grann says, “was not only what happened on the island, but what happened after several of these survivors make it back to England. They have just waged a war against virtually every element, from scurvy to typhoons, to tidal waves, to shipwreck, to starvation, to the violence of their own shipmates. Now they get back to England after everything they’ve been through, and they are summoned to face a court marshal for their alleged crimes on the island. And if they don’t tell a convincing tale, they’re going to get hanged. I always think of that lovely line from Joan Didion, where she said we all tell ourselves stories in order to live — but in their case, it was quite literally true.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
21/04/2334m 35s

The Enduring Appeal of Judy Blume and Gabriel García Márquez

It’s been more than 50 years since the publication of Judy Blume’s middle-grade novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” a coming-of-age tale that has become a classic for its frank discussion of everything from puberty to religious identity to life in the New Jersey suburbs. Despite its grip on generations of readers, though, the book has never been adapted for film — until now, in a screenplay written by the director Kelly Fremon Craig and opening for wide release on April 28. To mark the occasion, our editor Elisabeth Egan appears on this week’s podcast and talks with the host Gilbert Cruz about the novel’s importance to her own 1980s New Jersey girlhood.“For me, Judy Blume was one of those writers — and I know that all readers have them — who just explained the world and talked about things that we did not talk about in my family,” Egan says. “I loved her constant theme of moving to New Jersey, as my family did when I was 6 years old. Most of all, I really loved her books for young adolescents, especially ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.’ It’s one of those books that I remember where I was sitting when I read it, and it kind of had a profound effect on my life.”Also on this week’s episode, Miguel Salazar talks about the Nobel-winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, and offers his list of essential books for readers who are eager to approach García Márquez’s work but unsure where to start.“He is a mammoth figure, not just across Colombia but across Latin America. He was the face of the boom in literature in Latin America in the mid- and late 20th century,” Salazar says. “García Márquez still today remains today kind of the point of reference for American readers, and a lot of readers across Latin America, to understand their region. I think he’s most people’s first author when they turn to the region to understand it through literature.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
14/04/2323m 25s

What We're Reading

As you might guess, the folks who work at the Book Review are always reading — and many of them like to juggle three or four books at once. In this episode, Gilbert Cruz talks to the editors Tina Jordan and Greg Cowles about what they’ve been reading and enjoying, and then, in honor of National Poetry Month, interviews Cowles — who, in addition to about a million other things, edits the Book Review's poetry coverage — about how he came to love it.“I’ve always loved good sentences and surprising language,” Cowles says. “A novel has room — and is even required — to have some slack language in it. If every sentence was perfectly chiseled and honed and used surprising metaphors, you wouldn’t have the patience to stick with it. But poetry, because it’s so distilled, requires that; any slack language stands out and would ruin a poem.”
07/04/2327m 57s

Victor LaValle Talks About Horror and ‘Lone Women’

After a spate of more or less contemporary horror novels set in and around New York, Victor LaValle’s latest book, “Lone Women,” opens in 1915 as its heroine, Adelaide Henry, is burning down her family’s Southern California farmhouse with her dead parents inside, then follows her to Montana, where she moves to become a homesteader with a mysteriously locked steamer trunk in tow.“Nothing in this genre-melding book is as it seems,” Chanelle Benz writes in her review. “The combination of LaValle’s agile prose, the velocity of the narrative and the pleasure of upended expectations makes this book almost impossible to put down.”LaValle visits the podcast this week to discuss “Lone Women,” and tells the host Gilbert Cruz that writing the novel required putting himself into a Western state of mind.“There was the Cormac McCarthy kind of writing, which is more Southern," he says, “but certainly has that feeling of the mythic and the grand. But I also got into writers like Joan Didion and Wallace Stegner, even though that’s California: the feeling of the grand but also spare nature of the prose. So it was less about reading, say, the old Western writers — well, they were Western writers but not writing westerns, if that makes sense. And then, if I’m honest, I also was very steeped in, my uncle used to make me watch John Wayne films with him when I was a kid. And so I felt like that was another kind of well that I was dipping into, in part for what I might do but also what I might not do.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
31/03/2334m 49s

What We're Reading

It should come as no surprise that writers and editors at the Book Review do a lot of outside reading — and, even among ourselves, we like to discuss the books that are on our minds. On this week’s episode, Gilbert Cruz talks to the critic Jennifer Szalai and the editors Sadie Stein and Joumana Khatib about what they’ve been reading (and in some cases listening to) recently.For Szalai, that includes a novel she’s revisiting some two decades after she first read it: Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day,” which she’s listening to this time around as an audiobook. “It has been wonderful,” she says. “The narration is great and it’s told in the first person, which I think is actually an ideal feature — at least for me, when I’m listening to an audiobook. It feels a bit like a conversation or a story, a personal story, that’s being related to me. And it’s been so long since I read the book that there are certain details that I hadn’t remembered that keep coming up. And so it’s been a nice experience. I’m going through it slowly. I sort of listen to it in little snatches here and there.”Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode:“The Remains of the Day,” by Kazuo Ishiguro“Look at Me,” by Anita Brookner“The Pigeon Tunnel,” by John le Carré“Run Towards the Danger,” by Sarah Polley“The Color of Water,” by James McBride“The Dirty Tricks Department,” by John Lisle“Spare,” by Prince HarryWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
17/03/2323m 9s

Books About the Oscars

The 95th Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday evening in Hollywood, with top contenders including “Tár,” “Women Talking” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” For readers, it’s a perfect excuse to revisit two recent books about the Oscars.On this week’s episode, the host Gilbert Cruz talks to our critic Alexandra Jacobs about “The Academy and the Award,” by Bruce Davis, a former executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and “Oscar Wars,” by the journalist Michael Schulman, which she recently wrote about for the paper.“We like to think that this is a ceremony, a process about merit. But I think that has been proven wrong time and time again,” Cruz says.“It’s like a political election,” Jacobs says, “or a sports contest that turns on a single play or call. These books really reveal that. It’s just interesting how many times Oscar — as one of these books puts it — gets it wrong. Like, the movie that won isn’t the one that you remember, or isn’t the one that time judges as the best one. That’s fascinating to see. … You might ask, What does this ceremony matter if it’s not even adjudicating properly? But I think it matters because — look, it’s the electronic hearth around which we gather. I think it matters because people crave communal entertainment experiences.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
10/03/2320m 1s

Revisiting 'Wisconsin Death Trip,' 50 Years Later

It's been 50 years since Michael Lesy's influential cult classic "Wisconsin Death Trip" was published. A documentary text of found material, the book gathered prosaic historical photos of Wisconsin residents from the turn of the 20th century and paired them to haunting effect with fragmentary newspaper archives from the same time period reporting on often garish deaths — what our critic Dwight Garner, evaluating the book for its anniversary, called "horrific local news items that point, page by page, toward spiritual catastrophe. Nearly every person in it looks as if they are about to be struck by lightning."Garner appears on the podcast this week to talk with the host Gilbert Cruz about "Wisconsin Death Trip" and the resonance it still holds in the culture."It evokes what long nights felt like in America," he says, "before there was electricity and radio, and before — if your child was very sick, there were no antibiotics. And maybe your child was dying. And anxiety of course could not be treated then by antidepressants or other kinds of pills. And people quote-unquote went mad more often than we'd like to think. And there were bankruptcies, people threw themselves in front of trains. There are all kinds of suicides in this book. And it just makes you wonder what was happening, what kind of spiritual crisis was going on in Wisconsin in the 1890s."Garner is a fan of unusual documentary literature, he tells Cruz, and in "Wisconsin Death Trip" he sees not only a portrait of a vanished small-town America but also a portrait of vanished journalism. "Newspapers in America have been gutted out," he says. "You don't have small-town papers like this in many places anymore that have real staffs who report on this stuff. There's a kind of reporting in this book that is sort of the 'crazy death' that we don't read about anymore: the person at the sawmill who gets tangled up. Maybe you'll read about it somewhere. But it was more of a staple of small-town news reporting then. Even papers like The New York Times did a lot of that ... But in general what Lesy is after is stuff that almost suggests, as I said before, a kind of spiritual crisis. So many people having breakdowns. And it just makes you realize that our nostalgia for the good old American heartland, there's a real dark shadow there. And in many ways it's false nostalgia. And this book is one of those correctives that puts you in touch with the night side of life in this way that few books of documentary that I've read actually do."We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
03/03/2323m 11s

On Reading "A Wrinkle in Time"

Some books find us at the right age and in the right frame of mind to lodge an enduring hold on our imagination; these are the books we turn to again and again, which become the cherished classics of our personal canon.On this week's episode, the Book Review's thriller columnist and writer at large Sarah Lyall talks to the host Gilbert Cruz about Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 novel "A Wrinkle in Time," in which the protagonist and her younger brother set out to rescue their father from the supernatural embodiment of evil that is holding him captive. Lyall first read the book when she was 9 years old and returned to it repeatedly throughout her childhood."I used to write my name in it every time I read the book," Lyall says. "I probably had 10 signatures there. And I could watch my signature change, I could try new types of signature. I tried cursive and I tried capitals, and I put a little flourish next to it."Lyall says that what first drew her to "A Wrinkle in Time" was the book's "fantastic heroine," Meg: "She's really smart, but sort of unkempt. She has messy hair, she has glasses, she has braces, people think she's weird. ... But what really happens in the book that I think resonated with me, that I realize now, is that it's a book about two children who've lost their father. And I read the book quite soon after my father died. He died when I was 8. And it was a really lost time. And I think what mostly appealed to me about the book was the notion that you actually could get your father back. And that you as the girl, as the girl who felt so clueless, actually had means within yourself to pull yourself together and be brave enough to do it."We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
24/02/2319m 32s

Public Libraries, and Profiling Paul Harding

At a time when public libraries and librarians are facing budget headwinds and sometimes intense political scrutiny for the roles they play in their communities, the Times photo editor Erica Ackerberg last fall dispatched photographers to seven libraries in cities, suburbs and rural areas across the country to document what daily life in those public institutions really looks like in today's world. The resulting photographs, published this week with an accompanying essay by the Book Review editor Elisabeth Egan, revealed libraries to be essential community centers and far more than the hushed and beloved book depositories you may remember from your childhood. On this week's podcast, Egan and Ackerberg talk to the host Gilbert Cruz about how their article came together, and what libraries mean in their lives and in society at large."Books are what draw you to the library, but there are so many other things happening there that have nothing to do with books," Egan says. "The modern library encompasses 20 other things based on the needs of its community. ... What the library needs shows you what the community it's in is all about."Ackerberg says: "I was actually thinking about one of the libraries, the Northtown Library in Chicago — they call themselves an 'intergenerational community hub,' and I felt like that kind of sums up all these libraries. Every generation, and everybody from all communities are welcome there, and hang out there, and spend time there. It's a warm place to be."Also this week, MJ Franklin, an editor at the Book Review, talks to Cruz about his recent profile of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Paul Harding, whose new book is "This Other Eden." "What I was interested in was, What is Paul Harding up to now?" Franklin says. "What is his writing process? He has such a distinctive and singular voice, that I wanted to get closer to that."We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
17/02/2325m 17s

"Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages"

Admit it: It's fun to look at other people's marriages — and all the more fun if those marriages are messy. In a new group biography, "Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages," the author Carmela Ciuraru peers into some relationships that are very messy indeed: the tumultuous marriages of Kenneth Tynan and Elaine Dundy; Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal; Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard; Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge; and Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante. As Ciuraru's title suggests, the book focuses especially on the role — and toll — of being a wife, stifling one's own creative impulses for the sake of a temperamental artist.On this week's podcast, Sadie Stein — an editor at the Book Review, who commissioned the literary critic Hermione Hoby to write about Ciuraru's book for us — talks with the host Gilbert Cruz about "Lives of the Wives.""They're all complicated people,"  Stein says. "I don't want to oversimplify it. Everyone knows you can't see inside anyone else's marriage. But these couples, you can see a little more. And in some cases, a little more than maybe you want to.""It's a very gossipy book," Cruz says. "And I, to my own embarrassment, was not as up on 20th-century European literary gossip as maybe I should have been. So a lot of this stuff came as a total surprise, total shock to me. ... It's so juicy, but it also made me feel bad in a certain way." And that, we can all agree, is good.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
10/02/2321m 30s

A Look Ahead at the Season's Big Books

How do you define a "big book"? It might be a new offering from a beloved author or a deep dive into a timely subject or a story that has generated unusual enthusiasm among editors and other early readers: One way or another, these are the books that build "buzz" and create momentum in the weeks and months before their publication. On this week's podcast, the Book Review's editor, Gilbert Cruz, talks with Tina Jordan, the deputy editor, about the books they're most looking forward to this season, including new fiction from Salman Rushdie, Eleanor Catton and Victor LaValle, and nonfiction from Matthew Desmond, Claire Dederer and David Grann.Among other things, Cruz and Jordan discuss cancel culture, spoilers from "Macbeth" and the concept of what's known in publishing circles as a "make book.""A 'make book' is a book a publisher has usually, although not always, spent a great deal of money for and earmarked a lot of money for a marketing campaign," Jordan says. "In other words, they are going to get the news out about this book. You are going to hear about it." The books discussed on this week's podcast are:"Victory City," by Salman Rushdie"Birnam Wood," by Eleanor Catton"Pineapple Street," by Jenny Jackson"Poverty by America," by Matthew Desmond"Lone Women," by Victor LaValle"Monsters," by Claire Dederer"The Wager," by David Grann"The Covenant of Water," by Abraham Verghese"Oscar Wars," by Michael SchulmanWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com. 
03/02/2321m 1s

