The Book Review

By The New York Times

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 Jul 18, 2018

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The world's top authors and critics join host John Williams 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.

Episode Date
John Waters Talks About His First Novel
00:33:23

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 Dyer

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.

May 13, 2022
Hernan Diaz on ‘Trust’ and Money in Fiction
00:48:52

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 McCabe

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.

May 07, 2022
Jennifer Egan Talks About 'The Candy House'
00:40:44

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 Waters

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.

Apr 29, 2022
Liana Finck Reimagines the Story of Genesis
00:37:33

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 Murnane

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.

Apr 23, 2022
Elizabeth Alexander on 'The Trayvon Generation'
00:47:17

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 Wittgenstein

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.

Apr 15, 2022
Fiction About Lives in Ukraine
00:48:49

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 Oseman

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, read by Hillary Huber

“Catholics” by Brian Moore

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.

Apr 08, 2022
Life in an E.R. During Covid
00:51:26

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.

Apr 02, 2022
A Personal Tour of Modern Irish History
00:51:47

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 Taylor

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.

Mar 25, 2022
The Science Behind Mental Afflictions
00:58:48

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 Fierstein

Books about shame

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.

Mar 18, 2022
How People First Arrived in the Americas
01:02:27

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 Giridharadas

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.

Mar 11, 2022
Two New Memoirs About Affliction
01:00:44

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 Soni

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.

Mar 04, 2022
The Invention of the Index
00:49:23

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 Schur

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.

Feb 25, 2022
Jennifer Haigh on 'Mercy Street'
00:54:25

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 Saladino

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.

Feb 18, 2022
A Spiritual, Dangerous Quest in the Himalayas
00:55:03

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 Dickens

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.

Feb 11, 2022
Ruta Sepetys Talks About 'I Must Betray You'
00:57:27

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 Gunther

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.

Feb 04, 2022
Imani Perry Talks About 'South to America'
00:54:33

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 Darnielle

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.

Jan 28, 2022
The Chinese Language Revolution
01:01:25

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 Tellier

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.

Jan 21, 2022
Robert Gottlieb on ‘Garbo’ and ‘Babbitt’
00:50:57

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. Walter

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.

Jan 14, 2022
The Second Annual Listeners’ Questions Episode
01:00:29

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 Straub

The 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 Carreyrou

The poetry of Emily Dickinson

The poetry of Ada Limón

“Piranesi,” by Susanna Clarke

“Klara and the Sun,” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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.

Jan 07, 2022
David Sedaris’s Diaries and Paul McCartney’s Songs
01:00:13

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 Franzen

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.

Dec 23, 2021
The Life of a Jazz Age Madam
00:57:54

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 Subin

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.

Dec 17, 2021
A New Oral History of HBO
01:05:29

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

Dec 10, 2021
Talking About the 10 Best Books of 2021
01:06:36

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

Dec 03, 2021
Ann Patchett on ‘These Precious Days’
01:01:14

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

Nov 25, 2021
Ross Douthat on Dealing With Lyme Disease
00:56:04

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

Nov 19, 2021
Alan Cumming Talks About ‘Baggage’
01:15:47

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

Nov 12, 2021
Huma Abedin Talks About 'Both/And'
01:18:53

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

Nov 05, 2021
Katie Couric Talks About 'Going There'
01:11:29

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

Oct 29, 2021
One Factory and the Bigger Story It Tells
01:13:51

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

Oct 22, 2021
Thomas Mallon on the Career of Jonathan Franzen
00:59:33

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.

Oct 15, 2021
Andrea Elliott on ‘Invisible Child’
00:57:40

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

Oct 08, 2021
Richard Powers on ‘Bewilderment’
01:04:46

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

Oct 01, 2021
Randall Kennedy on 'Say It Loud!'
01:13:59

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

Sep 24, 2021
Colson Whitehead on 'Harlem Shuffle'
01:09:07

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

Sep 17, 2021
Brandon Taylor on the Sally Rooney Phenomenon
01:05:32

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

Sep 10, 2021
Andrew Sullivan on Being ‘Out on a Limb’
01:07:28

“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

Sep 03, 2021
A.O. Scott Talks About William Maxwell
00:59:48

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

Aug 27, 2021
Life at Seven Miles Below the Sea
00:55:15

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

Aug 20, 2021
Dana Spiotta Talks About ‘Wayward’
00:55:50

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

Aug 13, 2021
Katie Kitamura Talks About ‘Intimacies’
01:05:33

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

Aug 06, 2021
Echoes of a Fairy Tale in a Devastating Novel
01:00:33

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

Jul 30, 2021
A Heartbreaking Novel About Mothers, Daughters and Secrets
00:56:44

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

Jul 23, 2021
S.A. Cosby on 'Razorblade Tears'
00:58:32

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

Jul 16, 2021
The Lives of Flies
00:44:42

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

Jul 09, 2021
An Outsider Finds Suspense in Hollywood
00:58:57

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

Jul 02, 2021
Clint Smith on ‘How the Word Is Passed’
01:13:24

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

Jun 25, 2021
George Packer on Our Divided America
00:58:51

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

Jun 18, 2021
A More Perfect Union
01:02:35

“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

Jun 11, 2021
Reimagining the Aftermath of a Wartime Attack
00:49:25

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

Jun 04, 2021
A Desperate Writer Steals 'The Plot'
01:04:55

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

May 28, 2021
Maggie O’Farrell on ‘Hamnet’
00:56:55

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

May 21, 2021
Louis Menand on 'The Free World'
01:09:35

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

May 14, 2021
Michael Lewis on 'The Premonition'
01:05:38

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

May 07, 2021
Amy Klobuchar on 'Antitrust'
01:06:56

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

Apr 30, 2021
Patrick Radden Keefe on ‘Empire of Pain’
01:02:43

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

Apr 23, 2021
Celebrating Our 15th Anniversary
01:16:25

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.

Apr 16, 2021
Blake Bailey on Writing His Life of Philip Roth
01:01:09

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

Apr 09, 2021
Carl Zimmer on Defining Life
00:57:11

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

Apr 02, 2021
Tillie Olsen and the Barriers to Creativity
01:03:20

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

Mar 26, 2021
Four Decades of Downs and Ups in New York City
00:52:49

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

Mar 19, 2021
Imbolo Mbue on Writing Her Second Novel
01:03:10

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

Mar 12, 2021
Kazuo Ishiguro and Friendship With Machines
01:10:54

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

Mar 05, 2021
Lauren Oyler Talks About Deception Online
01:08:00

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.

Feb 26, 2021
Writing About Illness Without Platitudes
01:07:58

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

Feb 19, 2021
This Land Is Whose Land?
01:01:42

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

Feb 12, 2021
Chang-rae Lee on His New Novel: ‘It’s Kind of a Crazy Book.’
01:07:12

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

Feb 05, 2021
Navigating the Maze of Paying for College
01:09:14

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

Jan 29, 2021
The Ethics of Adoption in America
01:03:23

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

Jan 22, 2021
James Comey and Truth in Government
01:03:55

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

Jan 15, 2021
Charles Yu Talks About ‘Interior Chinatown’
00:55:15

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

Jan 08, 2021
Fareed Zakaria on Life After the Pandemic
00:58:16

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.

Jan 01, 2021
The Listeners’ Episode: Editors and Critics Answer Your Questions
01:13:38
We respond to questions about criticism, reading habits, favorite stories and more.
Dec 25, 2020
Agents of Change
00:49:06
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.
Dec 18, 2020
Jo Nesbo Talks About 'The Kingdom'
01:00:12
Nesbo discusses his latest novel, and David Michaelis talks about his new biography of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Dec 11, 2020
David Sedaris on a Career-Spanning Collection
01:04:28

Sedaris talks about “The Best of Me” and his life as an essayist.

Dec 04, 2020
Talking About the 10 Best Books of 2020
01:09:30

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.

Nov 27, 2020
Joy Williams and Unique Views of America
01:01:51

A.O. Scott talks about Williams’s fiction, and Nicholas Christakis discusses his new book about the coronavirus, “Apollo’s Arrow.”

Nov 20, 2020
David Byrne on Turning 'American Utopia' Into a Book
00:49:21

Byrne talks about his work with the artist Maira Kalman on his latest book, and Brittany K. Barnett discusses "A Knock at Midnight."

Nov 13, 2020
The Birth of the Animal Rights Movement
00:50:27

Ernest Freeberg talks about “A Traitor to His Species,” and the illustrator Christian Robinson discusses his career in picture books.

Nov 06, 2020
A Writing Career Among Trailblazing Music Stars
00:59:19

Peter Guralnick talks about “Looking to Get Lost,” and Alex Ross discusses “Wagnerism.”

Oct 30, 2020
Real-Life Political Violence Fuels Fiction in ‘The Abstainer’
00:53:59

Ian McGuire talks about his new novel, and Elisabeth Egan discusses Romy Hausmann’s “Dear Child.”

Oct 23, 2020
The Ottoman Empire’s Influence on the Present Day
01:03:08

Alan Mikhail talks about “God’s Shadow,” and Benjamin Lorr discusses “The Secret Life of Groceries.”

Oct 16, 2020
The Fate of Refugees After World War II
01:03:17

David Nasaw talks about “The Last Million,” and Carlos Lozada discusses “What Were We Thinking.”

Oct 09, 2020
Hari Kunzru on Writing ‘Red Pill’
01:05:00

Kunzru talks about his new novel, and Ben Macintyre discusses “Agent Sonya,” his latest real-life tale of espionage.

Oct 02, 2020
C.I.A. Operatives in the Early Years of the Cold War
01:06:39

Scott Anderson discusses “The Quiet Americans,” and Peter Baker and Susan Glasser talk about “The Man Who Ran Washington.”

Sep 25, 2020
Ayad Akhtar on Truth and Fiction
00:59:47

Akhtar discusses "Homeland Elegies," and Marc Lacey talks about "Cry Havoc," by Michael Signer, and "The Violence Inside Us," by Chris Murphy.

Sep 18, 2020
Brian Stelter on Fox News and Reed Hastings on Netflix
00:57:49

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."

Sep 11, 2020
Jeffrey Toobin on Writing About Trump
00:57:25

Toobin talks about “True Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and Dayna Tortorici discusses Elena Ferrante’s “The Lying Life of Adults.”

Sep 04, 2020
Kurt Andersen on ‘Evil Geniuses’
00:57:49

Andersen talks about his new book, and Lesley M.M. Blume discusses “Fallout.”

Aug 28, 2020
The Life of a Brilliant, Suffering Scientist
00:47:43

Samanth Subramanian discusses “A Dominant Character,” his biography of J. B. S. Haldane, and Patrik Svensson talks about “The Book of Eels.”

Aug 21, 2020
The Fictional World of Edward P. Jones
01:02:20

A.O. Scott talks about Jones’s work and the American experience, and Eric Jay Dolin discusses “A Furious Sky.”

Aug 14, 2020
Isabel Wilkerson Talks About 'Caste'
00:55:16

Wilkerson describes the ideas about race in America that fuel her new book, and David Hill discusses “The Vapors.”

Aug 07, 2020
The 'Seductive Lure' of Authoritarianism
00:54:28

Anne Applebaum discusses "Twilight of Democracy," and Barbara Demick talks about "Eat the Buddha."

Jul 31, 2020
The Yearning for the Unexplained
00:51:58

Colin Dickey talks about “The Unidentified,” and Miles Harvey discusses “The King of Confidence.”

Jul 24, 2020
Newt Gingrich and the Start of an Era
01:05:20

Julian E. Zelizer talks about "Burning Down the House," and Lacy Crawford talks about "Notes on a Silencing."

Jul 17, 2020
David Mitchell's Vast and Tangled Universe
01:02:09

Daniel Mendelsohn discusses Mitchell's career and new novel, "Utopia Avenue," and Maria Konnikova talks about "The Biggest Bluff."

