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america puts aside civil liberties -- 7/13/20

Today's selection -- from The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. Once President Woodrow Wilson decided that America should enter World War I, he did so with fire and fury, brushing aside individual liberties and...


the circus in america -- 7/10/20

Today's selection -- from Wild Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier's First Gunfighter by Tom Clavin. The history of the circus in America, with the very first attended by George Washington...


edward hopper's paintings -- 7/09/20

Today's encore selection -- from Edward Hopper by Gail Levin. Edward Hopper was one of America's greatest painters. He was able to masterfully convey powerful emotions through genuinely American landscapes and scenes that...


spooky action: we can no longer take locality for granted -- 7/08/20

Today's selection -- from Spooky Action at a Distance by George Musser. Jenann Ismael on the idea that physical locality may not be the deepest level of reality. "One of the strangest aspects of quantum physics is...


britain's east india company and the jagat seth -- 7/7/20

Today's selection -- from The Anarchy by William Dalrymple. In a devastating irony, India's bankers provided much of the funding for the takeover of India by Britain's East India Company:

"As [India] grew...


roosevelt, glasses, and boxing -- 7/6/20

Today's selection -- from The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. In 1872, the always-sickly thirteen-year-old Theodore Roosevelt got his first pair of glasses and took his first boxing lesson:

"In the...


a comet contains components of DNA and RNA -- 7/02/20

Today's selection from -- Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall. As of November 2014, there are 5,253 known comets. The word "comet" comes from a Greek word that translates as "wearing long hair." Some are...


the song of birds -- 7/1/20

Today's selection -- from The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman. The songs of birds, and the purposes of those songs, are seemingly infinite. Some birds start to learn songs while still in the egg:

"Bird songs and...


the spanish flu foils the germans -- 6/30/20

Today's selection -- from The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. It may have been the Spanish flu that undermined the Germans' last great attempt at an offensive in 1918. That flu, which became the world's deadliest...


nixon, patton, and vietnam -- 6/29/20

Today's selection -- from History by Hollywood by Robert Toplin. Deeply enmeshed in the escalating controversy regarding the Vietnam War, President Richard M. Nixon drew inspiration from the new movie Patton,...


the troubled background of hollywood's biggest star -- 6/26/20

Today's selection -- from The Whole Equation by David Thomson. Charlie Chaplin, who became Hollywood's biggest star, came from a life of destitution:

"[Charlie Chaplin's] father? There was a Charles Chaplin, Sr., a...


astoundingly, the united states had no federal budget -- 6/25/16

Today's encore selection -- from The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis L. Gould. In the early 1900s, the federal government of the United States still had no budgeting process, though President William Taft tried...


one-hundred-ton fungi -- 6/24/20

Today's selection -- from Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. Fungi are, and have long been, among the largest life forms on earth -- some weighing hundreds of tons. Mushrooms are produced by fungi and play a similar...


charlemagne could not read or write -- 6/23/20

Today's selection -- from The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time by Keith Houston. The "barbarians" who invaded Rome may have contributed to revitalization and innovation in reading...


society hill and rebuilding philadelphia -- 6/22/20

Today's selection -- from The Outsider: Albert M. Greenfield and the Fall of the Protestant Establishment by Dan Rottenberg. Legendary Philadelphia real estate mogul Albert Greenfield was part of a group that took on...


early social documentary photography -- 6/19/20

Today's selection -- from A World History of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum. The emergence of social documentation in early photography:

"Documentary ... refers to a particular style or approach. Although it began...


inkpot terms -- 6/18/20

Today's selection -- from The Fight for English: How Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left by David Crystal. Latin and Greek words imported into English:

"The discord that we now call the Reformation had immediate...


religion and the afterlife -- 6/17/20

Today's selection -- from Until the End of Time by Brian Greene. Burial sites from hundreds of centuries ago indicate that humans had thoughts of the afterlife on their minds even in those years:

"About one...


venerating the cat -- 6/16/20

Today's selection -- from The Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek. Even today, cats are held in special regard in Egypt and other parts of northern Africa, as visitors to the region can attest. That standing has a long...


the gunfights of wild bill hickok -- 6/15/20

Today's selection -- from Wild Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier's First Gunfighter by Tom Clavin. Gunfights in the Old West were not nearly as frequent as Hollywood movies would suggest. Nevertheless, they...