The Critics’ Picks: A Year in Reading

Last week’s podcast featured members of The New York Times’s Books staff discussing the Book Review’s picks for the best books of 2022. The paper’s staff book critics participated in that selection process — but as readers inevitably do, they also cherished a more personal and idiosyncratic set of books, the ones that spoke to them on account of great characters or great writing, surprising information or heartfelt vulnerability or sheer entertainment value. On this week’s podcast, our critics Dwight Garner, Jennifer Szalai and Alexandra Jacobs discuss the books that stayed with them throughout 2022.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
09/12/2229m 16s

The 10 Best Books of 2022

Heads up! The Book Review podcast returns with a new episode this week, recorded Tuesday during a live event in which several of our editors and critics discussed 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 Passenger and Stella Maris, by Cormac McCarthyTomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle ZevinAvalon, by Nell ZinkIf I Survive You, by Jonathan EscofferyWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
02/12/2256m 15s

Bringing Down Harvey Weinstein

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 2019 and 2020, respectively.In their best-selling book “She Said” — the basis for the Maria Schrader-directed film of the same title, currently in theaters — the Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey recount how they broke the Harvey Weinstein story, work that earned them the Pulitzer Prize, led to Weinstein’s 2020 conviction on felony sex crimes and helped solidify #MeToo as an ongoing national movement.When the book was published in 2019, Twohey and Kantor were guests on the podcast and discussed the difficulties they had faced in getting women to speak on the record about Weinstein’s predation. They also said that their coverage of workplace sexual harassment would not end with Weinstein: “Our attitude is that you can’t solve a problem you can’t see,” Kantor told the host Pamela Paul. “Megan and I can’t adjudicate all of the controversies around #MeToo, but what we can continue to do is bring information to light in a responsible way and uncover this secret history that so many of us are still trying to understand.”Also this week, we revisit Neal Gabler’s 2020 podcast appearance, in which he talked about “Catching the Wind,” the first volume of his Ted Kennedy biography. (The second and concluding volume, “Against the Wind,” has just been published.) “I approached this book as a biography of Edward Kennedy, but also, equally, a biography of American liberalism,” he said at the time.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
24/11/2243m 51s

Taffy Brodesser-Akner Discusses “Fleishman Is in Trouble”

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 2019 and 2017, respectively.Taffy Brodesser-Akner's debut novel, “Fleishman Is in Trouble” — a best seller when it was published in 2019 — is back in the public eye, as the source material for Hulu’s new mini-series of the same name. The show, like the novel, follows a man’s life as his marriage of 14 years crumbles.Brodesser-Akner visited the podcast when her book came out, and told the host Pamela Paul that her time writing celebrity profiles for The New York Times Magazine and other outlets had helped her investigate the psychologies of her fictional characters: “What all the profiles taught me about is not people who want to be known, but what people say when they want you to know a version of themselves that isn’t the truth,” she said. “It taught me a lot about how people talk about themselves, and about how deluded we all are.”Also this week, we resurface Neil Gaiman’s 2017 podcast appearance, in which he talked about his book “Norse Mythology,” a reimagining of the traditional northern stories about Thor, Odin, Loki and company.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
18/11/2241m 14s

Mark Harris on His Biography of Mike Nichols

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 2021 and 2019, respectively.In his first two books, “Pictures at a Revolution” and “Five Came Back,” the entertainment journalist Mark Harris offered an ensemble look at Hollywood history, focusing first on five seminal movies and then on five wartime directors. But for his third book, in 2021, Harris trained his spotlight on a single individual: “Mike Nichols: A Life” is a biography of the renowned writer, director and performer whose many credits included “The Graduate” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”“He was remarkably open,” Harris said of Nichols on the podcast last year. “There are few bigger success stories for a director to look back on than ‘The Graduate,’ and I was asking Mike about it 40 years and probably 40,000 questions after it happened. But I was so impressed by his willingness to come at it from new angles, to re-examine things that he hadn’t thought about for a while, to tell stories that were frankly not flattering to him. I’ve never heard harsher stories about Mike’s behavior over the years than I heard from Mike himself. He was an extraordinary interview subject.”Also this week, we revisit Adam Higginbotham’s 2019 appearance, in which he discussed his book “Midnight in Chernobyl,” about the nuclear disaster in that city. Higginbotham visited the site enough times “to lose count,” he told the host Pamela Paul. “And I never really stopped being afraid of it.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
11/11/2240m 47s

N.K. Jemisin on Multiverses, Revolution and the ‘Soul’ of Cities

For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the archives. This week we turn the mic over to our sibling podcast “The Ezra Klein Show,” for a discussion that aired last month between Klein and the novelist N.K. Jemisin.The novelist and former Book Review columnist N.K. Jemisin is one of the most celebrated science-fiction and fantasy writers at work today: The winner of multiple Hugo Awards — including an unprecedented three in a row for her remarkable “Broken Earth” trilogy — she is renowned for her ability to build fictional worlds that reflect the complex social and political dynamics of our own.  Her latest novel, “The World We Make,” is a sequel to “The City We Became,” and like that book it examines the ways cities come to take on their own personalities and characters, and how they respond to the forces threatening those identities. Jemisin visited “The Ezra Klein” show in October to discuss the books and the real world that informed them. “I felt like writing about our world,” she told the host Ezra Klein. “And if I’m going to do that, then I would do the world a disservice by treating it as some fantasy land. I don’t want to depict New York, as much as I love it, as all joy and all light and all happiness.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
04/11/221h 4m

Jason Zinoman Talks About David Letterman

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 2018, respectively.The longtime New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman is the first person ever to hold that position at the paper, and he’s a natural fit for it: In 2017, when his biography of the late-night host David Letterman was published, he explained on the podcast that his early love of Letterman had shaped not only his love of comedy but to some extent his outlook on the world: “I worshiped David Letterman as a kid,” Zinoman told the host Pamela Paul. “He is one of these people who I loved before I thought like a critic. And I do believe that you love things as a kid in a deep way that you don’t love things as an adult. And to a large degree I think my sense of humor was defined by David Letterman. When I was a kid I talked like him. I smiled like him. My sense of sarcasm came from him. Even as an adult I can sort of see traces of it.”Also this week, we revisit our 2018 conversation with the New York Times Magazine writer Sam Anderson, who talked about basketball, Oklahoma City and his book “Boom Town.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
28/10/2243m 12s

Siddhartha Mukherjee Talks About ‘The Gene’

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 2016 and 2018, respectively.Since winning the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for his first book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” in 2011, the physician and professor Siddhartha Mukherjee has gone on to write two more sweeping studies of medical and scientific subjects: “The Song of the Cell,” which will be released next week, and “The Gene: An Intimate History,” which came out in 2016. Mukherjee was a guest on the podcast when “The Gene” was published, and he told the host Pamela Paul that his earlier book about cancer had led him naturally to the topic of genetics and heredity. “The more I thought about disease, illness, the more I came back to the question of inheritance: What do we inherit, what do our families give to us? How much of it is genetic, how much of it is environmental?” he said.Also this week, we revisit Kate Atkinson’s podcast appearance from 2018, when she discussed her World War II spy novel “Transcription” and its heroine, who starts out as “a very clever girl who’s slightly out of order.” Atkinson’s latest novel, “Shrines of Gaiety,” was published last month.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
21/10/2234m 48s

George Saunders on ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’

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.The writer George Saunders has long been acclaimed for his short stories, which he has collected into five books since 1996 (including this year’s “Liberation Day”). But in 2017 he showed he was comfortable with longer narratives as well when he released his first novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” invoking multiple voices and ghostly spirits to portray President Lincoln’s grief at the death of his young son even as the Civil War raged. Saunders visited the podcast that year to talk about the novel, and how the process of writing it was different for him from story writing. “It seemed like something that was going to have to be approached pretty earnestly, and I wasn’t sure I had the chops to do that,” he told the host Pamela Paul. “I kind of had this little talk with myself: Dude, you’re 50-whatever-I-was ... This is something you’ve been wanting to write your whole life. You’ve now been through many of the major milestones of life. You know, I’m old, I have beautiful kids, everything. Why is this material too earnest for you, or too whatever? So I made a little contract with myself that I would do three months of trying, just to see if it caught fire.”Also this week, we revisit Paul’s 2019 conversation with the journalist Patrick Radden Keefe about his book “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland,” which looked at the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the lens of one young widow’s disappearance in 1972. “I’m drafting on an incredibly brave effort by her children, starting in the 1990s, to come out and break the code of silence in Ireland, and say: ‘We need to know what happened,’” said Keefe, whose book went on to be named one of our 10 Best Books of 2019.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
14/10/2234m 35s

Revisiting Baldwin vs. Buckley

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 2019 and 2020, respectively.In 1965, James Baldwin, by then internationally famous, faced off against William F. Buckley Jr., one of the leading voices of American conservatism, in a debate hosted by the Cambridge Union in England (and currently being dramatized as a stage show at the Public Theater in New York). The debate proposition before the house was: “The American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.”Nicholas Buccola’s 2019 book “The Fire Is Upon Us” tells the story of that intellectual prizefight as well as the larger story of Buckley’s and Baldwin’s lives.“Although the union had existed for 150 years prior to this night,” Buccola said on the podcast in 2019, “I’m pretty sure that there was never a speech quite like the speech that Baldwin delivered that night, because a lot of formal debate is this combination of intellectual exercise and performance art — you know, a lot of humor injected and that sort of thing. But Baldwin arrives that night and he delivers a sermon; he delivers a jeremiad. He is there to say things that people don’t want to hear.”Also this week, we revisit Lydia Millet’s podcast appearance from 2020, when she discussed her novel “The Children’s Bible,” which went on to be named one of our 10 Best Books of the year. The book was inspired, she told the host Pamela Paul, by younger people who are increasingly alarmed by the future they will inherit: “This generation is starting to notice and get angry, and I think the rage is long overdue, and I think it’s the only rational response to the threats we face.” Millet’s new novel, “Dinosaurs,” will be published next week.We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
07/10/2243m 33s

Celeste Ng on Race, Class and Suburbia

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.Before “Little Fires Everywhere” was a hit series streaming on Hulu, it was a best-selling novel by Celeste Ng, who is also the author of the novels “Everything I Never Told You” and, most recently, the dystopian “Our Missing Hearts.” Ng came on the podcast in 2017 to talk about “Little Fires Everywhere,” which addressed themes of race, class and privilege in a fictionalized version of Shaker Heights, Ohio, where she grew up. “There’s a real difference between the surface of things and what the true state of things is,” Ng told the host Pamela Paul during her appearance. “That’s sort of a theme throughout — everyone in here, there’s a difference between the surface of who they appear to be and who they actually are inside.”Also this week, we revisit Paul’s 2015 conversation with the esteemed children’s book author Judy Blume, who visited the podcast to discuss the recent publication of one of her adult novels, “In the Unlikely Event.”We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
30/09/2225m 24s

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 books@nytimes.com.
23/09/2251m 13s

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 books@nytimes.com.
16/09/2228m 28s

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 books@nytimes.com.
10/09/2236m 1s

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 books@nytimes.com.
02/09/2219m 12s

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.”
26/08/2232m 9s

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. 
19/08/2243m 3s

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 RothWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
12/08/2229m 35s

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 HearnWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
05/08/2243m 26s

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 CarrèreWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
29/07/2253m 23s

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 PortisWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
22/07/2255m 35s

‘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 AulettaWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
15/07/2257m 8s

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 MurdochWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
09/07/2256m 56s

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 StodolaWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
01/07/2249m 24s

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 SheedWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
25/06/2245m 53s

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
17/06/2247m 39s

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 SillitoeWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
10/06/2252m 22s

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 ConwayWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
03/06/2253m 24s

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 WatersWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
27/05/2251m 30s

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 LaxnessWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
20/05/2236m 7s

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 DyerWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
13/05/2233m 23s

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 McCabeWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
07/05/2248m 52s

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 WatersWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
29/04/2240m 44s

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 MurnaneWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
23/04/2237m 32s

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 WittgensteinWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
15/04/2247m 16s

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 OsemanElena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, read by Hillary Huber“Catholics” by Brian MooreWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
08/04/2248m 48s

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 books@nytimes.com.
02/04/2251m 26s

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 TaylorWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
25/03/2251m 46s

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 FiersteinBooks about shameWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
18/03/2258m 48s

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 GiridharadasWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
11/03/221h 2m

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 SoniWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
04/03/221h

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 SchurWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
25/02/2249m 23s

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 SaladinoWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
18/02/2254m 24s

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 DickensWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
11/02/2255m 3s

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 GuntherWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
04/02/2257m 26s

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 DarnielleWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
28/01/2254m 33s

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 TellierWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
21/01/221h 1m

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. WalterWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
14/01/2250m 57s

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 StraubThe 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 CarreyrouThe poetry of Emily DickinsonThe poetry of Ada Limón“Piranesi,” by Susanna Clarke“Klara and the Sun,” by Kazuo IshiguroWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
07/01/221h

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 FranzenWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
23/12/211h

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 SubinWe would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.
17/12/2157m 54s

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
10/12/211h 5m

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
03/12/211h 6m

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
25/11/211h 1m

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
19/11/2156m 4s

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
12/11/211h 15m

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
05/11/211h 18m

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
29/10/211h 11m

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
22/10/211h 13m

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 books@nytimes.com.
15/10/2159m 32s

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
08/10/2157m 39s

Richard Powers on ‘Bewilderment’

In “Bewilderment,” Richard Powers’s first novel since he won a Pulitzer Prize for “The Overstory,” an astrobiologist named Theo Byrne looks for life on other planets while struggling to raise his highly sensitive 9-year-old son, Robin. On this week’s podcast, Powers compares Theo’s work in the galaxy with his relationship on the ground.“If there are all of these millions of exoplanets out there are and they are all subject to radically different conditions, what would life look like in these conditions that are so very different from Earth?” Power says that a similar question “is also the preoccupation of most literature. Books themselves are empathy machines and travels to other planets. They’re ways that we have of participating in sensibilities that are not ours. So when Robin asks this question — which is bigger, outer space or inner? — that question of where are we going, who are we, why are we the way we are, gets turned inward, to this question of how do I understand someone who’s so profoundly different from myself? And in that way, travel to other planets always becomes travel to other people.”Honorée Fanonne Jeffers visits the podcast to discuss her best-selling debut novel, “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois.” Among other subjects, Jeffers talks about why the book’s main character, Ailey Pearl Garfield, who comes from a long family line of physicians, becomes a historian herself.“It’s a gesture to the way that I grew up learning about African American history,” she says. “I’m an English professor, a creative writing professor, but when I was a little girl I would sit up underneath the old people. I never really was a child that liked to play with other children. I would sort of scoot into a corner so I wouldn’t be noticed and I would listen to the old people talk about the way they grew up, growing up in segregation, growing up in Jim Crow, and then some of the stories that they remembered from the old people who had been born into slavery, like my great grandma Mandy Napier, so it had a great impact on me, and I think that’s why I made Ailey an eventual historian.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; 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”:“When We Cease to Understand the World” by Benjamín Labatut“On Juneteenth” by Annette Gordon-Reed“Congratulations, by the Way” by George Saunders“A Motor-Flight Through France” by Edith Wharton
01/10/211h 4m

Randall Kennedy on 'Say It Loud!'

The Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy’s new book, “Say It Loud!,” collects 29 of his essays. Kennedy’s opinions about the subjects listed in the book’s subtitle — race, law, history and culture — tend to be complex, and he’s not afraid to change his mind. He says on the podcast that there’s “no shame” in admitting you’re wrong, and that he does just that in the book when he finds it appropriate.“I thought that the United States was much further down the road to racial decency than it is,” Kennedy says. “Donald Trump obviously trafficked in racial resentment, racial prejudice in a way that I thought was securely locked in the past. This has had a big influence on me. I used to be a quite confident racial optimist. I am not any longer. I’m still in the optimistic camp — I do think that we shall overcome — but I’m uneasy. I’m uneasy in a way that was simply not the case, let’s say, 10 years ago.”Mary Roach visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law.” It’s impossible to choose just one moment to highlight from this interview, which includes but is not limited to the following subjects: caterpillars called into court, moose crash test dummies, and how to distinguish (and why you would want to) between a real and fake tiger penis.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 Jennifer Szalai and John Williams talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed by the critics this week:“The Contrarian” by Max Chafkin“Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa
24/09/211h 13m

Colson Whitehead on 'Harlem Shuffle'

Colson Whitehead’s new novel, “Harlem Shuffle,” revolves around Ray Carney, a furniture retailer in Harlem in the 1960s with a sideline in crime. It’s a relatively lighthearted novel, certainly compared to “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” Whitehead’s two previous novels, each of which won the Pulitzer Prize.“I usually do a lighter book, then a heavier book, but I felt compelled to write ‘The Nickel Boys’ at the time that I did,” Whitehead says on this week’s podcast. “I knew that in the crime genre, there’s more room for jokes. There’s just a lot more room for play. So I could exercise my humor muscle again. And then immediately, Carney … I wanted him to win, as soon as he appeared on the page. He was someone who was not as determined by circumstances — slavery, Jim Crow — as the characters in those previous two novels. And he pulls off some capers. And I think we — or at least I was rooting for him. So immediately the tone was different, and I gave myself to it.”Colm Toibin visits the podcast to talk about his new novel, “The Magician,” based on the life of the great German writer Thomas Mann. Toibin says that the book is not an attempt to “inhabit” Mann, or to fully understand him, which is impossible with such a complex person.“It’s not an attempt to pin him down, so that by the end of the book you really know him,” Toibin says. “I’m as interested in his unknowability as I am in attempting to draw a very clear portrait of him. I think it’s an important question. I often hear novelists saying, ‘I felt I really knew my character.’ And I often feel the opposite. I often feel my character has become even more evasive the further attempts I have made to enter their spirit.”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 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”:“A Time of Gifts” by Patrick Leigh Fermor“Latecomers” by Anita Brookner“The Makioka Sisters” by Junichiro Tanizaki
17/09/211h 9m

Brandon Taylor on the Sally Rooney Phenomenon

The novelist Brandon Taylor, who has generated his own buzz with his debut novel, “Real Life,” and a collection of stories, “Filthy Animals,” visits the podcast to discuss the much-discussed work of Sally Rooney. Taylor recently reviewed her third novel, “Beautiful World, Where Are You.” On the podcast, he describes Rooney’s writing as an “intense, melancholic tractor beam.”“She has this really great, tactile metaphorical sense, but it’s never overworked,” he says. “Her style is so clean. That is the word I come to most often in describing her style. It is so clean, so pristine.” Like her two previous books, this one is fueled by the vexations of intimate relationships. “Ultimately, if you’re a Sally Rooney fan, I think you’ll love this novel,” Taylor says. “And if you’re a Sally Rooney skeptic, I think she will acknowledge your concerns but maybe not answer them in full.”Another Rooney, David Rooney, visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks.”“There’s something about clocks and watches,” he says.” They have more meaning to many people than other artifacts. I wasn’t quite sure why. I was trying to get behind the faces of clocks and watches, to understand not so much how they work — although that’s fascinating — but what they mean, and what they’ve always meant, through history, across cultures.”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 Jennifer Szalai and John Williams talk about books that have been recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed by the Times’s critics this week:“The Failed Promise” by Robert S. Levine“The War for Gloria” by Atticus Lish“The Magician” by Colm Toibin
10/09/211h 5m

Andrew Sullivan on Being ‘Out on a Limb’

“Out on a Limb” is a selection of Andrew Sullivan’s essays from the past 32 years of American history. On this week’s podcast, Sullivan talks about the book and his feelings about some of the very contentious public arguments in which he’s been involved.“You’re never at a moment of finality in politics or intellectual life. You’re always just about to be proven wrong again,” Sullivan says. “I have developed a very thick skin. You have to. I was very controversial in the gay rights movement very early on. The case for marriage equality was bitterly opposed by some gay activists, and I was targeted and picketed by gay people sometimes, for my first book. So I’ve always accepted that that’s part of the price. I am a sensitive person and it does hurt my feelings, obviously, but I think my answer is that it doesn’t matter what they say about you as long as it isn’t true. And if it’s true, hear it, take it in, try and figure out what insight they have about you and change. If it isn’t, forget it.”Leila Slimani’s new novel, “In the Country of Others,” is the first installment of a planned trilogy loosely based on the lives of the author’s grandparents. On this episode of the podcast, Slimani talks about why she’s writing the autobiographical material as fiction.“Imagination is a great power that we have,” she says. “Even if my family is interesting in certain ways, it’s not as interesting as I wanted. So I need to add other things, and I need to feel completely free. I don’t really want to tell about reality but about what fascinates me.”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 Lauren Christensen, Andrew Lavallee 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”:“Intimacies” by Katie Kitamura“A Visitation of Spirits” by Randall Kenan“Loop” by Brenda Lozano
03/09/211h 7m

A.O. Scott Talks About William Maxwell

A.O. Scott, The Times’s co-chief film critic, returns to the Book Review’s podcast this week to discuss the work of William Maxwell, the latest subject in Scott’s essay series The Americans, about writers who give a sense of the country’s complex identity. In his novels and stories, Maxwell frequently returned to small-town Illinois, and to, as Scott describes it, the “particular civilization and culture and society that he knew growing up.”“In so many of these books,” Scott says, “he was trying in a sense to figure out himself by figuring how where he had come from. It was inexhaustible. The thing that’s really remarkable about his revisiting his family, his family’s story and the town where they lived is just how many layers are there. In what seems like a simple, small, provincial place, just how much depth and complexity and comedy and pathos live there.”Eyal Press visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Dirty Work,” about the lives of workers in slaughterhouses, correctional facilities and other morally fraught places. Press says that the people who do this work make inequality one of the book’s primary themes.“One of the messages of the book is that it’s very rarely the privileged and the powerful,” Press says. “It’s more likely to be people at the bottom of the social ladder, people with fewer choices and opportunities, who are thrust into these ethically troubling roles that they carry out in a sense on society’s behalf and in our name.”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 discuss books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed by the Times’s critics this week:“Reign of Terror” by Spencer Ackerman“Playlist for the Apocalypse” by Rita Dove
27/08/2159m 47s

Life at Seven Miles Below the Sea

In her new book, “The Brilliant Abyss,” Helen Scales writes about the largely unseen realm of the deepest parts of the ocean. On this week’s podcast, she talks about the life down there — and how long it took us to realize there was any at all.“It wasn’t so long ago, maybe 200 years ago, that most people — scientists, the brightest minds we had — assumed that life only went down as far as sunlight reaches, so the first 600 feet or so,” Scales says. “But what’s so fascinating is that life does go all the way to the very, very bottom; down to seven miles, which is the deepest point, just about. And there are ways in which life has found adaptations to all of these crazy, extreme conditions in the deep, and that’s what we’re really doing a lot of the time, as marine biologists working in the deepest, is finding that stuff and asking the question: ‘How are you here?’”Rebecca Donner visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days,” which recounts the story of Mildred Harnack, Donner’s great-great-aunt, an American woman executed in 1943 for being a member of the German resistance to the Nazis during World War II.“She most definitely saw herself as a resistance fighter, and she certainly did not see herself as a spy,” Donner says. “She engaged in acts of espionage in order to undermine the Nazi regime, but she never met with a control officer, she never accepted money. She worked in an unofficial capacity.”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 John Williams talk about what they’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“Four Thousand Weeks” by Oliver Burkeman“Ghettoside” by Jill Leovy“Last Best Hope” by George Packer
20/08/2155m 15s

Dana Spiotta Talks About ‘Wayward’

In Dana Spiotta’s new novel, “Wayward,” a woman named Sam buys a dilapidated house in a neglected neighborhood in Syracuse, leaving her husband and her daughter in order to face down big midlife questions.“She is what we used to call a housewife, a stay-at-home mom,” Spiotta says on this week’s podcast, describing her protagonist. “She has one daughter, she’s married to a lawyer. It’s not an unhappy marriage. I wanted to avoid a lot of clichés with her. I didn’t want it to be an unhappy marriage that was the problem. And I didn’t want him to leave her for a younger woman. I didn’t want her to be worried about her looks. She never thinks about wrinkles or her looks very much in the book. She doesn’t even look in the mirror anymore. She’s not concerned about that.”What she’s concerned about is living a more honest and purposeful life, and the novel follows her efforts to do that.Ash Davidson visits the podcast to discuss her debut novel, “Damnation Spring,” set in a tightknit logging community in Northern California in the late 1970s. Davidson describes how the book was partly inspired by her parents’ memories of living in the area.“I grew up listening to my parents’ stories of this place, and it is the most beautiful place they have ever lived, and that beauty is also the source of its own destruction,” she says. “So those stories became almost like a mythology of my childhood, and I think I always kept a folder of them in my head, where I was filing them away. I used a lot of them as scaffolding for the novel, in the early years of writing it. Gradually, as time went on and the story got strong enough to stand on its own, I was able to strip away that scaffolding of their stories and let the fictional narrative shine through.”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 Elisabeth Egan and John Williams talk about what they’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“Emerson” by Robert D. Richardson Jr.“Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi“The Post-Birthday World” by Lionel Shriver
13/08/2155m 49s

Katie Kitamura Talks About ‘Intimacies’

The slightly directionless, unnamed narrator of Katie Kitamura’s fourth novel, “Intimacies,” takes a job as a translator at an international criminal court. On this week’s podcast, Kitamura talks about the novel, including her realization about the book’s title.“‘Intimacy’ as a word is something that we think of as desirable, and something that we seek out, in our relationships in particular, but also in our friendships and in all the people that we care about,” Kitamura says. “But I think it’s a plural for a reason, which is that there’s a lot of different kinds of intimacies in the novel, and a lot of them are not desired, they’re imposed on the narrator. It was only when I finished writing the novel that I realized that there are multiple incidents of sexual harassment, sexual intimidation in it, sprinkled throughout. Afterward, I understood it, because a novel is really about power, and sexual harassment is of course about power, rather than desire. So it made sense that there would be these little negotiations and these trespasses and these forced forms of intimacy.”The acclaimed writer and director James Lapine visits the podcast to talk about “Putting It Together,” his new mix of memoir and oral history about his first collaboration Stephen Sondheim, creating the musical “Sunday in the Park With George.”“Part of the pleasure in writing the book was rediscovering who I was at the time, because you’re so involved in something — you’re not outside of it — and maybe it takes 35 years to look back at it to realize what was actually going on,” Lapine says. Writing the book was “an excavation of sorts, both of the show and the creative process and what it’s like for someone in my position, as a writer and a director, to do his first Broadway show.”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 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:“Until Proven Safe” by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley“Afterparties” by Anthony Veasna So
06/08/211h 5m

