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the first american railroad -- 4/11/22

Today's selection -- from Inside Money by Zachary Karabell. Railroads, which had gotten their start in Britain, would transform and supercharge the economies of Europe and America as perhaps no other invention before or...


early hollywood -- 4/8/22

Today's selection -- from Hollywood Stories by Stephen Schochet. Florence Lawrence was America’s first movie star:

"In the early days of Hollywood, German-born Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Studios,...


indecision -- 4/7/22

Today's encore selection -- from Ulysses S. Grant by Brooks D. Simpson. Ulysses S. Grant comments on the crucial role of decision-making in war:

"That winter James Rusling, a colonel in the quartermaster's...


persistance -- 4/6/22

Today's selection -- from The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk.  Learn to turn into the wind:

"'It's not that I'm so smart,' Albert Einstein once said. 'It's just that I stay with problems...


the most powerful banker in london -- 4/5/22

Today's selection -- from Same Old Game! by David Tearle. By 1800, the most powerful bankers in the world were the Baring family. The family had come to prominence on the wave of the Industrial Revolution and the Atlantic...


prince -- 4/1/22

Today's selection -- from The Beautiful Ones by Prince. Thoughts from the late, great, musical superstar Prince, on the days before stardom:
 
"Once I got out of high school it was interesting for a while...


billie holiday and lady sings the blues -- 3/31/22

Today's encore selection -- from Billie Holiday by John Szwed. Legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday's autobiography is considered an American classic. Co-written with author and journalist William Dufty at a point when...


his excellency george washington -- 4/4/22

Today's selection -- from The Founding Fortunes by Tom Shachtman. George Washington and other officials in the first United States government wondered how fancily or plainly they should comport themselves, and how aloof...


falsifying scientific data -- 3/30/22

Today's selection -- from The Knowledge Machine by Michael Strevens. Arthur Eddington of Cambridge was an early defender of Einstein’s new theory of relativity. He used photographs from a 1919 eclipse to examine a light...


wedgwood porcelain -- 3/29/22

Today's selection -- from The Radical Potter by Tristram Hunt. Along with Thomas Newcomen, Richard Arkwright and James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood is one of the giants of the early Industrial Revolution:

"From the Court...


the change brought by andrew jackson -- 3/28/22

Today's selection -- from A Wicked War by Amy S. Greenberg. Andrew Jackson brought a radical change to American politics:
 
"The Democratic Party had been created by Andrew Jackson in his own image. He was the...


god bless america -- 3/25/22

Today's selection -- from Irving Berlin: New York Genius by James Kaplan. With the specter of war with Germany on the horizon, the Jewish immigrant Irving Berlin, who had become a star composer on Broadway, wrote a song...


teenage sensation aretha franklin -- 3/24/22

Today's encore selection - from Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul by Mark Bego. The black neighborhoods of Detroit in the 1950s and 1960s were teeming with teenaged musical talent--Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Otis...


mass extinctions of life -- 3/23/22

Today's selection -- from A Brief History of Earth by Andrew H. Knoll. There have been five mass extinctions of life on Earth: the Ordovician-Silurian extinction which happened 440 million years ago; the Devonian...


nazi drugs -- 3/22/22

Today's selection from When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut. The use of drugs in the last days of World War II:

"In a medical examination on the eve of the Nuremburg Trials, the doctors...


john adams looks down on native americans -- 3/21/22

Today's selection -- from After Nature by Jedediah Purdy. John Adams, America’s sixth president and a key leader in the American Revolution, thought Native Americans should not delay the providential development of the...


battleship potemkin -- 3/18/22

Today's selection -- from Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King. At 27, Sergei Eisenstein developed the iconic silent film, Battleship Potemkin:


florence nightingale -- 3/17/22

Today's encore selection -- from "Florence Nightingale: Icon and Iconoclast" R.E. Foster. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was a British citizen, who, depressed and uneasy with the opulent circumstances of her...


adopting new technology -- 3/16/22

Today's selection -- from Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond. Not all new technology is adopted, even if it is more efficient and useful. For example, a keyboard that would facilitate...


eunuchs at the palace -- 3/15/22

Today's selection -- from The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs by Marc David Baer. The child eunuchs of Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, the main residence and offices of the Ottoman sultans in the 15th and 16th...


the irish in america -- 3/14/22

Today's selection -- from Inside Money by Zachary Karabell. The seemingly perpetual strife between England and Ireland drove a little-known but prosperous linen merchant from Belfast to Baltimore to begin an American...


to smoke or not to smoke -- 3/11/22

Today's selection -- from Inside Money by Zachary Karabell. The mega-wealthy banker and railroad magnate John Crosby Brown (1838-1909) gives advice to his son Thatcher Brown (1876-1954):
 
"Business frequently...


