Monday, May 25, 2015: On this date in 2006, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy for their roles in the spectacular rise and fall of energy giant Enron. Bob talks with Alex Gibney, writer and director of “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.” This documentary features revealing insider accounts and rare audio and video tapes from inside the bankrupt energy company. Gibney is joined by Fortune magazine writer Bethany McLean, who did extensive reporting on the Enron story. Of course today is also Memorial Day. Bob talks to Jan Scruggs, the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He conceived the idea of building a memorial dedicated to all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam….and took $2,800 of his own money and launched the effort. The memorial, known as The Vietnam Wall, was dedicated on November 13, 1982. And we close the program with some appropriate music from the soldier-musicians of The US Air Force Brass Quintet.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015: Bob talks with novelist, biographer, poet and literary critic Jay Parini. He’s the author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America. And if you need still more titles for your list, Promised Land includes 100 other books we should all read.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015: Bob talks with David Anderegg about his book titled Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them. Anderegg is a clinical child psychologist and explores the stereotyping of nerds and how it affects everyone at an early age. Then, Science magazine writer Sam Kean turned his life-long fascination with the periodic table into a best-selling book titled The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. Kean’s book recounts tales about the list of elements that range from the educational to the down-right weird.
Thursday, May 28, 2015: Compassion, kindness, selflessness – none make logical sense biologically. And yet, examples of biological altruism are found throughout the animal kingdom. Darwin never successfully explained the kindness gene, but a relatively unknown, eccentric scientist named George Price did. Oren Harman is a professor of the history of science at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv and the author of a new book, The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness. Then, when world-renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal inherited a collection of 264 Japanese wood and ivory carvings called netsuke, he decided to find more about his family’s past and how they came to own such a priceless collection. His memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance is the story of de Waal’s ancestors, the Ephrussis, one of Vienna’s most powerful and wealthy dynasties. The family and their fortune were almost entirely destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, and the netsuke is all the remains of their once-fabulous wealth.
Friday, May 29, 2015: Scholar, literary critic and best-selling writer Stephen Greenblatt is the author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. It examines the ancient Roman document that inspired the Renaissance. As one of the founders of New Historicism and one of the most important scholars of our age, Greenblatt is also the author of, among other works, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. Then, the 1980s conjure happy nostalgia for some, while others remember it as a low point in American history. For the good and the bad, author David Sirota claims that the decade of Ronald Reagan and Bill Cosby has an outsized influence on our national perspective today. His book is titled Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now – Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything.