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 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.

  • 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.