Ilan Stavans, by KEVIN GUTTING

A Mayan Creation Story – Ep 82 with Ilan Stavans

Popul Vuh: A Retelling is an inspired and urgent prose retelling of the Mayan myth of creation by acclaimed Latin American author and scholar Ilan Stavans, gorgeously illustrated by Salvadoran folk artist Gabriela Larios and introduced by renowned author, diplomat, and environmental activist Homero Aridjis.

The archetypal creation story of Latin America, the Popul Vuh began as a Maya oral tradition millennia ago. In the mid-sixteenth century, as indigenous cultures across the continent were being threatened with destruction by European conquest and Christianity, it was written down in verse by members of the K’iche’ nobility in what is today Guatemala. In 1701, that text was translated into Spanish by a Dominican friar and ethnographer before vanishing mysteriously.

Cosmic in scope and yet intimately human, the Popul Vuh offers invaluable insight into the Maya way of life before being decimated by colonization-their code of ethics, their views on death and the afterlife, and their devotion to passion, courage and the natural world. It tells the story of how the world was created in a series of rehearsals that included wooden dummies, demi-gods, and eventually humans. It describes the underworld, Xibalba-a place as harrowing as Danta’s hell-and relates the legend of the ultimate king, who, in the face of tragedy, became a spirit that accompanies his people in their struggle for survival.

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin America and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the publisher of Restless Books.

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Perween Richards

Stories From a Syrian Refugee – Ep 81 with Perween Richards

Drawn from her experiences of growing up as a young woman in the ‘world’s largest prison’—Gaza—Nayrouz Qarmout’s stories in The Sea Cloak (translated by Perween Richards) stitch together a stirring patchwork of perspectives exploring what it means to be a Palestinian today. Whether following the daily struggles of orphaned children fighting to survive in the rubble of recent bombardments, or mapping the complex tensions between political forces vying to control Palestinian lives, these stories offer a rare insight into one of the most talked about but least understood cities in the Middle East. Taken together, they afford us a local perspective on a global story, always rooted firmly in that most cherished of things, the home.

Perween Richards is a literary translator of Arabic-language stories. She attended translating classes at City summer school in London in 2016, and was one of the two winners of the school’s annual translation competition, sponsored by Comma Press. She was awarded an English PEN Translates grant to translate The Sea Cloak.

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Cover of You Ought To Do A Story About Me

You Ought To Do A Story About Me – Ep 80 with Ted Jackson

You Ought To Do A Story About Me: Addiction, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Endless Quest for Redemption is the heartbreaking, timeless, and redemptive story of the transformative friendship binding a fallen-from-grace NFL player and a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who meet on the streets of New Orleans, offering a rare glimpse into the precarious world of homelessness and the lingering impact of systemic racism and poverty on the lives of NOLA’s citizens. 

Author Ted Jackson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and the author of YOU OUGHT TO DO A STORY ABOUT ME, an unlikely tale that began thirty years ago when a homeless man boasted about playing in three Super Bowls. The story was true.

Beginning in 1984, Ted started photographing assignments for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and globally, exploring politics, environmental issues, conflict and the indomitable human spirit. He has appeared on CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox News, NBC and NPR. He and his wife live in Covington, Louisiana.

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Alison Rosenblitt

E.E. Cummings And The Great War – Ep 79 with Alison Rosenblitt

An incisive biography of E. E. Cummings’s early life, including his World War I ambulance service and subsequent imprisonment, inspirations for his inventive poetry.

E. E. Cummings is one of our most popular and enduring poets, one whose name extends beyond the boundaries of the literary world. Renowned for his formally fractured, gleefully alive poetry, Cummings is not often thought of as a war poet. But his experience in France and as a prisoner during World War I (the basis for his first work of prose, The Enormous Room) escalated his earliest breaks with conventional form?the innovation with which his name would soon become synonymous.

Intimate and richly detailed, The Beauty of Living begins with Cummings’s Cambridge upbringing and his relationship with his socially progressive but domestically domineering father. It follows Cummings through his undergraduate experience at Harvard, where he fell into a circle of aspiring writers including John Dos Passos, who became a lifelong friend. Steeped in classical paganism and literary Decadence, Cummings and his friends rode the explosion of Cubism, Futurism, Imagism, and other “modern” movements in the arts. As the United States prepared to enter World War I, Cummings volunteered as an ambulance driver, shipped out to Paris, and met his first love, Marie Louise Lallemand, who was working in Paris as a prostitute. Soon after reaching the front, however, he was unjustly imprisoned in a brutal French detention center at La Ferté-Macé.

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Christian B. Miller

Our Moral Character – Ep 78 with Christian B. Miller

We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Author and philosopher Christian B. Miller argues in his new book, “The Character Gap: How Good Are We?” that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are – and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest.