alexandrine tinné explores africa -- 3/10/22

Today's encore selection -- from The Lost Explorers by Ed Wright. Alexandrine Tinné, the richest woman in the Netherlands, explored Africa in the mid-19th century. She was murdered by the Tuareg in Libya when...


will an asteroid hit earth? -- 3/9/22

Today's selection -- from Frequently Asked Questions about the Universe by Jorge Cham & Daniel Whiteson. Just the facts, so you will be prepared:
 
"To get a sense of how likely it is for a large asteroid...


potatoes and famine -- 3/8/22

Today's selection -- from Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal by Mark Bittman. The Spanish brought a number of foods from the Americas to Europe in the years following Columbus’...


the father of our constitution -- 3/07/22

Today's selection -- from The Life and Career of Justice James Wilson, edited by Randy E. Barnett. Though the creation of the U.S. Constitution was a process “far too complicated for any one delegate to understand the...


becoming josephine baker -- 3/4/22

Today's selection -- from Josephine: The Hungry Heart by Jean-Claude Baker & Chris Chase. In 1921, Josephine McDonald married Billy Baker, the handsome son of a restaurant owner on South Street in Philadelphia. But...


"the book that changed my life" -- 3/3/22

Today's encore selection - from The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba. William Kamkwamba is a Malawian inventor, speaker, and author. He gained fame in his country...


cocaine -- 3/2/22

Today's selection -- from Anaesthesia: A Very Short Introduction by Aidan O'Donnell. Cocaine:

"Cocaine is an alkaloid found in the leaves of the coca plant, Erythroxylum coca, which...


britain takes on the world -- 3/1/22

Today's selection -- from The Trouble with Tea by Jane T. Merritt. British trade was the path that led the country to its global domination:
 
"By the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the English...


slavery benefited the north -- 2/28/22

Today's selection -- from Inside Money by Zachary Karabell. In the decades before the Civil War, many businesses in the northern states benefited significantly from slavery. One such business was the lucrative trading and...


the charisma of the beatles – 3/25/22

Today's selection -- from The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson. The Beatles go to the studio to audition for producer George Martin at EMI:
 
“'The red recording light goes on.'

"The man...


the white man's burden -- 2/24/22

Today's selection -- from The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly. In the well-meaning effort to alleviate the suffering of the poor...


dinosaurs -- 2/23/22

Today's selection -- from A Brief History of Earth by Andrew H. Knoll. Why were dinosaurs big?:

"Now we can return to basic questions about dinosaurs. The definition of a dinosaur is actually fairly prosaic....


chemical warfare -- 2/22/22

Today's selection -- from When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut. The first gas attack in history happened in Belgium in 1915:
 
"The horror experienced by the soldiers who survived attacks...


all men are by nature equal and free -- 2/21/22

Today's selection -- from The Life and Career of Justice James Wilson, edited by Randy E. Barnett. In 1774, two pamphlets were written challenging Parliament’s authority over the American colonies. One was written by...


willie nelson moves to texas -- 2/18/22

Today's selection -- from It's a Long Story by Willie Nelson. Well into his career, Willie Nelson moved from Tennessee back to his home state of Texas:
 
“'When I decided to move back to Texas, I had Houston...


rip van winkle -- 2/17/22

Today's encore selection - from Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon Wood. Rip Van Winkle was author Washington Irving's vehicle for conveying the lightning pace of change in early...


cannibalism -- 2/16/22

Today's selection -- from Sawbones by Justin McElroy and Dr. Sydnee McElroy. Eating dead people:

"You didn't need us to tell you that eating people is generally frowned upon. … However, as with most things...


odessa's pogroms -- 2/15/22

Today's selection -- from Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King. In 1905, Odessa experienced a series of pogroms. On the eve of revolution in Russia, the violence was terrifying:

"In contrast...


the beatles -- 2/11/22

Today's selection -- from The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson. George Harrison visits Illinois in 1963 and discovers that the Beatles, though already number one in England, are unknown in America:
 


a shantytown in mumbai -- 2/10/22

Today's encore selection -- from Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. As the search for opportunity moves people in emerging market countries from farms into cities such as Mumbai, Cairo, and Mexico City --...


fluoride and fluorine -- 2/9/2022

Today's selection -- from Chemistry for Breakfast: The Amazing Science of Everyday Life by Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim. Flourine is a highly dangerous gas:

"While I finish my breakfast, let’s start...


the counter-reformation -- 2/8/22

Today's selection -- from Our First Revolution by Michael Barone. The Protestant Reformation, first ignited by Martin Luther in 1517, was followed by a vigorous and violent reaction, the Counter-Reformation:

"The...


the abrupt start of the cold war -- 2/7/22

Today's selection -- from Inside Money by Zachary Karabell. In 1946, the State Department’s George Kennan penned a memo casting the Soviet Union in a highly unfavorable light and setting the United States on a path to...