What We're Reading

Here's what's on senior producer Kathleen McKenna’s to do list:

In terms of reading and moviegoing, I am in Asia these days.

Amitav Ghosh has sent me to the library to find out more about WWII in Asia, specifically Burma and Malaysia. I just finished "The Glass Palace," an epic tale about life in India, Burma, and Malaysia – from the late 19th century through World War II to today.

I say it’s back to the library for me because I’d like to do more reading about the Indian soldiers who fought for the colonizer – Britain – in places like Burma and Malaysia – just as India moved towards independence.

poppiesI first read Ghosh’s "The Hungry Tide" - about Bangladesh and the Sundarbans. Beautifully written, deeply researched.

And then I devoured "Sea of Poppies" ­­ — Ghosh’s latest work about colonialism in Asia and the poppies that fueled so many tensions way back when.

A masala of languages – now I want to crack open the "Hobson Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases." Both books are great introductions to South Asia. And if you can’t be there…

In the film department, our DVD is in overdrive watching anything we can by Takeshi Kitano. I guess he’s part James Dean, part Scorsese – a true bad boy. "Violent Cop" – starring Kitano – is just what it says it is. A bit too violent for me.

"A Scene At The Sea" was brilliant – "Kids Return" is another great one. I want to see more, but they’re hard to find…And when we’re not watching Kitano, master filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu is on!

Arigatou gozaimasu


(Posted December 2, 2009)



Alex Ashlock, Here and Now Producer here with someone who deserves more attention.

Journalist Chuck Bowden has always been one of my favorite guests on Here and Now, because he has that characteristic all radio producers look for: A Voice. Not just the way he sounds but the way he can tell a story. He does it again in a beautiful coffee table book called "Trinity." It's the final chapter in a trilogy devoted to Chuck's home turf, the desert of the American Southwest. "Trinity" includes incredible black and white photos taken by Michael Berman. Click on this link to see some of them and read an excerpt from the book.

To me, Chuck Bowden is a journalistic version of Bob Dylan. Just like Dylan, Chuck melds history, reality and imagination into something you've never seen or heard before, but it still feels familiar. When you read Bowden or listen to Dylan, it’s like doing something over for the first time, if that makes any sense. "Trinity" does that in a story of a place that has been home to Billy the Kid, atomic tests, and the current debate over immigration. Check it out, it's worth the trip.

(Posted November 27, 2009)

Alex Ashlock, Here and Now Producer here with some recommendations for books and music.

A book I'm looking forward to is "The President's Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game & The Assassination of JFK" by Michael Connelly. President Kennedy, who had attended the 1961 and 1962 Army-Navy games, was also scheduled to be in Philadelphia for the 1963 contest. His assassination on November 22 in Dallas prevented that, and also forced the cancellation of the game. After Jacqueline Kennedy said publicly that playing the game would be a fitting tribute to the slain president, it was eventually contested on December 7. Navy, led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach, won 21-15. The new book features a forward by President Kennedy's bother, the late senator Edward Kennedy.

On a lighter note, another book for the season is Wally Lamb's "Wishin" and Hopin' A Christmas Story. This one will make you laugh out loud. It tells the fictional story of 10-year-old Felix Funcicello, as he navigates his way through the 5th grade in a parochial school in Connecticut in 1964. It's a vivid slice of life at that time, including an entertaining cast of characters, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, and a school Christmas pageant gone hilariously wrong. And yes, the original Mouseketeer, Annette Funcicello, makes an appearance. Stay tuned to Here and Now for Robin's interview with Wally Lamb.

As for music, a CD I have been listening to recently is the first solo record by David Rawlings. He's know for his work with Gillian Welch and Old Crow Medicine Show but on this CD, called "a friend of a friend," they back him up. The music reflects Rawlings' work with those other artists but puts his vocals and excellent guitar work up front, backed by Welch's harmonies and the keyboard work of Benmont Tench, who plays with Tom Perry. Rawlings wrote most of the songs, but my favorite is a medley that includes his take on Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer."

Alex Ashlock, Here and Now Producer here with some stuff I like.

The New York Times has a couple of blogs I try to check as often as I can. One of them is "Home Fires." The postings come from veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bloggers include Brian Turner, a former infantry team leader in Iraq, who also happens to be a poet. Right now, he's enjoying the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, which requires him to spend one year traveling outside of North America.  There's also Jeffrey Barnett, a former Marine officer in Falluja, Iraq and Michael Jernigan, a Marine who was blinded by a bomb in Iraq in 2004.

Their postings are often very personal and powerful and offer insight into their service and what it's like now, when they're home.

The other Time blog I check out most every day is "Lens."

Here you can see some of the best photo-journalism from around the world. As I'm writing this I am looking at a photo of crocodiles on ice at a butcher shop in China, in a Sam's Club! It's among the pictures of the day for October 27th.

Something I'm looking forward, and a plug here for the BBC, is a series that Owen Bennett Jones will present the week of November 9th. It's called "The Crescent and The Cross" and will explore the history of Christianity and Islam. Big subject, but if anyone can handle it, it's Owen. I think his work terrific.

As for music, you've probably heard about the new CD by Rosanne Cash. It's called "The List" and it includes 12 songs from a list her dad, the late Johnny Cash, gave her when she was 18. These are the songs Johnny Cash considered essential for his daughter to know. My favorites on the CD are Rosanne's version of "Long Black Veil" and "Girl from the North Country." When Robin interviewed Cash about the CD, she told us her daughter, who's about to release her own first CD, wants her mom to give her a list. Maybe it will become a family tradition.