Jul 10, 2020
Jules Feiffer on His Long, Varied Career
00:55:39

Feiffer talks about his new picture book and more, and Steve Inskeep discusses "Imperfect Union."

Jul 02, 2020
A Short Guide to 'The World'
01:06:24

Richard Haass talks about his new primer on global affairs, and Abhrajyoti Chakraborty on new novels in translation.

Jun 26, 2020
André Leon Talley on 'The Chiffon Trenches'
00:59:48

Talley talks about his new memoir; Claudia Rankine and Jericho Brown read new poems; and Megha Majumdar discusses her debut novel, "A Burning."

Jun 18, 2020
Stephen Fry on Reimagining the Greek Myths
01:01:50

Stephen Fry

Jun 12, 2020
A.O. Scott on the Work of Wallace Stegner
00:58:58

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."

Jun 05, 2020
A Manhunt on the 17th Century’s High Seas
01:07:26

Steven Johnson talks about “Enemy of All Mankind,” and Gilbert Cruz offers a guide to Stephen King’s work.

May 29, 2020
Immigration Reform, Past and Present
00:59:29

Jia Lynn Yang talks about “One Mighty and Irresistible Tide,” and Judith Newman talks about books that help simplify life.

May 22, 2020
One Young Mother and the Homelessness Crisis
01:15:20

Lauren Sandler talks about “This Is All I Got,” and Sarah Weinman discusses classic mysteries.

May 15, 2020
The Angry Children Are Our Future
00:57:33

Lydia Millet talks about “A Children’s Bible,” and Barry Gewen discusses “The Inevitability of Tragedy.”

May 08, 2020
Lawrence Wright on Researching a (Fictional) Pandemic
01:01:06

Wright talks about “The End of October,” and Dalia Sofer discusses “Man of My Time.”

May 01, 2020
The Great Alaska Quake of 1964
00:49:59

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

Apr 24, 2020
Samantha Irby Talks About ‘Wow, No Thank You’
00:56:23

Irby on her new essay collection, and Jon Meacham discusses three books about leadership during times of crisis.

Apr 17, 2020
Robert Kolker Discusses 'Hidden Valley Road'
00:54:11

Kolker talks about a large family beset by schizophrenia, and Elisabeth Egan discusses Lily King's "Writers & Lovers."

Apr 10, 2020
Parenting When the Family Is Locked Inside
01:12:02

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.

Apr 03, 2020
From the Archives: Colson Whitehead and Jeffrey Toobin
00:54:05

Whitehead discusses “The Underground Railroad,” and Toobin talks about “American Heiress.”

Mar 27, 2020
From the Archives: Robert Caro on How He Does It
01:03:12

The acclaimed biographer of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses talks about his book “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing.”

Mar 20, 2020
From the Archive: Michael Lewis and Tana French
00:55:37

Lewis discusses "The Fifth Risk," and French talks about "The Witch Elm."

Mar 13, 2020
James McBride Talks About ‘Deacon King Kong’
00:57:19

McBride discuss his latest novel, and Rebecca Solnit talks about “Recollections of My Nonexistence.”

Mar 06, 2020
The Ties That Bind Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump
01:08:20

David Enrich discusses "Dark Towers," and Kiran Millwood Hargrave talks about "The Mercies."

Feb 28, 2020
Unjust America
01:01:41

Adam Cohen talks about “Supreme Inequality,” and Madeline Levine discusses “Ready or Not.”

Feb 21, 2020
A History of Seduction
00:42:47

Clement Knox talks about “Seduction,” and Elisabeth Egan discusses Amina Cain’s “Indelicacy.”

Feb 14, 2020
Leslie Jamison on Jenny Offill’s ‘Weather’
01:09:35

Jamison talks about Offill’s new novel, and Courtney Maum talks about “Before and After the Book Deal.”

Feb 07, 2020
The Paradoxes of Nuclear War
01:02:41

Fred Kaplan discusses “The Bomb,” and Sarah Lyall talks about new thrillers.

Jan 31, 2020
Andrea Bernstein on 'American Oligarchs'
01:00:40

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

Jan 24, 2020
Americans on a Financial 'Tightrope'
00:56:33

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn talk about their new book, and Daniel Susskind discusses “A World Without Work.”

Jan 17, 2020
Life in Tech’s ‘Uncanny Valley’
00:54:24

Anna Wiener discusses her new memoir, and Elisabeth Egan talks about Group Text, a new monthly feature from the Book Review.

Jan 10, 2020
Medicine in the Middle Ages
00:53:06

Jack Hartnell talks about “Medieval Bodies,” and Matt Dorfman talks about his work as the Book Review’s art director.

Jan 03, 2020
Ralph Ellison’s Life in Letters
00:49:31

Saidiya Hartman talks about Ellison’s correspondence, and Olaf Olafsson discusses his new novel, “The Sacrament.”

Dec 27, 2019
Times Critics Talk About Their Year-End Lists
00:41:53

Dwight Garner, Parul Sehgal and Jennifer Szalai on the top books of 2019.

Dec 20, 2019
Poems About the Challenges of Life After Prison
00:57:42

Reginald Dwayne Betts talks about “Felon,” and Jung Chang discusses “Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister.”

Dec 13, 2019
The Life of Mike Nichols
01:00:46

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

Dec 06, 2019
10 Best Books of 2019
01:14:07

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.

Nov 26, 2019
The Authorized Life of the Iron Lady
01:09:02

Charles Moore discusses the final volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher, and Adrienne Brodeur talks about her memoir, “Wild Game.”

Nov 22, 2019
Revisiting Baldwin vs. Buckley
01:06:47

Nicholas Buccola talks about “The Fire Is Upon Us,” and Saeed Jones discusses “How We Fight for Our Lives.”

Nov 15, 2019
Among the Trolls
01:03:22

Andrew Marantz talks about “Antisocial,” and Gail Collins discusses “No Stopping Us Now.”

