Florence Williams

The Nature Fix – Ep 38 with Florence Williams

From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to eucalyptus groves in California, Florence Williams investigates the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Delving into brand-new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas―and the answers they yield―are more urgent than ever.

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Ken Miller

The Human Instinct – Ep 36 with Ken Miller

A radical, optimistic exploration of how humans evolved to develop reason, consciousness, and free will.

Lately, the most passionate advocates of the theory of evolution seem to present it as bad news. Scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Sam Harris tell us that our most intimate actions, thoughts, and values are mere byproducts of thousands of generations of mindless adaptation. We are just one species among multitudes, and therefore no more significant than any other living creature.

Now comes Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller to make the case that this view betrays a gross misunderstanding of evolution. Natural selection surely explains how our bodies and brains were shaped, but Miller argues that it’s not a social or cultural theory of everything. In The Human Instinct, he rejects the idea that our biological heritage means that human thought, action, and imagination are pre-determined, describing instead the trajectory that ultimately gave us reason, consciousness and free will. A proper understanding of evolution, he says, reveals humankind in its glorious uniqueness—one foot planted firmly among all of the creatures we’ve evolved alongside, and the other in the special place of self-awareness and understanding that we alone occupy in the universe.

Equal parts natural science and philosophy, The Human Instinct is a moving and powerful celebration of what it means to be human.


Kenneth R. Miller is professor of biology at Brown University and the critically acclaimed bestselling author of Only a Theory, Finding Darwin’s God, and The Human Instinct. He serves as a science advisor to The NewsHour on PBS and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Among his honors are the Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame University, and the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Andrea Loney

James Van Der Zee – Ep 35 with Andrea J. Loney

James Van Der Zee was just a young boy when he saved enough money to buy his first camera. He took photos of his family, classmates, and anyone who would sit still for a portrait. By the fifth grade, James was the school photographer and unofficial town photographer. Eventually he outgrew his small town and moved to the exciting, fast-paced world of New York City. After being told by his boss that no one would want his or her photo taken by a black man, James opened his own portrait studio in Harlem. He took photographs of legendary figures of the Harlem Renaissance–politicians such as Marcus Garvey, performers including Florence Mills, Bill -Bojangles- Robinson, and Mamie Smith–and ordinary folks in the neighborhood too. Everyone wanted fancy portraits by James Van Der Zee. Winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! tells the story of a groundbreaking artist who chronicled an important era in Harlem and showed the beauty and pride of its people.

Andrea J. Loney received her MFA in dramatic writing from New York University. Since then, she has worked various jobs, from screenwriter to teacher of computer skills, and she even ran away to live with a circus. Today Andrea spends most of her time writing the kind of books that she would have enjoyed as a child—stories that celebrate the humanity of all children. She lives with her devoted partner and their embarrassingly spoiled pets in Los Angeles, California.

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Elana A. Mugdan

Dragon Speaker – Ep 34 with Elana A. Mugdan

Born into a world of magic wielders without any powers of her own, Keriya Nameless isn’t exactly hero material, yet she’s chosen to save the last living dragon. She doesn’t know why it happened, and frankly she doesn’t care—this is her chance to prove her worth. Unfortunately, countless others are determined to get their hands on that dragon—everyone from smugglers to kings, from the Empress of Allentria to the most powerful warlord who ever lived—and Keriya quickly realizes she’s at the center of a war that will decide the fate of everything.

Elana A. Mugdan is a published author and semi-retired filmmaker based in New York City. For the past few years she’s been working on her five-book YA fantasy series, entitled “The Shadow War Saga“. In 2015 she secured a deal with Pen Works Media, a small indie publisher in London. In 2016 the first book in the series, “Dragon Speaker“, was released in the UK. Its sequel, “Dragon Child”, is slated for release later this year.

Elana’s Twitter

Elana’s Instagram

Dragon Speaker on Goodreads

Elana’s LinkedIn

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Kieran Setiya

Midlife: A Philosophical Guide – Ep 33 with Kieran Setiya

How can you reconcile yourself with the lives you will never lead, with possibilities foreclosed, and with nostalgia for lost youth? How can you accept the failings of the past, the sense of futility in the tasks that consume the present, and the prospect of death that blights the future? In this self-help book with a difference, Kieran Setiya confronts the inevitable challenges of adulthood and middle age, showing how philosophy can help you thrive.

You will learn why missing out might be a good thing, how options are overrated, and when you should be glad you made a mistake. You will be introduced to philosophical consolations for mortality. And you will learn what it would mean to live in the present, how it could solve your midlife crisis, and why meditation helps.

Ranging from Aristotle, Schopenhauer, and John Stuart Mill to Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as drawing on Setiya’s own experience, Midlife combines imaginative ideas, surprising insights, and practical advice. Writing with wisdom and wit, Setiya makes a wry but passionate case for philosophy as a guide to life.

