Image by Chuck Coker via Flickr,

Some of you may be expecting a visit from that jolly Santa Claus next weekend.(If you've been good that is.) But just who is this man that will magically slide down your chimney? His family tree goes back to the fourth century Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas, and with the passing generations, his story has changed to suit the times. Historian Gerry Bowler joins Doug for a biographical look at Santa Claus. (Rebroadcast)

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Robert Krulwich began his radio career as a boy in the tub. His pseudonym was Don Roberto and his fist was the microphone. He grew up to be one of the most inventive and compelling reporters in radio. Whether he's explaining interest rates through opera, parsing Reaganomics with the help of "lab mice" or using video to illustrate how viruses work, Krulwich makes understanding complicated subjects fun and easy. Doug will talk with him on Thursday about his career and what makes good radio tick. 

A canine orphan of World War I, Rin Tin Tin was rescued from a bombed-out French battlefield and went on to become one of the most renowned names of 20th century entertainment. In her new book, writer Susan Orlean documents the life and legend of the famous German shepherd, his descendants and their owners, tracing in the process the rise of dogs in American life and exploring the bond between humans and animals. Orlean will talk with Doug on Thursday about Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend.

For 10 years, writers Gregory White Smith, Steven Naifeh and a team of researchers delved deeply into the life of Vincent van Gogh. They read the books he read in his day, dissected his numerous letters and scoured every text and record they could find on him. Their new biography of the fabled artist lays bare van Gogh's deeply troubled, fanatic and passionate soul, and it offers a revisionist history of his death. Gregory White Smith joins Doug on Thursday to talk about Van Gogh: The Life.

Andrew Tilin, a journalist and amateur cyclist, wanted to write a story about a regular guy taking performance enhancing drugs. He was unable to find a citizen doper willing to come clean, so decided to become his story's subject. In his new book, Tilin details, with startling honesty, his amped-up and guilt-ridden year taking testosterone, competing in races and breaking USA Cycling rules. Doug talks with Tilin on Tuesday about the highs and lows of taking roids in pursuit of youthful vigor.

Friday, a conversation about Roald Dahl with his biographer and friend Donald Sturrock. Dahl is of course the creator of the children's classics "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach," and his own life was as funny, dark and fascinating as the fictional worlds he created. We'll talk about his story and about his evolution as a storyteller. (Rebroadcast)

Library of Congress

Almost a century ago, labor icon Joe Hill was executed by firing squad for the murder of a Salt Lake grocer. His controversial conviction rested largely on two pieces of rickety evidence: the gunshot wound he sustained the night of the murder and the IWW membership card in his wallet. The writer Bill Adler has uncovered new evidence debunking the evidence against Hill. He'll join Doug on Wednesday to talk about his new book, The Man Who Never Died, and make the case for Hill's innocence.

Robert Gottlieb begins his biography of the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt with something that should be fairly straight forward - her birth date. She was born, as he says, "in July or September or October of 1844. Or was it 1843? Or even 1841?" Gottlieb says Bernhardt wasn't really concerned about accuracy; she was much more interested in a good story. Monday, we're talking with Gottlieb about the fascinating life of Sarah Bernhardt - on and off the stage. (Rebroadcast)

Thursday, Doug is joined by journalist Jeff Sharlet for a conversation about his most recent foray into the world of American religious life. Sharlet's book is a collection of 13 essays that profile people on the fringes of religion - from a devoted evangelist to a Holocaust survivor and from a congregation of urban anarchists to a banjo player. Doug talks to Sharlet about the people he encountered and about the spectrum of America's faith and doubt.

Judge Thomas Buergenthal has said that when we talk about the Holocaust in numbers, the six million Jewish victims become a "mass of nameless, soulless bodies." And that's why he decided it was time to tell his story. Buergenthal has had a distinguished career as a scholar of human rights law and an international judge, but he's also one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Thomas Buergenthal joins Doug to talk about his memoir A Lucky Child. (Rebroadcast)