Saturday, June 29, 2013


There are always those people who seem to be on the cutting edge of whatever the public meme might be. Psychologist Mary Pipher is one of those. Before anyone else, she saw the need to empower our daughters and changed the landscape of girls around the world.

She later anticipated the “sandwich generation” that would cause so many baby boomers to take care of their aging parents, and she long ago was prescient about the trials and tribulation of immigrants in America.

Now she turns her attention to our environment. And while the issues have been around awhile, you get that sense that Mary’s decision to take it on, means we’ve reached some kind of tipping point in our public consciousness.

Mary Piper is the best selling author of Reviving Ophelia, The Middle of Everywhere and Another Country, now she takes us on the journey of The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture.

My conversation with Mary Pipher:

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Friday, June 28, 2013


There are but a few places on the planet that conjure up whole images, thoughts and emotions. Regardless of whether you’ve been there or not. London, New York, Ireland and Paris, to name a few.

All are the subjects of sweeping novels by internationally bestselling author Edward Rutherfurd.

He was last on this program to talk about his novel, New York, now he turns his talents to Paris: The Novel and gives us a dazzling historical portrait of the City of Light.

My conversation with Edward Rutherfurd:

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The patients point of view

Ours is an age which we consciously pursues health, and yet often only believe in the reality of sickness.

Susan Sontag, understood this when she said in Illness as a Metaphor that "any important disease whose causality is murky, and for which treatment is ineffectual, tends to be awash in significance. Often because it overwhelms us." Because in an age in which we are all focused on health, it is often the reality of sickness that changes our world and our world view.

This was the experience of journalist and author Nora Gallagher, as she traveled into the nation of helath care, only to hit landfall at the Mayo Clinic. She tells her story in The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic.

My conversation with Nora Gallagher:

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What Doctors Feel

Medicine and hospitals have long been a great source of drama. From Marcus Welby and Dr. Kildare to General Hospital and Grey’s Anatomy and House, medical drama has kept us riveted. Perhaps never better than in Paddy Chayefsky's The Hospital. There, the Chief of Medicine's wife has left him, his children don’t talk him, he fears he suffers from impotence and his hospital is falling apart. Yet..he soldiers on treating patients.

Ironically in spite of all of this, we somehow think that Doctors are above allowing emotions to impact their work, that somehow they all took that class in medical school in Detachment 101. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now Dr. Danielle Ofri, Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine and long time doctor at New York's Bellevue Hospital, takes a look at the connection between how doctors treat patients and how they feel.

My conversation with Dr. Danielle Ofri about What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine.

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Mexico and the United States, and the Road Ahead

The Mexico / U.S. relationship  is front and center today in the US Congress. But how much do you think members of Congress know about what’s really happening in Mexico?

If you were to think about a country that has made remarkable economic progress; a nation whose once closed economy has become one of the most open in the world; a country that has a growing middle class, a thriving multi party, competitive democracy and a growing skilled workforce that is helping to restore manufacturing; most likely you would not think of Mexico.

Rather, when we think of Mexico we often think of one of the most dangerous nations. A place were over 70,000 people have been killed in criminal violence and whose law enforcement and judicial system has broken down. The fact is that all of these things are true of Mexico.

It’s complexity and it’s future are open questions for the 21st century.  Few understand this better than Shannon K. O’Neil.  She is a senior fellow for Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has degrees from Yale and Harvard and is the author of Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead.

My conversation with Shannon K. O'Neil:

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Spy

Certainly the subject of spying and secrets is front and center today.  For Scott Johnson it almost always was.

It has been written that the sins of the father shall be visited upon their sons.  In a broader sense it's clear that often, as we try to reach escape velocity from our fathers, we end up becoming just like them.

Journalist and long time Newsweek foreign correspondent Scott Johnson, tells such a story in his memoir The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA.

My conversation with Scott Johnson:

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You must remember this.....

In 1953, 27-year-old Henry Molaison underwent an experimental brain surgery in an attempt to alleviate his severe epileptic seizures. The surgery left him with a form of amnesia; he could remember many things from the past, but was unable to form any new memories.