Nov 08, 2019
The Life of Thomas Edison
00:54:15

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

Nov 01, 2019
John Lithgow on His Satirical Poems
01:03:02

The actor talks about "Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse," and Leigh Bardugo discusses "Ninth House."

Oct 25, 2019
Thomas Chatterton Williams on ‘Unlearning Race’
01:12:48

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.”

Oct 18, 2019
Are Cheap Clothes Ruining the Planet?
00:49:59

Dana Thomas discusses “Fashionopolis,” and Steven Greenhouse talks about “Beaten Down, Worked Up.”

Oct 11, 2019
Ben Lerner's New Novel and the Politics of Language
01:02:25

Garth Risk Hallberg talks about Lerner's "The Topeka School," and Bari Weiss discusses "How to Fight Anti-Semitism."

Oct 04, 2019
Samantha Power on What She's Learned
01:07:04

Power talks about her new memoir, "The Education of an Idealist," and Craig Johnson discusses his Longmire mysteries.

Sep 27, 2019
Two Times Reporters on ‘The Education of Brett Kavanaugh’
01:06:13

Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly discuss their new book, and Tim Winton talks about his most recent novel, “The Shepherd’s Hut.”

Sep 20, 2019
Bringing Down Harvey Weinstein
01:04:26

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey talk about their new book, “She Said,” and Ian Urbina discusses “The Outlaw Ocean.”

Sep 13, 2019
Trump, TV and America
01:00:24

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

Sep 06, 2019
The Ruining of the American West
00:59:55

Christopher Ketcham talks about “This Land,” and Gretchen McCulloch discusses “Because Internet.”

Aug 30, 2019
The Politicization of Academic Life
00:51:26

Anthony Kronman talks about “The Assault on American Excellence,” and Christopher Benfey discusses “If,” his new book about Rudyard Kipling.

Aug 23, 2019
Jia Tolentino on Life With the Internet
00:54:21

Tolentino talks about “Trick Mirror,” and John Taliaferro discusses “Grinnell,” his biography of a pioneering conservationist.

Aug 16, 2019
Toni Morrison's Legacy
01:07:23

Wesley Morris, Parul Sehgal and Dwight Garner talk about Morrison’s career, and Sarah M. Broom talks about her debut memoir, “The Yellow House.”

Aug 09, 2019
The Fight for the Supreme Court
00:57:45

Carl Hulse talks about “Confirmation Bias,” and De’Shawn Charles Winslow discusses “In West Mills.”

Aug 02, 2019
Fiction About Unprecedented Situations
01:03:21

Ted Chiang talks about “Exhalation,” and Helen Phillips discusses “The Need.”

Jul 26, 2019
Colson Whitehead Talks About 'The Nickel Boys'
00:52:48

The Pulitzer Prize winner discusses his new novel, and Jon Gertner talks about “The Ice at the End of the World.”

Jul 19, 2019
George F. Will on Conservatism’s Homelessness
00:57:12

Will discusses “The Conservative Sensibility,” and David Maraniss talks about “A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father.”

Jul 12, 2019
Picking the Best Memoirs Since 1969
00:51:07

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

Jul 05, 2019
Taffy Brodesser-Akner Talks About Her First Novel
01:02:20

Brodesser-Akner discusses “Fleishman in Trouble,” and Katherine Eban talks about “Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom.”

Jun 28, 2019
Jill Lepore on the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing
01:03:31

Lepore discusses several new books about the Apollo 11 mission, and Julie Satow talks about the history of the Plaza Hotel.

Jun 21, 2019
The World's Far Corners and Deepest Depths
00:57:35

Robert Macfarlane talks about "Underland," and Julia Phillips discusses "Disappearing Earth."

Jun 14, 2019
Rethinking the Epidemic of Domestic Violence
00:59:26

Rachel Louise Snyder talks about “No Visible Bruises,” and Josh Levin discusses “The Queen.”

Jun 07, 2019
Thrillers for Summer
00:54:03

Vanessa Friedman talks about this season’s notable thrillers, and Liesl Schillinger discusses new books about travel.

May 31, 2019
A Trilogy About the American Revolution Begins
01:12:00

Rick Atkinson talks about “The British Are Coming,” and Brenda Wineapple discusses “The Impeachers.”

May 24, 2019
Harper Lee's Unwritten True-Crime Book
00:54:30

Casey Cep discusses "Furious Hours," and Eliza Griswold talks about "Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America."

May 17, 2019
The Real Life of a Diplomat, Told Like a Novel
01:06:16

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.”

May 10, 2019
Laila Lalami on 'The Other Americans'
00:57:08

Lalami discusses her latest novel, and Jenny Odell talks about "How to Do Nothing."

May 03, 2019
Connecting the Dots Between Reconstruction and Jim Crow
01:02:15

Henry Louis Gates Jr. talks about “Stony the Road” and “Dark Sky Rising,” and David Wallace-Wells discusses “The Uninhabitable Earth.”

Apr 26, 2019
Robert Caro on How He Does It
01:12:21

The acclaimed biographer of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses talks about his new book, "Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing."

Apr 19, 2019
Ruth Reichl's Delicious New Memoir
01:08:55

Reichl discusses "Save Me the Plums," and Emily Bazelon talks about "Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration."

Apr 12, 2019
The Chernobyl Disaster in Full
00:54:56

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

Apr 05, 2019
Preet Bharara on the Rule of Law
00:55:23

Bharara discusses “Doing Justice,” and Senator Doug Jones talks about “Bending Toward Justice.”

Mar 29, 2019
The Life of Sandra Day O'Connor
01:05:21

Evan Thomas talks about “First,” his new biography of O’Connor, and Mitchell S. Jackson discusses “Survival Math.”

Mar 22, 2019
Isaac Mizrahi on His New Memoir
01:04:54

The fashion designer discusses “I.M.,” and David McCraw talks about “Truth in Our Times.”

Mar 15, 2019
A Violent Summer in Chicago
00:59:03

Alex Kotlowitz discusses “An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago,” and John Lanchester talks about his new novel, “The Wall.”

