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 60: Christopher Smith on Ukraine’s Westward Evolution

    March 25th, 2022  |  31 mins 29 secs
    books, history, politics

    With the Ukraine War heading into its fifth week, Christopher M. Smith joins host Richard Aldous to talk about the roots of Ukraine’s turn to the West, American policymaking at the State Department, and his new book Ukraine’s Revolt, Russia’s Revenge.

  • Episode 59: Chris Armstrong on our vital oceans

    March 18th, 2022  |  28 mins 49 secs
    books, history, politics

    Chris Armstrong joins our host Richard Aldous to talk about how existing governing institutions are failing to address one of our most important natural resources: the oceans. Listen to the conversation, and read Armstrong’s new book, A Blue New Deal: Why We Need a New Politics for the Oceans.

  • Episode 58: Sebastian Mallaby on the venture capitalists

    March 14th, 2022  |  25 mins 37 secs
    books, history, politics

    Elon Musk once said that the future cannot be predicted, it can only be discovered. This week, Sebastian Mallaby joins host Richard Aldous to talk about innovation, technology, markets, and his new book The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future.

  • Episode 57: Dwight Chapin on the Nixon White House

    March 8th, 2022  |  35 mins 56 secs
    books, history, politics

    What’s it like to be a part of history? With the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s famous trip to China taking place this year, Dwight Chapin joins host Richard Aldous to talk about his new book, The President’s Man: Memoirs of Nixon’s Trusted Aide.

  • Episode 56: A. J. Baime on Walter F. White

    March 1st, 2022  |  24 mins 4 secs
    books, history, politics

    Walter F. White led two lives: one as a leader of the NAACP in the early twentieth century, and the other as a white newspaperman who covered lynching crimes in the Deep South. This week, A. J. Baime joins host Richard Aldous to discuss his new book, White Lies: The Double Life of Walter F. White and America's Darkest Secret.

  • Episode 55: Iain Dale and Alvin Felzenberg on our 45 Presidents

    February 18th, 2022  |  27 mins 48 secs
    books, history, politics

    Happy Presidents’ Day! On the show this week, Iain Dale and Alvin Felzenberg join host Richard Aldous to talk about The Presidents: 250 Years of American Political Leadership, a collection of essays by a range of academics, historians, journalists and serving politicians, on all 45 men who have held the office over the last 250 years.

  • Episode 54: Linda Hirshman on the abolition movement

    February 16th, 2022  |  28 mins 36 secs
    books, history, politics

    How do we best think about the abolition movement—as a tepid first step towards righting a historic injustice or a moral breakthrough despite its flaws? Linda Hirschman joins host Richard Aldous to talk about her new book The Color of Abolition: How a Printer, a Prophet, and a Contessa Moved a Nation.

  • Episode 53: Peter Goodman on the billionaires and power

    February 4th, 2022  |  35 mins 23 secs
    books, history, politics

    What to do about the billionaire class? New York Times’ Global Economics Correspondent Peter S. Goodman joins host Richard Aldous to talk about inequality and wealth centralization in the 21st century, as well as his new book, Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World.

  • Episode 52: Simms and Laderman on Hitler's American Gamble

    January 28th, 2022  |  32 mins 46 secs
    books, history, politics

    What drove Hitler to declare war on the United States after Pearl Harbor, and what, if anything, can that fateful decision to kick off a truly world war tell us about today’s dangerous moment? Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman join host Richard Aldous to discuss their new book, Hitler’s American Gamble: Pearl Harbor and Germany’s March to Global War.

  • Episode 51: Bruce Ragsdale on Washington and slavery

    January 21st, 2022  |  27 mins 42 secs
    books, history, politics

    George Washington was a farmer, first and foremost. Bruce A. Ragsdale joins host Richard Aldous this week to talk about what new perspectives this underexamined fact sheds on Washington as a leader, the early republic, and the role of slavery in American society.

  • Episode 50: Roosevelt Montas on the Great Books' enduring value

    January 14th, 2022  |  35 mins 50 secs
    books, history, politics

    Why study the Great Books? The question is not only out of favor these days, it is rarely even asked any more. Roosevelt Montas joins host Richard Aldous for our fiftieth episode to offer a spirited defense of the tradition, and to talk about his new book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter For a New Generation.

  • Episode 49: Joseph Horowitz on Black classical music

    January 7th, 2022  |  32 mins 20 secs
    books, history, politics

    Happy New Year! Why did classical music in America become and stay white? And what could be done to change that? Joseph Horowitz joins host Richard Aldous to discuss his new book, Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music.

  • Episode 48: Jason Riley on Thomas Sowell

    December 17th, 2021  |  31 mins 26 secs
    books, history, politics

    Is intellectual integrity in today’s academia possible? Jason L. Riley joins host Richard Aldous to talk about his new book on Thomas Sowell, one of America's most influential conservative thinkers.

  • Episode 47: Brendan Borrell on the race to the vaccine

    December 10th, 2021  |  25 mins 51 secs
    books, history, politics

    As another COVID winter looms, Brendan Borrell joins host Richard Aldous to discuss his new book The First Shots, about the epic, and inspiring scientific and bureaucratic race to find a vaccine and save the world.

  • Episode 46: Olivia Williams on the Savoy's glamorous tales

    December 3rd, 2021  |  29 mins 48 secs
    books, history, politics

    The origins of the luxury hotel and of modern theater, the start of Gilbert and Sullivan’s career, the roots of Oscar Wilde celebrity—Olivia Williams joins host Richard Aldous to discuss her new book, The Secret Life of the Savoy: Glamour and Intrigue at the World’s Most Famous Hotel.

  • Episode 45: Bruce Jones on naval supremacy and today’s geopolitics

    November 19th, 2021  |  29 mins 16 secs
    books, history, politics

    Alfred Thayer Mahan would feel right at home in today’s geopolitical landscape: all of the great struggles of our time are playing out atop, within, and below the world’s oceans. Bruce Jones joins host Richard Aldous this week to discuss what the struggle for global supremacy might look like, as outlined in his new book, To Rule the Waves.