Hi, producer Alex Ashlock here.

Right now, I'm digging into Jon Krakauer's new book, "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey Of Pat Tillman." It tells the story of the former NFL star who walked away from a multimillion-dollar contract to join the Army. Tillman, an outstanding defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. You probably know the outlines of the rest of his story, which include the allegations that the Pentagon and the Bush Administration initially portrayed Tillman as a hero who died fighting the enemy. But Krakauer provides context and detail for the friendly fire incident and the charges that his death was used for propaganda purposes. If you enjoyed Krakauer's previous books, such as "Into Thin Air" and "Into The Wild," you'll probably appreciate this new book. By the way, "Where Men Win Glory" is dedicated to Sgt. Jared Monti of Raynham, Massachusetts. Krakeuer spent several months with Monti's unit while he was researching this book. In 2006, Sgt. Monti was killed trying to rescue a wounded soldier from his unit. He was recently awarded the Medal of Honor for that action.


Another book on my shelf is "America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story," by Bruce Feiler, one of our favorite guests on the program. His new book explores how Moses inspired everyone from George Washington to Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan. You might recall our earlier conversations with Feiler about his previous books, "Walking the Bible," and "Where God Was Born." Stay tuned for an interview with him about "American Prophet" later this fall.

If you're a heavy metal or classic rock fan, keep your eyes open for "Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times: A Visual Biography of the Ultimate Band." It's due out in October and it features an album full of unpublished photos of one my favorite bands. In the forward, Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Anthony DeCurtis recalls seeing Led Zeppelin at the Fillmore East in 1969, when he was 17. "Led Zeppelin's performance was everything I'd hoped it would be," he writes. "I can't imagine what people who had no idea what they were about to see experienced." I suggest cranking up Led Zeppelin's first record and diving into this book to celebrate a turning point in the history of rock.

Speaking of music, check out the new CD by the duo Rodrigo and Gabriela. They have been playing guitar together for more than 15 years, starting in their native Mexico City before moving on to Ireland. Now they're back in Mexico and their new record pays tribute to their thrash metal influences, mostly on acoustic guitars. The band, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, are on tour now to support the record, which is called "11:11." The title refers to the theme of the CD, which is a tribute to their influences, including Jimi Hendrix and Testament. One review described their music as Metallica by way of Santana. We recently spoke with the group on the show.


Producer Lynn M here.

One of the most beautiful websites I've come across recently is
...but my colleagues have been teasing me about all of the naked posteriors...
Watch for a story on Pilobolus' creative coaching workshops. I will be the fully clothed one.

My every day web faves are far more mundane, but effective for news delivery:

For a round-up of the big-think political pieces of the day, I like

For up to the minute political news, I love Mark Halperin's The Page at
Mark reminds me of Al Franken in his Saturday Night Live days, when he did the skit about the newsguy with the satellite transponder on his head... never mind that they were crushing his vertebrae!

Here & Now favorite Rick Klein of ABC News has just launched a noontime internet show (you can catch him on your computer while you listen to us on the radio).

While I'm at it, another Here & Now favorite Demetri Sevastopulo of the Financial Times (he covers the Pentagon and Intelligence, but is soon to become the newspaper's Asia News Editor-- so that means we might be calling him in the middle of the night from now on). He's a great reporter, but did you know he's also a great photographer? Check out places he's been:

I love to check in on two good arts catch-all sites when I can

And Tina Brown's The Daily Beast can throw it down

Kevin Sullivan here, another H&N producer. My Urdu is a little rusty, but I loved checking out the


I read Cujo when I was 10 and was terrified. But in person, Stephen King isn’t scary – he’s personable and funny.

If you’ve ever pondered what would happen if death took a holiday, I recommend Nobel Prize winning author, Jose Saramago’s novel, "Death with Interruptions." I first discovered Saramago with his earlier book, "Blindness." His work is a jarring realization of how one event can strip anyone of their basic humanity.

Childcare guru Penelope Leach’s "Child Care Today: Getting it Right for Everyone" sparked a lot of controversy, as did her interview with us! She was aghast that Americans get almost no paid time off when their babies are born, and she also gives advice on how to find quality care.


Ta-Nehisi Coates tells it like it is in his blog for the Atlantic. We first crossed paths with Ta-Nehisi when we interviewed him about "A Beautiful Struggle," his memoir about growing up in inner city Baltimore. It turns out Ta-Nehisi grew up just a few miles from me, and I’ve encouraged my brother, who now teaches in a Baltimore school, to share the book with his students.

As one of the two pop culture fanatics in the Here & Now cubicle, I love reading Baltimore Sun TV critic, David Zurawik’s blog, Z on TV. David’s been a frequent guest on our show, most recently talking about how President Obama has mastered the art of using television to promote his agenda.

It’s Supreme Court season, and our frequent guest Lyle Denniston, at scotusblog brings us all the news from the hallowed halls.

For some reason I’m getting my MBA at night, and whenever I can’t figure out what my professor is talking about, I head to investopedia. I also use the site in my day job when trying to understand why AIG executives have outsized bonuses or private equity firms are flush with cash.

Welcome to the newest section of our website, where Here & Now producers share the blogs and websites we're reading:

Hello, Hitesh Hathi here- producer for Here & Now.  Below are some websites I like.


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