This Conversation With Richard Powers Is a Gift

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There are certain conversations I fear trying to fit into a description. There’s just more to them than I’m going to be able to convey. This is one of them.

Richard Powers is the author of 13 novels, including the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Overstory.” If you haven’t read it, you should. It’ll change you. It changed me. I haven’t walked through a forest the same way again. And I’m not alone in that. When I interviewed Barack Obama this year, he recommended “The Overstory,” saying, “It changed how I thought about the earth and our place in it.”

Powers’s new book is “Bewilderment.” You could think of it as 'The Innerstory': It is about how and whether we see the world we inhabit. It’s about the nature and limits of our empathy. It’s about refusing to die before we’re dead and taking seriously the gifts and responsibilities of being alive. It is about how we change our minds and how we change our societies. It is about how we treat delusion as normal and clarity as lunacy. It is enchanting, and it is devastating.

It is not just books through which Powers has been exploring these ideas. It is also through radical changes he’s made to how he lives his life. That’s where we start but far from where we end: This conversation touches on mortality, animism, politics, old-growth forests, extraterrestrial life, Buddhism and beyond.

Mentioned:

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Book recommendations:

How to Be Animal by Melanie Challenger

Rooted by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Ever Green by John W. Reid and Thomas E. Lovejoy

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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