Mar 08, 2019
A Gripping Political Mystery in Northern Ireland
01:05:30

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.”

Mar 01, 2019
Seeking Silence
00:51:18

Gal Beckerman discusses “How to Disappear,” by Akiko Busch, and “Silence,” by Jane Brox; and Steve Luxenberg talks about “Separate.”

Feb 22, 2019
A Class in ‘Dreyer’s English’
01:03:09

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.

Feb 15, 2019
Marlon James Talks About His Epic New Trilogy
00:50:00

James discusses "Black Leopard, Red Wolf," and Stephanie Land talks about "Maid."

Feb 08, 2019
Assessing the Facebook Problem
00:57:32

Roger McNamee talks about "Zucked," and Charles Finch discusses the season's best thrillers.

Feb 01, 2019
Dani Shapiro on Her Surprising 'Inheritance'
01:09:27

Shapiro talks about her new best-selling memoir, and David Treuer discusses “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee.”

Jan 25, 2019
A New Novel Conjures Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman
00:50:32

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

Jan 18, 2019
How Curses Function in Literature
01:10:24

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."

Jan 11, 2019
Fugitive Slaves and the Road to the Civil War
00:57:05

Andrew Delbanco discusses “The War Before the War,” and Rob Dunn talks about “Never Home Alone.”

Jan 04, 2019
Tyranny in Rome and Fake Drugs in Fiction
01:01:50

Yascha Mounk discusses Edward J. Watts's "Mortal Republic," and Jonathan Lethem talks about the surge of fictional psychotropic drugs in novels.

Dec 28, 2018
Isabel Wilkerson Talks About Michelle Obama’s Memoir
01:03:08

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

Dec 21, 2018
Poetry & Politics
00:58:27

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.

Dec 14, 2018
Immaturity in American Politics
00:50:17

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.”

Dec 07, 2018
Talking About the 10 Best Books of 2018
00:55:50

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.

Nov 30, 2018
The Epic Tragedy of Vietnam
00:56:59

Max Hastings discusses his new history of the war, and Sue Prideaux talks about the life of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nov 21, 2018
The Past, Present and Future of Jews in America
01:03:54

Gal Beckerman discusses several new books about the state of Judaism in this country, and Kiese Laymon talks about his new memoir, “Heavy.”

Nov 16, 2018
Big New Biographies of Two Big American Lives
00:54:24

David W. Blight talks about “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” and Bob Spitz talks about “Reagan: An American Journey.”

Nov 09, 2018
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah on “Friday Black”
01:05:22

“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.”

Nov 02, 2018
Lisa Brennan-Jobs on 'Small Fry'
00:54:18

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."

Oct 26, 2018
Susan Orlean on a Great Library Fire
00:57:19

Orlean discusses “The Library Book,” and Reid Hoffman talks about “Blitzscaling.”

Oct 19, 2018
Barry Jenkins and Meg Wolitzer on Two of This Season's Novels on Screen
00:51:25

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

Oct 16, 2018
Michael Lewis and Tana French on Their Latest Books
01:02:22

Lewis talks about "The Fifth Risk," and French discusses "The Witch Elm."

Oct 12, 2018
Kate Atkinson on 'Transcription'
00:50:05

Atkinson talks about her new novel, and Shane Bauer discusses "American Prison."

Oct 05, 2018
The End of the ‘Struggle’
01:01:20

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

Sep 28, 2018
Esi Edugyan on Her Booker-Shortlisted 'Washington Black'
00:59:02

Edugyan talks about her new novel, and Lisa Margonelli talks about “Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology.”

Sep 21, 2018
A Memoir From the Hard-Working ‘Heartland’
00:59:26

Sarah Smarsh talks about her new book, and Allan Lichtman discusses "The Embattled Vote in America."

Sep 14, 2018
'The Most Secretly Interesting Place in America'
01:14:40

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.”

Sep 07, 2018
The Uses and Misuses of Identity
01:12:58

Kwame Anthony Appiah talks about “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity,” and Jonathan Haidt discusses “The Coddling of the American Mind.”

Aug 31, 2018
Interrogating the Change Makers
00:53:49

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.”

Aug 24, 2018
Rethinking the 'Tangled Tree' of Life
01:02:17

David Quammen discusses his new book about the science of evolution, and Andrea Gabor talks about “After the Education Wars.”

Aug 17, 2018
Lydia Millet on 'Fight No More'
00:56:51

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

Aug 10, 2018
Beth Macy on 'Dopesick'
00:57:52

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.

Aug 03, 2018
Drawing History
00:50:44

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.

Jul 27, 2018
True Crime Starring the Creator of Sherlock Holmes
00:57:08

Margalit Fox talks about “Conan Doyle for the Defense,” and Tina Jordan discusses this season’s thrillers.

Jul 20, 2018
Making a Killing
00:20:20

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.

Jul 19, 2018
From Transcribing for Obama to Writing Her Own Story
01:10:08

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.”

Jul 13, 2018
An Inside View of Putin
01:04:19

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."

Jul 06, 2018
The Latest in Cyberwarfare
01:04:44

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

Jun 29, 2018
The Life of Atticus Finch
00:59:03

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.”

Jun 22, 2018
The Things We Inherit
01:09:50

Carl Zimmer discusses “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh,” and Henry Alford talks about “And Then We Danced.”

Jun 15, 2018
Michael Pollan on His Acid Test
01:00:11

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

Jun 08, 2018
Dinosaurs, the Master of Horror and Philip Roth
01:05:43

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.

Jun 01, 2018
David Sedaris on ‘Calypso’
01:19:23

Sedaris talks about his latest book, and Alisa Roth discusses “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness.”

May 25, 2018
Lost at Sea
01:10:53

Rachel Slade talks about “Into the Raging Sea,” and Clemantine Wamariya discusses “The Girl Who Smiled Beads.”

May 18, 2018
Amy Chozick on 'Chasing Hillary'
01:03:23

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.”

May 11, 2018
There Is Nothin' Like a Tune
01:06:25

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.”

May 04, 2018
Julian Barnes on 'The Only Story'
01:13:49

Barnes talks about his latest novel, and Lawrence Wright discusses “God Save Texas.”

Apr 27, 2018
Jo Nesbo Reimagines ‘Macbeth’
01:04:24

James Shapiro discusses Nesbo’s new novel, and Leila Slimani talks about “The Perfect Nanny.”

Apr 20, 2018
Parenting in the Age of Omnipresent Screens
00:53:25

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.”

Apr 13, 2018
Tara Westover on 'Educated'
01:07:32

Westover discusses her best-selling memoir, and Mark Weinberg talks about "Movie Nights With the Reagans."

Apr 06, 2018
All in the Family
00:52:06

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.”

Mar 30, 2018
'Just the Funny Parts'
00:52:47

Nell Scovell discusses her new memoir, and Joanne Lipman talks about "That's What She Said."

Mar 23, 2018
Impeachment, Then and Now
00:58:59

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

Mar 16, 2018
Ronen Bergman on Israel’s Targeted Assassinations
00:51:31

Bergman talks about “Rise and Kill First,” and Felix Salmon discusses Chris Hughes’s “Fair Shot.”

Mar 09, 2018
A Marine’s Inventive Memoir
00:56:55

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

Mar 02, 2018
Tayari Jones on 'An American Marriage'
00:56:43

Jones talks about her new novel, and J. Randy Taraborrelli discusses “Jackie, Janet & Lee.”

Feb 23, 2018
Lisa Halliday on 'Asymmetry'
00:58:06

Halliday discusses her debut novel, and Naomi Novik and Gerald Jonas remember the life and work of Ursula K. Le Guin.

Feb 16, 2018
Laura Lippman on 'Sunburn'
00:42:32

Lippman talks about her new novel, and Tina Jordan discusses new romance novels.

Feb 09, 2018
Rose McGowan on 'Brave'
00:58:37

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

Feb 02, 2018
Twilight's Last Gleaming?
01:01:39

David Frum talks about “Trumpocracy,” and Helen Thorpe discusses “The Newcomers.”

Jan 26, 2018
'Off the Charts'
00:56:43

Ann Hulbert discusses her new book about child prodigies, and Sam Graham-Felsen talks about his debut novel, “Green.”

Jan 19, 2018
Some Assembly Required
00:53:03

Alexander Langlands discusses “Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts,” and Max Boot talks about “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam.”

Jan 12, 2018
What to Read About North Korea
00:57:38

Nicholas Kristof discusses the best books about the secretive country, and Tui Sutherland talks about the graphic novel edition of “Wings of Fire.”

Jan 05, 2018
The Fire Next Time
00:46:38

Brendan I. Koerner talks about “Megafire” and “Firestorm,” and Henry Fountain discusses “The Great Quake.”

Dec 29, 2017
'The Story of the Jews' Continues
00:50:15

Simon Schama talks about “Belonging: 1492-1900,” and Christopher de Hamel discusses “Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts.”

Dec 22, 2017
Mary Beard on 'Women & Power'
00:53:58

Beard talks about her new manifesto, and Hillary Chute discusses “Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere.”

Dec 15, 2017
'The Second Coming of the KKK'
01:08:40

Linda Gordon talks about “The Second Coming of the KKK”; Scott Kelly discusses “Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery”; and editors from the Book Review talk about our 10 Best Books of 2017.

Dec 08, 2017
The History of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone
00:46:29

Joe Hagan discusses "Sticky Fingers," and Simon Winchester talks about "The Taste of Empire" and "A Thirst for Empire."

Dec 01, 2017
O Pioneers!
00:52:56

Caroline Fraser talks about “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” and Tiya Miles discusses “The Dawn of Detroit.”

Nov 21, 2017
Mother Knows Best?
01:04:31

James Wolcott talks about “Raising Trump” and “The Kardashians,” and Tina Brown discusses “The Vanity Fair Diaries.”

Nov 17, 2017
Kurt Andersen on Channeling President Trump
01:00:06

Andersen talks about "You Can't Spell America Without Me"; Liza Mundy discusses “Code Girls”; and Maria Russo on the season's children’s books.

Nov 10, 2017
The American Revolution in Six Lives
00:53:39

Russell Shorto talks about “Revolution Song,” and Richard Aldous discusses his new biography of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Nov 03, 2017
Marilyn Stasio on True Crime
00:44:08

Stasio discusses new books about real crimes, and Dave Eggers talks about his two new illustrated books.

Oct 27, 2017
From Podcast to Book with Marc Maron
01:11:38

Marc Maron discusses “Waiting for the Punch,” and Victor Sebestyen talks about his new biography of Lenin.

Oct 20, 2017
Ron Chernow on 'Grant'
01:08:07

Chernow talks about his new biography of Ulysses S. Grant, and Mike Wallace discusses “Greater Gotham: A History of New York City From 1898 to 1919.”

Oct 13, 2017
Jennifer Egan Talks About 'Manhattan Beach'
00:55:20

Egan discusses her new novel, and Franklin Foer talks about “World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech.”

Oct 06, 2017
Recent Romances
00:46:06

Robert Gottlieb talks about new romance novels, and Celeste Ng discusses her new novel, “Little Fires Everywhere.”

Sep 29, 2017
Jesmyn Ward on 'Sing, Unburied, Sing'
01:02:01

Ward discusses her new novel; David Dobbs on five new books about Darwin; and Kristin Cashore talks about “Jane, Unlimited.”

Sep 22, 2017
Jill Abramson on the 2016 Presidential Campaign
01:16:34

Abramson discusses Katy Tur's "Unbelievable" and Hillary Clinton's "What Happened."

Sep 15, 2017
'Gorbachev: His Life and Times'
00:48:55

William Taubman discusses his biography of Mikhail Gorbachev, and N. K. Jemisin talks about reading, writing and reviewing science fiction and fantasy.

