Essential Pittsburgh
2:27 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

Author Jonathan Auxier Offers His Reading Recommendations for Youngsters

Children's book author Jonathan Auxier with his fall reading picks.
Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The last time author Jonathan Auxier stopped by the program, he had summer reading recommendations for children. He recently stopped by our studio and spoke with WESA’s man of letters, Morning Edition host, Josh Raulerson to offer up some book suggestions for young readers.

Jonathan Auxier Suggests 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:29 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

LeVar Burton: Opening Books and Opening Minds

LeVar Burton
Credit Courtesy

LeVar Burton is known as an actor for the numerous roles that he has taken on over the years: as Kunta Kinte in “Roots,” as Detroit Tiger Ron LeFlore in “One In A Million: The Ron LeFlore Story,” and as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

But to millions of young adults, he was known as the affable host on the PBS show “Reading Rainbow” from 1983 to 2006. Burton will be in Pittsburgh for Steel City Con this week due to his fame on “Star Trek,” but Burton appeared on Essential Pittsburgh to discuss the revival of “Reading Rainbow.”

In 2011, Burton and his business partner, producer Mark Wolfe, acquired the “Reading Rainbow” license, promising to bring to the next generations of kids the finest reading and enrichment experiences found anywhere.

“Reading Rainbow” is now a fully re-imagined app bringing the beloved brand to children of the digital age and one of the most popular and highest rated children’s products in the market.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:35 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

New Novel Explores A Digital Recreation Of Pittsburgh, Pre-Apocalypse

Credit Eric Fuentecilla / Penguin Books

There aren’t too many writers whose first attempt at a novel gets published- and even fewer have the movie right to their debut scooped up immediately by a major film company.

If Thomas Sweterlitsch's experience in literature has been anything but ordinary, that’s because his first novel, Tomorrow And Tomorrow, has been too.

The book tells the story of John Dominic Blaxton, an investigator living in the future who explores a digital recreation of Pittsburgh, in order to explore the city a decade after it was reduced to dust by a nuclear detonation.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:19 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

In Her New Book, Lisa Kirchner Reveals What She Learned About Women in Qatar

Lisa Kirchner writes about her experiences in Qatar in her latest novel, Hello American Lady Creature.
Credit Lisa Kirchner

Lisa Kirchner’s book Hello American Lady Creature: What I Learned as a Woman in Qatar has been compared to Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. Kirchner doesn’t mind the comparison, after all both books deal with a woman’s journey of self-discovery. Although guest host Josh Raulerson thinks Kirchner's book has a little more humor than Gilbert's bestseller.

Kirchner made her trip to Qatar to help out with Carnegie Mellon University's new campus and she had some very challenging times while over there. The hardest change for Kirchner was the heat.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:09 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Pittsburgh Native Anthony Breznican Writes his First Novel set in Western Pennsylvania

First time novelist, Anthony Breznican, is a Pittsburgh native and his first novel is set in a Catholic school in Pittsburgh.
Credit Breznican

Watch any movie about friends reuniting and it’s a near guarantee one of the characters will be a writer.

With Anthony Breznican it’s a case of life imitating art. The senior writer for Entertainment Weekly magazine came home to Pittsburgh for a high school reunion, which coincides with the release of his first novel, Brutal Youth.

The story is inspired by Favorite Hour, an Elvis Costello song that was released in 1994, the year Breznican graduated high school.

The story is set at a crumbling, Catholic high school in Western Pennsylvania called St. Michael the Archangel. The school is a dumping ground for troubled kids and for kids of protective parents who are trying to shelter them from public school.

Breznican said that this ironic combination creates "sort of a perfect Darwinist mix of survival of the fittest."

Between these groups, the book shows the two different types of people in difficult situations.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

The Devil's Arithmetic, a Tale of Time Travel and the Holocaust Brought to Life on Stage

Young cast members in the Prime Stage play, The Devil's Arithmetic. From left to right: Victoria Perl as Esther, Lily Lauver as Shifre, Julia Zoratto as Hannah and Megan Krull as Rachel
Credit Rebecca S. Antal / Prime Stage

The Devil’s Arithmetic is an award-winning historical novel about time travel and the Holocaust by author Jane Yolen.

The book has been adapted for the theater by Lancaster, PA resident Barry Kornhauser. This weekend Prime Stage Theater gives the first performance of the adapted play, at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

The story centers on Hannah, a modern day teenager who is mysteriously transported back to the time of the Holocaust. 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:02 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

"Meet the New Hate, Same as the Old Hate" Conspiracy Theories Through History

Arthur Goldwag worked in book publishing for more than twenty years, including stints at Random House, The New York Review of Books, and Book-of-the-Month Club.
Credit Arthur Goldwag / Facebook

Arthur Goldwag, writer of The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right speaks at the Penn State New Kensington campus this Thursday. 

The talk will focus on "conspiracy theory as the canary in the mine shaft of the Democratic Party."

The New Hate discusses racism and paranoid speculations about money that have long thrived on the American fringe as possible conspiracy theories. 