Echoes of a Fairy Tale in a Devastating Novel

Omar El Akkad’s new novel, “What Strange Paradise,” uses some fablelike techniques to comment on the migrant crisis caused by war in the Middle East. El Akkad explains that he thinks of the novel as a reinterpretation of the story of Peter Pan, told as the story of a contemporary child refugee.“There’s this thing Borges once said about how all literature is tricks, and no matter how clever your tricks are, they eventually get discovered,” El Akkad says. “My tricks are not particularly clever. I lean very hard on inversion. I wanted to take a comforting story that Westerners have been telling their kids for the last hundred years, and I wanted to invert it, to tell a different kind of story.” He continues: “At its core, it’s a book about dueling fantasies: the fantasies of people who want to come to the West because they think it’s a cure for all ills, and the fantasies of people who exist in the West and think of those people as barbarians at the gate. The book takes place at the collision of those two fantasies.”Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, two reporters at The Times, visit the podcast this week to discuss their new book, “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination,” including how the company makes many of its strategic decisions.“A lot of people think that a company like this, that’s so sophisticated, that has so many people who have come in with such incredible pedigrees, that they have a plan in mind,” Kang says. “They’re actually, in many cases, doing this on the fly. They’re making a lot of ad hoc decisions.”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 Emily Eakin 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”:“How the Word Is Passed” by Clint Smith“Red Comet” by Heather Clark“Lenin” by Victor Sebestyen
30/07/211h

A Heartbreaking Novel About Mothers, Daughters and Secrets

The latest pick for Group Text, our monthly column for readers and book clubs, is Esther Freud's “I Couldn’t Love You More,” a novel about three generations of women grappling with secrets, shame and an inexorable bond. Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review and the brains behind Group Text, talks about the novel on this week’s podcast.“It’s this incredibly powerful story about mothers and daughters,” Egan says, “and also an interesting and really heartbreaking look at what was happening in Ireland at the time that really went on for about 100 years, where the Catholic church ran the — they were like prisons — for women who were in trouble in some way. They forced the women to change their names and to give up their babies.”Philip D’Anieri visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “The Appalachian Trail: A Biography,” including what drew him to the sprawling subject.“It’s a place that gives us an opportunity to examine the intersection of the built and the natural,” D’Anieri says. “It’s a place that we think of as natural — it’s the outdoors, you can hike, you can connect with the natural world — but it also had to be built: It needed shelters built, a route had to be determined, the land has to be owned. That tension is something that has always interested me.”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 Gregory Cowles and Lauren Christensen 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”:“Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden Keefe“Intimacies” by Katie Kitamura“Razorblade Tears” by S.A. Cosby“The Plot” by Jean Hanff Korelitz
23/07/2156m 44s

S.A. Cosby on 'Razorblade Tears'

On this week’s podcast, S.A. Cosby says that a writer friend once told him: “I think you’re like the bard of broken men.” In Cosby’s new novel, “Razorblade Tears,” the fathers of two married gay men who have just been murdered team up to track down the killers. Cosby says that the fathers — Ike, who’s Black, and Buddy Lee, who’s white — are familiar to him.“I grew up with men like Ike and Buddy Lee,” he says. “Maybe not necessarily violent men, but men who were emotionally closed off, who were unable to articulate or communicate their frailties, their feelings. I grew up in an environment where masculinity was all about presentation, was about being ‘tough,’ whatever that means. So when I started out writing the book, I started with these two characters, because the people that I think need to read the book the most are the people like that that I know, the people like that who surround me every day. But even more than that, I fell in love with Ike and Buddy Lee because if these two men can change, then change is possible for anyone.”Dean Jobb visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer.” The book recounts the crimes of Thomas Neill Cream, a Canadian obstetrician who killed an unknown number of people between the 1870s and 1892, most of them women from marginalized backgrounds.“There was a lot of madness in what he did, but also some calculating method,” Jobb says. “He never claimed insanity at any of his trials, so there was never any professional assessment of him. He almost seems to have bought into the idea, as one of his medical instructors said, that doctors are godlike; they stand between the living and the dead. And he just seems to have decided that his godlike powers, given to him as a doctor, would be used to decide who would live and who would die.”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 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:“Dear Miss Metropolitan” by Carolyn Ferrell“Democracy Rules” by Jan-Werner Müller
16/07/2158m 31s

The Lives of Flies

The subtitle of Jonathan Balcombe’s new book, “Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects” leads to the first question on this week’s podcast. Why “successful”?“Their diversity, for one,” Balcombe says. “There’s over 160,000 described species — and it’s important to add that qualifier, ‘described,’ because it’s estimated there may be about five times that many that are undescribed. Insects make up 80 percent of all animal species on the planet, so that says something right there about how incredibly successful they are, and flies are arguably the most species-rich subset of insects. It’s estimated there’s about 20 million flies on earth at any moment for every human who’s on the earth. And they occupy all seven continents.”Marjorie Ingall visits the podcast this week to discuss her essay about why she finds it troubling that children’s literature focuses so relentlessly on the Holocaust.“Just as Black kids deserve more than books about slavery and suffering — they deserve books about Black joy and Black excellence — so too do Jewish kids deserve books that reflect the incredible diversity and often happiness of their lives,” Ingall says. “And I think sometimes we push the Holocaust because we want to tell kids: ‘Look where you come from; look how important it is to be Jewish; look how people died because they were Jewish.’ When we’re talking about children’s books, that is not a way to make kids feel a connection.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; and Elisabeth Egan and Joumana Khatib 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”:“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki“The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” by Martin Sixsmith“My Family and Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell
09/07/2144m 41s

An Outsider Finds Suspense in Hollywood

The actress and thriller writer Catherine Steadman visits the podcast this week to talk about “The Disappearing Act,” her new suspense novel about the absurdities of Hollywood. Steadman was drawn to the idea of setting a story during pilot season, when actors from all over the world descend on Los Angeles once a year and compete for lead roles in new TV series.“It’s a sort of competitive world where friendships are made really quickly, and people will find their nemesis — someone who looks just like them who keeps snatching away parts from them,” she says. “It’s a very strange atmosphere but it’s very fun. It’s kind of like the Vegas of the acting world. You go there, you cash your chips and you have a roll on the table and see what happens. There’s all these strangers with the same desires and goals, in the same environment, and they really are up against each other. It’s kind of a ‘Hunger Games’ situation.”Michael Dobbs visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “King Richard,” which finds fresh things to say about President Richard Nixon and Watergate. Dobbs discusses writing about a story that’s been told many times, all in the shadow of perhaps the best-known Watergate book, “All the President’s Men,” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.“That’s the story of two reporters pursing this scandal into the White House and trying to figure out what was going on in the White House,” Dobbs says. “And now 50 years later — because we have access to these extraordinary materials, particularly Nixon’s own tape-recorded conversations — one can tell the story from the inside rather than the outside. We’re never again going to get such an intimate look at a president facing an existential crisis, as it’s possible to get with Richard Nixon.”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 Parul Sehgal 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:“Wayward” by Dana Spiotta“Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History” by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta
02/07/2158m 57s

Clint Smith on ‘How the Word Is Passed’

Clint Smith’s “How the Word Is Passed” is about how places in the United States reckon with — or fail to reckon with — their relationship to the history of slavery. On this week’s podcast, Smith says that one thing that inspired the book was his realization that “there were more homages to enslavers than to enslaved people” in New Orleans, where he grew up.“Symbols and names and iconography aren’t just symbols, they’re reflective of stories that people tell, and those stories shape the narratives that societies carry, and those narratives shape public policy, and public policy shapes the material conditions of people’s lives,” Smith says. “Which isn’t to say that taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee is going to erase the racial wealth gap, but it is to say that it’s part of a larger ecosystem of stories and ideas that shape how we understand what has happened to communities and what communities need or deserve.”Julian Rubinstein visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “The Holly,” an extensively reported look at the social and historical forces that led to a 2013 shooting in Denver.“It’s a multigenerational story, and in many ways I think it’s a story of activism and thwarted activism over the decades,” Rubinstein says, “including the connections between gangs and activism, which goes all the way back to the civil rights movement.”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 Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick”“Early Work” by Andrew Martin“The Copenhagen Trilogy” by Tove Ditlevsen“No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood
25/06/211h 13m

George Packer on Our Divided America

In his new book, “Last Best Hope,” George Packer describes “Four Americas,” and the tensions that exist between these different visions of the country. He calls them “Free America” (essentially libertarian), “Real America” (personified by Sarah Palin), “Smart America” (the professional class) and “Just America” (identity politics). On this week’s podcast, Packer says that though he was raised and lives in “Smart America,” he thinks no one of the four paints the whole picture.“I see the appeal and the persuasiveness of all of them,” he says. “I don’t accept any of them as having the answers. I think they all lead to hierarchy, in some ways to more inequality, to division. We are desperately polarized, and there’s no way around that. I’m not saying if we would all just drop our preconceptions, we could get along. Because we can’t. There are these fundamental clashes of values in this country that are expressed in politics, and that’s not going away. But I think we’ve lost the sense of a common American identity, which I do think still exists, even though it’s been buried.”Suzanne Simard visits the podcast this week to talk about her new book, “Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering Wisdom in the Forest,” and the remarkable relationships maintained between trees.“Trees, I call them mother trees, these big old trees, can discern which seedlings are their own and which ones are not, and they actually can favor those seedlings by shuttling them more carbon,” Simard says. “It’s a very sophisticated communication that involves a lot of information going back and forth, below ground, even as you’re walking through the forest.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; 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 Great Dissenter” by Peter S. Canellos“Where You Are Is Not Who You Are” by Ursula M. Burns
18/06/2158m 50s

A More Perfect Union

“The Engagement,” by Sasha Issenberg, recounts the complex and chaotic chain reaction that thrust same-sex marriage from the realm of conservative conjecture to the top of the gay political agenda and, eventually, to the halls of the Supreme Court. On this week’s podcast, Issenberg talks about the deeply researched book, which covers 25 years of legal and cultural history.“What they have done, ultimately,” he says of those who won the victory, “is helped to enshrine, both in the legal process and in American culture, a sense that marriage is a unique institution. And the language they used to talk about it — about love and commitment — is so particular, I think, to the dynamic between two people that in a certain respect marriage is a more central institution in American life now than it was 30 years ago, because we went through this political fight over it.”J. Hoberman visits the podcast to discuss his piece about 10 books that, taken together, tell the story of Hollywood. He talks, among other subjects, about why the only celebrity memoir on his list is “Lulu in Hollywood,” by Louise Brooks, who acted in the 1920s and ’30s and published her memoir much later in life.“She was a remarkably cleareyed observer of what was going on,” Hoberman says, “and embarked on the whole star-making thing with a healthy degree of ambivalence. So she’s able to write about herself and about the conditions under which movies were made and the people she met in Hollywood and so on, in a way that’s both personal and detached. There aren’t too many other memoirs like this.”Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; and Elisabeth Egan and Andrew LaVallee 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”:“Libertie” by Kaitlyn Greenidge“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid“On Juneteenth” by Annette Gordon-Reed
11/06/211h 2m

Reimagining the Aftermath of a Wartime Attack

Francis Spufford’s new novel, “Light Perpetual,” is rooted in a real event: the rocket attack on a Woolworth’s in London, killing 168 people, toward the end of World War II. Spufford fictionalizes the tragedy and invents five children who survive it, trailing them through the ensuing decades to discover all they might have done and seen if they had lived. On this week’s podcast, Spufford says that he settled on this real-life incident for intentionally arbitrary reasons.“The ordinariness is kind of the point,” he says. “I wanted something that was terrible but not exceptional. Something which was one tree in a wartime forest of bad things happening, which I could select out and then follow out the long-term consequences of through time.”Egill Bjarnason visits the podcast to talk about “How Iceland Changed the World: The Big History of a Small Island.”“The title is maybe the opposite of humble,” he says, “but I went into this project wanting to write about the history of Iceland. I have always found that really compelling, because unlike other European nations, we can tell our history almost from the beginning. But I figured that people who don’t have high stakes in that story may not be so interested. So I wanted to tell the history of Iceland through our impact on the outside world, by looking at where we have shaped events in some way or another.”Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary this year; and Dwight Garner and Parul Sehgal 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”:“A Ghost in the Throat” by Doireann Ni Ghriofa“Languages of Truth” by Salman Rushdie
04/06/2149m 24s

A Desperate Writer Steals 'The Plot'

Jake Bonner, the protagonist of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s “The Plot,” writes a novel based on someone else’s idea. The book becomes a big hit, but Jake has a hard time enjoying it because he’s worried about getting caught. On this week’s podcast, Korelitz says that Jake’s more general anxieties about his career as a writer are relatable, despite her own success (this is her seventh novel).“Jake is all of us,” Korelitz says. “I used to regard other people’s literary careers with great curiosity. I used to have this little private parlor game: Would I want that person’s career? Would I want that person’s career? And those names have changed over the years as careers have faltered, disappeared. I’ve been publishing for a very long time, and my contemporaries in the 1990s were people with massive successes who have not been heard of now for 10, 15 years. So it’s very much a tortoise and hare kind of thing, in my own case.”Elizabeth Hinton visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “America on Fire,” a history of racial protest and police violence that reframes the civil rights struggle between the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and the widespread demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Hinton writes about major uprisings, but also focuses on lesser-known examples of systemic violence against Black communities in places like York, Pa., and Cairo, Ill.“Part of the reason why the violence in both of those cities was so extreme was the deep entanglement between white vigilante groups and white power groups and the police department and political and economic elites in both cities,” Hinton says. “So in many ways, what happened, in Cairo especially, is a warning to all of us about what the consequences are when officials decide to use the police to manage the material consequences of socioeconomic exclusion and poverty.”Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary this year; 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”:“Dispatches” by Michael Herr“The Emigrants” by W.G. Sebald“Lenin” by Victor Sebestyen
28/05/211h 4m

Maggie O’Farrell on ‘Hamnet’

