194 episodes

A podcast about the best nonfiction books hitting shelves today, hosted by Marie Claire's Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor Rachel Burchfield.

I'd Rather Be Reading I'd Rather Be Reading

    • Arts
    • 4.2 • 14 Ratings

A podcast about the best nonfiction books hitting shelves today, hosted by Marie Claire's Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor Rachel Burchfield.

    Dave Cullen on the Columbine High School Massacre, 25 Years Later

    Dave Cullen on the Columbine High School Massacre, 25 Years Later

    There are no two ways around this fact: today’s conversation is tough. It’s really, really tough. Today, April 20, 2024, marks 25 years since the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado. I woke up this morning and read an article in People magazine about Frank DeAngelis, who was the principal at Columbine at the time of the shooting. In the article, DeAngelis said that every single morning, he wakes up and says the names of those killed in that day’s horrible events. He said he almost died twice that day, and, in his words, “For whatever reason God spared me that day. So I need to try to help others.” I will take a page from Principal DeAngelis and begin this episode by saying the names of the 12 students and one teacher killed that day: Cassie Bernall, Steven Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Danny Rohrbough, Dave Sanders, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, and Kyle Velasquez. Thirteen people who woke up on this morning 25 years ago and headed into school for what they probably imagined would be a typical Tuesday—and they never came home.

    Today on the show I have Dave Cullen, who wrote the definitive book on the Columbine massacre, simply titled Columbine, in 2009, 10 years after the attack happened. It took Dave a full decade to write this masterpiece, and he followed it up with a book about the Parkland school shooting, simply titled Parkland, in 2019. Dave’s Columbine book has a new edition and we talk about that in today’s episode. You can feel Dave’s passion for a topic he spent a full decade writing about oozing throughout this conversation.

    I was 12 years old and in the sixth grade on April 20, 1999, when perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 fellow classmates and a teacher at the school. The massacre was also an attempted bombing that failed, and 10 of the 12 students killed were in the school library, the epicenter of the attack, where Harris and Klebold also killed themselves at the massacre’s end. When it happened, Columbine was the deadliest mass school shooting at a K-12 school in U.S. history; Harris and Klebold had been planning their attack for at least a year and planned for it to be primarily a bombing attack, and secondarily a shooting attack. When the bombs they’d built failed to detonate, they began shooting.
    Their motive remains inconclusive, but Dave and I get into the “why” of it all in our conversation today. Its aftermath has unfortunately spawned dozens of copycat killings, called “the Columbine effect,” and the word “Columbine” itself has become a word symbolizing school shootings. The attack took place from 11:19 a.m. to 12:08 p.m., culminating in the suicides of Harris and Klebold. In 2007, the Columbine Memorial opened to the public, and two years later, in 2009, Dave’s book came out. Dave is considered the nation’s foremost authority on Columbine, and his book covers two major storylines: the killers’ evolution leading up to the attack, and the survivors’ struggles with its aftermath after it happened. Chapters alternate between those two stories, and the book spent eight weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and won numerous awards, drawing comparisons to Truman Capote’s classic In Cold Blood and Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me. This conversation is a difficult one, but necessary.

     

    Columbine by Dave Cullen

    The audiobook is also available

    “Confronting: Columbine” podcast

    • 1 hr 43 min
    Jeffrey Toobin on the 29th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing and How Its Impact Is Still Felt Today

    Jeffrey Toobin on the 29th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing and How Its Impact Is Still Felt Today

    On April 19, 1995—29 years ago tomorrow—at 9:02 a.m., a fertilizer truck bomb exploded outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Fueled by anti-government sentiment—and specifically angered by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, Ruby Ridge in 1992, and the Waco siege exactly two years to the day earlier in 1993—the blast killed 168 and injured 680. Prior to September 11, 2001, the bombing was the deadliest act of terrorism in U.S. history and remains to this day the deadliest act of domestic terrorism our country has ever seen. The bomb destroyed more than one-third of the building—which ultimately had to be demolished—and damaged 324 other buildings, causing an estimated $652 million in damages. Forensic evidence quickly linked McVeigh and Nichols to the bombing, and within days, both were charged. On that April 19, McVeigh detonated a Ryder truck in front of the building; Nichols had assisted with the bomb’s preparation. McVeigh and Nichols had met in 1988 during basic training for the Army and were both tried and convicted in 1997; McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, and Nichols is currently serving life in prison. The victims of the bombing ranged in age from three months old to 73 years old and included three pregnant women; 19 of the victims were babies and children, many of whom were in the building’s day care center. Today on the show we honor the victims of this senseless attack by talking to Jeffrey Toobin, author of the definitive book on the bombing, 2023’s Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism, and the host of the excellent and brand-new podcast Homegrown: OKC. In both works, Toobin draws parallels between the Oklahoma City bombing and January 6, 2021, writing that this study of the Oklahoma City bombing is “Not just a glimpse of the past, but a warning about the future.” It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss.

