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Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.

Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.
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Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.








Emma Smith: This is Shakespeare

In this week’s Spectator Books, Sam's guest is Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, Oxford, who’s talking about her new book This Is Shakespeare. What is it that makes Shakespeare special — and is it defensible that, as even in university curricula, we talk about Shakespeare apart from and above the whole of the rest of literature? How did he think about genre? Why is Act Four always a bit boring? Is the Tempest an autumnal masterpiece or the thin work of a...


Ursula Buchan: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps

In this week's books podcast, Sam is joined by Ursula Buchan - the author of a hugely involving new life of her late grandfather John Buchan. The book is called Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps (you can read Allan Massie's enthusiastic Spectator review of it [here](https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/was-there-no-end-to-john-buchans-talents/)), and it does as the title promises. Buchan (or 'JB' to his family) is known, if he's known now at all, as the author of the pre-war thriller The...


Bret Easton Ellis: White

In this week’s books podcast Sam is joined by Bret Easton Ellis. The author of Less Than Zero, American Psycho and Imperial Bedrooms is here to talk about his first nonfiction book White, and the savage critical response to it. They discuss censorious millennials, the fascination of actors, his problem with David Foster Wallace, 'coming out' as Patrick Bateman - and his own personal Ed Balls Day, when he posted what he thought was a text message ordering drugs to Twitter. Presented by Sam...


Joseph Stiglitz: People, Power, and Profits.

In this week’s books podcast, the guest is the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, architect of Bill Clinton’s “Third Way” and former chief economist at the World Bank. His new book People, Power and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent argues Trump’s economic boom is a “sugar-high”, and that the US economy is in a far, far worse state than anybody thinks. As a result, he says, we need to reevaluate our whole faith in free markets. The reason the "invisible...


Nicci Gerrard: What Dementia Teaches Us about Love

In this week’s books podcast Sam is joined by the journalist and (as one half of the crime writer Nicci French) novelist Nicci Gerrard to talk about her new book What Dementia Teaches Us About Love. The loss of her own father to dementia prompted Nicci to look at one of the most painful and pressing social problems of the age: how we care for, or fail to care for, those who have dementia — and the philosophical questions of what it means when the things that make you you start to fall away.


Cass Sunstein: How Change Happens

In this week's Books Podcast Sam is joined by Professor Cass Sunstein - best known here as co-author of the hugely influential 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, which spawned a whole transatlantic movement in using behavioural psychology to influence public policy (not least over here in the Cabinet Office's celebrated "Nudge Unit"). Cass's new book is called How Change Happens -- and extends the arguments of his previous books to talk about the...


Clare Carlisle: Philosopher of the Heart

Sam's guest for this week’s books podcast is Clare Carlisle, author of a new life of Soren Kierkegaard, Philosopher of the Heart. Kierkegaard has a reputation for being forbidding, pious and difficult to pronounce - but Clare’s here to tell us why the work of this transformational thinker and writer speaks to every age about the difficulties and the vital importance of finding a way of living in the world. Plus, we learn about his very strange love-life, his mental health, and how he got...


Clare Mulley: The Woman Who Saved The Children

In this week’s books podcast Sam is talking to Clare Mulley about The Woman Who Saved The Children, her biography of Eglantyne Jebb reissued to coincide with next week’s centenary of Save The Children, the charity that Jebb founded. Eglantyne was a fascinating and deeply unconventional figure — a nice young gel from the Shropshire squirearchy who refused to fit into the social, sexual or professional pigeonholes her background seemed to destine her for. Instead she found herself...


Donna Leon: Unto Us A Son Is Born

In this week’s books podcast Sam is joined by one of the doyennes of crime writing, the brilliant Donna Leon. She talks about her latest Commissario Brunetti novel, Unto Us A Son Is Given, about what Venice gives her as a setting, why she welcomes snobbery towards crime writers, and why she never lets her books be published in Italian. Presented by Sam Leith.


Jhumpa Lahiri: The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories

In this week's books podcast, Sam Leith is joined by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri. Someone whose own fiction has negotiated the cross-cultural territory of her Bengali-American identity, Jhumpa in the last few years has been negotiating a new crossing of cultures after settling in Rome with her family and starting to write fiction and memoir in Italian. She joins the podcast to discuss the _Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories_, which she edited, and talk about what a new...