Kieran teaches Philosophy at MIT, working mainly in ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind. In addition to Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, he is the author of Practical Knowledge, Reasons without Rationalism, and Knowing Right From Wrong. His work has been featured in Aeon, Hi-Phi Nation, Why? Radio, Five Books, the Guardian, and the New York Times. He has also written about baseball and philosophy. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

Check out Kieran’s Amazon Author Page
Kieran is also on Twitter

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Michael Nye

All The Castles Burned – Ep 32 with Michael Nye

Set in the early 1990s, All The Castles Burned is about Owen Webb, the son of working-class parents, receives a scholarship to the prestigious Rockcastle Preparatory Academy. He is befriended by the enigmatic Carson Bly, an upperclassman from a wealthy and powerful family. Their friendship, deepened through a love of basketball, becomes an obsession. During the summer before his sophomore year, Owen’s father is arrested for a shocking and unexpected crime. With his family torn apart, his anger and fear are carefully manipulated by Carson, whose mercurial personality becomes increasingly dangerous. Their once promising future begins to unravel in a tragic and unavoidable way.

Michael Nye is the author of two books, the story collection Strategies Against Extinction and the novel All the Castles Burned. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in American Literary Review, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Crab Orchard Review, Epoch, Hobart, Kenyon Review, and the Normal School, among many others. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

Find Michael on:

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Laurie Gwen Shapiro

The Stowaway – Ep 31 with Laurie Gwen Shapiro

The Stowaway is the spectacular, true story of a scrappy teenager from New York’s Lower East Side who stowed away on the Roaring Twenties’ most remarkable feat of science and daring: an expedition to Antarctica.

It was 1928: a time of illicit booze, of Gatsby and Babe Ruth, of freewheeling fun. The Great War was over and American optimism was higher than the stock market. What better moment to launch an expedition to Antarctica, the planet’s final frontier? There wouldn’t be another encounter with an unknown this magnificent until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.

Everyone wanted in on the adventure. Rockefellers and Vanderbilts begged to be taken along as mess boys, and newspapers across the globe covered the planning’s every stage. And then, the night before the expedition’s flagship set off, Billy Gawronski—a mischievous, first-generation New York City high schooler desperate to escape a dreary future in the family upholstery business—jumped into the Hudson River and snuck aboard.

Could he get away with it?

From the soda shops of New York’s Lower East Side to the dance halls of sultry Francophone Tahiti, all the way to Antarctica’s blinding white and deadly freeze, Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s The Stowaway takes you on the unforgettable voyage of a plucky young stowaway who became a Jazz Age celebrity, a mascot for an up-by-your bootstraps era.

Laurie Gwen Shapiro is a native of New York City’s Lower East Side. She has most recently written articles for publications including The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Slate, Aeon, Los Angeles Review of Books, and has her own history column focusing on unsung heroes for The Forward. Shapiro is also a documentary filmmaker who won an Independent Spirit Award for directing IFC’s Keep the River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale and an Emmy nomination for producing HBO’s Finishing Heaven. The Stowaway is her first non-fiction book.

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Ana Simo

Heartland – Ep 30 with Ana Simo

In a word-drunk romp through an alternate, preapocalyptic America, Ana Simo’s fiction debut, Heartland, turns the classic murder mystery on its head with the story of a thwarted author’s elaborate revenge on the woman who stole her lover, blending elements of telenovela, lesbian pulp noir, and dystopian satire.

Ana Simo is a New York playwright, essayist, and lesbian activist. Born and raised in Cuba, she immigrated to Paris in time to witness the May 1968 revolt, and participate in early women’s and gay and lesbian rights groups. Since moving to New York in 1973, she has written some dozen plays, collaborated with experimental artists, and co-founded literary and activist projects. She recently finished a second novel, Tannhäuser’s Dream, and is currently writing a new one, titled Divine Light.

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Jenn Jordan

Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell – Ep 29 with Jenn Jordan

It’s tough living in the 21st century, when mythical beings not only roam the earth, but camp out on your sofa and raid your refrigerator. Jobs are scarce; angels infest Brooklyn (the demons have taken all the good property in Manhattan) and minor gods bus tables at the local diner. The mortals of New York must balance not only their checkbooks but keep a close eye on their souls’ karmic account.

Darwin lives in Brooklyn, the borough of choice for hipsters, artists, deities and an assortment of mythological creatures. Darwin has a problem. Due to an unfortunate incident involving some intense snogging, an unbalanced high chair, and a framed image of the Buddha, he acquired a massive karmic deficit. Long story short, he’s going to go to Hell. Darwin doesn’t particularly want to go to Hell, so he’s doing everything he can to save his immortal soul.

Managing his complete karmic rehabilitation, a soul-crippling day-job in financial aid counseling, life in a ridiculously gentrified, rent-inflated neighborhood, and a pack of free-loading stoner angels is tricky, to say the least.

His best friend, Ella Fitzgerald, the daughter of saints with good karma to burn, coaches Darwin on saving his soul. His 2000 year old pet manticore, Skittles, provides moral support, the wisdom of the ancients, and fluffy hugs. Darwin must contend with his obnoxious roommate—art student and suspected alien Matt Westbury—but there’s also his friendly minotaur landlord, Patrick, who drinks Darwin’s beer and fixes the sink.

Every day is a fresh hell, but it’s a chance at redemption.


Jenn is the co-author of Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell with Sophie Goldstein, with whom she is working on her second book. She is also a graduate student in medieval history at Stony Brook University, where she is writing a dissertation on women in medieval Sicily and Southern Italy.

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