     

    Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism by Jeffrey Toobin

    Homegrown: OKC podcast

    • 33 min
    Gareth Russell on the Sinking of the Titanic, 112 Years After It Happened

    Gareth Russell on the Sinking of the Titanic, 112 Years After It Happened

    On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic—a British ocean liner operated by the White Star Line—sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. The loss of life was devastating—of the 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, about 1,500 died, making the Titanic the deadliest sinking of a single ship up to that time, 112 years ago. Titanic had aboard her some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of immigrants seeking a new life in the United States and Canada. The Titanic was deemed “unsinkable,” which perhaps accounted for its disturbing lack of lifeboats. The ship was capable of having 48 lifeboats aboard; it only had 20 in actuality. Of those 20 lifeboats, 1,178 lives could have been saved in them, roughly half of the number of passengers on board. When the Titanic sank, the lifeboats lowered were only filled up to an average of 60 percent, which has always troubled me. She set off on her maiden voyage on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, and was due to arrive at New York Pier 59 one week later, on April 17. As played out in the blockbuster 1997 film Titanic directed by James Cameron and starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, you can see that the ship was the lap of luxury. At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg immediately ahead, and alerted the bridge. First Officer William Murdoch ordered the Titanic to steer around the iceberg and the engines to be reversed, but it was too late. The starboard side of the ship struck the iceberg, creating a series of holes below the waterline, allowing water to rush in. It soon became clear that the ship was doomed. Between 2:10 and 2:15 a.m., a little over two-and-a-half hours after the Titanic struck the iceberg, her rate of sinking increased suddenly as the boat deck went underwater; as her stern rose out of the water, exposing the propellers, the ship broke into two. The bow was now underwater and the stern remained afloat and buoyant for a few minutes longer, rising to a nearly, and terrifyingly, vertical angle with hundreds of people still clinging to it, before foundering at 2:20 a.m. All of the remaining passengers and crew were flung into water at a temperature of 28 degrees Fahrenheit, or -2 degrees Celsius. Only five thrown into the frigid waters were helped into the lifeboats, though the lifeboats had room for almost 500 more souls. Women and children survived the disaster at rates of about 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively; because of the “women and children first” policy, only 20 percent of the men aboard made it out alive. Today on the show I have one of my favorite interview subjects ever: Gareth Russell, the author of 2019’s The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era. As you’ll hear, he is an expert on the Titanic, and there’s no one better to honor those lives lost and to remember her than him; to me, anyway, this is the absolute definitive book on the Titanic—no questions asked.



    The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era by Gareth Russell

    • 54 min
    Linda Keir on the Royal Family Fiction Subgenre and Their Contribution to It, “The Royal Game”

    Linda Keir on the Royal Family Fiction Subgenre and Their Contribution to It, “The Royal Game”

    Welcome to this special fiction episode of I’d Rather Be Reading—specifically part two in my latest fiction subgenre obsession: royal family fiction. We’ve already had Katharine McGee on the show of the four-part American Royals series, and we will later have the writing duo behind The Royal We and The Heir Affair; today we have the writing duo behind The Royal Game, my latest royal family fiction favorite. (I’d also throw Red, White, and Royal Blue onto this list, as well.) It is a subgenre that is growing and growing in popularity, and not surprisingly, considering how ubiquitous the royal family has become in culture, especially lately. Today you get the chance to meet Linda Keir, a writing duo who has now written four books together and has been writing together since 2016. Linda Keir is a portmanteau of Linda Joffe Hull and Keir Graff, both of whom have successful writing careers on their own and as a team. The Royal Game—which came out on January 30 of this year—is their first foray into royal family fiction, but hopefully not their last. I won’t give too much away, but the loose plot of The Royal Game involves the love story between American pop singer Jennie Jenson and Prince Hugh of England, the heir to the throne. Someone is determined to keep Jennie from becoming a princess, and to have the happy ending to her fairytale, Jennie will have to play “the royal game.” Not everyone is excited about the prospect of an American princess, apparently. Jennie finds parallels between what’s happening to her and Hugh’s mother, Princess Penelope, who died in a mysterious plane crash. (Don’t worry, I ask Linda and Keir if my theories that Jennie and Hugh and Penelope are based on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and Princess Diana are true.) Jennie wants to know if Penelope is murdered—and worries she might be next. It’s a thrilling mystery, a romantic love story, and really, really good. Today on the show we talk about their process of being a writing team, what they think about the royal family and if they follow it outside of their work on this latest book, why they chose to get into the royal family fiction subgenre, and what, exactly, “the royal game” is, anyway.

