Chapter A Day

Started in 1931, “Chapter a Day” is WPR’s longest-running program. Jim Fleming, Norman Gilliland, Michele Good, Melvin Hinton, Baron Kelly and Susan Sweeney read a chapter from a book for a half hour each weekday. Genres are predominately contemporary and range from works of fiction, history and biography.


WPR Music, 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., WPR News, 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Book Cover for "The Devil’s Element: Phosphorus And A World Out Of Balance" by Dan Egan


The Devil’s Element: Phosphorus And A World Out Of Balance by Dan Egan

Monday, July 8 through Friday, July 26, 2024
Read by Norman Gilliland.

Phosphorus has played a critical role in some of the most lethal substances on earth: firebombs, rat poison, nerve gas. But it’s also the key component of one of the most vital: fertilizer, which has sustained life for billions of people. Over the past century, phosphorus has made farming vastly more productive, feeding the enormous increase in the human population. Yet, our overreliance on this vital crop nutrient is today causing toxic algae blooms and “dead zones” in waterways from the coasts of Florida to the Mississippi River basin to the Great Lakes and beyond. Meanwhile, diminishing access to phosphorus poses a threat to the food system worldwide ― which risks rising conflict and even war.

(WW Norton; ISBN-10: 1324002662)

Theme: Virgil Thomson, Louisiana Story, New London Orchestra

Readings are archived for just one week after their broadcast due to publisher 
copyright restrictions.

Latest Episodes

  • The Devil’s Element 10 of 15

    Following the ban on phosphates in detergents and the passing of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, the nation’s lakes, rivers and streams see almost immediate recovery. But the […]

    The Devil’s Element 10 of 15
  • The Devil’s Element 9 of 15

    As the Canadian government decides to set aside land for what would later become known as the Boundary Waters, they call upon a team of ecologists to conduct “whole lake […]

    The Devil’s Element 9 of 15
  • The Devil’s Element 8 of 15

    The 1950s see the rise of high-foaming detergents caused by the addition of phosphates. But quite quickly, the public finds those phosphates’ foamy bubbles contaminating their lakes, rivers and streams.

    The Devil’s Element 8 of 15
  • The Devil’s Element 7 of 15

    Following the Spanish Civil War, geologists are dispatched to an area now known as the Western Sahara. There they find the largest cache of phosphate rock ever discovered.

    The Devil’s Element 7 of 15
  • The Devil’s Element 6 of 15

    The search for plentiful sources of phosphorus continues as the world’s population’s nearly doubles in less than a century. Then ancient sea beds in Florida create a phosphorus rush that […]

    The Devil’s Element 6 of 15

Chapter A Day Booklist

View information about every book we’ve read in the past 30 years!

Coming Next

Book Cover for "West With Giraffes" by Lynda Rutledge

West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

Monday, July 29 through Friday, August 23, 2024
Read by Jim Fleming.

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave. It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane…

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