Sep 08, 2017
An American Abroad
00:43:19

Suzy Hansen discusses “Notes on a Foreign Country,” and David Thomson talks about “Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio.”

Sep 01, 2017
The Joys of Children’s Literature
00:47:15

Bruce Handy talks about “Wild Things,” and Adrian Owen discusses “Into the Gray Zone.”

Aug 25, 2017
Analyzing Freud
00:46:01

George Prochnik discusses “Freud,” and Nancy MacLean talks about “Democracy in Chains.”

Aug 18, 2017
New Books About Parenting
00:47:13

Judith Newman discusses new parenting books, and Bill Goldstein talks about “The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and the Year That Changed Literature.”

Aug 11, 2017
Amy Schumer on ‘Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo’
00:47:12


Amy Schumer discusses her memoir, and Gregory Cowles talks about the Book Review's special poetry issue.



Aug 04, 2017
'Lights On, Rats Out'
00:47:57

Cree LeFavour talks about her new memoir, and Andrew Sean Greer discusses his new novel, "Less."

Jul 28, 2017
Steve Bannon's Road to the White House
00:58:17

Joshua Green talks about “Devil’s Bargain”; Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich discusses “The Fact of a Body”; and Laura Dassow Walls on her new biography of Thoreau.

Jul 21, 2017
The World of Jane Austen Fans
00:47:28

Deborah Yaffe talks about “Among the Janeites,” and Robert Ferguson discusses “Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North.”

Jul 14, 2017
The History of the London Zoo
00:47:39

Isobel Charman discusses "The Zoo," and R. L. Stine talks about scary stories for children.

Jul 07, 2017
Silk on a Stick
00:44:05

Aaron Retica talks about Tim Marshall’s “A Flag Worth Dying For,” and Jill Eisenstadt discusses her new novel, “Swell.”

Jun 30, 2017
'The Boy Who Loved Too Much'
00:43:14

Jennifer Latson talks about “The Boy Who Loved Too Much”; Daniel Menaker discusses two new books about how to understand others and make ourselves understood.

Jun 23, 2017
China's World
00:46:17

Howard W. French talks about “Everything Under the Heavens,” and Judith Newman discusses new books about how to grieve and how to die.

Jun 16, 2017
Al Franken on Life in the Senate
00:55:24

Franken discusses his new political memoir; Thomas E. Ricks talks about “Churchill and Orwell”; and Dav Pilkey on the movie adaptation of “Captain Underpants” and more.

Jun 09, 2017
David Sedaris Talks About His Diaries
00:43:45

Sedaris discusses "Theft by Finding," and Christopher Knowlton talks about "Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West."

Jun 02, 2017
Paris, London and New York in the Age of Revolution
00:40:47

Mike Rapport discusses "The Unruly City," and Dan Egan talks about "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes."

May 26, 2017
Joshua Ferris on ‘The Dinner Party’
00:45:43

Ferris talks about his new collection of stories, and Jonathan Taplin discusses “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.”

May 19, 2017
Elizabeth Warren on Fighting for the Middle Class
00:47:17

Elizabeth Warren talks about “This Fight Is Our Fight,” and Doree Shafrir discusses her debut novel, “Startup.”

May 12, 2017
Gabourey Sidibe and Neil deGrasse Tyson
00:49:22

Gabourey Sidibe talks about her memoir, "This Is Just My Face," and Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry."

May 05, 2017
Sheryl Sandberg on Life After Tragedy
00:56:33

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant talk about “Option B,” and Annie Jacobsen discusses “Phenomena.”

Apr 28, 2017
'Hamlet Globe to Globe'
00:44:31

Dominic Dromgoole talks about “Hamlet Globe to Globe”; and Judith Newman discusses new books about sex and relationships.

Apr 21, 2017
Power and Punishment
00:48:25

Chris Hayes discusses "A Colony in a Nation," and Jason Zinoman talks about "Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night."

Apr 14, 2017
Lives on the Line
00:49:43

Elisabeth Rosenthal talks about “An American Sickness”; and Jill Filipovic discusses “Unwanted Advances,” by Laura Kipnis, and “The Campus Rape Frenzy,” by KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr.

Apr 07, 2017
The Charm of 'The Idiot'
00:50:37

Elif Batuman talks about her first novel, “The Idiot,” and David Bellos discusses “The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of ‘Les Misérables.’ ”

Mar 31, 2017
'Ties' to Ferrante?
00:48:19

Domenico Starnone and Jhumpa Lahiri talk about “Ties”; Mary Otto discusses “Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.”

Mar 24, 2017
The Definition of Adulthood
01:00:22

Jami Attenberg talks about her new novel, “All Grown Up,” and Bonnie Rochman discusses “The Gene Machine.”

Mar 17, 2017
Points of No Return
01:09:30

Mohsin Hamid talks about his new novel, “Exit West,” and Gillian Thomas discusses Marjorie J. Spruill’s “Divided We Stand.”

Mar 10, 2017
Happy Trails
00:50:41

Florence Williams discusses “The Nature Fix,” and Jennifer Szalai talks about new Argentine fiction.

Mar 03, 2017
The History of Race and Racism in America
00:48:40

Ibram X. Kendi discusses the history of books about race and racism in America; Bill Schutt talks about "Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History."

Feb 24, 2017
Neil Gaiman's Myths
01:02:34

Neil Gaiman discusses "Norse Mythology"; Sarah Lyall talks about Ali Smith's "Autumn"; and Nick Bilton on two new books about Silicon Valley.

Feb 17, 2017
George Saunders on Lincoln and Lost Souls
00:46:01

George Saunders talks about “Lincoln in the Bardo”; Alan Burdick on “Why Times Flies”; and Maria Russo discusses Laura Ingalls Wilder and the “Little House” books.

Feb 10, 2017
A Brave Look at Depression
00:48:16

Daphne Merkin talks about “This Close to Happy,” and Min Jin Lee discusses her new novel, “Pachinko.”

Feb 03, 2017
From Brooklyn to the Gulag
00:48:27

Sana Krasikov talks about her debut novel, "The Patriots"; and Michael Sims discusses "Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes."

