To access all our features please use the Goodpods app.
Open the app
Top 10 Book Talk Episodes
Best episodes ranked by Goodpods Users most listened
Episode 59: Mother of Invention by Caeli Wolfson Widger
05/30/18 • -1 min
How might the lives of women change if pregnancy were nine weeks instead of nine months? Tessa Callahan, a kind of uber-Sheryl Sandberg, aims to find out. Her company, Seahorse Solutions, is pioneering the inaugural trial of this new technology, based off of a seemingly spontaneous medical aberration two decades ago, where dozens of women experienced this kind of accelerated gestation for no apparent reason. What Tessa does not know is that there are dark secrets lurking in the origins of her technological innovation: secrets held by her business partner, Luke; secrets held by the current Big Brother-like American regime. Set in a not-very-distant future that looks, perhaps, all too much like the world we live in now, this is a novel about gender roles and the meaning of motherhood, the threat and promise of technology, and what we are and are not willing to sacrifice in the name of progress.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Caeli Wolfson Widger about "morning" sickness and parenting, leaning in and pushing through, and what it means to write a feminist novel.
Guest readers Tui Sutherland and Brian Slattery join Oppenheimer to discuss false choices and the patriarchy , strong women and toxic masculinity, and the ways Brian does and doesn't resemble Tessa's husband Peter.
Episode 58: The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel
05/02/18 • -1 min
The year is 1990; the first Bush is president; the Iraq war is imminent. Rebecca Silver is finishing her freshman year at Berkeley, excited for her summer internship at her father’s radical leftist newspaper, ready to follow in his footsteps and remedy injustice through activism. But then plans change. Her father shuts the paper down, telling his readership he’s doing so “in an attempt to stop pretending I’m having any impact on the horrors of our world.” Rebecca is persuaded to go be a counselor at her cousin Caleb’s utopian camp, Llamalo, in the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. Caleb’s approach is different than her father’s: he wants to change the world one camper at a time, through love and ritual, sending them back into society transformed. Yet there are questions about how Caleb came to acquire Llamalo in the first place, questions about whether he’s a visionary or a huckster, questions about whether it’s possible to be both at the same time. Having grown up grounded in the certainty of her parents’ convictions, Rebecca is forced to grapple with who she is and how to be when that certainty is taken from her, and she has to confront an unjust world without it.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Heather Abel about idealism and disillusionment, booms and busts, and why stories matter.
Episode 57: Stray City by Chelsey Johnson
04/18/18 • -1 min
Portland, Oregon, 1999. It's a city of strays, the place where people who are outsiders everywhere else come to find belonging. Andrea came, she tells us, at seventeen,"from rural western Nebraska, where adulthood came hard and fast and narrow, and queers kept quiet or met violence." She thinks she's found her people, the Lesbian Mafia: they have family dinner and play music together and date each other, break up, and date each other in new configurations. But it's not that simple. Things get complicated when Andrea starts a secret affair with a man, Ryan -- a move, she tells us, that at that time, for the Lesbian Mafia, was as good as treason. And things get more complicated when Andrea gets pregnant and a relationship that was supposed to be all about space suddenly isn't anymore. Shifting perspective between Andrea, Ryan, and their eventual daughter, Lucia, this is a novel about identity and community, about the family we're given and the family we choose, about the ways we try to protect the people we love, the ways we hurt them anyway, and the ways we keep on trying.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Chelsey Johnson about being a rock'n'roll flutist, learning to love plot, and how to write an ending.
What you don't know about Charlie Outlaw, the actor, star of a hit TV show, is that he's been kidnapped. You don't know he was taken while vacationing on a remote island where he hoped for anonymity, a chance to re-evaluate his newfound celebrity and recent heartbreak. You don't know that his kidnappers don't know that he's famous -- that they value him only because he's American. You don't know, and he doesn't either, if his fame will doom him or save him or not matter at all.
What you don't know about Josie Lamar, the actress, former star of a cult TV show, object of Charlie's recent heartbreak, is that she's struggling with what it might mean to be washed up and in love with someone whose star is just beginning to rise. You don't know -- or maybe you do -- that she spent her formative years as a superhero, and that this is the person her fans still see when they run into her at the airport, the coffee shop, the doctor's office. Who is she if not the person others believe her to be? Where does acting end and reality begin? And can the superpowers that propelled her to fame help her to save Charlie -- or does real life not work that way?
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Leah Stewart about her "thematic preoccupation" with identity and gender, writing at the border of genre and literary fiction, and the influences of the 17th-century novel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on this novel.
Episode 55: The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
03/21/18 • -1 min
The Gunners is the name that Mikey, Sally, Alice, Jimmy, Lynn, and Sam give themselves, the name spelled out in stickers on the mailbox of the abandoned building they claim as their clubhouse the summer they are six and seven. The six of them are each other’s friends, cheerleaders, fans, family. Inside that circle of friendship, each of them can be who they are, without question, without judgment. Until the year they turn 16, when Sally suddenly, inexplicably, turns her back on the group, and the rest of them, shattered by her abandonment, splinter, going off into adulthood alone. Years later, Sally kills herself, and the group comes back together for her funeral, seeking answers, reconnection, absolution.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Rebecca Kauffman about change and the passage of time, the infinite complexity of the human heart, and the importance of allowing ourselves to be seen and to be known.
