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

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  907 Ratings  ·  154 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 1,817)
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Joe Valdez
Jan 07, 2016 Joe Valdez rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
"My name is Laszlo* and I'm a liberal who can't stand listening to NPR."

"Hi, Laszlo. Aren't liberals supposed to listen to NPR in their Prius?"

"I'm not much of a car guy but the Prius just isn't me. So I don't drive one, no."

"You might not be a liberal. Do you eat at Whole Foods?"

"I do my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's."

"Never mind, you do sound like a liberal. Let's get back to your liberal listening habits. Don't you get all your news from NPR?"

"I follow current events and enjoy having my in
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 30, 2015 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read2015, radio
This book came along right around when I was talking to other people about wishing I was a better interviewer. I showed up at a booksale, and there it was, for $1. Terry Gross is a spectacular interviewer who I rarely listen to, but still her name has seeped into my brain. She asks insightful questions that are based on solid research and the ability to make connections others may not have made.

The book is almost entirely transcribed interviews from between 1976 and 2004. Anyone looking to learn
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Todd N
Apr 06, 2008 Todd N rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Daniel
Feb 22, 2008 Daniel rated it really liked it
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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Heidi
Jul 12, 2007 Heidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it  ·  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
Kristen
Feb 20, 2014 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Suzanne
I really wanted to give this 3.5 stars. It was interesting but I wish there would have been more conversations with authors. It was a very easy read, I would read one chapter a night right before going to sleep. I learned some things about Jodie Foster and her education, Dennis Hopper and his interest in art, Isabella Rossellini and the illness she had as a child. The conversations were exactly that, conversations not deep reveals which was refreshing.
Elizabeth
Solid start. Became quite boring halfway through the book. That said, I did read some fascinating conversations.
Dariane
Jun 11, 2014 Dariane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Chris
Aug 12, 2014 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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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Nandan
Feb 02, 2016 Nandan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Fresh Air' on NPR by Terry Gross is one of my favorite radio program. Her understated, well-researched and empathetic yet probing manner of asking questions; the diversity of guests and well-researched questions are also reflected in this book which is a collection of selected interviews of the last 36 years.

Her interviews of not only the well-known artists and authors like John Updike, Dustin Hoffman, Mario Puzo, Jodie Foster are insightful and interesting; but also those of relatively unknown
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Kenneth
Written by Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s afternoon radio show “Fresh Air”. It was a compilation of some of her interesting interviews over the years.The interviews range from the pleasant- with Michael Caine, to the unpleasant - with the remarkably crass and crude Gene Simmons.
I have been listening to her radio show for years. Now, here is a good opportunity to get behind the scenes and into her head.
If you enjoy her show, you will appreciate this book.
I only hope that she follows it up with a
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Yaaresse
This book is made up of excerpts of interviews, edited for print to get rid of vocal tics and such, that Terry Gross did in the late 1990s on her show Fresh Air. Whether 20+ year old interviews hold any interest probably depends on why one is reading them. If one is looking for "new" information, it's going to be a bust. My reason for choosing the book was because I think Terry Gross is one of those people who can get away with asking almost anyone almost anything, and I think she often asks int ...more
Molly
Apr 21, 2010 Molly rated it liked it
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 really liked it
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
Jan 28, 2012 Logan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 17, 2013 Cat. rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2014 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 19, 2007 Tracey rated it liked it
Shelves: libraryread
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
Mar 08, 2012 Timothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 21, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2011 Mitch rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Nov 23, 2014 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 25, 2014 KennyO rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dawn
Some Interesting Tidbits

I liked the variety of interviews with artists, actors, and writers. The focus on creative aspects was most interesting, but the emphasis on sexualality and drugs detracted from this title.
Jj
Jun 19, 2016 Jj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
I'm barely half of this book and yet I would say that this is totally what I wanted to read. This kind of conversations are the kind that I want to listen to.

More of my review after I'm done with this.
James J. Gurksnis Jr.
Great read. Very informative

I've been an avid listener of npr since 2000 and enjoy Fresh Air. This book is dated a little bit but it's still a good read.
Evan
Apr 30, 2014 Evan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Gail Jeidy
Nov 25, 2015 Gail Jeidy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. A compilation of interviews with writers, artists, musicians, actors. Caught some popular culture I've missed and heard Gross's voice as I read.
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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
More about Terry Gross...

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“The problem is that those of us who are lucky enough to do work that we love are sometimes cursed with too damn much of it.” 2 likes
“If you concentrate, there is something that emanates from you, and that’s what the great photographer photographs. Diana Vreeland says, “There is no beauty without emotion.” I think that is the responsibility of a model.” 0 likes
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