It also links the hysteria about the Illuminati of the new American Republic of the 1790s and the McCarthyism of the 1950s, and considers the similarities between the anti-New Deal sentiments of the 1930s and the modern day Tea Party movement.

When Goldwag originally began his book he said he focused on the older conspiracy theories and then something changed.

Read more
Arts & Culture
4:06 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

World Book Night in Pittsburgh

Dave Ninehouser, director of HearYourselfThink, gives out a free book to a passerby for World Book Night.
Credit Julian Routh

Twenty lucky people in the Cultural District in Pittsburgh received free books from the HearYourselfThink Project Wednesday for World Book Night.

Across the country, 25,000 volunteers handed out half a million books to encourage reading.

“We can open folks’ eyes to the power and joy of reading, and we’re talking to folks in the street asking them ‘have you read a good book lately’ and starting the conversation. It’s really great to be out here getting books into folks’ hands,” said director of HearYourselfThink, Dave Ninehouser.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:53 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

New Book About The Life of a Pirates Fan Touches on the Ups and Downs

Fans walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, heading to a Pirates game.
Credit Doug Kerr / Wikipedia Commons

2013 marked the first time in two decades, the Pirates finally had a winning baseball season.

What does it mean to the psyche of a city to end the longest consecutive season losing streak in the history of the four major professional sports leagues?

Writer Charlie Wilmoth attempts to answer that question in his newly published book Dry Land, Winning After 20 Years At Sea With The Pittsburgh Pirates.

Wilmoth grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia and says he has always felt a special connection to Pittsburgh. He has been writing about the Pirates for the past 10 years and explained what it was like to be a Buccos fan during the losing streak.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:51 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

A History of America in 101 Objects and Pittsburgh's Contributions

Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Space Suit
Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution has been referred to as "America's attic." It is home to many iconic objects that have shaped the history of our nation, from industry to culture. In his book, History of America in 101 Objects, author and Smithsonian curator Dr. Richard Kurin chronicles and pinpoints these national treasures by focusing on key objects in the vast collection. 

Here are some of Kurin’s favorite objects related to the Pittsburgh region:

Read more
Arts & Culture
6:23 am
Wed March 5, 2014

ACLA Now Boarding for TransAtlantic Flight

Colum McCann
Credit Brendan Bourke

National Book Award winner Colum McCann will speak to Pittsburgh-area high school students Monday as featured author for the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA)'s 2014 "One Book, One Community" program.

McCann will appear at Woodland Hills High School to discuss his 2013 novel TransAtlantic, which combines historical research with fictional elements in a story that spans centuries, continents, and multiple generations of characters.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:48 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Behind the Stage Door with Rich Engler

Rich Engler and the band Kiss
Credit Rich Engler /

Rich Engler is a nationally recognized concert promoter from Pittsburgh. The former co-owner of  DiCesare-Engler Productions has written a new book called Behind the Stage Door, a retrospective of his 40 years as one of the top concert promoters in the region.

Engler shares some entertaining, personal stories of what went on backstage at many of the largest concerts to come through Pittsburgh, and how he went from rock musician to rock promoter.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
1:01 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Author Amy Tan Explores Her Family Story with New Perspective

Author Amy Tan was in town for the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures Monday night speaker series
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Through her new novel The Valley of Amazement author Amy Tan explores the struggles of mother-daughter relationships.

She says the staging of the book's characters in a Chinese courtesan house, was partly inspired by what she learned from an old photo of Chinese women, which reminded her of her grandmother.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
2:39 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

The True Legacy of an Undying Hero

Luis Clemente
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Devoted father, philanthropist and baseball hero Roberto Clemente holds an impressive number of personal and professional accomplishments. In addition to being the first Latin American baseball player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he was the 1971 World Series MVP and a 12-time Gold Glove winner.

His family has written a new book, Clemente: The True Legacy of an Undying Hero, which reveals never-before-seen photographs and commemorates his legendary career through the voices of his children and wife.

His youngest son and co-author Luis Clemente says the book remembers his father for his loyalty, honesty and relentless courage.

Read more
Arts & Culture
3:00 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Speaking Volumes: Mike Doyle

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) likes page-turning crime dramas and thrillers with a political bent. He has a unique vantage point on novels set in Washington, which — as it turns out — are more true to life than you might think.

David Baldacci, The Forgotten

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:20 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Speaking Volumes on Essential Pittsburgh: Andrea Laurion

Credit Josh Raulerson/ 90.5 WESA

Writer, improviser, and performer Andrea Laurion lives in Bloomfield. She talks with 90.5 WESA Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson about the inspiration she receives from reading non-fiction narratives.