Maggie O’Farrell’s “Hamnet,” one of last year’s most widely acclaimed novels, 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. On this week’s podcast, O’Farrell says she always planned for the novel to have the ensemble cast it does, but that her deepest motivation was the desire to capture a sense of the young boy at its center.“The engine behind the book for me was always the fact that I think Hamnet has been overlooked and underwritten by history,” she says. “I think he’s been consigned to a literary footnote. 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.”Judith Shulevitz visits the podcast to discuss Rachel Cusk’s new novel, “Second Place,” and to analyze Cusk’s literary style.“In this review, I quote Isaac Babel: ‘No iron spike can pierce a human heart as icily as a period in the right place.’ There’s this kind of clinical accuracy to her writing,” Shulevitz says, “that she brings to bear on both the physical world and on the emotional world that is almost scary. Which is what I like.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary this year; 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 by the Times’s critics this week:“The Life She Wished to Live” by Ann McCutchan“Dedicated” by Pete Davis
21/05/2156m 54s

Louis Menand on 'The Free World'

Louis Menand’s new book, “The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War,” covers the interchange of arts and ideas between the United States and Europe in the decades following World War II. On this week’s podcast, Menand talks about the book, including why he chose to frame his telling from the end of the war until 1965.“What I didn’t get right away was the extent to which, what happened in American culture, both at the level of avant-garde art, like John Cage’s music, and at the level of Hollywood movies, was influenced by countries around the world,” Menand says. “When American culture comes into its own — because before 1945, I think, nobody really thought of America as a central player in world culture; that changes in the ’60s — but when that happens, culture becomes global, becomes international.”Phillip Lopate has edited many acclaimed anthologies throughout his career, but his latest project might be his most ambitious: three volumes of American essays from colonial times to the present day. “The Glorious American Essay” was published last year; “The Golden Age of the American Essay” arrived last month; and “The Contemporary American Essay” will be available this summer.“I’m really trying to expand the notion of what an essay is,” Lopate says on the podcast. “So I’ve included essays that are in the form of letters, like Frederick Douglass’s letter to his master; I’ve included essays in the form of sermons, like Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher; I’ve included essays in the form of rants. I’m just trying to get people to see the essay as occurring in many, many different forms.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Gal Beckerman and Gregory Cowles talk about what they’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“The Committed” by Viet Thanh Nguyen“The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler“Beijing Payback” by Daniel Nieh“Yoga” by Emmanuel Carrère
14/05/211h 9m

Michael Lewis on 'The Premonition'

In 2018, Michael Lewis published “The Fifth Risk,” which argued, in short, that the federal government was underprepared for a variety of disaster scenarios. Guess what his new book is about? Lewis visits the podcast this week to discuss “The Premonition,” which recounts the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.“It wasn’t just Trump,” Lewis says. “Trump made everything worse. But there had ben changes in the American government, and changes in particular at the C.D.C., that made them less and less capable of actually controlling disease and more and more like a fine academic institution that came in after the battle and tried to assess what had happened; but not equipped for actual battlefield command. The book doesn’t get to the pandemic until Page 160. The back story tells you how the story is going to play out.”The historian Annette Gordon-Reed visits the podcast to talk about her new book, “On Juneteenth,” which combines history about slavery in Texas with more personal, essayistic writing about her own family and childhood.“This is a departure for me, but it is actually the kind of writing that I always thought that I would be doing when I was growing up, dreaming about being a writer,” Gordon-Reed says. “I’ve always been a great admirer of James Baldwin, and Gore Vidal’s essays I thought were wonderful, better than the novels, and that’s the kind of thing that I wanted to do. So it was sort of a dream come true for me to be able to take this form and talk about some things that were very important to me.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Parul Sehgal and John Williams talk about the latest in literary criticism. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed by the critics this week:“The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel“Jackpot” by Michael Mechanic
07/05/211h 5m

Amy Klobuchar on 'Antitrust'

In her new book, “Antitrust,” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota explores the history of fighting monopoly power in this country, and argues that the digital age calls for a renewed effort.“I think the best way to do this right now is to have our laws be as sophisticated as the companies that we’re dealing with,” Klobuchar says on this week’s podcast. To her, that means “switching the burden for the big, big mergers or for the big exclusionary conducts of the companies that are the largest, and say, ‘Instead of the government having to prove that it hurts competition, you guys have to prove that it doesn’t hurt competition.’” She continues: “You’ve got to look backwards, just like they did with AT&T or some of the big cases — Standard Oil — they looked backwards and said, ‘Wait a minute, this has gotten out of hand.’ It doesn’t mean that we’re going to make this company go away. The chairman of AT&T, after the breakup, said they got stronger because they had to compete.”Andrew Solomon visits the podcast to talk about Katie Booth’s “The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness.” Bell was a proponent of oralism, a theory that pressured deaf people to learn speech and, more important, not to learn sign language.“He thought that sign language was a secondary, second-rate thing,” Solomon says of Bell. “He learned it very fluently, and could use it very well, but he didn’t find any beauty in it, and he didn’t really recognize it as another language of equal validity. His underlying belief was that if you could be someone who passed for hearing, you were doing well, and that was what he was trying to teach people. And of course, the deaf politics movement, which had already begun in his day, though it had not reached the strength it’s reached now, said that actually, while it was nice to be able to interact with people who were hearing, and convenient and helpful, that there was a great beauty in sign.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“Despair” by Vladimir Nabokov“A Fan’s Notes” by Frederick Exley“So Much for That” by Lionel Shriver“How Beautiful We Were” by Imbolo Mbue
30/04/211h 6m

Patrick Radden Keefe on ‘Empire of Pain’

Patrick Radden Keefe’s new book, “Empire of Pain,” is a history of the Sacklers, the family behind Purdue Pharma, the creator of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, which became the root of the opioid crisis in the United States. One of the subjects covered in Keefe’s investigative work is what the company knew, and when, as the crisis began to unfold.“One thing I was able to establish very definitively in the book is that, in fact, there is this paper trail, really starting in 1997, so just a year after the drug is released, of sales reps sending messages back saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a problem here. People are abusing this drug,’” Keefe says. “And there’s very high-level discussion by senior executives at the company, some of whom subsequently testified under oath that they didn’t know anything about this until early 2000. In terms of the timeline, it’s very hard to reconcile what they have always said publicly and what I was able to substantiate with internal documents.”Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review, is on the podcast this week to discuss “What Comes After,” by JoAnne Tompkins, the latest pick for Group Text, our monthly column for readers and book clubs. The novel starts with the deaths of two high school students, and becomes a mystery when we meet Evangeline McKensey, a pregnant 16-year-old with a connection to the dead boys.“I am the mother of three teenagers, and I’m constantly looking for the book that makes me feel a little better about how little I know about what’s running through my kids’ heads at any given time,” Egan says. “There was something about this book that felt reassuring to me, as strange as that sounds because it begins with this terrible tragedy. But it’s really, actually a book about life.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary, and Lauren Christensen 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”:“Crusoe’s Daughter” by Jane Gardam“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” by Deesha Philyaw“True Grit” by Charles Portis“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro
23/04/211h 2m

Celebrating Our 15th Anniversary

We’ve been in celebration mode all week as the Book Review’s podcast turns 15 years old. Pamela Paul shared 15 of her favorite episodes since she began hosting in 2013. We chose 10 other memorable conversations from the show’s full archives, and did a bit of digging to tell the story of the podcast’s earliest days.Now, appropriately, we cap things off with a new episode dedicated to the milestone. This week, Paul speaks with Sam Tanenahus, her predecessor and the founding host, and Dwight Garner, now a critic for The Times who came up with the idea to do the podcast when he was the senior editor at the Book Review. Jocelyn Gonzales, a former producer of the show, and Pedro Rosado, its current maestro, talk about their favorite and unusual memories from over the years. (Did one guest really call in from a submarine? It’s uncertain.) And Paul answers questions about what it’s been like to host the show, sharing a few clips of Robert Caro and others discussing their work.We also conduct some business as usual this week, with Tina Jordan looking back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary and Alexandra Alter discussing news from the publishing world.
16/04/211h 16m

Blake Bailey on Writing His Life of Philip Roth

Blake Bailey’s long-awaited biography of Philip Roth has generated renewed conversation about the life and work of the towering American novelist who died at 85 in 2018. Bailey visits the podcast this week to take part in that conversation himself.“Most of Philip’s life was spent in this little cottage in the woods of Connecticut, standing at a desk and living inside his head 12 hours a day,” Bailey says. “This is not unique to Philip. This is a phenomenon that I experienced vis-à-vis my other subjects, too. They don’t see people very clearly. They sort of see themselves projected out, they see what they want to see. And Philip needed to understand that — though I was very fond of him, I was — I had a job to do. So our relationship was constantly teetering on the cusp between professional and friendship, and that could be an awkward dynamic. But for the most part I was extremely fond of Philip.”Julia Sweig visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight.”“I wanted to write a book about women and power,” Sweig says. “And to be truthful, I didn’t have a subject when I got into this, and discovered that Lady Bird had kept this immense record of her time in the White House. And of course, Lady Bird Johnson is married to the American president of the 20th century perhaps most associated with the word ‘power.’ So the doors, once they opened, just showed a huge opportunity to discover somebody who I thought I had some feel for, but really did not.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Parul Sehgal talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:“Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said” by Timothy Brennan“Francis Bacon: Revelations” by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan
09/04/211h 1m

Carl Zimmer on Defining Life

In his new book, “Life’s Edge,” Carl Zimmer asks the modest questions: What is life? How did it begin? And by what criteria can we define things as “living”? On this week’s podcast, Zimmer, a science columnist for The Times, talks about just how difficult it can be to find answers.“There are actually philosophers who have argued that maybe we should just try not to define life at all, in fact; that maybe we’re getting ourselves into trouble,” Zimmer says. “If you look for a definition of life from scientists, you will find hundreds of them; hundreds of published definitions that are different from each other. And every year a new one comes out, or maybe two, and they just keep going. there was a paper I read not too long ago that said that there are probably as many definitions of life as people who are trying to define life.”Paulina Bren visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “The Barbizon,” an account of the storied hotel for women that first opened in 1928.“It went through all sorts of incarnations,” Bren says. “This hotel really follows in so many ways not just the history of women in the 20th century, but truly the ups and downs, the history, of New York.”Also on this week’s episode, Elisabeth Egan and John Williams talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“Visitors” by Anita Brookner“Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley“I Am, I Am, I Am” by Maggie O’Farrell
02/04/2157m 10s

Tillie Olsen and the Barriers to Creativity

A.O. Scott, The Times’s co-chief film critic, returns to the Book Review’s podcast this week to discuss the work of Tillie Olsen, the latest subject in his essay series The Americans, about writers who give a sense of the country’s complex identity. Olsen, who died in 2007 at 94, was known best as the author of “Tell Me a Riddle,” a collection of three short stories and a novella published in 1961. She also wrote rigorous depictions of working-class families, conveying the costs of living for burdened mothers, wives and daughters.“I think people should read her now for a few different reasons,” Scott says. “I was really drawn to this idea of the difficulty of writing, and the ways that our other responsibilities and the fatigue of living can make it hard to write. I think I related to this very much in this year. One of the themes in her stories is tiredness, is just the physical and mental fatigue of being alive and how hard that can make it to create anything.”Wendy Lower visits the podcast to discuss “The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed.” In the book, Lower, a historian of the Holocaust, considers a photograph taken in October 1941 that shows several men shooting a woman who holds the hand of a small boy.“Most people think that we know all there is to know about the Holocaust,” Lower says, “and this is an important example of how these records are just being declassified now from various countries that were involved in the Holocaust or occupied by the Nazis.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Parul Sehgal 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:“100 Boyfriends” by Brontez Purnell“Until Justice Be Done” by Kate Masur
26/03/211h 3m

Four Decades of Downs and Ups in New York City

There’s nothing wrong with your eyes: The title of Thomas Dyja’s new book is “New York, New York, New York.” (The triplicate is inspired by the urbanist Holly Whyte’s answer when he was asked to name his three favorite American cities.) On this week’s podcast, Dyja discusses how he went about organizing this sweeping look at the past four decades in the city’s history.“I love timelines,” Dyja says. “I make huge charts to take themes through, so this had an eight-foot-long thing on my wall that basically took certain themes and wove them through all those years.” With all that material, “having to make tough choices was just basic," and "there are things that are on the cutting room floor that I kind of miss. But at the end of the day, I think it conveys that subway-express-train-blasting-along-from-stop-to-stop experience of New York.”The magician, writer and theatrical performer Derek DelGaudio visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “Amoralman: A True Story and Other Lies,” which is told in two parts: The first covers his childhood in Colorado, and the second the time he spent doing a very unusual job.“When I was in my 20s, I worked as what’s known as a bust-out dealer, which is a professional card cheat hired by the house to cheat its customers,” DelGaudio says. “And what I experienced at that house, and what I recognized, I thought was something worth sharing.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gal Beckerman and Dave Kim talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“An Empire of Their Own” by Neal Gabler“My Heart” by Semezdin Mehmedinovic“Le Freak” by Nile Rodgers
19/03/2152m 48s

