On the Radio

Week of July 26, 2015

The Art of Reading

July 26, 2015

It used to be easy to get lost in a good book, but now lots of people say reading is boring. Scientists say all that skimming and surfing on electronic screens is actually rewiring our brains. So we examine the new science of reading, and meet celebrated New Yorker book critic James Wood.

Also, Jordanian scientist Rana Dajani tells the remarkable story of how she started a reading program for kids at her local mosque, which has spread to hundreds of libraries across the Middle East. And Princeton historian Tony Grafton uncovers the history of reading by looking in the margins of books.

In our last segment, Jonathan Gottschall's dangerous idea is to remove padded gloves from combat sports to reduce the brain damage of fighters. And renowned MMA fighter Ronda Rousey describes her long, hard road to the top.

Producer(s): 
  1. Why it's Hard to Read in the Electronic Age

    Are we losing the ability to read difficult books? Cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf says we need to develop a "bi-literate reading brain" so that we can switch back and forth between the deep reading of print and the skimming of electronic texts.

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  2. What Makes a Good Book Critic?

    James Wood is often called the best critic of his generation. He looks back at his own career, from writing brutal take-downs at the Guardian to his current perch at The New Yorker, and tells us why genre fiction makes him "anxious." You can read the transcript of the complete interview at Electric Literature.

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  3. Teaching Kids to Love Books in the Middle East

    When she moved back to Jordan, molecular biologist Rana Dajani realized that children there didn't read for pleasure. So she started a reading program at her local mosque. Since then, her reading program has reached more than 10,000 kids in Jordan and has spread across the Middle East.

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  4. Reading History from the Margins

    Can we ever know how people used to read - say, 500 years ago? Princeton historian Tony Grafton is obsessed with that question. He says we get plenty of clues by looking at what our ancestors wrote in the margins of books, and this provides a glimpse at how people thought about themselves and the world around them.

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  5. Take Off the Gloves

    Jonathan Gottschall's dangerous idea? Remove the padded gloves from boxers and other fighters. That will reduce the brain damage to fighters.

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  6. The Toughest Woman in the World

    Ronda Rousey may be the best mixed martial arts fighter who ever lived, and she continues to dominate the MMA. But her rise to the top hasn't been easy. She tells the remarkable story of how she became a champion fighter.

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Mayors (update)

July 26, 2015

Name a problem and Washington seems unable to solve it. Poverty. Climate change. Unemployment. Immigration. Education. Enter the mayor.  As one of our guests ask, "What IF mayors ruled the world?"

Jon Gnarr wasn't trying to rule anything. He is a professional comedian who ran for mayor of Reykjavik on a lark. And to his surprise, won. And to everyone's surpirse, helped change his country during a crisis.

The former mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, take us on a walking tour of the neighborhood in Toronto of one of his big heroes, the late urban thinker, Jane Jacobs. 

And in Chicago’s 49th Ward they engage in Participatory Budgeting - in other words the residents of the 49th Ward decide how to spend their ward’s money - seriously.

  1. If Mayors Ruled the World

    Name a problem and Washington seems unable to solve it. Poverty. Climate change. Unemployment. Immigration. Education. Enter the mayor.

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  2. Participatory Budgeting

    In Chicago’s 49th Ward they engage in Participatory Budgeting - in other words the residents of the 49th Ward decide how to spend their ward’s money.  

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  3. SONIC SIDEBAR: Mayor Dave

    The former mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, take us on a walking tour of the neighborhood of one of his big heroes, the late urban thinker, Jane Jacobs. 

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  4. The Mayor of Reykjavik

    Jon Gnarr is a professional comedian who ran for mayor of Reykjavik on a lark. And to his surprise, won.

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  5. A DANGEROUS IDEA!

    Author Harriet Brown has a dangerous idea. What if stopped talking about how we look? Just stopped...

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  6. Keija Parssinen on her novel "The Unraveling of Mercy Louis"

    “The Unraveling of Mercy Louis" tells the fascinating story of a community that’s nearly torn apart following the discovery of an abandoned baby in a dumpster. A witch hunt ensures and the girls at a local high school soon begin developing mysterious twitches and tics, which quickly intensify. Eventually, the girls in the town are acting as if they’re possessed, thrashing around on the floor or grunting like animals. As strange as it all sounds, Parssinen says the book was inspired by a real episode of mass hysteria in Le Roy, New York.

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