150 episodes

Where Readers Meet Writers. Conversations on books and ideas, Fridays at 11 a.m.

Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller Minnesota Public Radio

    • Arts
    • 4.4 • 187 Ratings

Where Readers Meet Writers. Conversations on books and ideas, Fridays at 11 a.m.

    Can you create your own luck?

    Can you create your own luck?

    America is steeped in the notion of rugged individualism. It’s comforting to think success is based on our own hard work and self determination.

    But social scientist Robert Mark Rank says random chance governs far more of our lives that most of us want to admit.

    This week on Big Books and Bold Ideas, Rank joins MPR News host Kerri Miller to talk about his new book, “The Random Factor.” He shares how luck and chance play a crucial role in shaping history, the natural world and our everyday lives.

    • 53 min
    Samira Ahmed on ‘This Book Won't Burn’

    Samira Ahmed on ‘This Book Won't Burn’

    Noor Khan is still reeling from the disintegration of her family when she stumbles across a library cart stacked with books in her new small-town high school.

    In her heart, she just wants to finish her senior year and get back to Chicago as quickly as possible.

    But when she learns the books are being removed by a group of parents trying to ban literature they deem as obscene, she is enraged.

    Will her values force her to act, even if doing so puts a target on her back? Or is the fight not worth the cost?

    That’s the premise of Samira Ahmed’s new YA novel, “This Book Won’t Burn.” No stranger to book bans herself, Ahmed joins host Kerri Miller this week on Big Books and Bold Ideas to talk about the freedom to read and how teenagers today are finding the courage to act against a national movement to ban books.

    • 57 min
    Talking Volumes: Leif Enger on ‘I Cheerfully Refuse’

    Talking Volumes: Leif Enger on ‘I Cheerfully Refuse’

    Dystopian novels aren’t known for being hopeful.

    But that’s exactly what Leif Enger brings to the genre with his new book, “I Cheerfully Refuse.”

    The beloved Minnesota author joined MPR News host Kerri Miller at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing on June 4 for a special “on the road” version of Talking Volumes.

    Their conversation revolved around books: the unpredictable journey of writing them, the sometimes haphazard way of finding them, the way a good book leaves a mark that cannot be erased. As Enger’s protagonist Rainy says, “I banged and barged through dozens and hundreds of books. Did I understand it? Not by half, but when it thunders you know your chest is shaking.”


    Talking Volumes with Leif Enger


















    They also touched on how to maintain hope when the world around you feels like it’s going up in flames. “I Cheerfully Refuse” is set in the “near future” when climate change, wealth concentration and religious zealots who are proudly illiterate flourish.

    But Rainy and his cherished wife, Lark, “refuse apocalypse in all its forms and work cheerfully against it.” When tragedy strikes, and Rainy is forced to set out in a small sailboat on a near-sentient Lake Superior, hoping to reunite with Lark, the quest unfolds.

    Spoiler alert: Despair never wins.

    Guest:


    Leif Enger is the author of many books, including the 2001 breakout hit, “Peace Like a River.” His new novel is “I Cheerfully Refuse.” Before he became an author, Enger worked as a reporter for MPR News. He lives in Duluth with his wife, Robin.




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    Subscribe to the Thread newsletter for the latest book and author news and must-read recommendations.

    • 1 hr 24 min
    Alua Arthur says facing death is the key to living well

    Alua Arthur says facing death is the key to living well

    What do you imagine your death will look like?

    It’s not a morbid or depressing question to Alua Arthur. She’s a death doula, and she firmly believes that giving thought to that question is the key to living a meaningful life.

    Arthur herself thinks about dying a lot. As she tells Kerri Miller on this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas, she has detailed plans for what she’d like her deathbed to be like. But more importantly, she says living with an awareness of mortality helps her live with intention.

    “Every day that I live is a day that I can get closer to the life that I actually want,” she says.

    Arthur’s new book, “Briefly Perfectly Human” is both memoir and a surprisingly joyful treatise on why facing mortality is the key to living well. Don’t miss this wise, tender and inspiring conversation.

    Guest:


    Alua Arthur is a recovering attorney and the founder of Going With Grace, a death doula training and end-of-life planning organization. Her new book is “Briefly Perfectly Human.”




    Subscribe to Big Books and Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, RSS or anywhere you get your podcasts.

    Subscribe to the Thread newsletter for the latest book and author news and must-read recommendations.

    • 55 min
    Lea Carpenter explores what happens when the business of spying gets personal

    Lea Carpenter explores what happens when the business of spying gets personal

    Who knew boring could be an asset?

    In Lea Carpenter’s new spy novel, “Ilium,” we meet our young and restless unnamed narrator on a day when she’s urging herself to be less mundane, to take more risks.

    She has no idea that the spies she’ll soon be working for want her precisely because she’s inexperienced, untested and ordinary.

    She quickly gets pulled into a high-stakes mission against a target who has a complicated backstory when it comes to American intelligence forces.

    Carpenter joined spy novel enthusiast Kerri Miller on this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas. They talked about how Carpenter’s own family history inspired her interest in America’s intelligence agencies, why women are exceptionally good spies, and how family life both complicates and clarifies the work.

    Guest:


    Lea Carpenter is a novelist and a screenwriter. Her new book is “Ilium.”




    Subscribe to Big Books and Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, RSS or anywhere you get your podcasts.

    Subscribe to the Thread newsletter for the latest book and author news and must-read recommendations.

    • 51 min
    Lydia Millet writes a devotion to the species disappearing from our planet

    Lydia Millet writes a devotion to the species disappearing from our planet

    Birds, bats, freshwater mussels and a small catfish. They all slipped away in 2023, among the 21 species declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Grief is a rational response. So are the questions novelist and conservationist Lydia Millet articulates in her new book, “We Loved It All.” A blend of memoir and ecological truth-telling, Millet’s first nonfiction work examines what the vanishing will mean for the coming generations and for our sense of self.

    “No one wants to tell our children how glorious it was before you were around,” she writes.

    Millet joins host Kerri Miller on this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas to talk about how she carries hope, even as she mourns the destruction in the natural world.

    Guest:


    Lydia Millet is a novelist and conservationist. Her new book is, “We Loved It All: A Memory of Life.”




    Subscribe to Big Books and Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, RSS or anywhere you get your podcasts.

    Subscribe to the Thread newsletter for the latest book and author news and must-read recommendations.

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
187 Ratings

187 Ratings

Thunderforge ,

Informative and a joy to listen to

The topics are varied, the guests are wonderful, and the callers provide new perspectives that expand the discussion. A wonderful podcast for anyone who wants to expand their understanding on complex ideas.

e85gal ,

Happy to have this podcast

I miss hearing Kerri Miller more often. And Tom Weber too. I do like Angela Davis’ show but also miss the former hosts.

APFineday ,

Insightful and well read

Thanks so much for the insightful questions and conversation which are based on the perceptions of well read and thoughtful readers

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