Chris Jennings’ Deep Dive into American Utopianism

This week's chattering class topic: Utopias. Specifically, a bunch of utopian communities that sprouted up in America in the 19th century. And our guest is Chris Jennings. His new book is called, "Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism," and it focuses on five of the hundreds of utopian experiments of that era. The author tells us about God-fearing communists and a few Utopian leaders, one of which believed that eventually the oceans would taste like lemonade (seriously).

Janice Y.K. Lee’s Vivid Glimpse Into the Lives of Expats in Hong Kong

Best-selling author Janice Y.K. Lee was born to Korean immigrants in Hong Kong. In her new novel, "The Expatriates," she paints a rich portrait of expat life in the city. The book follows the lives of three different American women in a small expat community in Hong Kong, including a Korean-American recent Columbia graduate, a wealthy housewife who struggled to conceive a child, and a mother of three who questions her identity after a shattering loss. Janice shares an excerpt from the prologue with us.

How Fran Lebowitz Saved Christmas!

Fran Lebowitz's sardonic wit first cropped up in columns for Andy Warhol's "Interview" magazine. Then she published the acclaimed essay collections "Social Studies" and "Metropolitan Life." Those books are compiled in a collection called "The Fran Lebowitz Reader," which is out now on audiobook. She answers listeners' etiquette questions on ugly holiday sweaters, annoying family gatherings, and more.

Randall Munroe Makes the Complicated Stuff Simple for Us (and You)

Randall Munroe is a cartoonist with a degree in physics. Years ago, while working as a roboticist for NASA, he started the webcomic "xkcd." The drawings are simple, mostly stick figures, but the concepts are big, as he takes on technology, computer science, and math. His latest book is called "Things Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words." He examines how we use language to describe complex ideas with Brendan and explains the thousand-word challenge behind the book.

Norman Lear, in Love With America

Norman Lear created and produced many of the sitcoms that shaped sitcom history, including "All in the Family," "Maude," "Good Times," and "The Jeffersons." At their peak, his programs were viewed by 120 million people a week. The TV legend tells us what it was like growing up with dad who served as inspiration for Archie Bunker and how to quiet that snoring neighbor downstairs.

Gloria Steinem’s Guide to Maneuvering Around Misogyny

Gloria Steinem was a founding editor of the hugely popular feminist periodical Ms. Magazine and for the past 30 years she has traveled the world speaking, educating, and organizing around feminism and other causes. She's also got a new memoir called "My Life On The Road." The feminist icon joins us to handle our listeners' etiquette questions and suggests "asking the turtle" in any dicey situation.

Mary-Louise Parker: Woman of Letters

The "Weeds" star has earned just about every TV honor there is. Now she’s written an innovative collection of letters to the men in her life, real and imagined. She talks to Brendan about the beginnings of the book… and why it's not a memoir.