Read Learn Live is your book club discussion taken to the next level. Join host Jon Menaster as he takes a deep dive with an author and a book they've written to learn about their writing process, the how and the why of the book itself, and learn some lessons about life along the way. Jon speaks with fiction and non-fiction authors of all book genres. Learn about your world from a new perspective. Find new books to read. Fall in love with literature again.
Learning America – Ep 96 with Luma Mufleh
It was a wrong turn that changed everything. When Luma Mufleh—a Muslim, gay, refugee woman from hyper-conservative Jordan—stumbled upon a pick-up game of soccer in Clarkston, Georgia, something compelled her to join. The players, 11- and 12-year-olds from Liberia, Afghanistan, and Sudan, soon welcomed her as coach of their ragtag but fiercely competitive group. Drawn into their lives, Mufleh learned that few of her players, all local public school students, could read a single word. She asks, “Where was the America that took me in? That protected me? How can I get these kids to that America?”
Learning America traces the story of how Mufleh grew a group of kids into a soccer team and then into a nationally acclaimed network of schools for refugee children. The journey is inspiring and hard-won: Fugees schools accept only those most in need; no student passes a grade without earning it; the failure of any student is the responsibility of all. Soccer as a part of every school day is a powerful catalyst to heal trauma, create belonging, and accelerate learning. Finally, this gifted storyteller delivers provocative, indelible portraits of student after student making leaps in learning that aren’t supposed to be possible for children born into trauma–stories that shine powerful light on the path to educational justice for all of America’s most left-behind.
The Kaiju Preservation Society – Ep 95 with John Scalzi
When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization”. Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.
What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.
It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society who’s found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.
John Scalzi is the New York Times best selling author of Old Man’s War, The Collapsing Empire and Redshirts, the latter of which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. His short stories have been adapted for the Netflix animated series Love Death + Robots. He’s known across the internet for his horrific burritos.
The Sleep Fix – Ep 94 with Diane Macedo
Roughly thirty percent of the population is estimated to be living with insomnia, while many more suffer from other sleep disorders. ABC anchor/correspondent Diane Macedo—a former insomniac herself—understands the struggle. Now, in The Sleep Fix, Macedo presents perspective-shifting research and easy-to-implement solutions to help millions of people finally get the shut-eye they need.Macedo’s mission is crucial to our health and well-being. Everything from our heart health to our mental acuity to our blood pressure is influenced by how much—or little—we sleep. As an early morning reporter and an overnight news anchor, Macedo learned this the hard way, struggling for years to get the sleep she so desperately needed, and watching her health deteriorate along the way. But Macedo found the more she embraced typical sleep tips, the worse she slept. So she decided to attack the problem from the ground up, interviewing sleep experts from all over the world to get to the bottom of what really keeps us from sleeping—and the various ways to fix it.
Diane Macedo is currently an anchor and correspondent for ABC News, appearing on Good Morning America, World News Tonight, Nightline, World News Now, and America This Morning, as well as breaking news reports. She’s also an anchor for ABC News Live, where she hosts ABC New Live Update, The Breakdown, and covers breaking news and special events. An alum of Boston College, she lives in New York City with her family.
Read Until You Understand – Ep 93 with Farah Jasmine Griffin
Farah Jasmine Griffin is the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University where she also served as the inaugural Chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department. She is the author of five books including Who Set You Flowin?: The African American Migration Narrative (1995), If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (2001), Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever (with Salim Washington, 2008), and Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II (2013).
Farah Jasmine Griffin has taken to her heart the phrase “read until you understand,” a line her father, who died when she was nine, wrote in a note to her. She has made it central to this book about love of the majestic power of words and love of the magnificence of Black life. Griffin entwines memoir, history, and art while she keeps her finger on the pulse of the present, asking us to grapple with the continuing struggle for Black freedom and the ongoing project that is American democracy. She challenges us to reckon with our commitment to all the nation’s inhabitants and our responsibilities to all humanity. Griffin has spent years rooted in the culture of Black genius and the legacy of books that her father left her. A beloved professor, she has devoted herself to passing these works and their wisdom on to generations of students.
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The Power of Nothing to Lose – Ep 92 with William L. Silber
Following books by Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Ariely, noted economics professor William L. Silber explores the Hail Mary effect, from its origins in sports to its applications to history, nature, politics, and business.
A quarterback like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers gambles with a Hail Mary pass at the end of a football game when he has nothing to lose – the risky throw might turn defeat into victory, or end in a meaningless interception. Rodgers may not realize it, but he has much in common with figures such as George Washington, Rosa Parks, Woodrow Wilson, and Adolph Hitler, all of whom changed the modern world with their risk-loving decisions.
In The Power of Nothing to Lose, award-winning economist William Silber explores the phenomenon in politics, war, and business, where situations with a big upside and limited downside trigger gambling behavior like with a Hail Mary. Silber describes in colorful detail how the American Revolution turned on such a gamble. The famous scene of Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas night to attack the enemy may not look like a Hail Mary, but it was. Washington said days before his risky decision, “If this fails I think the game will be pretty well up.” Rosa Parks remained seated in the White section of an Alabama bus, defying local segregation laws, an act that sparked the modern civil rights movement in America. It was a life-threatening decision for her, but she said, “I was not frightened. I just made up my mind that as long as we accepted that kind of treatment it would continue, so I had nothing to lose.”
Catch the Rabbit – Ep 91 with Lana Bastašić
Winner of the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature, Lana Bastašić’s powerful debut novel Catch the Rabbit is a modern-day Alice in Wonderland set in post-war Bosnia, in which two young women plunge into the illusive landscape of their shared history.
It’s been twelve years since inseparable childhood friends Lejla and Sara have spoken, but an unexpected phone call thrusts Sara back into a world she left behind, a language she’s buried, and painful memories that rise unbidden to the surface. Lejla’s magnetic pull hasn’t lessened despite the distance between Dublin and Bosnia or the years of silence imposed by a youthful misunderstanding, and Sara finds herself returning home, driven by curiosity and guilt. Embarking on a road trip from Bosnia to Vienna in search of Lejla’s exiled brother Armin, the two travel down the rabbit hole of their shared past and question how they’ve arrived at their present, disparate realities.
As their journey takes them further from their homeland, Sara realizes that she can never truly escape her past or Lejla—the two are intrinsically linked, but perpetually on opposite sides of the looking glass. As they approach their final destination, Sara contends with the chaos of their relationship. Lejla’s conflicting memories of their past, further complicated by the divisions brought on by the dissolution of Yugoslavia during their childhoods, forces Sara to reckon with her own perceived reality. Like Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, Catch the Rabbit lays bare the intricacies of female friendship and all the ways in which two people can hurt, love, disappoint, and misunderstand one another.
Insightful book discussions
Great discussions of several ideas related to books in various genres. Host Jon Menaster is extremely well-read and adept at generating insightful questions and connections. A podcast that will make you want to read the book discussed and inspire you to get more out of your reading.
I was interviewed by Jon for this podcast, and was blown away by his preparation. If you're looking for a nuanced, thoughtful conversation about a book, this is your spot. So many hosts never read the material that they're discussing in advance, which leads to a subpar dialogue. But with Jon, he digs into the meat right away. Big virtual hug to Jon for putting so much time and energy into this!
I love Read Learn Live because of the “curiosity quench” I get after listening to an episode! I always want to know what authors are thinking as they write, what inspires them and a general peak into their world. My favorite one so far is Mike Reiss, The Simpsons and Springfield Confidential Ep.41. I now know about the rule of 3 in comedy writing, how many rewrites a scene or movie might take and writers often don’t get credit for the work they do. Excited and curious for more!