Owen Matthews: An Impeccable Spy

In this week’s books podcast Sam is joined by Owen Matthews to talk about the man many have claimed was the greatest spy of the 20th century, Richard Sorge, the subject of Owen’s riveting new book An Impeccable Spy (reviewed in the new issue of The Spectator by Nicholas Shakespeare). Sorge (he’s pronounced 'zorgey', by the way — not, as I introduce the podcast, idiot that I am, 'sawj'). Here was a man who supplied information that changed the course of the Second World War — and far from...


Max Porter: Lanny

In this week's books podcast Sam talks to Max Porter, former publisher at Granta and author of the prizewinning debut Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, about his brilliant new novel Lanny (reviewed by Andrew Motion [here](https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/03/love-death-and-loss-in-a-small-village-lanny-reviewed/)). He asks: why are we used to novels having 15 page boring bits? What does the Green Man myth, and myth in general, have to offer readers? How do you convey the white noise of a...


Peter Stanford: Angels

In this week’s books podcast Sam talks to Peter Stanford, author of Angels: A Visible and Invisible History. Why is it that, according to some polls, more people believe in angels than believe in God? Peter takes us on a tour through history, theology and literature to find how the winged cherubs on our Christmas cards got there, and why they look as they do. Along the way he addresses some of the vital questions. Do angels have wings — and if so, how many? What are they made of — light, or...


David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth

In this week's Spectator Books, Sam talks to the American journalist David Wallace-Wells about his new book The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future. In it, he uses the best available scientific projections to underpin a picture of what the world would look like if it heats up by four degrees or more. Not pretty, is the conclusion he comes to. But what’s he trying to achieve with this book? Why, in his view, do we not take climate change seriously enough? And is this Project Fear — or...


Deborah Lipstadt: Antisemitism

In this week's Spectator Books, Sam is joined by Deborah Lipstadt -- the historian who herself made a piece of history when she defeated the Holocaust denier David Irving in court. In her new book Antisemitism Now, Professor Lipstadt returns to the fray to look at the worldwide uptick of antisemitism in our own day and age. Sam asks her why she felt the need to write this book and frame it in the way she did, how antisemitism differs from other forms of prejudice, and what you can and can't...


Andrew Morton: Diana, Her True Story

In this week's books podcast I'm joined from Los Angeles by Andrew Morton -- the Royal writer who scooped the world with the inside story of Princess Diana's marriage. To coincide with the publication of a revised and expanded edition of Diana, Her True Story -- including new material recovered from the tapes they smuggled out of Kensington Palace -- he looks back on those days and that story, and discusses how Royal reportage has changed. Why didn't they call it "Diana: The True Story"?...


Josh Cohen: Not Working

In this week's books podcast Sam is joined by Josh Cohen, author of the Not Working: Why We Have To Stop. Josh is a literary critic and a working psychoanalyst, and his book is a thoughtful and subtle discussion of the way in which work dominates not only our lives and identities but our leisure time too -- and a speculation about some of the ways we might set about changing that. His references range from Max Weber and Freud to Orson Welles, Andy Warhol, Emily Dickinson and David Foster...


Robert Alter: The Hebrew Bible

In this week’s books podcast, Sam's guest is Robert Alter - who has just published the fruits of decades of labour in the form of his complete new translation of the Hebrew Bible into English. Acclaimed for his Bible translations by Seamus Heaney, John Updike and Peter Ackroyd, Prof Alter explains how Biblical Hebrew really works, what can and cannot be preserved in translation - and why, as he sees it, nearly every modern translation of the Bible gets it catastrophically wrong. Presented by...


Kajsa Norman: Sweden's Dark Soul

In this week's episode, Sam talks to investigative journalist Kajsa Norman about her book 'Sweden's Dark Soul'. In it, she turns her gaze on the oppressive forces at the heart of Sweden’s ‘model democracy’. The story begins with the cover-up of mass sexual assaults at a Stockholm music festival. The reason? The perpetrators were unaccompanied refugee minors. Presented by Sam Leith.


Jonathan Ames: The Extra Man

In this week’s book’s podcast Sam's guest is Jonathan Ames, a writer who has produced everything from memoir (Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer) to TV writing (Bored To Death), graphic novels (The Alcoholic), pitch-black noir (You Were Never Really Here), Wodehouse hommage (Wake Up, Sir!) and now, in The Extra Man, a comic novel riffing on Henry James. We talk about why he calls so many of his characters “Jonathan Ames”, how he goes about his work, and whether — as a man who has...