Instead, Miller argues, we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger – and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of “character” really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be.

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In Praise of Walking cover

In Praise of Walking – Ep 77 with Shane O’Mara

In this captivating book, neuroscientist Shane O’Mara invites us to marvel at the benefits walking confers on our bodies and brains, and to appreciate the advantages of this uniquely human skill. From walking’s evolutionary origins, traced back millions of years to life forms on the ocean floor, to new findings from cutting-edge research, he reveals how the brain and nervous system give us the ability to balance, weave through a crowded city, and run our “inner GPS” system. Walking is good for our muscles and posture; it helps to protect and repair organs, and can slow or turn back the aging of our brains. With our minds in motion we think more creatively, our mood improves, and stress levels fall. Walking together to achieve a shared purpose is also a social glue that has contributed to our survival as a species.

As our lives become increasingly sedentary, O’Mara makes the case that we must start walking again—whether it’s up a mountain, down to the park, or simply to school and work. In Praise of Walking illuminates the joys, health benefits, and mechanics of walking, and reminds us to get out of our chairs and discover a happier, healthier, more creative self.

Shane O’Mara is the principal investigator in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, where his research explores the brain systems supporting learning, memory, and cognition, and the brain systems affected by stress and depression.

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Author Ellen Goodwin

How To Get things DONE – Ep 76 with Ellen Goodwin

DONE: How To Work When No One is Watching is a hands-on guidebook that teaches, through stories, examples, and activities how working with (and around) your brain, can make all the difference in what can be accomplished every day; the importance of being in action (and not motion); the best way to prevent obstacles from stopping you; how to easily build stronger and better habits; why it’s more important to manage you energy instead of your time, and why one-size does not fit all when it comes to productivity. It’s also kind of funny.

Ellen Goodwin is a Productivity Trainer, TEDx speaker, and author who uses neuroscience-based principles to enable individuals and businesses to overcome procrastination, build stronger habits, and be more focused so that they can be more efficient and effective with their time. When it comes to productivity, Ellen believes there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so she advocates for experimentation to find the tools and techniques that work best with your life and your business. She recently released her book, DONE: How To Work When No One Is Watching, and is the co-host of The Faster, Easier, Better Show podcast.


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Swing Kings

Baseball’s Swing Kings – Ep 75 with Jared Diamond

From the Wall Street Journal’s national baseball writer, the captivating story of the home run boom, following a group of players who rose from obscurity to stardom and the rogue swing coaches who helped them usher the game into a new age.

Swing Kings is both a rollicking history of baseball’s recent past and a deeply reported, character-driven account of a battle between opponents as old as time: old and new, change and stasis, the establishment and those who break from it. Jared Diamond has written a masterful chronicle of America’s pastime at the crossroads.

JARED DIAMOND has been the national baseball writer for the Wall Street Journal since 2017. Prior to that, he spent a season as the Journal’s Yankees beat writer and three seasons as their Mets beat writer. In his current role, he leads the newspaper’s baseball coverage. This is his first book.

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Disfigured Cover

Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space – Ep 74 with Amanda Leduc

If every disabled character is mocked and mistreated, how does the Beast ever imagine a happily-ever-after? Amanda Leduc looks at fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to Disney, showing us how they influence our expectations and behaviour and linking the quest for disability rights to new kinds of stories that celebrate difference.

Amanda Leduc is a disabled writer and author of the non-fiction book DISFIGURED: ON FAIRY TALES, DISABILITY, AND MAKING SPACE (Coach House Books, 2020) and the novel THE MIRACLES OF ORDINARY MEN (2013, ECW Press). Her next novel, THE CENTAUR’S WIFE, is forthcoming from Random House Canada in the spring of 2021. She has cerebral palsy and lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where she works as the Communications Coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), Canada’s first festival for diverse authors and stories.

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Lee Silber

Jimmy and the Kid – Ep 73 with Lee Silber

When a twelve year-old girl wants to play baseball with the boys, she’s lucky to have the help of Jimmy Parks, a former Major Leaguer and someone with the power to change her life forever.

Escaping to the empty baseball fields across the street from the military housing in which she lives, Billie is content to throw a ball against the wall, pitching imaginary games with no one around—until she meets Jimmy Parks, the man who maintains the fields.

Not only does the long-retired Major Leaguer teach Billie and her new friends how to play baseball the right way, he and the other older coaches also teach the team about life in this story of breaking barriers, and breaking through to do what you were always meant to do.

Lee Silber is an author who started self-publishing his books (with success!) in the 1990s, he then signed with Random House for four books, followed by St Martin’s Press, Career Press, and others to release a total of 20 books. Then, he went back to putting out his own books (winning several awards) including his latest title, “Jimmy and the Kid“.

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