If only we had NPR trading cards, I would trade you a Scott Simon and a Carl Kasell for a Cokie Roberts and a Nina Totenberg. Throw in a Melissa Block, and I'd give you Bob Boilen and the Car Talk guys. Under no circumstances would I part with Ira Flatow or Robert Krulwich. They would stay in protective cases with my prized Susan Stamberg and Noah Adams cards.
I mention this because there is a great new book, This is NPR: The First Forty Years, and reading this book is a bit like reading a by-the-decades history of a baseball team. The editors have collected stories by and about NPR staff, and I hold the reporters and program hosts from public radio in as much (or maybe more) esteem as my favorite baseball players Craig Biggio, Luis Gonzales, and Jeff Bagwell. Anyone who has listened to NPR for several decades will know their names and voices well. This book reveals their seldom-seen faces. (Trading cards with their photos and details of their assignments would still be appreciated.)
Like any sports team, NPR has had its ups and downs. The franchise has weathered its share of financial troubles and come out stronger by turning to subscribers and foundations for help instead of relying on the federal government. Once considered an "alternative news source," it now has more foreign correspondents than many of the newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks once considered mainstream. It has also been a leader in developing online news programming. NPR is now a powerhouse, and like all sports dynasties, it has attracted anti-fans.
In addition to learning about the network, readers get reviews of major news stories, including Watergate, the Iranian Revolution, AIDs, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 attacks, and the war in Afghanistan. For every serious story, there is also something lighter - David Sedaris telling his Christmas elf stories, Melisaa Block in a tundra pit, Paula Poundstone as a Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me panelist, and Stephen Thompson starting the Tiny Desk Concert podcasts. NPR fans have to read This is NPR.
This is NPR: The First Forty Years. Chronicle Books, 2010. ISBN 9780811872539. Includes audio CD.