Essential Pittsburgh
4:14 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

Speaking Volumes on Essential Pittsburgh - RMU Students

Robert Morris University sophomores Mark Polcha, Marulla Quirk, and Annie Kandray (left to right) are all proud members of RMU's Honors Book Club
Credit Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Between classes, social media, and a social life, do college students still find time to get in some unassigned leisure reading? 90.5 WESA Morning Edition Host Josh Raulerson talks with Mark Posicha, Marulla Quirk and Anne Kandray, members of the RMU Honors Book Club about what they're reading for fun

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:30 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Lewis, Tolkien and the 'True Myths' of Faith

Steve Tuell is a professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Credit Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Steve Tuell studies Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. As a theologian and a scholar of ancient languages, he has a special appreciation for the fantasy fiction of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:00 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Fox News "Mole" Emerges with Book

Joe Muto is the Fox News "mole" that leaked videos to Gawker.
Credit Alexis Lamster

After graduating from Notre Dame, Joe Muto moved to New York in search of a media position.  He ended up with the Fox News Company, eventually becoming a producer for the top-rated show,The O’Reilly Factor.  After eight years he decided he wanted to search for another position.  He was, after all, a liberal at heart and he noted that since the Obama administration, Fox News was becoming progressively more conservative and far less “fair and balanced.”  Muto approached Gawker as a possible employer after leaving Fox, but was instead encouraged to begin writing for Gawker while still an employee at Fox.  He was to be the liberal inside the right-wing media group.  

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:30 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Yes, George Saunders is that good

Gary Terner likes edgy contemporary fiction and Gonzo-style sports writing.
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

Gary Terner of Mt. Lebanon was blown away by the new short story collection from George Saunders.

George Saunders, Tenth of December

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:21 am
Mon May 27, 2013

A Moveable Feast of Language

Poet Lori Jakiela says the culture is ripe for a Hemingway revival.
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

Lori Jakiela is a poet, a memoirist and a devotee of sparse, unsentimental prose.  

A few of the books you might encounter in her writing class at Chatham or Pitt-Greensburg:

Read more
Speaking Volumes
6:07 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Speaking Volumes on Essential Pittsburgh: Lori Jakiela

Lori Jakiela has written two memoirs The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious and Miss New York Has Everything
Credit Lori Jakiela /

WESA Morning Edition Host Josh Raulerson interviews poet, memoirist and devotee of sparse, unsentimental prose, Lori Jakiela about her reading selections.

Speaking Volumes
3:30 am
Mon May 20, 2013

A history lesson with Prof. Patrick Dowd

Book recommendations from Councilman Patrick Dowd
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd started out as a historian, and while he's no longer in academia, his reading still reflects that background. These days Dowd reads historical nonfiction mixed with fiction "with a serious historical bent." 

Edwin Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:30 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Jayne Adair Brings the Ruckus

Jayne Adair of Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures recommends books by recent and upcoming speakers.
Credit Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures executive director Jayne Adair's reading list is as rich and varied as her schedule of speakers.

Nathaniel Philbrick, Bunker Hill

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:43 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Maya Angelou on Mom & Me & Mom

Maya Angelou talks about her mother Vivian, known affectionately as "Lady."

My Mother asked me, “Do you know who the Father is?”

I said “Of course, I only had sex with him once”

She said “And do you love him?”

I said “No”

She asked “Does he love you?”

I said “No.”

So she said “Then we’re not going to ruin three lives. We’re going to have a fine baby. That’s all there is to it.”

And she never once made me feel I had brought shame on the family.

Dr. Maya Angelou, has an impressive body of work. From singing in the opera Porgy and Bess, and dancing with the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, to the iconic 1993 Inauguration Day poem On the Pulse of Morning, and her years of activism, Angelou typifies a renaissance woman.

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:30 am
Mon April 29, 2013

From Antietam to Nigeria with Mary Calland

Mary Fraley Calland offers book picks in history and contemporary fiction.
Credit Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

Writer and Mt. Lebanon resident Mary Frailey Calland does intensive research for her Civil War era novels. In between deep dives in the archives, she reads contemporary fiction.

James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:32 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Dr. Mario Fischetti interprets neuroses, novels

Dr. Mario Fischetti interprets neuroses, novels at the Pittsburgh Psychiatric Center
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

Dr. Mario Fischetti is a clinical psychologist with the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Center, and the moderator of its ongoing "Reading Fiction with Freud" discussion series. 

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:57 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Cloak & dagger, sword & sorcery picks from Michael Lamb

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb didn't expect to be blown away by George R.R. Martin.
Credit Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

When Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb isn't busy minding the city's books, he's reading history and genre fiction. 

Read more
Speaking Volumes
9:00 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Speaking Volumes on Essential Pittsburgh: Betsy O'Neill

Betsy O'Neill gives us her take on Melville
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

North Sider Betsy O'Neill admits, "In a previous life, I probably lived in the 19th century."

90.5 WESA Morning Edition host, Josh Raulerson interviews Betsy in her present incarnation about the summer she spent immersed in Melvilliana.

Read more
Speaking Volumes
3:12 am
Mon April 1, 2013

North Sider Betsy O'Neill Recalls Her 'Summer of Melville'

How much Melville is too much? Ask Betsy O'Neill.
Credit Josh Raulerson/90.5 WESA

North Sider Betsy O'Neill admits: "In a previous life, I probably lived in the 19th century." In her present incarnation, she spent the summer of 2012 immersed in Melvilliana.

Read more