Imbolo Mbue on Writing Her Second Novel

Imbolo Mbue first began writing her new novel, “How Beautiful We Were,” in 2002. The book concerns the impact of an American oil company’s presence on a fictional African village. She eventually put the idea aside to work on what turned into her acclaimed debut novel, “Behold the Dreamers.” When she began working again on the earlier idea, it was 2016. On this week’s podcast, she says that returning to the novel at that moment changed the way she approached writing it.“Flint, Michigan, had happened, and Sandy Hook had happened a few years before,” she says. “So I was thinking a lot about children. I was thinking a lot about what it means to be a child growing up in a world in which you don’t understand why things are happening and nobody is doing something about it. And that was what gave me the inspiration to tell the story mostly from the point of the view of the children. That definitely changed a huge part of the story.”Annalee Newitz visits the podcast to discuss “Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age.” In the book, Newitz gleans lessons about urban living from four cities that no longer exist: Pompeii; Angkor, a metropolis of medieval Cambodia; Cahokia, an urban sanctuary that sprawled across both sides of the Mississippi River a thousand years ago; and Catalhoyuk, a city that existed 9,000 years ago above the plains of south-central Turkey.“It’s a tragedy because for us now, in the present day, looking back, a lot of us would love to know more about what life was like in these places and be able to visit them in their prime,” Newitz says. “So it’s sad because we can’t go and see them alive. But I also think that in many cases, people left these cities for good reason. The abandonment, it’s a rejection of something that’s gone wrong, and I think it’s good that we have these examples.”Also on this week’s episode, 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 by the Times’s critics this week:“Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes“The Empathy Diaries” by Sherry Turkle
12/03/211h 3m

Kazuo Ishiguro and Friendship With Machines

Kazuo Ishigruo’s eighth novel, “Klara and the Sun,” is his first since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. It’s narrated by Klara, an Artificial Friend — a humanoid machine who acts as a companion for a 14-year-old child. Radhika Jones, the editor of Vanity Fair, talks about the novel and where it fits into Ishiguro’s august body of work on this week’s podcast.“How human can Klara be? What are the limits of humanity, in terms of transferring it into machinery? It’s one of the many questions that animate this book,” Jones says. “It’s not something that’s oversimplified, but I do think it’s very poignant because the truth is that Klara is our narrator. So as far as we’re concerned, she’s the person whose inner life we come to understand. And the question of what limits there are on that, for a being that is artificial, is interesting.”Mark Harris visits the podcast to discuss “Mike Nichols: A Life,” his new biography of the writer, director and performer whose many credits included “The Graduate” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “He was remarkably open,” Harris says of his subject. “There are few bigger success stories for a director to look back on than ‘The Graduate,’ and I was asking Mike about it 40 years and probably 40,000 questions after it happened. But I was so impressed by his willingness to come at it from new angles, to re-examine things that he hadn’t thought about for a while, to tell stories that were frankly not flattering to him. I’ve never heard harsher stories about Mike’s behavior over the years than I heard from Mike himself. He was an extraordinary interview subject.”Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood“The View From Castle Rock” by Alice Munro“The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories” by Henry James
05/03/211h 10m

Lauren Oyler Talks About Deception Online

Lauren Oyler’s debut novel, “Fake Accounts,” features a nameless narrator who discovers that her boyfriend has a secret life online, where he posts conspiracy theories. The novel is about that discovery, but also more broadly about how the time we spend online — especially on social media — transforms our personalities.“The book is about various modes of deceit or lying or misdirection, and the ways we deceive each other in various ways, both on the internet and off,” Oyler says on this week’s podcast.Stephen Kearse visits the podcast to discuss the work of Octavia Butler, who “committed her life,” as Kearse recently wrote, “to turning speculative fiction into a home for Black expression.”But despite Butler’s groundbreaking career, “I wouldn’t want to overstate how different she was,” Kearse says, “because she was very much interested in the things that golden age sci-fi authors were interested in — so, space travel and human extinction and aliens visiting. But I think her innovations were on the level of craft and even just concept. She saw alien stories as very connected to colonization. She saw time travel as escapist. She was able to think about how these tropes rely on certain ideas of privilege and access and really just dive in deeper.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner asks questions of Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book review and the podcast’s host.
26/02/211h 7m

Writing About Illness Without Platitudes

At 22 years old, Suleika Jaouad was a recent college graduate who had moved to Paris, looking forward to everything life might offer. Then she received a diagnosis of leukemia. In her new memoir, “Between Two Kingdoms,” Jaouad writes about the ensuing years. On this week’s podcast, she discusses her experience with the disease and her effort, in writing the book, to avoid the many platitudes that surround serious illness.“When you’re sick, you get bombarded with all kinds of bumper-sticker sayings,” she says. “You’re told to find the silver lining, that everything happens for a reason, or — the one that I hated the most — that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, because in my case it certainly felt like I had been given more than I could handle. So I was really focused on writing toward the silence and toward the shadows, and writing about the experiences that maybe aren’t as palatable but that, from my perspective, needed to be unveiled.”The Times’s comedy critic, Jason Zinoman, visits the podcast to discuss his favorite memoirs by comedians, including books by Harpo Marx, Joan Rivers and Tina Fey, and to discuss the genre as a whole.“The comedy memoir is the worst genre of book that I can’t get enough of,” Zinoman says. “I gobble up comedy memoirs, even though the vast, vast majority of them are terrible.” One reason for that, Zinoman says, is because “you don’t need to make a great book to become a best seller. It’s the same with political books; most books by politicians are bad because they don’t need to be good to be successful, and the same logic applies here.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:“Let Me Tell You What I Mean” by Joan Didion“Her First American” by Lore Segal“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama
19/02/211h 7m

This Land Is Whose Land?

When Simon Winchester takes on a big subject, he takes on a big subject. His new book, “Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World,” travels through centuries and to places like Ukraine, New Zealand, Scotland, the United States and elsewhere. On this week’s podcast, he talks about the history of private land ownership and a few of the many aspects of this history that caught his attention.“The whole notion of trespass I find absolutely fascinating,” Winchester says. “There is this pervasive feeling — it’s not uniquely American, but it is powerfully American — that once you own it, you put up posted signs, you put up barbed wire, you put up fences, to keep people off. Because one of the five ‘bundle of rights,’ lawyers call it — when you buy land, you get these rights — is that you have an absolute right of law to exclude other people from your land. In Sweden, in Norway, in Denmark, you can’t do that.” The journalist Amelia Pang visits the podcast to talk about her new book, “Made in China,” in which she investigates the brutal system of forced labor that undergirds China’s booming export industry. She tells the story of one average American woman who bought a cheap Halloween decoration during a clearance sale after the holiday one year.“She didn’t really need it,” Pang says. “It actually sat in her storage for about two years before she remembered to open it. And so she was very shocked to find this SOS message written by the prisoner who had made this product when she finally opened it. It just goes to show the trivialness of a lot of the products that are made in these camps. In my book, I try to go into: Do we as Americans actually need so much of this stuff? And how much is our shopping habits and consumer culture contributing to factors that compel Chinese factories to outsource work to labor camps?”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Dwight Garner and Parul Sehgal talk about books they’ve recently reviewed and how they approach reading the classics. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed by Times critics this week:“My Year Abroad” by Chang-rae Lee“Gay Bar” by Jeremy Atherton Lin
12/02/211h 1m

Chang-rae Lee on His New Novel: ‘It’s Kind of a Crazy Book.’

Chang-rae Lee’s new novel, “My Year Abroad,” is his sixth. On this week’s podcast, Lee says that his readers might be surprised by it.“It’s kind of a crazy book, and particularly I think for people who know my work,” Lee says. “I’m sure my editor was surprised by what she got. I didn’t quite describe it the way it turned out.” The novel follows a New Jersey 20-year-old named Tiller, who is at loose ends, as he befriends a very successful Chinese entrepreneur. “They go traveling together,” Lee says. “They have what we might call business adventures, but those adventures get quite intense.”Maurice Chammah visits the podcast to talk about his densely reported first book, “Let the Lord Sort Them,” which is a history, as the subtitle has it, of “the rise and fall of the death penalty.”“One of the fascinating parts of researching this book was revisiting a time that I kind of dimly remembered when the death penalty had a role in the culture war pantheon, along with gun control and abortion,” Chammah says. “Starting around the year 2000, it feels like that was a high-water mark where something broke, and over the 20 years since, the death penalty has declined, both in the number of people who support it, but I think more importantly, in relevance. It’s less of a thing that people feel matters to their daily lives.”Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth A. Harris has news from the publishing world; and Tina Jordan and John Williams talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:The books of John le Carré“Read Me” by Leo Benedictus“Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty“Dear Child” by Romy Hausmann“Winterkeep” by Kristin Cashore
05/02/211h 7m

Navigating the Maze of Paying for College

Ron Lieber’s new book, “The Price You Pay for College,” aims at helping families with, as the book’s subtitle puts it, the biggest financial decision they will ever make. Lieber, a personal financial columnist for The Times, visits the podcast this week to discuss it. Among other subjects, he addresses all the ways in which the price to attend a particular college can vary from student to student, similar to how the cost of seats on one airplane flight can vary.Michael J. Stephen visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Breath Taking: The Power, Fragility, and Future of Our Extraordinary Lungs.” Stephen, a pulmonary expert at Thomas Jefferson University, talks about what we’ve learned about the lungs during the coronavirus crisis, and more generally about the wonders and perplexities of this organ.Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and the Times’s critics talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.Here are the books discussed by the critics this week:“The Lives of Lucian Freud: Fame, 1968-2011” by William Feaver“The Liar’s Dictionary” by Eley Williams“1984” by George Orwell
29/01/211h 9m

The Ethics of Adoption in America

In “American Baby,” the veteran journalist Gabrielle Glaser tells the story of one mother and child, and also zooms out from there to consider the ethics of adoption in this country. Our reviewer, Lisa Belkin, calls the book “the most comprehensive and damning” account of the “growing realization that old-style adoption was not always what it seemed.” Glaser visits the podcast this week to talk about it.Kenneth R. Rosen visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Troubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs.” The book is an examination of the “tough-love industry” of wilderness camps and residential therapeutic programs for young people. Rosen himself, as a troubled teen, spent time at a few of these places, and his book strongly criticizes their methods.Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and Tina Jordan 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”:“Summer Cooking” by Elizabeth David“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro“The Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder“Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
22/01/211h 3m

James Comey and Truth in Government

James Comey’s “Saving Justice,” arrives three years after his first book, “A Higher Loyalty.” Joe Klein reviews it for us, and visits the podcast this week to discuss, among other subjects, how the new book is different from the first.“It doesn’t differ very much at all, actually,” Klein says, “except for one thing: He rehearses all of the confrontations he had with Donald Trump in both books, but in the second book he places that in the context of the need for truth and transparency in government, which I think is a valuable thing. The book is a repetition of the first book, but it’s not an insignificant repetition because of the context that he’s now placed it in.”Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review, is on the podcast to discuss the latest selection for our monthly column Group Text: “A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself,” by Peter Ho Davies.“What I found especially compelling about this book in this moment, when we’re all still kind of confined to our houses,” Egan says, “is that it was very reassuring to read about parental worry in a moment when we’re all flying blind. But you have this worry with a lot of funny lines and funny observations about parenthood.”Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Parul Sehgal 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:“Kill Switch” by Adam Jentleson“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
15/01/211h 3m

Charles Yu Talks About ‘Interior Chinatown’

Charles Yu’s “Interior Chinatown,” which won the National Book Award for fiction in November, is a satire about Hollywood’s treatment of Asian-Americans. It features an actor named Willis Wu, who has a very small role in a TV show. On this week’s podcast, Yu, himself a writer for TV as well as a novelist, discusses the book and why he wrote it. David S. Brown visits the podcast to discuss his new biography of Henry Adams, “The Last American Aristocrat.” Adams was the great-grandson of John Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams and the author of “The Education of Henry Adams,” a posthumously published memoir that is widely considered one of the greatest nonfiction works of the 20th century.Also, Alexandra Alter answers questions from listeners about the publishing industry, and Gregory Cowles, John Williams and the show's host, Pamela Paul, discuss what they're reading. The books discussed on "What We're Reading" this week: “Just Like You” by Nick Hornby“The Watch Tower” by Elizabeth Harrower“The Last Million” by David Nasaw
08/01/2155m 14s

Fareed Zakaria on Life After the Pandemic

The author and CNN host Fareed Zakaria calls the coronavirus pandemic “the most transformative event of our lifetimes.” He says: “What has happened over the last 50 years is, we have gotten increasingly confident about the power of science and medicine, so we’ve kind of lost sight of the effect that something like a plague, a pandemic, has. And I think this was a mistake."The historian Margaret MacMillan visits the podcast to discuss her most recent book, “War: How Conflict Shaped Us,” one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2020. MacMillan has written about specific wars in the past, but here she looks more broadly at the subject throughout human history, which led her to some new conclusions. “What I hadn’t really got involved in or really understood,” MacMillan says, “was the debate about whether war is something that’s biologically driven — are we condemned to war because of something that evolution has left us with, or is war the product of culture?”Also on this week’s episode, Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host.
01/01/2158m 15s

The Listeners’ Episode: Editors and Critics Answer Your Questions

We respond to questions about criticism, reading habits, favorite stories and more.
25/12/201h 13m

Agents of Change

Kerri Greenidge discusses two books about African-Americans in the years before the Civil War, and Neal Gabler talks about “Catching the Wind,” his biography of Edward Kennedy.
18/12/2049m 5s

Jo Nesbo Talks About 'The Kingdom'

Nesbo discusses his latest novel, and David Michaelis talks about his new biography of Eleanor Roosevelt.
11/12/201h

David Sedaris on a Career-Spanning Collection

Sedaris talks about “The Best of Me” and his life as an essayist.
04/12/201h 4m

Talking About the 10 Best Books of 2020

On a special episode of the podcast, taped live, editors from The New York Times Book Review discuss this year's outstanding fiction and nonfiction.
27/11/201h 9m

Joy Williams and Unique Views of America

A.O. Scott talks about Williams’s fiction, and Nicholas Christakis discusses his new book about the coronavirus, “Apollo’s Arrow.”
20/11/201h 1m

