American Purpose's Bookstack

The books and ideas podcast from American Purpose.

About the show

Weekly conversations with authors of new and recent books.

Host Richard Aldous is a historian and professor at Bard College, New York, and the author of several books, including Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian; Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship; The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone vs. Disraeli.

For more about American Purpose, visit


  • Episode 76: Mary Ziegler on the Anti-Abortion Movement

    July 30th, 2022  |  33 mins 44 secs
    books, history, politics

    What’s the relationship between the fight over abortion, campaign finance reform, and the rise of Trump? Historian Mary Ziegler joins host Richard Aldous to talk about her new book Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment.

  • Episode 75: Jonathan Pelson on China's dangerous domination of 5G

    July 22nd, 2022  |  32 mins 8 secs
    books, history, politics

    How big is the threat from China really in the telecommunications space? Jonathan Pelson warns host Richard Aldous that we should not underestimate it. Read his new book Wireless Wars: China’s Dangerous Domination of 5G and How We’re Fighting Back.

  • Episode 74: Ezrachi and Stucke on Big Tech’s threat to innovation

    July 15th, 2022  |  39 mins 37 secs
    books, history, politics

    Is all innovation the same? Is there such a thing as toxic disruption? And is there any cause for optimism even as tech has failed to deliver us a utopia? Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice E. Stucke join host Richard Aldous to talk about their new book, How Big Tech Barons Smash Innovation—and How To Strike Back.

  • Episode 73: James Kirchick on the hidden history of gay Washington

    July 8th, 2022  |  30 mins 30 secs
    books, history, politics

    National security, secrecy, paranoia, suicide, and the rise of modern civil rights—James Kirchick joins host Richard Aldous to talk about the untold story of the nation’s capital, and his new book Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.

  • Episode 72: Thomas S. Kidd on Thomas Jefferson

    July 1st, 2022  |  31 mins
    books, history, politics

    On this Fourth of July weekend, historian Thomas S. Kidd joins host Richard Aldous to talk about the contradictions of Thomas Jefferson, as detailed in his new book Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Spirit and Flesh.

  • Episode 71: Aaron Friedberg on Getting China Wrong

    June 24th, 2022  |  33 mins 34 secs
    books, history, politics

    What we have been doing with China has clearly not been working. How can we course-correct? Renowned Asia scholar Aaron L. Friedberg joins host Richard Aldous to discuss his excellent new book Getting China Wrong.

  • Episode 70: Lev Menand on the Federal Reserve

    June 17th, 2022  |  33 mins 22 secs
    books, history, politics

    With the Federal Reserve making bold moves this week, Lev Menand, author of the new book The Fed Unbound: Central Banking in a Time of Crisis, joins host Richard Aldous to talk about how the makers of monetary policy still need to adapt to the uncertain future.

  • Episode 69: Frederic C. Hof on Obama and Syria

    June 13th, 2022  |  32 mins 9 secs
    books, history, politics

    This week, Ambassador Frederic C. Hof joins host Richard Aldous to talk about his wrenching experience of almost negotiating a lasting Israeli-Syrian peace, as detailed in his new book Reaching for the Heights: The Inside Story of a Secret Attempt to Reach a Syrian-Israeli Peace.

  • Episode 68: Nelly Lahoud on the bin Laden papers

    June 3rd, 2022  |  30 mins 53 secs
    books, history, politics

    A look into the inner life of a notorious murderer—Nelly Lahoud joins host Richard Aldous to talk about her new book, The Bin Laden Papers: How the Abbottabad Raid Revealed the Truth about Al-Qaeda, Its Leader, and His Family.

  • Episode 67: Jimmy Soni on PayPal's entrepreneurs

    May 20th, 2022  |  29 mins 48 secs
    books, history, politics

    With Elon Musk in the news, it’s a good time to look back at some recent history. Jimmy Soni joins host Richard Aldous to talk about his book The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley.

  • Episode 66: Zubok on the USSR's collapse

    May 16th, 2022  |  35 mins 36 secs
    books, history, politics

    Was the Soviet Union’s demise inevitable, and was Gorbachev the heroic reformer we remember him to have been? Vladislav M. Zubok joins host Richard Aldous to discuss the complicated legacy of the end of the Cold War, as well as his new book Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union.

  • Episode 65: Matthew Continetti on American conservatism

    May 6th, 2022  |  31 mins 12 secs
    books, history, politics

    How did the Republican Party end up resembling a nationalist populist movement? Matthew Continetti joins host Richard Aldous to talk through the rise and development of modern conservatism, and to discuss his new book, The Right: The Hundred Year War for American.

  • Episode 64: Christine Emba on sexual ethics

    May 3rd, 2022  |  27 mins 58 secs
    books, history, politics

    Today’s sexual ethics, meant to be liberating, seem to be instead driving a wave of dissatisfaction and unease among young people. Washington Post columnist Christine Emba joins host Richard Aldous to unpack what’s going on, and discuss her new book Rethinking Sex: A Provocation.

  • Episode 63: Garrett Graff's new Watergate history

    April 25th, 2022  |  31 mins 55 secs
    books, history, politics

    Why another book on Watergate? Garrett M. Graff joins host Richard Aldous to tell a wilder, weirder, darker version of the incident than we are accustomed to hearing—as detailed in his new book Watergate: A New History.

  • Episode 62: Lee Siegel on Why Argument Matters

    April 8th, 2022  |  28 mins 26 secs
    books, history, politics

    What is the nature and value of disagreement, especially in today’s social media-infused landscape? Lee Siegel joins host Richard Aldous to talk about all this, and his new book, Why Argument Matters.

  • Episode 61: Guriev and Treisman on the tools of today's tyrants

    April 1st, 2022  |  36 mins 39 secs
    books, history, politics

    How does modern authoritarianism work? Daniel Treisman joins host Richard Aldous to talk Putin, Xi, Lee Kwan Yew, and the tools of modern state control—all discussed in his new book, co-authored with Sergei Guriev, Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century.