The Book Show | WAMC

The Book Show

Tuesdays, 3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Each week on The Book Show, host Joe Donahue interviews authors about their books, their lives and their craft. It is a celebration of both reading and writers. Joe holds interesting conversations with a variety of authors including Malcolm Gladwell, Lawrence Wright, and Emily St. John Mandel.

As the son of a librarian, Joe has been part of the book world since childhood. His first job was as a library assistant, during college he was a clerk at an independent book store and for the past 25 years he has been interviewing authors about their books on the radio.

He is also the host of The Roundtable on WAMC Northeast Public Radio, a 3-hour general interest talk show. Notable authors he has interviewed include: Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, John Updike, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Arthur Miller, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Anne Rice, Philip Roth, E.L Doctorow, Richard Russo, David Sedaris and Maya Angelou. 

Joe  has won several awards for his interviews, including honors from the Associated Press, the Edward R. Murrow Awards, the New York State Association of Broadcasters, The Headliners, The National Press Club and the Scripps-Howard Foundation. 

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Twitter: @The_Book_Show

Joe Donahue:  Veteran political journalist and 60 Minutes Correspondent John Dickerson's new book "The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency", is a deep dive into the history, evolution and current state of the American presidency, and how we can make the job less impossible and more productive.

In the book, Dickerson writes about presidents in history, such as Washington, Lincoln, FDR and Eisenhower, and in contemporary times from LBJ and Reagan and Bush, Obama and Trump, to show how a complex job has been done, and why we need to reevaluate how we view the presidency, how we choose our presidents and what we expect from them once they're in office. John Dickerson is a 60 Minutes correspondent, prior to that he was a co-host of CBS This Morning, the anchor of Face the Nation. And CBS News' Chief Washington correspondent. The new book, "The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency".

Joe Donaue: Megha Majumdar's debut novel "A Burning" is about three characters whose lives become entwined after a terrorist attack in India. It is taut, electrifying, and dazzling. Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums determined to move up in life who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely is an irresistible outcast who has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything that she holds dear. Megha Majumdar grew up in Kolkata, India and studied social anthropology at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She is currently an editor at Catapult. This is her first novel. 

Book Cover for How to be an Antiracist and photo of Ibram X. Kendi
Author photo by Jeff Watts

Joe Donahue: Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In his new book “How to Be an Antiracist”, Professor Ibram X. Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas that look to help us see all forms of racism clearly understand their poisonous consequences and work to oppose them in our systems, in ourselves. Ibram X. Kendi is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He's also a columnist at the Atlantic and author of “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. His latest is “How to Be an Antiracist”. 

What would have happened if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton? In real life, Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary Rodham twice and she said no, until the third time. In author Curtis Sittenfeld's new novel, "Rodham," she says no the third time, too. And she goes her own way to become a law professor, and then a politician. 

Joe Donahue: In the new thriller “The End of October” from the Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Lawrence Wright, Dr. Henry Parsons an unlikely but appealing hero, races to find the origins and cure of a mysterious new killer virus as it brings the world to its knees. The novel has a virus that starts in Asia, sweeps across continents, cripples the healthcare system wrecks the economy and kills scores of people worldwide. Yes, eerily prescient. And Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine and fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. 

Joe Donahue: Glennon Doyle is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller “Love Warrior” an Oprah's Book Club selection as well as the New York Times bestseller “Carry On, Warrior.” An activist, speaker, and thought leader, she is also the founder and president of Together Rising, an all women-lead nonprofit organization that has revolutionized grassroots philanthropy, raising over $20 million for women, families and children in crisis.

Her latest, “Untamed” is both a memoir and a wakeup call. It offers an examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth, shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost, overwhelmed and underwhelmed, and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world's expectations of us, they become women who can finally look at themselves in the mirror and recognize there she is. 

Joe Donahue: Emily St. John Mandel is the award winning author of “Station 11”. Her new novel, “The Glass Hotel” is set at the glittering intersection of two seemingly disparate events, a massive Ponzi scheme collapse and the mysterious disappearance of a woman from a ship at sea. In the story of crisis and survival, Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes, campgrounds for the near homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping service and luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. “The Glass Hotel” is a portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.

Joe Donahue: Welcome to The Book Show, a celebration of reading and writers. I'm Joe Donohue. In Sue Monk Kidd's, new novel, "The Book of Longing", she imagines a young woman named Ana, who becomes the wife of Jesus. The novel explores many of the signature themes in Kidd's fiction: feminism, the search for self, the quest for one's voice and purpose, and the power of female community. In particular, this novel explores the longings and virtuosities in women, as well as their silencing and marginalization within Western religion. The story evokes a seminal question: how would the world be different if Jesus had had a wife? Sue Monk Kidd's debut, "The Secret Life of Bees" spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, it has sold more than 6 million copies. Her other novels include "The Mermaid Chair" and "The Invention of Wings". Again, the latest is "The Book of Longings". 

Joe Donahue: Welcome to The Book Show, a celebration of reading and writers. I'm Joe Donahue. Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, including Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997. He's also the bestselling author of "Saving Capitalism" and "The Common Good". His latest book is "The System: Who Rigged It, How To Fix It". It's an analysis of how the rigged systems of American politics and power operate. How this status quo came to be and how average citizens can enact change.

Welcome to the Book Show, a celebration of reading and writers, I'm Joe Donahue. Anne Tyler is one of America's very best living novelists, and one of the world's most loved. She has written 23 novels, sold more than 11 million copies. Her 20th book “A Spool of Blue Thread” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her 11th, “Breathing Lessons” won the Pulitzer Prize. Her other bestsellers include “The Accidental Tourist”, “Say Maybe”, “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” and most recently, “Vinegar Girl” and “Clock Dance”.