Jan 27, 2017
Barack Obama's Legacy
00:43:01

Jonathan Chait talks about "Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail," and Randall Fuller discusses "The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation."

Jan 20, 2017
Edward Snowden: Hero, Traitor or Spy?
00:49:06

Nicholas Lemann talks about Edward Jay Epstein's "How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft," and James Ryerson discusses new books about how to be civil in an uncivil world.

Jan 13, 2017
Should You Stop Eating Sugar?
00:44:58

Gary Taubes discusses "The Case Against Sugar," and Anthony Gottlieb talks about a new biography of Casanova.

Jan 06, 2017
How Octopuses Are Like Aliens
00:44:09

Peter Godfrey-Smith discusses “Other Minds,” and Jeff Howe talks about “Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future.”

Dec 29, 2016
The Year in Reading
00:38:56

Editors at the Book Review discuss what many notable people were reading in 2016, and Will Schwalbe talks about "Books for Living."

Dec 23, 2016
Michael Lewis and Arianna Huffington
00:44:45

Michael Lewis discusses his new book, "The Undoing Project," and Arianna Huffington talks about "Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less," by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.

Dec 16, 2016
The 10 Best Books of 2016
00:50:56

Stefan Hertmans talks about "War and Turpentine"; editors at the Book Review talk about the year's best books; and Ian McGuire discusses "The North Water."

Dec 09, 2016
100 Notable Books of 2016
00:42:17

Editors at the Book Review discuss the year's notable books; Ronald H. Fritze talks about "Egyptomania," and Matthew Schneier on "Vanity Fair's Writers on Writers."

Dec 02, 2016
Thomas Friedman on 'Thank You for Being Late'
00:45:55

Thomas Friedman discusses "Thank You for Being Late," and David France talks about "How to Survive a Plague."

Nov 25, 2016
Michael Chabon Talks About 'Moonglow'
00:48:11

Michael Chabon discusses his new novel, and Blanche Wiesen Cook talks about the third volume in her biography of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Nov 18, 2016
War Stories
00:52:31

Thomas Ricks discusses new books about military history, and Maria Russo talks about the season's best new children's books.

Nov 11, 2016
John Grisham on 'The Whistler'
00:43:16

John Grisham talks about his latest novel, and Ben Macintyre discusses "Rogue Heroes."

Nov 04, 2016
Thrillers and True Crime
00:43:14

Charles Finch talks about the season’s thrillers; and Marilyn Stasio discusses new true-crime books.

Oct 29, 2016
Beth Macy’s ‘Truevine’
00:45:49

Beth Macy talks about “Truevine”; Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast discuss “No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood”; and Molly Young on “Bridget Jones's Baby.”

Oct 21, 2016
The Rise of Hitler
00:57:55

Adam Kirsch discusses Volker Ullrich's new biography of Hitler; Billy Collins talks about his latest collection of poems; and iO Tillett Wright on his new memoir, "Darling Days."

Oct 14, 2016
'Sing for Your Life'
00:38:41

Daniel Bergner talks about "Sing for Your Life," and Maria Semple discusses "Today Will Be Different."

Oct 07, 2016
American Apartheid
00:48:58

Patrick Phillips talks about “Blood at the Root”; Ethan Gilsdorf discusses three new books about gaming; and Melissa Clark on the season’s best new cookbooks.

Sep 30, 2016
Simon Schama's 'The Face of Britain'
00:47:57

Simon Schama talks about “The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation Through Its Portraits,” and Robert Gottlieb discusses “Avid Reader.”

Sep 23, 2016
Maureen Dowd on Clinton and Trump
00:46:55

Maureen Dowd talks about “The Year of Voting Dangerously,” and Lauren Collins talks about “When in French.”

Sep 16, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: Mark Thompson's 'Enough Said'
00:49:27
Sep 09, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: The Attica Uprising
00:40:46

This week, Heather Ann Thompson talks about "Blood in the Water"; Seth Mnookin discusses "Patient H.M."; feedback from readers; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams on what we're reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Sep 02, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: ‘ADHD Nation’
00:53:25

This week, Alan Schwarz talks about “ADHD Nation”; Raina Telgemeier discusses “Ghosts”; Nicholson Baker talks about “Substitute”; and Gregory Cowles, Jennifer Schuessler and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Aug 26, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: ‘I Contain Multitudes’
00:46:05

This week, Ed Yong talks about “I Contain Multitudes”; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; Meghan Daum discusses Egos, her new column about memoirs; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams on what we’re reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Aug 19, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: Colson Whitehead and Jeffrey Toobin
00:52:40

This week, Colson Whitehead discusses his new novel, “The Underground Railroad,” and Jeffrey Toobin talks about “American Heiress,” his new book about Patty Hearst. Pamela Paul is the host.

Aug 12, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: ‘How to Be a Person in the World’
00:44:16

Heather Havrilesky discusses her new collection of advice columns, and Jessica Winter talks about her debut novel, “Break in Case of Emergency.”

Aug 05, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: Colson Whitehead
00:02:36

In a sneak preview of next week’s podcast, Colson Whitehead talks about what he read (and couldn’t read) while writing “The Underground Railroad.”

Aug 05, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: Megan Abbott’s ‘You Will Know Me’
00:45:27

Megan Abbott discusses “You Will Know Me”; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; Marilyn Stasio talks about several new true-crime books; feedback from readers; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Jul 29, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: ‘We Are Not Such Things’
00:47:15

This week, Justine van der Leun talks about “We Are Not Such Things”; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; David Goldblatt discusses “The Games: A Global History of the Olympics”; feedback from readers; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Jul 22, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown
00:43:23

This week, Moira Weigel discusses new biographies of Helen Gurley Brown; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; Juliet Nicolson talks about “A House Full of Daughters”; and Gregory Cowles and Parul Sehgal on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Jul 15, 2016
Inside The New York Times Book Review: ‘You’ll Grow Out of It’
00:45:09