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 86: John A. Farrell on Ted Kennedy’s Epic, Turbulent Life

    December 5th, 2022  |  28 mins 18 secs
    books, history, politics

    Ted Kennedy’s life was buffeted by heartbreak: the violent deaths of his three older brothers, his own terrible plane crash, his children’s bouts with cancer, the hideous self-inflicted wounds of Chappaquiddick. Those wounds scarred Ted deeply but also tempered his character, and, eventually, he embarked on a run as legislator that would change America for the better. John A. Farrell joins Richard Aldous to discuss his new biography, Ted Kennedy: A Life.

  • Episode 85: Gautam Mukunda on Choosing a Presidential Candidate

    November 18th, 2022  |  31 mins 14 secs
    books, history, politics

    What’s the best way to determine whether a presidential candidate is truly up to the task? Former Harvard Business School professor Gautam Mukunda joins Richard Aldous to discuss his new book, Picking Presidents: How to Make the Most Consequential Decision in the World. Mukunda outlines his non-partisan set of criteria for how we can evaluate if a presidential candidate would be an effective leader and why some of the worst—and best—leaders are of the “unfiltered” variety.

  • Episode 84: Rita Katz on Internet-Age Terrorism

    November 11th, 2022  |  32 mins 5 secs
    books, history, politics

    Many of today’s terrorist groups don’t just use the internet, they exist almost entirely on it. What do the online origins of these movements reveal about how to stop them? Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz joined Richard Aldous to talk about her new book, Saints and Soldiers: Inside Internet-Age Terrorism, From Syria to the Capitol Siege, and how the online cultures of these movements—far more than their ideologies and leaders—create today’s terrorists and shape how they commit “real world” violence.

  • Episode 83: Stefan Aust and Adrian Geiges on Xi Jinping’s Hidden Story

    October 31st, 2022  |  30 mins 10 secs
    books, history, politics

    Acclaimed German journalists Stefan Aust and Adrian Geiges join Richard to discuss how Xi Jinping took China from the workbench of the world to a global superpower in their new co-authored book, Xi Jinping: The Most Powerful Man in the World.

  • Episode 82: Cody Keenan on the Ten Days that Defined Obama's Presidency

    October 21st, 2022  |  31 mins 19 secs
    books, history, politics

    Former Barack Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan joins Richard to discuss the ten crucial days that marked Obama’s presidency and how he played a part in telling the story of America in his new book, Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America.

  • Episode 81: Giles Tremlett on Spain's Complicated Past

    October 11th, 2022  |  32 mins 57 secs
    books, history, politics

    Guardian correspondent Giles Tremlett joins Richard to discuss Spain's complicated history and search for a national identity in his new book "España: A Brief History of Spain."

  • Episode 80: Walter Russell Mead on the American-Israeli Relationship

    September 27th, 2022  |  33 mins 18 secs
    books, history, politics

    Why has Israel played such a foundational role not only in American foreign policy, but in how America sees the world? Walter Russell Mead joins host Richard Aldous to talk about his new book, "The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People."

  • Episode 79: Eleanor Herman and the Demonization of Women in Power

    September 16th, 2022  |  22 mins 33 secs
    books, history, politics

    Misogyny in politics is as old as politics itself. But is there hope for progress? Eleanor Herman, author of Off With Her Head: Three Thousand Years of Demonizing Women in Power, joins host Richard Aldous to talk about her new book.

  • Episode 78: Francesca Tripodi on Right-Wing Narratives and their Internet Success

    September 12th, 2022  |  30 mins 52 secs
    books, history, politics

    Why do rightwing narratives do so well on the internet? Francesca Bolla Tripodi, assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill joins host Richard Aldous to discuss her new book, The Propagandists’ Playbook: How Conservative Elites Manipulate Search and Threaten Democracy.

  • Episode 77: Michael Mandelbaum on American Foreign Policy

    August 27th, 2022  |  36 mins 21 secs
    books, history, politics

    What’s the future of American power look like? To answer the question, Richard Aldous asked Michael Mandelbaum, author of the new book The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy, to look at how America came to be the power it is today.

  • 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.