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All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  752 ratings  ·  131 reviews
A fascinating collection of revealing and entertaining interviews by the award-winning host of National Public Radio's premier interview program Fresh Air.

Over the last twenty years, Terry Gross has interviewed many of our most celebrated writers, actors, musicians, comics, and visual artists. Her show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a weekday magazine of contemporary arts an
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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 8th 2004 by Hachette Books (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,416)
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Todd N
This was another birthday book from my mom. (I'm the kind of guy who gets books for his birthday.)

I've been aware of Fresh Air for a long time, though I've only been a fan relatively recently. At first I found it boring, then I denounced it (a la Chris White) for being so relentlessly middlebrow, then I happened to catch a few interviews about Iraq and Afghanistan and finally became a fan.

My wife has always been a fan of Fresh Air, and I even took her to see Terry Gross give a talk at De Anza Co
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Heidi
Writing a full review on my blog, but my notes:
* She does a lot of research and asks really specific questions rather than broad ones. Googling the interviewee isn't enough; you need to find interesting personal tidbits about his/her life to make the interview more personal.

* She asks about ideas and connections, what motivated the interviewee, did he/she understand, how did XXX event affect/inform him/her

* She brings up controversy while acknowledging that it is controversial

* "Do you think you
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Dean Moberly
Dec 28, 2007 Dean Moberly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NPR and Q&A enthusiasts
Transcripts from several of Terry Gross' interviews on NPR's Fresh Air. Books like this are great for short attention spans, in that one can go to bed with Nicolas Cage and Chris Rock, then read Gross' talks with Mario Puzo and Bootsy Collins while waiting for the bathroom to open up the next morning (the queue to the shower backs up fast in our house). As an added bonus, Gross and Gene Simmons from KISS get all screwed up in verbal fisticuffs right off the bat. For the record: if it weren't for ...more
Daniel
What a fantastic collection.

I listen to Public Radio. I'm not addicted to it, I contribute financially only occassionally, but I do listen if I'm in the car. When I happen to be listening and Terry Gross' 'Fresh Aire' comes on, I am usually interested. Now that I have had the chance to read through these interviews, I can understand why. Terry Gross asks intelligent questions.

Not a lot of inteviewers ask intelligent questions. Usually it's only leading questions about a new movie or a new book o
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Dariane
I love Terry Gross's work on Fresh Air. I was surprised at how different hearing an interview is from reading one; you gain insight both ways. What keeps this book from a five whole stars is that although I found the compilation of interviews interesting, I wished the book had more on the process of the interview. How are guests chosen on the show? How do you prepare for the interview? How is the research conducted? How do you decide what kinds of questions to ask?

I guess I was hoping for the b
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Kristen
Over the past few years I've come to think of Terry Gross as a kind of companion…someone I hear from regularly, whose voice has become as familiar as a good friend's. I love hearing her say "This is Fresh Air" with the same relish each time; I admire how well-prepared she is for every interview, and how incisive her questions tend to be. This book is mainly transcripts of previously-aired interviews with people involved in the arts-- many of which I enjoyed, writers like Carol Shields being high ...more
Chris
I listen to Fresh Air very regularly--I listen to almost every non-music interview--and I was surprisingly disappointed by this book. Two and a half stars.

One thing that I didn't much like about the book was that I couldn't tell where the transcripts had been altered, where questions had been removed, and in some cases, which interview different questions came from. That would've put the conversation in a better context that would've made it easier for me to understand.

The main thing that disapp
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Molly
Apr 21, 2010 Molly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Molly by: Al Smith
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this book up from the library because I wanted to learn how a master interviewer works. Terry Gross is the longtime host of NPR's "Fresh Air" program and finds a way to get her guests to reveal things you wouldn't hear in a typical interview. That's because these aren't typical interviews. They are longer and often not done face to face. That curtain of invisibility gives Gross some extra courage. But she still needs to know the questions to ask to get the gems she does.

Her introduction
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Jennifer Ready
Jan 03, 2008 Jennifer Ready rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fresh Air fans
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
The Perfect Book for Reading Buffs and Fresh Air Fans, June 14, 2006


If you love Fresh Air and Terry Gross, but can't catch all of the interviews, this is a great way to catch up on some of the most significant. This book covers writers, actors, musicians, and artists, and includes figures as diverse as Gene Simmons from Kiss to Eric Clapton to John Updike to Conan O'Brien. Keep in mind that the interviews are edited for inclusion in this book,
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Logan
I read this book to try and get a feel for Terry Gross. While she goes into the methodology of her interviewing style in the intro, my goal of learning about her fell short. That's not a slight on the book, just my own unsatisfied quest. I suppose you do learn about her if you studiously read into the way that she paces an interview, the way she can reign in a very salient point or explore a once untouched back story. Not only does she question, but she's declarative, even judgmental once in a w ...more
Cat
If you are a long-time Fresh Air fan on NPR, this book will probably bring back loads of memories for you. I have only just recently discovered Terry Gross, but this is an interesting collection of transcripts of her favorite interviews over the years, ranging from Nic Cage to Nick Hornby to Maurice Sendak. Also included is the infamous hour with Gene Simmons. I must say, the printed version of the latter is far less salacious than the live interview must have sounded. Maybe I've read too many b ...more
Amy
i expected this book to be about terry gross and her thoughts on guests she's interviewed and some behind the scenes insights to preparing for interviews and so on but apart from the introduction, it's just a series of excerpts from her favorite interviews with people in the arts. since the book was published in 2004 all the interviews are from roughly 1989-2003 which in a way was nice, because i didn't start listening to terry gross until probably 2005 or so so those interviews were mostly new ...more
Tracey
Since I'm a fan of Ms. Gross' Fresh Air radio show, decided to check out All I Did Was Ask from the library.