He would become one of the most studies patients in history. Suzanne Corkin worked with and studied Molaison for almost 50 years, until his death in 2008. She writes about how his case has helped scientists understand how memories are processed and stored in her new book Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, H. M.

My conversation with Suzanne Corkin:

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Tower of Basel

It’s no surprise that the world's financial markets are shrouded in secrecy. We don’t need a whistleblower to tell us that. But in an age in which what happens in Greece or China or Singapore can have ripple effects in financial markets around the world, often in seconds, it is certainly important to understand where the worlds levers of financial power really are.

As Paul Krugman pointed out this weekend, they are no longer just in big banks, or big governments, but like so much of globalization, they rest in multinational organizations. Often far, far removed from the people they impact.

One such organization is Bank for International Settlements. It meets every other month in Basel, Switzerland and it’s work is often hidden, while its impact is not.

Adam Lebore, in his new book Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World, pulls back the curtain.

My conversation with Adam Lebore:

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

DSM 5 - The Book of Woe

It has often been said that to name something is to own it, or at least give it meaning. This is generally true as a marketing concept, but we would think perhaps it’s less true in an exacting field such as medicine. However that has been the underlying idea of the American Psychiatric Association in creating and fostering the DSM since 1952.

A volume, that tries to define the parameters and terms of mental illness, is without the kind of scientific reliance used even for an auto repair manual. Yet the fifth volume of this work has just been completed. We’ve all heard of it, Doctors rely on it, and it may in fact be detrimental to our mental health...that is, if we could define it.  Psychotherapist Gary Greenberg explains in The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry.

My conversation with Gary Greenberg:

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"History is the 3rd Parent"

Edmund Burke wrote "that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing."  But what happens when good men do take action, and the net results of their efforts is to, in some way, fuel the evil and worst of all, become impacted by it in ways that taint their goodness.

In many ways, history is filled with such examples, certainly the history of Middle East over the past ten years is perhaps the penultimate example. And this is the framework of Nadeem Aslam's new novel of grace under pressure, The Blind Man's Garden.

My conversation with Nadeem Aslam:

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The power of family

If we were to look at and try to understand the vast panoply of how people live their lives, how we connect with each other, hurt each other and help each other, we’d see that we would look first at families. Not just because, as Woody Allen says, "we need the eggs," but because they are a kind of living laboratory of human emotion, human strength, and human frailty.

Perhaps that’s why literature has so often focused on the family as a centerpiece or fulcrum of stories? Such is the case with Khaled Hosseini.

He is the multiple bestselling author of THE KITE RUNNER and A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS. His new novel, looking deep into the lives of family, is And the Mountains Echoed.

My conversation with Khaled Hosseini:

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Alysia Abbott's memoir of her father

It is that rare event that happens when a life and a time come together in a way that better enables us to understand both. Alysia Abbott has lead such a life.

Her father, poet, writer and literary figure Steve Abbott was one of the early leaders of the gay rights movement, first in Atlanta and then in San Francisco.  Alysia’s mother would die in a car accident when she was two, and she would be raised by her gay father in 70’s San Francisco.  Long before being a gay parent would become mainstream.

Shortly after his death from AIDS, in 1992, Alysia would find her father's journals. Now she tells her story and his, in her memoir Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father.

My conversation with Alysia Abbott:

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies

Few people understand President Obama better than Jonathan Alter. He has covered Obama since his days in Chicago. He wrote an early Newsweek cover story that help bring Obama to national prominence and has been one of the preeminent chroniclers of Obama's campaigns and more importantly, it’s connection to the Obama Presidency.

Over the years there have been several books central to changing our view of politics. Theodore White’s, Making of the President, F. Clifton White’s Suite 3505, Joe McGinniss’ Selling of the President 1968, and Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the 1972 campaign. Now Jonathan Alter, award winning reporter, columnist, former senior for Newsweek, adds his new book The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies to that list.

My conversation with Jonathan Alter:

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