David Byrne on Turning 'American Utopia' Into a Book

Byrne talks about his work with the artist Maira Kalman on his latest book, and Brittany K. Barnett discusses "A Knock at Midnight."
13/11/2049m 20s

The Birth of the Animal Rights Movement

Ernest Freeberg talks about “A Traitor to His Species,” and the illustrator Christian Robinson discusses his career in picture books.
06/11/2050m 27s

A Writing Career Among Trailblazing Music Stars

Peter Guralnick talks about “Looking to Get Lost,” and Alex Ross discusses “Wagnerism.”
30/10/2059m 19s

Real-Life Political Violence Fuels Fiction in ‘The Abstainer’

Ian McGuire talks about his new novel, and Elisabeth Egan discusses Romy Hausmann’s “Dear Child.”
23/10/2053m 59s

The Ottoman Empire’s Influence on the Present Day

Alan Mikhail talks about “God’s Shadow,” and Benjamin Lorr discusses “The Secret Life of Groceries.”
16/10/201h 3m

The Fate of Refugees After World War II

David Nasaw talks about “The Last Million,” and Carlos Lozada discusses “What Were We Thinking.”
09/10/201h 3m

Hari Kunzru on Writing ‘Red Pill’

Kunzru talks about his new novel, and Ben Macintyre discusses “Agent Sonya,” his latest real-life tale of espionage.
02/10/201h 5m

C.I.A. Operatives in the Early Years of the Cold War

Scott Anderson discusses “The Quiet Americans,” and Peter Baker and Susan Glasser talk about “The Man Who Ran Washington.”
25/09/201h 6m

Ayad Akhtar on Truth and Fiction

Akhtar discusses "Homeland Elegies," and Marc Lacey talks about "Cry Havoc," by Michael Signer, and "The Violence Inside Us," by Chris Murphy.
18/09/2059m 47s

Brian Stelter on Fox News and Reed Hastings on Netflix

Stelter talks about "Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth" and Reed Hastings discusses "No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention."
11/09/2057m 48s

Jeffrey Toobin on Writing About Trump

Toobin talks about “True Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and Dayna Tortorici discusses Elena Ferrante’s “The Lying Life of Adults.”
04/09/2057m 25s

Kurt Andersen on ‘Evil Geniuses’

Andersen talks about his new book, and Lesley M.M. Blume discusses “Fallout.”
28/08/2057m 48s

The Life of a Brilliant, Suffering Scientist

Samanth Subramanian discusses “A Dominant Character,” his biography of J. B. S. Haldane, and Patrik Svensson talks about “The Book of Eels.”
21/08/2047m 42s

The Fictional World of Edward P. Jones

A.O. Scott talks about Jones’s work and the American experience, and Eric Jay Dolin discusses “A Furious Sky.”
14/08/201h 2m

Isabel Wilkerson Talks About 'Caste'

Wilkerson describes the ideas about race in America that fuel her new book, and David Hill discusses “The Vapors.”
07/08/2055m 15s

The 'Seductive Lure' of Authoritarianism

Anne Applebaum discusses "Twilight of Democracy," and Barbara Demick talks about "Eat the Buddha."
31/07/2054m 28s

The Yearning for the Unexplained

Colin Dickey talks about “The Unidentified,” and Miles Harvey discusses “The King of Confidence.”
24/07/2051m 58s

Newt Gingrich and the Start of an Era

Julian E. Zelizer talks about "Burning Down the House," and Lacy Crawford talks about "Notes on a Silencing."
17/07/201h 5m

David Mitchell's Vast and Tangled Universe

Daniel Mendelsohn discusses Mitchell's career and new novel, "Utopia Avenue," and Maria Konnikova talks about "The Biggest Bluff."
10/07/201h 2m

Jules Feiffer on His Long, Varied Career

Feiffer talks about his new picture book and more, and Steve Inskeep discusses "Imperfect Union."
02/07/2055m 38s

A Short Guide to 'The World'

Richard Haass talks about his new primer on global affairs, and Abhrajyoti Chakraborty on new novels in translation.
26/06/201h 6m

André Leon Talley on 'The Chiffon Trenches'

Talley talks about his new memoir; Claudia Rankine and Jericho Brown read new poems; and Megha Majumdar discusses her debut novel, "A Burning."
18/06/2059m 48s

A.O. Scott on the Work of Wallace Stegner

Scott discusses his first in a series of essays about American writers, and David Kamp talks about "Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution That Changed America."
05/06/2058m 58s

A Manhunt on the 17th Century’s High Seas

Steven Johnson talks about “Enemy of All Mankind,” and Gilbert Cruz offers a guide to Stephen King’s work.
29/05/201h 7m

Immigration Reform, Past and Present

Jia Lynn Yang talks about “One Mighty and Irresistible Tide,” and Judith Newman talks about books that help simplify life.
22/05/2059m 28s

One Young Mother and the Homelessness Crisis

Lauren Sandler talks about “This Is All I Got,” and Sarah Weinman discusses classic mysteries.
15/05/201h 15m

The Angry Children Are Our Future

Lydia Millet talks about “A Children’s Bible,” and Barry Gewen discusses “The Inevitability of Tragedy.”
08/05/2057m 32s

Lawrence Wright on Researching a (Fictional) Pandemic

Wright talks about “The End of October,” and Dalia Sofer discusses “Man of My Time.”
01/05/201h 1m

The Great Alaska Quake of 1964

Jon Mooallem talks about “This Is Chance!” and Elisabeth Egan discusses Charlie Mackesy’s “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.”
24/04/2049m 59s

Samantha Irby Talks About ‘Wow, No Thank You’

Irby on her new essay collection, and Jon Meacham discusses three books about leadership during times of crisis.
17/04/2056m 22s

Robert Kolker Discusses 'Hidden Valley Road'

Kolker talks about a large family beset by schizophrenia, and Elisabeth Egan discusses Lily King's "Writers & Lovers."
10/04/2054m 11s

Parenting When the Family Is Locked Inside

The clinical psychologist Lisa Damour discusses the specific challenges of raising children during the pandemic, and Dwight Garner asks Pamela Paul about putting together the Book Review.
03/04/201h 12m

From the Archives: Colson Whitehead and Jeffrey Toobin

Whitehead discusses “The Underground Railroad,” and Toobin talks about “American Heiress.”
27/03/2054m 4s

Robert Caro on How He Does It

The acclaimed biographer of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses talks about his book “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing.”
20/03/201h 3m

From the Archive: Michael Lewis and Tana French

Lewis discusses "The Fifth Risk," and French talks about "The Witch Elm."
13/03/2055m 37s

James McBride Talks About ‘Deacon King Kong’

McBride discuss his latest novel, and Rebecca Solnit talks about “Recollections of My Nonexistence.”
06/03/2057m 19s

The Ties That Bind Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump

David Enrich discusses "Dark Towers," and Kiran Millwood Hargrave talks about "The Mercies."
28/02/201h 8m

Unjust America

Adam Cohen talks about “Supreme Inequality,” and Madeline Levine discusses “Ready or Not.”
21/02/201h 1m

A History of Seduction

Clement Knox talks about “Seduction,” and Elisabeth Egan discusses Amina Cain’s “Indelicacy.”
14/02/2042m 46s

Leslie Jamison on Jenny Offill’s ‘Weather’

Jamison talks about Offill’s new novel, and Courtney Maum talks about “Before and After the Book Deal.”
07/02/201h 9m

The Paradoxes of Nuclear War

Fred Kaplan discusses “The Bomb,” and Sarah Lyall talks about new thrillers.
31/01/201h 2m

Andrea Bernstein on 'American Oligarchs'

Bernstein discusses her new book about the Trumps and Kushners, and David Zucchino talks about “Wilmington’s Lie.”
24/01/201h

Americans on a Financial 'Tightrope'

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn talk about their new book, and Daniel Susskind discusses “A World Without Work.”
17/01/2056m 33s

Life in Tech’s ‘Uncanny Valley’

Anna Wiener discusses her new memoir, and Elisabeth Egan talks about Group Text, a new monthly feature from the Book Review.
10/01/2054m 23s

Medicine in the Middle Ages

Jack Hartnell talks about “Medieval Bodies,” and Matt Dorfman talks about his work as the Book Review’s art director.
03/01/2053m 6s

Ralph Ellison’s Life in Letters

Saidiya Hartman talks about Ellison’s correspondence, and Olaf Olafsson discusses his new novel, “The Sacrament.”
27/12/1949m 31s

Times Critics Talk About Their Year-End Lists

Dwight Garner, Parul Sehgal and Jennifer Szalai on the top books of 2019.
20/12/1941m 53s

Poems About the Challenges of Life After Prison

Reginald Dwayne Betts talks about “Felon,” and Jung Chang discusses “Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister.”
13/12/1957m 41s

The Life of Mike Nichols

Ash Carter and Sam Kashner discuss their new oral history of the director, and Alexandra Jacobs talks about her biography of Elaine Stritch.
06/12/191h

10 Best Books of 2019

On a special episode of the podcast, taped live, editors from The New York Times Book Review discuss this year’s outstanding fiction and nonfiction. Read more details about the books discussed on this episode here.
26/11/191h 14m

The Authorized Life of the Iron Lady

Charles Moore discusses the final volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher, and Adrienne Brodeur talks about her memoir, “Wild Game.”
22/11/191h 9m

Revisiting Baldwin vs. Buckley

Nicholas Buccola talks about “The Fire Is Upon Us,” and Saeed Jones discusses “How We Fight for Our Lives.”
15/11/191h 6m

Among the Trolls

Andrew Marantz talks about “Antisocial,” and Gail Collins discusses “No Stopping Us Now.”
08/11/191h 3m

The Life of Thomas Edison

David Oshinsky talks about Edmund Morris’s “Edison,” and Tina Jordan discusses new memoirs by Demi Moore, Julie Andrews and Carly Simon.
01/11/1954m 15s

John Lithgow on His Satirical Poems

The actor talks about "Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse," and Leigh Bardugo discusses "Ninth House."
25/10/191h 3m

Thomas Chatterton Williams on ‘Unlearning Race’

Williams talks about his new memoir, “Self-Portrait in Black and White,” and Stephen Kinzer discusses “Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control.”
18/10/191h 12m

Are Cheap Clothes Ruining the Planet?

Dana Thomas discusses “Fashionopolis,” and Steven Greenhouse talks about “Beaten Down, Worked Up.”
11/10/1949m 59s

Ben Lerner's New Novel and the Politics of Language

Garth Risk Hallberg talks about Lerner's "The Topeka School," and Bari Weiss discusses "How to Fight Anti-Semitism."
04/10/191h 2m

Samantha Power on What She's Learned

Power talks about her new memoir, "The Education of an Idealist," and Craig Johnson discusses his Longmire mysteries.
27/09/191h 7m

Two Times Reporters on ‘The Education of Brett Kavanaugh’

Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly discuss their new book, and Tim Winton talks about his most recent novel, “The Shepherd’s Hut.”
20/09/191h 6m

Bringing Down Harvey Weinstein

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey talk about their new book, “She Said,” and Ian Urbina discusses “The Outlaw Ocean.”
13/09/191h 4m

Trump, TV and America

James Poniewozik discusses “Audience of One,” and Bina Venkataraman talks about “The Optimist’s Telescope.”
06/09/191h

The Ruining of the American West

Christopher Ketcham talks about “This Land,” and Gretchen McCulloch discusses “Because Internet.”
30/08/1959m 55s

The Politicization of Academic Life

Anthony Kronman talks about “The Assault on American Excellence,” and Christopher Benfey discusses “If,” his new book about Rudyard Kipling.
23/08/1951m 25s

Jia Tolentino on Life With the Internet

Tolentino talks about “Trick Mirror,” and John Taliaferro discusses “Grinnell,” his biography of a pioneering conservationist.
16/08/1954m 20s

Toni Morrison's Legacy

Wesley Morris, Parul Sehgal and Dwight Garner talk about Morrison’s career, and Sarah M. Broom talks about her debut memoir, “The Yellow House.”
09/08/191h 7m

The Fight for the Supreme Court

Carl Hulse talks about “Confirmation Bias,” and De’Shawn Charles Winslow discusses “In West Mills.”
02/08/1957m 44s

Fiction About Unprecedented Situations

Ted Chiang talks about “Exhalation,” and Helen Phillips discusses “The Need.”
26/07/191h 3m

Colson Whitehead Talks About 'The Nickel Boys'

The Pulitzer Prize winner discusses his new novel, and Jon Gertner talks about “The Ice at the End of the World.”
19/07/1952m 48s

George F. Will on Conservatism’s Homelessness

Will discusses “The Conservative Sensibility,” and David Maraniss talks about “A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father.”
12/07/1957m 11s

Picking the Best Memoirs Since 1969

The Times’s book critics talk about choosing the best 50 memoirs of the past 50 years, and Daniel Okrent discusses “The Guarded Gate.”
05/07/1951m 7s

Taffy Brodesser-Akner Talks About Her First Novel

Brodesser-Akner discusses “Fleishman in Trouble,” and Katherine Eban talks about “Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom.”
28/06/191h 2m

Jill Lepore on the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

Lepore discusses several new books about the Apollo 11 mission, and Julie Satow talks about the history of the Plaza Hotel.
21/06/191h 3m

The World's Far Corners and Deepest Depths

Robert Macfarlane talks about "Underland," and Julia Phillips discusses "Disappearing Earth."
14/06/1957m 35s

Rethinking the Epidemic of Domestic Violence

Rachel Louise Snyder talks about “No Visible Bruises,” and Josh Levin discusses “The Queen.”
07/06/1959m 26s

Thrillers for Summer

Vanessa Friedman talks about this season’s notable thrillers, and Liesl Schillinger discusses new books about travel.
31/05/1954m 2s