The themes she continues to return to involve marriage, family dynamics, sibling relationships, growing old, and dying. She sets her stories where she lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her latest titled “Redhead by the Side of the Road” is no exception. The novel focuses on routine-obsessed 44 year-old Micah Mortimer, whose life is about to be thrown out of whack. The novel is about misperception second chances and the sometimes elusive power of human connections. Again, the new novel is “Redhead by the Side of the Road” and it is a great thrill to welcome Anne Tyler to The Book Show.

"Afterlife" is the first adult novel in almost 15- years by Julia Alvarez - the bestselling author of In the "Time of the Butterflies" and "How the García Girls Lost Their Accents." "Afterlife" is a compact yet deeply felt novel that speaks to grief, our broken society, and the questions of what we owe to each other, ourselves, and our larger community.

Rahm Emanuel is a former two-term mayor of Chicago and White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama. In his new book, "The Nation City: Why Mayors Are Now Running the World," he offers a firsthand account of how cities, rather than the federal government, stand at the center of innovation and effective governance. 

James McBride is the author of the National Book Award winning "The Good Lord Bird" and the modern classic "The Color of Water." His new book is "Deacon King Kong," a wise and witty tale about what happens to the witnesses of a shooting. 

Jenny Offill's new novel, "Weather," is about a family, and a nation, in crisis.

Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree, but this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink which sees her advice grow increasingly apocalyptic and unhinged.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is one of the most recognizable and trusted voices on economics and policy today. His new book "Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics and the Fight for a Better Future” explains the complexities of health care, housing bubbles, tax reform, Social Security, with his trademarked clarity and precision.

Patrick Radden Keefe, a staff writer for the New Yorker, is the author the best-selling: “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.” In it, Keefe looks at the disappearance of Jean McConville, a widowed young mother of ten children and explores the broader context of the terrorism and counterterrorism campaigns in Northern Ireland over the course of the Troubles, and what happened to the perpetrators and the victims of this crime.

Renowned radio host Diane Rehm joins us this week to discuss her new book, “When My Time Comes,” which addresses the urgent, hotly contested cause of the Right-to-Die movement, of which she is one of the most inspiring champions.

Erik Larson is known for expertly transporting readers to past worlds; even stories we think we know come to life in a different way in his hands.

His latest, “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz,” takes us into the heart of war-torn England for the period of May 10, 1940, through May 10, 1941, which was Winston Churchill’s first year as prime minister.

In the new book, “The Founding Fortunes,” historian Tom Shachtman reveals the ways in which a dozen notable Revolutionaries deeply affected the finances and birth of the new country while making and losing their fortunes.

In Gish Jen’s latest “The Resisters,” we meet Gwen who has a Golden Arm and her teens find her happily playing in an underground baseball league. The novel is the story of an America that seems ever more possible. It is also the story of one family struggling to maintain its humanity and normalcy in circumstances that threaten their every value as well as their very existence.

Lydia Davis is a writer whose originality, influence, and wit are beyond compare. Best known for her masterful short stories and translations, Davis’s gifts extend equally to her nonfiction. In “Essays One” Davis has, for the first time, gathered a selection of essays, commentaries, and lectures composed over the past five decades.

Book Cover for "Outside Looking In" and author photo of T.C. Boyle
Author Photo - Jamieson Fry

T.C. Boyle's novel, "Outside Looking In," takes readers back to the 1960s and to the early days of LSD.

The book tells the story of Harvard Ph.D. students whose lives veer out of control after they are drawn into the orbit of renowned psychologist and LSD enthusiast Timothy Leary.

Archer Mayor is the author of the critically-acclaimed series of police novels feature Lt. Joe Gunther of the Brattleboro, Vermont, police department.  In Mayor’s latest Joe Gunther novel “Bomber’s Moon,” the murder of a small-time drug dealer snowballs into the most complex case ever faced by Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team. 

In the pages of his new book, "Medallion Status," John Hodgman explores the strangeness of his career, speaking plainly of fame, especially at the weird, marginal level he enjoyed it. He says he was a “famous minor television personality.” His essays offer a thoughtful examination of status, fame and identity.

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.” His new book, “Letters From An Astrophysicist,” shares his correspondence with people who have sought his perspective on questions about science, faith, philosophy and, of course, Pluto.

Terry Tempest Williams is renowned for her singular body of literature on the environment and our experiences of home.  Her new book “Erosion: Essays of Undoing,” explores this connection, particularly to her home state of Utah, as an evolutionary process and how our undoing of the self, self-centeredness, extractive capitalism, fear, tribalism can also be our becoming, creating room for change and progress.

Book Cover for "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" and author photo of Ocean Vuong
Author photo by Tom Hines

Brilliant, heartbreaking, tender, and highly original - poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel, “On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” is a sweeping and shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling written as a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. 

Sharon Olds is renowned for poetry that examines marriage, motherhood, intimacy, and the human condition. She is the author of 13 books of poetry and received both the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize.

Her new collection, “Arias,” explores political conscience, race and class in poems delivered with operatic passion, anguish and solo force.


New York Times columnist Gail Collins has written a new book on a subject that is timelier than ever: women and aging in America. Author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers “When Everything Changed” and “America’s Women,” Collins was the first woman to serve as the editorial page editor on the New York Times.

Her new book is “No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History.”

Olive Kitteridge, the funny, wicked, remorseful and gruff woman who was the propelling force in Elizabeth Strout’s book of short stories “Olive Kitteridge” – which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction – is back in Strout’s new collection, “Olive, Again.”

This episode was recorded at an event presented by Oblong Books and Music.

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