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.
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.
Ridgeline – Ep 90 with Michael Punke
Ridgeline is the thrilling, long-awaited return of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Revenant
In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier—a clash of cultures between the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries and a young, ambitious nation. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.
As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, wants to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.
Throughout this taut saga—based on real people and events—Michael Punke brings the same immersive, vivid storytelling and historical insight that made his breakthrough debut so memorable.
A Master of Djinn – Ep 89 with P. Djèlí Clark
Forty years ago in Egypt, the mystic and inventor Al-Jahiz pierced the veil between realms, sending magic into the world before vanishing into the unknown. Think steampunk meets history meets detective novel meets magic!
Now in 1912 Cairo, humans brush elbows with djinn in crowded tramcars and airships sail the skies. In this new world the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities maintains an uneasy peace. When someone claiming to be Al-Jahiz “returned” murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to his legacy, however, that peace dissolves into disarray.
The Ministry’s youngest agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi has saved the world before. But this case is a special challenge. The imposter’s dangerous magical abilities and revolutionary message threaten to tear apart the fabric of this new Egyptian society, and spill over onto the global stage. Can Agent Fatma unravel the mystery of Al-Jahiz in time to save the world—again? Read A Master of Djinn today!
Born in New York and raised mostly in Houston, P. DJÈLÍ CLARK spent the formative years of his life in the homeland of his parents, Trinidad and Tobago. A Hugo and Sturgeon Award finalist, he is the author of The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short story “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” (Fireside Fiction) has earned him both a Nebula and Locus Award. Clark lives in Connecticut.
From PA to LA – Ep 88 with Yogi Roth
From PA to LA isn’t like anything you’ve read before. Expect this book to cut deeper than your traditional tell-all. Built around a detailed, inside look at the Pitt and USC football programs, it is at heart a story about a small town kid from Pennsylvania who uses sports, travel and adventure as a way to develop his own winning philosophy of life. The underlying themes reveal a different, yet exhilarating path to getting the most out of each day in both our personal and professional lives. Anyone open to inspiration from someone who has worked tirelessly to get everything he has, while helping others and competing each step of the way, needs to read this book.
Yogi Roth is a storyteller who seeks and uncovers the humanity in sports around the globe. He’s a Pac-12 Networks college football analyst, Emmy award-winning Filmmaker, Scholar, New York Times Best-Selling Author, accomplished Coach, Motivational Speaker, Media Personality, and Host and World-Traveler. Over the past 20 years Yogi has been driven by the power of sports and story.
Beloved Beasts – Ep 87 with Michelle Nijhuis
A vibrant history of the modern conservation movement―told through the lives and ideas of the people who built it.
In the late nineteenth century, as humans came to realize that our rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to protect and conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement’s history: from early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale.
She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson as well as lesser-known figures in conservation history; she reveals the origins of vital organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species such as the whooping crane and the black rhinoceros; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism.
As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change escalate, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species―including our own.
Michelle Nighhouse is a project editor at the Atlantic, a contributing editor at High Country News, and an award-winning reporter whose work has been published in National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine. She is coeditor of The Science Writers’ Handbook and lives in White Salmon, Washington.
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!