A Trilogy About the American Revolution Begins

Rick Atkinson talks about “The British Are Coming,” and Brenda Wineapple discusses “The Impeachers.”
24/05/191h 12m

Harper Lee's Unwritten True-Crime Book

Casey Cep discusses "Furious Hours," and Eliza Griswold talks about "Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America."
17/05/1954m 30s

The Real Life of a Diplomat, Told Like a Novel

George Packer talks about “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century,” and Lori Gottlieb discusses “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.”
10/05/191h 6m

Laila Lalami on 'The Other Americans'

Lalami discusses her latest novel, and Jenny Odell talks about "How to Do Nothing."
03/05/1957m 7s

Connecting the Dots Between Reconstruction and Jim Crow

Henry Louis Gates Jr. talks about “Stony the Road” and “Dark Sky Rising,” and David Wallace-Wells discusses “The Uninhabitable Earth.”
26/04/191h 2m

Robert Caro on How He Does It

The acclaimed biographer of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses talks about his new book, "Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing."
19/04/191h 12m

Ruth Reichl's Delicious New Memoir

Reichl discusses "Save Me the Plums," and Emily Bazelon talks about "Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration."
12/04/191h 8m

The Chernobyl Disaster in Full

Adam Higginbotham talks about his sweeping new history of the nuclear accident and its aftermath, and Nellie Bowles discusses Clive Thompson's "Coders."
05/04/1954m 56s

Preet Bharara on the Rule of Law

Bharara discusses “Doing Justice,” and Senator Doug Jones talks about “Bending Toward Justice.”
29/03/1955m 23s

The Life of Sandra Day O'Connor

Evan Thomas talks about “First,” his new biography of O’Connor, and Mitchell S. Jackson discusses “Survival Math.”
22/03/191h 5m

Isaac Mizrahi on His New Memoir

The fashion designer discusses “I.M.,” and David McCraw talks about “Truth in Our Times.”
15/03/191h 4m

A Violent Summer in Chicago

Alex Kotlowitz discusses “An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago,” and John Lanchester talks about his new novel, “The Wall.”
08/03/1959m 3s

A Gripping Political Mystery in Northern Ireland

Patrick Radden Keefe talks about “Say Nothing,” and Frans de Waal discusses “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.”
01/03/191h 5m

Seeking Silence

Gal Beckerman discusses “How to Disappear,” by Akiko Busch, and “Silence,” by Jane Brox; and Steve Luxenberg talks about “Separate.”
22/02/1951m 17s

A Class in ‘Dreyer’s English’

Benjamin Dreyer discusses his best-selling book about writing, and Thomas Mallon discusses “Landfall,” his new novel about the presidential administration of George W. Bush.
15/02/191h 3m

Marlon James Talks About His Epic New Trilogy

James discusses "Black Leopard, Red Wolf," and Stephanie Land talks about "Maid."
08/02/1950m 0s

Assessing the Facebook Problem

Roger McNamee talks about "Zucked," and Charles Finch discusses the season's best thrillers.
01/02/1957m 31s

Dani Shapiro on Her Surprising 'Inheritance'

Shapiro talks about her new best-selling memoir, and David Treuer discusses “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee.”
25/01/191h 9m

A New Novel Conjures Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman

A. O. Scott talks about Linn Ullmann’s “Unquiet,” and Judith Newman discusses new books about anxiety, mental illness and grief.
18/01/1950m 32s

How Curses Function in Literature

Julian Lucas talks about the role of curses in contemporary African literature, and Abby Ellin discusses "Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married."
11/01/191h 10m

Fugitive Slaves and the Road to the Civil War

Andrew Delbanco discusses “The War Before the War,” and Rob Dunn talks about “Never Home Alone.”
04/01/1957m 4s

Tyranny in Rome and Fake Drugs in Fiction

Yascha Mounk discusses Edward J. Watts's "Mortal Republic," and Jonathan Lethem talks about the surge of fictional psychotropic drugs in novels.
28/12/181h 1m

Isabel Wilkerson Talks About Michelle Obama’s Memoir

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian discusses the former first lady’s story, and Helen Schulman talks about her novel “Come With Me.”
21/12/181h 3m

Poetry & Politics

The Book Review’s poetry editor, Gregory Cowles, discusses Tracy K. Smith’s essay about political poetry and more from this week’s special issue; and Maria Russo discusses the best children's books of 2018.
14/12/1858m 27s

Immaturity in American Politics

Alan Wolfe discusses “The Politics of Petulance,” and Nadja Spiegelman talks about two newly published books by Lucia Berlin, “Evening in Paradise” and “Welcome Home.”
07/12/1850m 17s

Talking About the 10 Best Books of 2018

On a special episode of the podcast, taped live, editors from The New York Times discuss the Book Review’s list of the year’s outstanding fiction and nonfiction.
30/11/1855m 50s

The Epic Tragedy of Vietnam

Max Hastings discusses his new history of the war, and Sue Prideaux talks about the life of Friedrich Nietzsche.
21/11/1856m 59s

The Past, Present and Future of Jews in America

Gal Beckerman discusses several new books about the state of Judaism in this country, and Kiese Laymon talks about his new memoir, “Heavy.”
16/11/181h 3m

Big New Biographies of Two Big American Lives

David W. Blight talks about “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” and Bob Spitz talks about “Reagan: An American Journey.”
09/11/1854m 23s

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah on “Friday Black”

“Black people being murdered is unfortunately a constant in this country. Murdered with impunity. It’s something that’s constantly on my mind,” Adjei-Brenyah says. “So some of these stories respond to that very specifically.” Plus, Joseph Ellis discusses his new book, “American Dialogue.”
02/11/181h 5m

Lisa Brennan-Jobs on 'Small Fry'

In a special episode of the Book Review's podcast, taped in front of a live audience, Brennan-Jobs talks about her memoir, and Gary Shteyngart discusses "Lake Success."
26/10/1854m 17s

Susan Orlean on a Great Library Fire

Orlean discusses “The Library Book,” and Reid Hoffman talks about “Blitzscaling.”
19/10/1857m 18s

Barry Jenkins and Meg Wolitzer on Two of This Season's Novels on Screen

Jenkins talks about his adaptation of James Baldwin's "If Beale Street Could Talk," and Wolitzer discusses the adaptation of her novel "The Wife."
16/10/1851m 24s

Michael Lewis and Tana French on Their Latest Books

Lewis talks about "The Fifth Risk," and French discusses "The Witch Elm."
12/10/181h 2m

Kate Atkinson on 'Transcription'

Atkinson talks about her new novel, and Shane Bauer discusses "American Prison."
05/10/1850m 5s

The End of the ‘Struggle’

Daniel Mendelsohn discusses Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle,” and Jill Lepore talks about “These Truths: A History of the United States.”
28/09/181h 1m

Esi Edugyan on Her Booker-Shortlisted 'Washington Black'

Edugyan talks about her new novel, and Lisa Margonelli talks about “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology.”
21/09/1859m 2s

A Memoir From the Hard-Working ‘Heartland’

Sarah Smarsh talks about her new book, and Allan Lichtman discusses "The Embattled Vote in America."
14/09/1859m 26s

'The Most Secretly Interesting Place in America'

Sam Anderson talks about “Boom Town,” his new book about Oklahoma City; and David Enrich and Andrew Ross Sorkin discuss finance in fiction, including in Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, “Lake Success.”
07/09/181h 14m

The Uses and Misuses of Identity

Kwame Anthony Appiah talks about “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity,” and Jonathan Haidt discusses “The Coddling of the American Mind.”
31/08/181h 12m

Interrogating the Change Makers

Anand Giridharadas talks about his new book on the world of a global elite, and Kim Brooks discusses “Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear.”
24/08/1853m 49s

Rethinking the 'Tangled Tree' of Life

David Quammen discusses his new book about the science of evolution, and Andrea Gabor talks about “After the Education Wars.”
17/08/181h 2m

Lydia Millet on 'Fight No More'

Millet discusses her new collection of stories, and Alexandra Jacobs talks about Jamie Bernstein’s “Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein.”
10/08/1856m 51s

Beth Macy on 'Dopesick'

Macy discusses her new book about the opioid crisis; Lovia Gyarkye talks about Chibundu Onuzo’s “Welcome to Lagos”; and Jennifer Schuessler discusses a controversy in the world of poetry.
03/08/1857m 51s

Drawing History

Hillary Chute talks about new graphic books that address serious issues, and Nicole Lamy discusses her Match Book column, in which she helps readers find books they'll love.
27/07/1850m 43s

True Crime Starring the Creator of Sherlock Holmes

Margalit Fox talks about “Conan Doyle for the Defense,” and Tina Jordan discusses this season’s thrillers.
20/07/1857m 8s

Making a Killing

In this special bonus episode of the Book Review’s podcast, best-selling thriller writers Lee Child, Megan Abbott, Meg Gardiner, Lisa Gardner and Lisa Scottoline discuss the tricks of their best-selling trade.
19/07/1820m 20s

From Transcribing for Obama to Writing Her Own Story

Beck Dorey-Stein discusses “From the Corner of the Oval,” and Caroline Weber talks about “Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-De-Siècle Paris.”
13/07/181h 10m

An Inside View of Putin

Michael McFaul discusses "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia," and Ottessa Moshfegh talks about her new novel, "My Year of Rest and Relaxation."
06/07/181h 4m

The Latest in Cyberwarfare

David E. Sanger talks about “The Perfect Weapon,” and Stacy Horn discusses “Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th-Century New York.”
29/06/181h 4m

The Life of Atticus Finch

Joseph Crespino talks about his biography of Harper Lee's fictional character, and Philip Dray talks about “The Fair Chase: The Epic Story of Hunting in America.”
22/06/1859m 2s

The Things We Inherit

Carl Zimmer discusses “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh,” and Henry Alford talks about “And Then We Danced.”
15/06/181h 9m

Michael Pollan on His Acid Test

Michael Pollan talks about “How to Change Your Mind,” and Edward Tenner discusses “The Efficiency Paradox.”
08/06/181h

Dinosaurs, the Master of Horror and Philip Roth

Steve Brusatte talks about “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs”; Victor Lavalle and Gilbert Cruz discuss the work of Stephen King; and Dwight Garner, A.O. Scott and Taffy Brodesser-Akner talk about the legacy of Philip Roth.
01/06/181h 5m

David Sedaris on ‘Calypso’

Sedaris talks about his latest book, and Alisa Roth discusses “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness.”
25/05/181h 19m

Lost at Sea

Rachel Slade talks about “Into the Raging Sea,” and Clemantine Wamariya discusses “The Girl Who Smiled Beads.”
18/05/181h 10m

Amy Chozick on 'Chasing Hillary'

Chozick discusses her time covering Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, and Sloane Crosley talks about her new collection of essays, “Look Alive Out There.”
11/05/181h 3m

There Is Nothin' Like a Tune

Todd S. Purdum talks about “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution,” and Fran Leadon discusses “Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles.”
04/05/181h 6m

Julian Barnes on 'The Only Story'

Barnes talks about his latest novel, and Lawrence Wright discusses “God Save Texas.”
27/04/181h 13m

Jo Nesbo Reimagines ‘Macbeth’

James Shapiro discusses Nesbo’s new novel, and Leila Slimani talks about “The Perfect Nanny.”
20/04/181h 4m

Parenting in the Age of Omnipresent Screens

Pamela Druckerman discusses “The Art of Screen Time” and “Be the Parent, Please,” and Ben Austen talks about “High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing.”
13/04/1853m 25s

Tara Westover on 'Educated'

Westover discusses her best-selling memoir, and Mark Weinberg talks about "Movie Nights With the Reagans."
06/04/181h 7m

All in the Family

Luis Alberto Urrea talks about his new novel, “The House of Broken Angels,” and Martin Doyle discusses “The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers.”
30/03/1852m 6s

'Just the Funny Parts'

Nell Scovell discusses her new memoir, and Joanne Lipman talks about "That's What She Said."
23/03/1852m 46s

Impeachment, Then and Now

Cass R. Sunstein talks about “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide” and “Can It Happen Here?”; and Kathryn Hughes discusses “Victorians Undone.”
16/03/1858m 58s

Ronen Bergman on Israel’s Targeted Assassinations

Bergman talks about “Rise and Kill First,” and Felix Salmon discusses Chris Hughes’s “Fair Shot.”
09/03/1851m 30s

A Marine’s Inventive Memoir

Matt Young discusses “Eat the Apple,” and A. O. Scott talks about Martin Amis’s “The Rub of Time.”
02/03/1856m 55s

Tayari Jones on 'An American Marriage'

Jones talks about her new novel, and J. Randy Taraborrelli discusses “Jackie, Janet & Lee.”
23/02/1856m 42s

Lisa Halliday on 'Asymmetry'

Halliday discusses her debut novel, and Naomi Novik and Gerald Jonas remember the life and work of Ursula K. Le Guin.
16/02/1858m 6s

Laura Lippman on 'Sunburn'

Lippman talks about her new novel, and Tina Jordan discusses new romance novels.
09/02/1842m 31s

Rose McGowan on 'Brave'

McGowan talks about her new memoir, and Katie Kitamura discusses Tom Malmquist’s new novel, “In Every Moment We Are Still Alive.”
02/02/1858m 36s

Twilight's Last Gleaming?

David Frum talks about “Trumpocracy,” and Helen Thorpe discusses “The Newcomers.”
26/01/181h 1m

'Off the Charts'

Ann Hulbert discusses her new book about child prodigies, and Sam Graham-Felsen talks about his debut novel, “Green.”
19/01/1856m 42s