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You can’t read books all the time; trust me, I’ve tried (and like I said to the officer, at least I wasn’t texting and driving). The next best thing is a good books podcast. There’s plenty out there so here are 10 of the best:
I’m quietly obsessed with Michael Silverblatt, the host of Bookworm. Dubbed “America’s greatest reader” by Norman Mailer, Silverblatt has been expounding and astounding guests and listeners, each week for 20 years. An episode of Bookworm is like a free lesson in literary hermeneutics: Silverblatt avoids questions, floating ideas and theories instead, to the pleasure of his guests. Dipping into the enormous Bookworm archive is a rare pleasure and unlike any other author interview you will hear. The man is a genius.
There is a vicarious pleasure in listening to live recordings of book events, and the London Review Bookshop hosts some of the best. Appearing regularly, the quality of guests is consistent. From an evening with James Ellroy or Ali Smith to conversations between Gregor Hens and Will Self on the psychopathology of nicotine addiction, talks are lively, the Bloomsbury audience always eager to pose a sneaky question or two, and if you can lay your hands on some free wine and nibbles, even better.
Each month a regular, rotating trio from Slate’s staff discuss a book in the traditional back-and-forth of a book club format. What marks Slate’s bookclub out from the others is the eagerness of its contributors to argue with one another in entertaining ways. If you’ve read the book, it’s easy to get equally caught up, which can be weird when you’re on a train shouting: “That’s the point of the whole book – idiot!” Otherwise there is the much calmer BBC World Book Club to recommend, but, with the author always in attendance, it’s never as much fun.
Quintessentially Radio 4, Open Book has an austere but classy feel to it. It’s solid, well made. Hosted by Mariella Frostrup, the format usually includes a topic for discussion with bestselling authors, interviews and news. Frostrup can be an amusingly robust interviewer, particularly when it’s a long-form interview – as witnessed a couple of weeks ago when the preppy Jonathan Safran Foer got told to “stop splitting hairs” and was reminded he was now 40 and divorced, more than once.
It wasn’t all that long ago that a TLS podcast consisted of a 10-minute poetry reading and not much else. Now it’s all-singing, all-dancing and one of the best out there. I suspect host and editor of the TLS, the brilliantly named Stig Abell, had something to do with the revamp because he’s particularly jocular and keen to banter with co-host Thea Lenarduzzi. The show mirrors what’s in the magazine each week and the interviews are particularly good. A welcome addition to the literary podcast world.
Hosted by New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman (or Debs, as I and the occasional big-name author will call her), this highly original podcast is a treat. Each month, an author with a published story in the New Yorker is invited to choose a piece of fiction from the New Yorker’s archive to read and discuss. You get to listen to some of the best short stories ever written, analysed by some of the world’s finest writers. If you’ve ever wondered why everyone raves about Donald Barthelme or Grace Paley, here’s your chance to find out.
Weird to see this one here? Maybe, but I’m only an occasional contributor to this publication, and the Guardian podcast is a reliably tasty smorgasbord – you never quite know what you’re going to get, and you’re very rarely disappointed. Whether it’s a recording of a Guardian live event or a panel discussion, there’s much to feast on. Occasionally, the excellent Guardian book club pops up with John Mullan discussing a modern classic with its author, and just recently we’ve had the cream of British film actors reading John le Carré.
This is one for the serious reader. Conducting a monthly in-depth author interview, often stretching beyond the hour mark, David Naimon attracts a wide range of literary, usually American authors, from underground icon Rikki Ducornet to bestseller Ursula Le Guin. There is a seriousness to Naimon that makes his interviews intense and often more enlightening as a result. He gives his guests room to speak, uninterrupted, often zoning in on the personal experience of writing. His recent interview with Claudia Rankine was exceptional.
Hosted by editor Pamela Paul, this show has been going for years and its never-changing format is a real winner. The reviewer, sometimes the author, of the magazine’s cover story discusses the book with Pamela, before Alexandra Alter arrives with some usually gloomy news from the publishing world. After that, it’s my favourite segment: Gregory Cowles with bestseller news. Greg gives a rundown of the bestseller charts while he and Pamela try their hardest not to sound sniffy about the latest erotic thriller that sits on top.
A bi-weekly show where the host, librarian Rita Meade, is joined by a guest from the books world. It might be an author, a fellow librarian, a bookseller, a publisher, or any other kind of literary profession; together they answer readers’ book-related queries and dilemmas, including essential gems such as how to talk to people who don’t like reading, how to avoid friends who provide poorly thought-out book recommendations and how to avoid reading-induced headaches. If it sounds nerdy, well – that’s because it is.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Words in your ears: the 10 best books podcasts | Books