     

    The Royal Game by Linda Keir



    We also mention On Duty with the Queen by Dickie Arbiter on the show!

    • 42 min
    Teri Agins on How Fashion and Celebrity Interface, and How the Power of Celebrity Has Changed the Fashion Industry Forever

    Teri Agins on How Fashion and Celebrity Interface, and How the Power of Celebrity Has Changed the Fashion Industry Forever

    When it comes to fashion journalists, the crème de la crème is my guest today, Teri Agins. Today’s episode is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Teri’s book Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities Are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers, which speaks to how celebrity interfaces with fashion and how fashion interfaces with celebrity. There used to be a delineation between fashion designers and fashion and supermodels on the one hand, and then celebrities, like actors and actresses and musicians, on the other. On the show today, Teri talks about when those lines started to blur, and when celebrities could no longer be one note—in addition to being, say, an actor, or a musician, or what have you, seemingly every celebrity now has a perfume, or a beauty line, or a fashion collection, or some kind of alcoholic beverage, or some (if not many) entrepreneurial ventures. It’s almost like being an actor is just the launchpad to becoming a multihyphenate and a mogul. It wasn’t always this way, believe it or not. In today’s episode we talk about how so-called “traditional” fashion designers feel about celebrities like Jessica Simpson, Victoria Beckham, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (of the brand The Row) infiltrating the fashion industry; when celebrities decided to not just endorse products but own them; the magic formula as to why some celebrity fashion brands take off and some flop; how the emergence of reality stars changed the game even further; and how the pendulum swings both ways, as some designers are coming to prominence or deepening their fame on reality television as well (think, in particular, Project Runway). Let me tell you about the powerhouse that is Teri: she worked as a writer for Fairchild Publications in the 1970s, and after she and her former husband moved to Brazil for five years, she worked as a freelance writer for The New York Times and Time. In 1984, she became a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where she wrote a business column; in 1989, Teri was assigned to develop the fashion beat for The Wall Street Journal, covering fashion from a business perspective. She was named senior special writer in 1995 and retired from The Wall Street Journal in 2009 but continues to freelance for them, including writing the popular fashion column “Ask Teri.” She has also written for Vogue, Town & Country, Essence, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. In addition to Hijacking the Runway, Teri also wrote the book The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Game Forever. Quick aside—in the middle of our conversation, New York City experienced a 4.8 magnitude earthquake—remember that last Friday?—and, true to the force of nature Teri is, she didn’t even bat an eye. I can’t wait for you to meet this dynamic woman and learn from her expertise.

    Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities Are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers by Teri Agins

    • 46 min
    J. Reuben Appelman on the Brutal Murders of Four University of Idaho Students in November 2022, and Where the Case Against Bryan Kohberger Stands Today

    J. Reuben Appelman on the Brutal Murders of Four University of Idaho Students in November 2022, and Where the Case Against Bryan Kohberger Stands Today

    Welcome to season 11 of I’d Rather Be Reading! This season we will, of course, continue to cover the latest and greatest nonfiction books, but we’re also going to focus on many events that gripped the nation past and present—like the O.J. Simpson murders (which happened 30 years ago this June), the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine (which happened 25 years ago this month), and JFK Jr.’s plane crash, which is marking its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. Today on the show we’re digging into a true crime case that’s much more recent: the quadruple homicide of four University of Idaho students on November 13, 2022. Today on the show we are speaking with J. Reuben Appelman about his book While Idaho Slept: The Hunt for Answers in the Murder of Four College Students, released last October. He is from Idaho and has lived there for 25 years; you’ll hear him talk about how his daughter attended U of I and how unlikely even one murder, let alone four, is in the idyllic town of Moscow. He is a private investigator and his true crime memoir, The Kill Jar, inspired the popular Hulu docuseries Children of the Snow. Stick around after the show for a book pick about the Murdaugh murders, one connected to Nirvana (Kurt Cobain committed suicide 30 years ago on April 8), and two nonfiction picks based off of television shows premiering on Hulu and Apple TV+ in the coming week.

     

    While Idaho Slept: The Hunt for Answers in the Murder of Four College Students by J. Reuben Appleman

     

    Plus two entertainment picks!



    Read: Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey | Watch: Under the Bridge on Hulu, out on April 17

     

    Read: A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff | Watch: Franklin on Apple TV+, out on April 12

    • 1 hr 2 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

Lauren Ivy ,

The best podcast!

Rachel is such an engaging interviewer and has a wide range of guests on her show! It’s definitely worth a listen!

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