Episode 54: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu
02/21/18 • -1 min
Camp Forevermore is a place where girls go to be remade, where, in the “wholesomeness of woods and sisterhood,” they will come home strong, capable, transformed. For Isabel, Dina, Nita, Andee, and Siobhan, this mission takes a darker turn when, out on a kayaking trip, their counselor suddenly dies, and they are left to try to find their way to safety. Moving back and forth between this fateful excursion and the later lives of these girls-turned-women, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore traces the way a single event can cast ripples that extend far beyond and long after it has become something in the past.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Kim Fu about Lord of the Flies, girls and their friendships, and unhappy endings.
Guest readers Yael Shinar and Alice Baumgartner join Oppenheimer to discuss mothers, daughters, and chickens, and what it means to be lost and then found.
Episode 53: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
02/07/18 • -1 min
The Hazel Wood is the estate of the writer Althea Proserpine, author of one slight book of dark fairy tales, long out of print, almost impossible to find, but with a slavish, cultish following. It is a place Althea’s granddaughter, Alice, has heard about but never been, having spent her childhood on highways with her mother, moving from place to place, trying to escape some sensed but unseen danger, staying as far away from Althea and the Hazel Wood as possible. But when Alice’s mother is suddenly abducted, Alice knows that to find her she must uncover the secrets of the Hazel Wood, and, in so doing, come to terms with the question of what it means to be the author of her own story.
Oppenheimer talks with author Melissa Albert about the draw of YA literature ("it's the power of the new, the power of the now"), about what makes her want to write ("it's the same thing that makes me want to read: the draw to know what happens next"), and about Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and (of all things) Little House on the Prairie.
Guest readers Brian Slattery and Tui Sutherland join Oppenheimer to discuss the draw of the Hinterland, doomed princesses, and girls who make decisions. Plus, they offer Melissa Albert multiple ideas for sequels.
Episode 52: Halsey Street by Naima Coster
01/24/18 • -1 min
Halsey Street is where Penelope Grand grew up, with her father, Ralph, who ran a locally famous record shop, and her mother, Mirella, who cleaned houses. It is the street from which she moved away, to try to forge her own life as a painter, and the street to which she returns, in her late 20s, to care for her father after her mother leaves him and moves back to the Dominican Republic. It’s a street that has suddenly become home to gourmet markets and sushi bars, a street that doesn't look the way it used to anymore. It's the place where Penelope has to figure out if or how she belongs, and who she is -- the place where she has to, in her mother’s words, "find her life."
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Naima Coster about "the kinds of distance and intimacy that can exist between people across lines of class and race," "figuring out how to find freedom without running away," and "not wanting to write a book in which nobody raised their voices."
Episode 51: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
01/10/18 • -1 min
How would you live if you knew when you would die? This is the question confronting the four Gold siblings: Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon. In 1969, when they are children, a fortune-teller predicts, for each of them, the date of their death. It’s superstition, silliness, they know this, but words have power. The prophecy follows them as they choose their paths into adulthood. Simon heads to San Francisco in search of an authentic self. Klara becomes a magician, an illusionist, a performer of death-defying feats. Daniel studies medicine but, as an Army doctor, instead of healing, he deems young men healthy enough to send to war. And Varya, the eldest, turns to science, the opposite of magic, but her field of study — how to extend the lives of primates — is perhaps her own version of a death-defying feat. As they live their lives — and face down their deaths — each must find the path to writing their own story in a world where uncertainty and loss are pervasive but love is enduring.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Chloe Benjamin about unreliable narrators ("To me, every narrator is unreliable"), about allowing herself to write characters whose lived experience differs from her own ("research and empathy are the best way I've found to give myself that permission"), and choosing to end not with death but with healing.
Episode 60: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
06/27/18 • 55 min
In 1985 Chicago, the AIDS epidemic is decimating the population of young gay men who came to the city in search of acceptance, community, freedom. Yale Tishman is one of those men, watching as his friends are stricken down before him, wondering who will be next, if or when his turn will come. His friend Nico has already died, and Nico's sister, Fiona -- beloved by this tightknit group of men -- stands by as a silent witness, knowing she is the one who will survive, who will carry forward the burden of memory. In the meantime, in the midst, life continues: Fiona puts Yale, the development director for an art gallery, in touch with her great-aunt, who lived in Paris before and after World War I, and has a secret collection of paintings and sketches from the artists of the day: men she drew with and modeled for and, in one case, loved -- men who had come to Paris in search of acceptance and community and freedom and found their dreams bulldozed by war and its aftermath.
In 2015 Paris, terrorism is striking at the heart of the city, and in the meantime, in the midst, life continues: Fiona, thirty years older, is looking for her daughter, who, years ago, joined a cult, had a baby, disappeared. As the book moves back and forth in time and space, these intertwining stories ask what it means to be part of history, and how we live with love and loss.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Rebecca Makkai about what constitutes cultural appropriation and how to "write across difference;" the dangers of "leading with meaning" and why writers should trust their subconscious; and the reason she killed off Cyd's favorite character.
Guest readers Jessica Sager and Annie Thoms join Oppenheimer to discuss mistakes, responsibility, and guilt; striving for safety while living in danger; and what happens -- to us and to others -- when our stories unravel.