Rank #1: Finding God In the Faith Of Others
Barbara Brown Taylor, an ordained Episcopal priest, left her job as rector of a church to become a professor of religion. Her new book, 'Holy Envy,' is about how teaching the religions of the world changed her understanding of her own faith, and how her students, who were mostly Christian, responded when she took them to mosques, synagogues, and Buddhist and Hindu temples. "I hoped it would be a way to convince them that they could find things they liked about other traditions, and it would not make them disloyal to their own," Taylor says. "And it worked most of the time." Also, critic John Powers reviews the British true crime drama series 'Manhunt.'
Rank #2: Melissa McCarthy
McCarthy is not interested in playing pleasant characters. Flawless women with perfect clothes and relationships? Nope, not for her. "Who wants to watch that?" she says. "There's nothing to sink your teeth into. ... The people I love and like are filled with quirks and eccentricities." McCarthy spoke with Terry Gross about 'Bridesmaids,' playing Sean Spicer on 'SNL,' and her role as literary forger Lee Israel in 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Also, John Powers reviews the BBC drama 'Bodyguard,' dropping on Netflix Oct. 24.
Rank #3: Jonah Hill
Hill always wanted to be a writer and director, but an unexpected complement in an acting class shifted him towards performing instead. He co-starred in 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' 'Superbad,' and 'Moneyball.' Now he's written and directed his first movie, 'Mid90s,' about a group of young skateboarders. He talks about toxic masculinity, self-acceptance, and his experience directing for the first time. Also, book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews 'Let The People See,' the story of Emmett Till.
Rank #4: The Best TV & Movies Of 2018
TV critic David Bianculli and film critic Justin Chang sit down with Terry Gross to share their picks for the best of the year.
Rank #5: White Nationalism And The Synagogue Massacre
Journalist Eli Saslow says white nationalism inspired the man who killed 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue: "In the horrific hierarchy of white nationalist beliefs, they really consider Jews their primary enemy." Saslow spoke with Terry Gross Monday morning about the tragedy and its "straight line" to the white nationalist movement. Also, we'll listen back to an excerpt of the interview with Saslow and former white nationalist Derek Black from September. Saslow's book, 'Rising Out of Hatred,' focuses on Derek, who was once a leading voice in the white nationalist movement but has since denounced his views.
Rank #6: Filmmakers Joel & Ethan Coen
The Coen brothers ('Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?,' 'No Country for Old Men') pay homage to old Westerns with their new film, 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.' The movie is a collection of six stories that often subvert the expectations of the genre.
Rank #7: Michael Lewis On 'The Fifth Risk'
Lewis, author of 'Moneyball' and 'The Big Short,' examines the energy, agriculture and commerce departments under President Trump. Lewis warns that half of the top 700 positions in the administration remain unfilled, and some of the people who have been appointed have conflicts of interest, or are unqualified, making them unprepared to deal with risks. "Many of them are potentially catastrophic risks — the risk of a pandemic, or the risk of a nuclear accident, or the risk of a terrorist attack — one after another. And many of these are not risks that most people are thinking about," Lewis says. His new book is 'The Fifth Risk.'
Rank #8: Trump's Tax Schemes, Explained
Investigative reporters Susanne Craig and David Barstow say the president received today's equivalent of $413 million from his father's real estate empire, with the help of schemes to avoid paying taxes, including fraud. Also, critic Ken Tucker reviews the album 'Desperate Man' by Eric Church.
Rank #9: Best Of: 'Never Look Away' Asks, Why Make Art? / Inside The Fox News White House
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's new film, 'Never Look Away,' tells the story of an artist who grows up in Nazi Germany, comes of age in East Germany and travels to the West to find freedom for himself and his art. Jane Mayer's explosive new 'New Yorker' article reveals that Fox News killed the Stormy Daniels story in 2016 before the election to protect Donald Trump, and that President Trump tried to order the Justice Department to file a lawsuit to stop AT&T from acquiring Time Warner — a deal that would hurt Fox News. Mayer talks about the "revolving door" between Fox News and the Trump White House with Terry Gross.
Rank #10: The Challenges Of Reporting In The Trump Era
Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Washington Post' reporter Greg Miller talks about breaking news, anonymous sourcing, and "lies" versus "falsehoods." His book is 'The Apprentice: Trump, Russia And The Subversion Of American Democracy.' TV critic David Bianculli considers how '60 Minutes' and 'SNL' responded to the Kavanaugh hearings.