As noted in the foreword, each section of the book may contain responses from multiple interviews with the person in questions; however, I found the flow of most "interviews" to be quite natural. The guests represented in this collection range from Chris Rock to John Updike, Isabella Rossellini to Divine, as well as perhaps her most notorious guest: Gene Simmons.

Upon reading this section
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Timothy
Years ago I became aware of Terry and her radio show. I guess the first interviewees I heard did not hit home with me. I thought the show would be better titled "Fresh Air-Head". Carson B., a coworker, was enamored with Terry. I listened again, but no connection.
Time goes on. I'm changing, Terry is changing, the world is changing, her show is changing and the way I perceive it is changing because media is changing. Terry now brings to my world people, events, perspectives that I do not get elsew
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Peter
Picked this up used and was concerned some of the interviews might seem dated, but Terry did a wonderful job curating this collection -- they're really timeless. And because so many of the subjects are so well known you can actually hear their voices in your head as you read. (You certainly can hear Terry's.) Time for her to compile another one, I'd say.
Mitch
This is a collection of interviews Terry Gross did with various stars of art, theater, music, writing...etc. There were quite a few of them, but the interviews tended to leave little with me after I read them. Additionally, I found that quite a few people who were included were not well known to me, having excelled in something I didn't really care about. (example: jazz saxophone.) Quite a few descended into drug and/or alcohol abuse as well- a thing I give low marks to as I know the pain that i ...more
Jackie
all i did was read and enjoy the spikiness of terry gross who seems to know about everything. when i read about a familiar artist, i related easier to the content. the other articles opened interesting perspectives as well. this book was a before going to bed book, and it took me months to read, even though it is a quick read.
Kennyo
I was hoping for more about her methods and preparation because Terry Gross is among the best prepared interviewers on radio and TV today. Still, the interviews themselves are rarely less than excellent making the book well worth your time.
Evan
Of course I liked it, she autographed MY copy! Her interviews feel like a novelization of a luncheon date, casual language easing any reader into not-so-casual topics.
Mat Brewster
I'm a big fan of the show. I missed hearing Terry's voice, but it was still a fun read and I got to "hear" some interviews I'd missed on the radio.
Marilyn
Although I do enjoy Terry Gross, I found I had little interest in some of the people she interviewed and included in her book.
Karen
Very interesting. I listen to her show on NPR often, so I could hear her voice in my head while I read, which wasn't as annoying as it sounds. I had heard some of these before, but they were worth revisiting. (It is worth reading for the Gene Simmons interview alone. Or just read that in the library-- it will make you check out the book!)

Due to the diversity of the interviewees, I learned some interesting things, and now have a list of other authors/artists to check out.

Great for moments when yo
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Becca
A collection of some of her favorite interviews. Including the awesome one with Gene Simmons.
Bridget
I liked listening to the interviews more. Gross seemed focused on the movie Taxi Driver on many of the interviews. But it is Terry Gross
Kiri
I think I got this for Christmas a while ago? From Maia? And I hadn't read it until now? What was wrong with me? Too many books on my shelf. It certainly wasn't because I had no interest, because I love Terry Gross' radio show; I think she's an amazing interviewer. This book was a pleasure to read. I found it delightful to experience the viewpoints of the collection of artists, musicians, writers, actors. It exposed me to some new music and writing that I'm going to have to explore, and made me ...more
T.L. Cooper
All I Did Was Ask by Terry Gross is filled with interviews Terry Gross did with artists, usually about their latest work at the time. She interviewed painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, actors, and actresses among others. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the interviews. She didn't hold back, even including portions of the interviews where things went awry. Gross's book makes a great resource for anyone studying the way to handle being interviewed, but is also entertaining for anyone who en ...more
Joy H.
ALL I DID WAS ASK (2004) by Terry Gross
I discovered this book while looking around the Net for something else. It was included at the website of wnyc.org.
You can read the book's Introduction online at:
http://www.wnyc.org/books/36189
I've always enjoyed listening to Terry Gross on NPR Radio. So I know I will love this book.

I read many of the interesting interviews presented in this book. Since I ran out of library-renewal-options, I finally ended up reading about the people I was most interested i
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Melissa
Terry has reminded me that it's really time I read Updike and watch "Taxi Driver." Also made me aware of Carol Shields' work.
Rachael
A collection of interviews from Gross's NPR program Fresh Air, which I have listened to from time to time. I'm not quite certain what made me pick this up, as I am not really a fan, but I did pick it up, and then I read it, and I was mildly interested. Some of the interviews were good, most were fairly dull. After I read this book, I had a conversation about it with a friend who hates Gross with a passion, and I didn't understand that either. She just doesn't seem to be the type of journalist th ...more
Katie
Terry Gross is the best.
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Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gross received a bachelor's degree in English and M.Ed. in communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Gross was recognized with the Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award ...more
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Fresh Air: Writers Speak: Terry Gross Interviews 13 Acclaimed Writers Fresh Air: Laughs: Terry Gross Interviews 21 Stars of Comedy Fresh Air: Just For Laughs Fresh Air with Terry Gross: Just for Laughs, Interviews with 18 Stars of Comedy Fresh Air: Faith, Reason and Doubt

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