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Navigating the Maze of Paying for College

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Ron Lieber’s new book, “The Price You Pay for College,” aims at helping families with, as the book’s subtitle puts it, the biggest financial decision they will ever make. Lieber, a personal finance columnist for The Times, visits the podcast this week to discuss it. Among other subjects, he addresses all the ways in which the price to attend a particular college can vary from student to student, similar to how the cost of seats on one airplane flight can vary.

“It can be different for everyone,” Lieber says. “If you ask a bunch of students in Bio 101 what they paid, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find — in a class of 100 — 50, 60, 70 different answers; and then a whole bunch of people who just paid the full price. On the airline, there’s probably slightly fewer prices in the airplane cabin, but it’s not that far apart. The difference here — the problem, the challenge, the extremely frustrating thing about college — is that you do not know what the price will be until after you run the gantlet and get your offer of admission.”

Michael J. Stephen visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “Breath Taking: The Power, Fragility, and Future of Our Extraordinary Lungs.” Stephen, a pulmonary expert at Thomas Jefferson University, talks about what we’ve learned about the lungs during the coronavirus crisis, and more generally about the wonders and perplexities of this organ.

“Our lungs are the last organ to kick in as babies,” Stephen says. “When we’re in utero, the lungs are completely not functioning; Mom is giving us all of our oxygen needs. And at birth, they spring open and spring to life.”

Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and The Times’s critics talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed by the critics this week:

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.

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