"shoot not the iguana" -- 6/12/20

Today's selection -- from Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. Isak Dinesen lived in Kenya from 1914 to 1931 as the owner and operator of a coffee plantation. Here she gives us a lesson on coveting:

"In the Reserve I...


clash of civilizations -- 6/11/20

Today's selection -- from The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. New thoughts on the "clash of civilizations" from Robert Wright, author of the highly influential books Nonzero and The Moral...


well-being theory -- 6/10/20

Today's selection -- from Flourish by Martin E.P. Seligman. Well-being theory:

"The five elements [of well-being theory] are positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and...


paris's incomparable pont neuf -- 6/09/20

Today's selection -- from The Seine by Elaine Sciolino. Paris' incomparable Pont Neuf:

"It took a bridge to make a city. Henri IV made it happen. The year was 1598. The king had ended the Wars of Religion by...


the worst-governed city in america -- 6/08/20

Today's selection -- from The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. In the early 20th century, Philadelphia gained the reputation as the most corrupt and worst-governed city in America:

"Muckraker Lincoln Steffens...


francis ford coppola and samuel goldwyn -- 6/5/20

Today's selection -- from Letters from Hollywood by Rocky Lang & Barbara Hall. Francis Ford Coppola, who would make Hollywood history with his Godfather films, was starting in his career when he wrote to...


chew your food -- 6/4/20

Today's encore selection -- from Gulp by Mary Roach. In the early 1900s, Horace Fletcher convinced many Americans and Europeans to chew their food until it became almost liquid, which usually involved hundreds of...


the first proto-city -- 6/3/20

Today's selection -- from Cosmos: Possible Worlds by Ann Druyan. The first proto-city:

"Welcome to one of the mothers of all cities, Çatalhöyük, a community on the Anatolian plain that is now part of Turkey....


robert clive, india, and untold riches -- 6/2/20

Today's selection -- from The Anarchy by William Dalrymple. A young, bold, British military leader named Robert Clive led the British East India Company, which effectively had its own army, to victories of conquest...


war service, theodore sr., and theodore jr. -- 6/01/20

Today's selection -- from The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., father to the future president, spent his years in the Civil War persuading soldiers to set aside voluntary pay...


hollywood megastar james cagney and the system -- 5/29/20

Today's selection -- from The Whole Equation by David Thomson. In the first half of the 20th century, Hollywood actors were governed by contracts with the major studios, which dictated their roles, their schedules, and...


"democracy" as a civil religion -- 5/28/20

Today's encore selection -- from Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty. John Dewey (1859-1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational...


a day in a factory circa 1905 -- 5/27/20

Today's selection -- from The Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1831-1915: A Study in American Industrial Practice by John K. Brown. At a point when America's manufacturing prowess led the world, one of its preeminent factories...


chiang kai-shek and mao zedong -- 5/26/20

Today's selection -- from Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang. In the late 1940s, Chiang Kai-shek's forces were engaged in a war with Mao Zedong's communist forces to establish who would rule China....


wild bill makes his new york acting debut -- 5/22/20

Today's selection -- from Wild Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier's First Gunfighter by Tom Clavin. In the 1870s, Buffalo Bill Cody had opened a new play called Scouts of the Plains to take advantage...


transmission of electric waves -- 5/21/20

Today's selection -- from Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) invents wireless communication:

"The idea arrived in the most prosaic of ways. In the summer of 1894, when [Marconi] was...


samuel clemens, failed investor -- 5/20/20

Today's selection -- from The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time by Keith Houston. Samuel Clemens invested in a typesetting machine and almost went bankrupt:

"The first...


conflict between arabs and turks -- 5/19/20

Today's selection -- from The Field of Blood by Nicholas Morton. Enmity between Turks and Arabs was deeply rooted in a conflict that began in the 11th century A.D.:

"When the [Turks] burst into the [Arab] region...


american production -- 5/18/20

Today's selection -- from Empire of Wealth by John Steele Gordon. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States dramatically increased military production. The operation was coordinated by Donald Nel­son, who had...


art is fierce -- 5/15/20

Today's selection -- from The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison explains the value of public art:

"Art and access is a much-written-about, much...


stephen girard and the yellow fever -- 5/14/20

Today's encore selection -- from Financial Founding Fathers: The Men Who Made America Rich by Robert E. Wright and David J. Cowen. French-born Philadelphian Stephen Girard, an international merchant and trader, was...


understanding viruses -- 5/13/20

Today's selection -- from The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. A description of the virus:

"No one will ever know with absolute certainty whether the 1918-19 influenza pandemic actually did originate in Haskell...


the beautiful cotswolds of england -- 5/12/20

Today's selection -- from The Cotswolds by Josceline Finberg. The Cotswolds region of England is one of the most beautiful and charming in the world, with villages and towns much as they were centuries ago:

"The...


the founding fathers were saddled with debt -- 5/11/20

Today's selection -- from The Founding Fortunes by Tom Shachtman. The 1768 Townshend Acts underscored the fact that colonists were becoming enslaved by debt. Since colonists had been prevented from establishing banks,...


the search for scarlett -- 5/8/20

Today's selection -- from Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean. The search for Scarlett O'Hara:

"David O. Selznick's highly publicized search for the perfect girl to star in Gone With the...



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