It has now been over a year that I have been recording podcasts. In fact, there are 71 episodes uploaded on iTunes. These are recorded weekly, and some weeks I feel like Lucille Ball trying to keep up with chocolates coming down the conveyor belt. Most weeks, it is thrilling to read a book and then have the opportunity to have an engaging conversation with the author.
So far this year, both the range of books and the charm and intelligence of the authors has been particularly enriching and dynamic. For those of you who haven't yet tuned in, I thought I would share a little bit about a few of this year's episodes... behind the scenes, if you will.
Episode 63 - The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell: Jeff’s book explains what climate change actually means, including what proof is there of its impact, what is informed speculation, and what is highly likely to come. I learned a ton and it was all explained intelligently, scientifically, and with a measured assessment.
Episode 68 - Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving by Julia Samuel: Julia is a bereavement specialist in the UK and she's wise and thoughtful as she offers advice and observations organized by the type of loss, i.e. a spouse, a parent, a child. Sadly, as we get older, these losses surround us. Not only is her book incredibly valuable if you have experienced the death of a loved one, but it informs us on ways to help friends who are going through the grieving process. Julia and I had a quick dinner before her event at the bookstore and it was as if we were continuing a conversation we had been having for decades—I adored her! Her warmth and wit and intelligence make it clear why we want to hear and learn from her.
Episode 66 - White Houses by Amy Bloom: This bio-fiction about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok has been called “irresistibly audacious” by USA Today and deserves that description. Amy read through thousands of letters written by them over the years, then adds her own enormous storytelling skill, enhanced by Lorena’s own fascinating life - and it all adds up to one intriguing story. It is always fun and lively to hear from Amy.
Episode 65 - The Rough Patch by Daphne DeMarneffe: Ostensibly about mid-life crisis in marriages, but in reality perfect to help any marriage, at any stage. Daphne discusses the obvious stressors, like money and sex, as well as the everyday challenges to harmony. Her observations range from helpful tips to enlightening, thoughtful reflections, along with the identification of the underlying emotions ready to derail a marriage. Her many years as a licensed clinical psychologist are evident in the wisdom she shares.
Episode 69 - The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save It by Yascha Mounk: This book is a provocative must read and our conversation explores populism, illiberal democracy, and the risks of and solutions to trends that could be undermining and eroding cherished freedoms and rights. Yascha is a director at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and provides a smart, insightful, and measured analysis of our society and government today.
Episode 71 - Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman: This book was deservedly picked as one of The New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Best Books of 2017 and is an honest and balanced look at racism, incarceration rates, the role of society, and the role of the black community in creating a criminal justice system that has contributed to the extraordinary rates of mass incarceration and the disproportionate impact on people of color. I was riveted by the book and for the first time in our podcasting life, we were motivated to play the entire interview in two parts. James is a former Washington, D.C. public defender, the son of civil rights pioneer James Forman, a current Yale Law school professor, and one of the most charming, smart, engaging men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, a true gentleman.
That is a start! In addition, the Just The Right Book Podcast website provides a list of all the episodes and lists all the books discussed. Most episodes also include conversations with independent booksellers from across the country and what they are reading and loving.
Speaking of reading and loving, check out I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell, an astonishing memoir; Last Stories by William Trevor (he never, ever disappoints!); and be sure to reserve a copy of these riveting new novels coming this spring: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, The Only Story by Julian Barnes, another hilarious novel from Allison Pearson titled, How Hard Can It Be? and finally, the book getting a ton of buzz and a delicious read, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (she will be at RJ Julia on May 1st).
Ok, one more: I never can get enough of Lorrie Moore’s writing — she is funny, clever, sly, and filled with intelligence, so I, of course, jumped into her new book, See What Can Be Done. The New York Times rightly raved about it. If you haven’t read her before, check outall her books, I assure you hours and hours of happy reading
One last note, Liz Bartek, our Marketing and Events Manager, has been booking a crazy array of events both in Madison and in Middletown at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore — check them out — especially notice Cecile Richards, Joanne Lipman, Anna Quindlen, and of course, Meg.
See you in the store,
Roxanne J. Coady