Rank #11: The Neuroscience Of Addiction
Growing up, Judith Grisel struggled with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. Now, as a neuroscientist, she's working to understand the biological basis of addiction. Her new book is 'Never Enough.' Grisel talks about how various drugs affect the brain, and her own experience with addiction. Grisel has been clean and sober for 30 years. Also, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews two new albums by guitarists Steve Gunn and Michael Chapman.
Rank #12: Is SCOTUS Too Powerful?
Author David A. Kaplan warns that the Supreme Court is becoming increasingly polarized — and influential: "Why should nine unelected, unaccountable judges dictate so much policy in the country?" We'll also talk about what Trump's two appointees – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – mean for the future of the court. Kaplan's book is 'The Most Dangerous Branch.' Also, Ken Tucker reviews Kurt Vile's new album, 'Bottle It In.'
Rank #13: From Convict To Criminal Justice Reporter
Keri Blakinger is a criminal justice reporter for the 'Houston Chronicle,' but before she reported on prisons, she spent almost 2 years locked up on narcotics charges. Blakinger spoke with Terry Gross about surviving a suicide attempt, solitary confinement, and finishing her degree at Cornell before becoming a reporter. Her reporting has led to prison reform in Texas. "I was so lucky to come out of this and I've been so privileged in so many ways to end up with hope and second chances and a happy ending," Blakinger says. Also, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews two Christmas albums — one by The Monkees and one by Rodney Crowell.
Rank #14: 'Is Democracy Dying?'
'Atlantic' journalist Anne Applebaum says the changes taking place in Poland — including a rise of conspiracy theories and attacks on the free press — mirror similar shifts happening in the U.S. TV critic David Bianculli reviews the return of 'Murphy Brown.'
Rank #15: Rachel Maddow Investigates Spiro Agnew's Bribery Scandal
Richard Nixon's first vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned in 1973 amidst charges of bribery and tax evasion. Now, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and producer Mike Yarvitz revisit the Agnew scandal in the hit podcast 'Bag Man.' "The parallels with what was going on in the Nixon and Agnew administration 45 years ago to the efforts by the Trump administration right now ... is uncanny," Maddow says.
Rank #16: The Russian Disinformation Playbook: Exploit Tension, Sow Chaos
A new video series by 'New York Times' reporter Adam Ellick explores Russia's role in spreading fake news, dating back to the '80s conspiracy theory that the AIDS virus was created by the U.S. military. Ellick also talks about the impact of Russian disinformation in the U.S. "This country is so split and divided that we're now using this Soviet disinformation playbook on ourselves." Also, film critic Justin Chang reviews the heist thriller 'Widows,' starring Viola Davis and directed by Steve McQueen.
Rank #17: Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe
McCabe served as acting director of the FBI after President Trump fired James Comey in the spring of 2017. McCabe felt that there was enough circumstantial evidence to open criminal and counterintelligence investigations into the president's ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice. "These were extraordinary steps. They were ones that we took only after great consideration and review," he says. In March of 2018, McCabe was fired 26 hours before he was set to retire. He talks with Terry Gross about these events and how the president poses a threat to national security. His book is 'The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.'
Rank #18: 'Rethinking Sex, Power, And Consent On Campus'
Journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis, author of 'Blurred Lines,' says one of the challenges when it comes to handling sexual assault cases on college campuses is that there isn't a universally agreed-upon definition of what sexual assault is. She spent three years reporting on college campuses for the book. Grigoriadis talks about the Kavanaugh hearings, rape culture, and how she sees the national conversation about sexual assault shifting. Also, Ken Tucker reviews an album by bluegrass musicians Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, and Justin Chang reviews 'First Man,' the new Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling.
Rank #19: Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart said he's "over" talking about the homophobic jokes that cost him the Oscars gig — but then he and Terry Gross talked about it anyway. They discussed his upbringing in North Philly, how comedy is changing, and the fine line between edgy and offensive material. "The bad part about being a comedian is that sometimes you just aren't funny," he says. "Sometimes to grow as a comedian you got to go through the stupid part." Hart's new movie is 'The Upside.'
Rank #20: A Roots & Rockabilly Christmas Concert With JD McPherson
Songwriter JD McPherson pledged he'd never do an album of Christmas songs — but we're so glad he's broken that promise. He and his band perform live in-studio from their album 'Socks,' and McPherson talks about his upbringing on a cattle farm in rural Oklahoma.