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 44: Fiona Hill on political dysfunction

    November 12th, 2021  |  37 mins 59 secs
    books, history, politics

    What’s it really like working for Donald Trump? Fiona Hill joins host Richard Aldous to talk about her new book, There Is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century, her harrowing time at the White House, growing up poor in England, and the roots of our current political dysfunction.

  • Episode 43: Sarotte on the post-Cold War stalemate

    November 9th, 2021  |  31 mins 55 secs
    books, history, politics

    Just because no history is completely determined by one decision does not mean that NATO expansion in the 1990s could not have been handled better. Mary Sarotte, the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Distinguished Professor of Historical Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS joins host Richard Aldous to discuss her new book, Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate.

  • Episode 42: Parag Khanna on societal upheaval

    October 29th, 2021  |  35 mins 40 secs
    books, history, politics

    Climate change, pandemics, social upheaval, technological change—all these things are uprooting our modern conceptions of what a settled life can and should be. This week, Parag Khanna joins host Richard Aldous to talk about all this and his new book Move: The Forces Uprooting Us.

  • Episode 41: Matthew Sturgis on Oscar Wilde and social mores

    October 22nd, 2021  |  31 mins 13 secs
    books, history, politics

    What does the life of Oscar Wilde tell us about #metoo and predatory celebrity culture, in Victorian England and today? More than you might imagine, and in surprising ways at that. This week, Matthew Sturgis joins host Richard Aldous to talk about his new book, Oscar Wilde: A Life, to discuss all this and more.

  • Episode 40: Anne-Marie Slaughter on American renewal

    October 15th, 2021  |  34 mins 10 secs
    american, books, history, politics

    Can America bounce back in an era of crisis? Absolutely it can, says Anne-Marie Slaughter, as she joins our host Richard Aldous to discuss her new book Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics.

  • Episode 39: Harold James on political terminology

    October 1st, 2021  |  26 mins 1 sec
    books, history, language, politics

    The importance of language cannot be overstated in today’s overheated political climate. To think through how best to navigate the language wars, Professor Harold James joins host Richard Aldous to discuss his new book The War of Words: A Glossary of Globalization.

  • Episode 38: H.R. McMaster on America's future battlegrounds

    September 24th, 2021  |  40 mins 1 sec
    america, books, history, military, politics

    As his most recent book Battlegrounds comes out in paperback, General H.R. McMaster joins host Richard Aldous for a whirlwind tour of the geostrategic landscape for the United States, and the challenges the country faces in sustaining its commitments abroad.

  • Episode 37: Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili on Afghanistan and State-Building

    September 17th, 2021  |  31 mins 13 secs
    afghanistan, america, books, history, politics

    Could it all have gone differently? Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili joins host Richard Aldous to talk about what the West repeatedly gets wrong in tackling the devilishly difficult problems of international development and democracy promotion.

  • Episode 36: Toby Harnden on the CIA's mission in Afghanistan

    September 10th, 2021  |  34 mins 7 secs
    afghanistan, america, books, history, politics, terrorism

    Richard Aldous sits down with author Toby Harnden to discuss his new book First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11.

  • Episode 35: Peter Hartcher on Australia's China Challenge

    August 2nd, 2021  |  36 mins 49 secs
    australia, books, china, history, politics

    Australia is the world’s test case for how a democratic country’s dependence on China can be turned against it. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher joins Richard Aldous to discuss exactly how this has happened in his new book, Red Zone: China’s Challenge and Australia’s Future.

  • Episode 34: Firmin DeBrabander on the Internet's Threat to Privacy

    July 23rd, 2021  |  26 mins 15 secs
    america, books, history, internet, politics

    Is there any hope for safeguarding privacy in the age of the internet? Firmin DeBrabander, professor of philosophy at Maryland Institute College of Art, joins Richard Aldous to discuss his book Life After Privacy: Reclaiming Democracy in a Surveillance Society.

  • Episode 33: Shawna Kay Rodenberg on Growing Up in Kentucky

    July 16th, 2021  |  29 mins 53 secs
    america, books, history, politics

    This week, author Shawna Kay Rodenberg joins host Richard Aldous to discuss her moving new book, Kin: A Memoir, about family, forgiveness, and growing up in Eastern Kentucky.

  • Episode 32: Gillian Tett's Anthropological Lens

    July 9th, 2021  |  21 mins 19 secs
    america, books, history, politics

    Financial journalist and anthropology PhD Gillian Tett joins host Richard Aldous to discuss how we can use an anthropological lens to cope with an increasingly kaleidoscopic reality.

  • Episode 31: Timothy Brennan on Edward Said

    June 25th, 2021  |  34 mins 15 secs
    america, books, history, palestine, politics

    Larger-than-life figures like Edward Said often become prisoners of their own legacy. Author Timothy Brennan, a student of Said’s, joins host Richard Aldous to discuss his fascinating new biography, Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said, a book that tries to tease out the contradictions and complications that shaped one of the most influential public intellectuals of the 20th century.

  • Episode 30: Tevi Troy Looks at 70 Years of White House Intrigue

    June 18th, 2021  |  31 mins 14 secs
    america, books, history, politics

    With news getting comparatively less bizarre as 2021 rolls on, presidential historian and former White House aide Tevi Troy joins host Richard Aldous to talk about the history of White House intrigue as described in his recent book, Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.

  • Episode 29: Michael Dobbs on Nixon's Fatal Flaws

    June 11th, 2021  |  30 mins 21 secs
    america, books, history, politics

    Richard Nixon, an almost Shakespearean character, loomed over 20th century American history in ways that prefigure Trump. Author Michael Dobbs joins host Richard Aldous to discuss this deeply flawed individual, and his new book King Richard: Nixon and Watergate, an American Tragedy.