I am a huge fan of the podcast medium. I listen while I clean, while I walk, while I cook, while I dress after my shower. I do not subscribe to print periodicals that run book reviews, I am not a librarian, and I no longer work in a book store, but I am a reader who is interested in what’s going on in the book world, in reading culture, and who loves a well-told story. With limited time to consume print media, but with ample time to listen, I have become an avid fan of podcasts, and my hungry mind devours the bookish and storytelling podcasts below. These shows provide the literary fix I need as a word nerd. I plan special walks or add extra chores to my list when any of these drop new episodes. I hope you enjoy them, too.
The New Yorker Fiction Podcast: Hosted by New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, this podcast highlights the best of the best of the short story. Each month an esteemed writer chooses a story from the archives of The New Yorker, reads it aloud, and then discusses it with editor Deborah Triesman. Many of the stories are classics, like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and the discussions are every book-lover’s book-club dream: Triesman and the reading-writer discuss what makes it a good story, they discuss craftsmanship, they attempt to tease out meaning, and – most importantly for any listeners who might one day hope to be published in The New Yorker – the discussions provide insight into the personality and inclinations of a high-quality fiction editor. My favorite episodes include David Sedaris reading Miranda July, Tessa Hadley reading Nadine Gordimer, and Karen Russell reading Carson McCullers. Follow New Yorker Fiction on Twitter @NYerFiction.
Book Riot Podcast: Described in their intro as “A weekly news and talk show about what’s new, cool, and worth talking about in the world of books and reading,” this, along with The New Yorker Fiction Podcast, is my favorite podcast. Hosts Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Schinsky are the editors of Book Riot, and I like hanging out with them: they’re smart and they make me laugh. On the podcast, they don’t just talk about new releases or prize winners or good books that will make your to-be-read pile even more overwhelming (though that does happen), they cover news that is of interest to readers: new technology in the reading world, the latest research on how reading affects human behavior, notes from backstage in the publishing world, and encouragement for diversifying our reading lives to include authors and characters who don’t look like us. If you like books and you’re fun and you’re looking for a podcast that isn’t simply reviews or more talk about the latest NYT bestsellers, start with Book Riot. Follow Book Riot on Twitter at @BookRiot.
The Moth: True Stories Told Live The Moth is true stories told live on a stage, and the first time I listened, I was so inspired I paused the episode, leaned on my mop, and recorded a 15 minute story of my own onto my phone’s voice recorder. Since I first began listening I’ve heard Moth stories featured elsewhere, most notably on NPR’s This American Life and as inspiration for a Radiolab story about a man who forgave his daughter’s murderer via letters sent to and from the killer in jail. Moth stories are quality live storytelling, without notes. Most stories include comedic elements but they are all powerful (and true) narratives, often told by renowned storytellers or comedians, and sometimes told by regular people. I eagerly await every new episode. My favorite recent stories are Simon Noonan’s Every Expense Was Spared and Elise Hunter’s story about dumpster diving. Follow The Moth on Twitter at @TheMoth.
Selected Shorts: Let Us Tell You a Story I only recently found this storytelling podcast, and I am already in love with it. Kind of a mashup between The Moth and The New Yorker Fiction podcast, Selected Shorts are performed live as on The Moth. Unlike The Moth, though, where the storyteller tells his or her own true story, Selected Shorts are actors and performers reading others’ short fiction, as on The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. There is no discussion of the work as there is with The New Yorker, but each episode contains several quality works. The one I listened to today, Romantic Disasters, had a wonderful story from Miranda July (I seem to be a Miranda July fan) read by Parker Posey, in which the main character coaches an octogenarian swim team – without a body of water to instruct in. Follow Selected Shorts on Twitter @SelectedShorts.
Books on the Nightstand: Hosts Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, who seem to have read everything and who also work in the publishing industry, give book recommendations and talk about the behind-the-scenes world of the book industry. They are friendly, funny, knowledgeable, and approachable, and I’ve read several of their recommendations, including A Compendium of Collective Nouns which Kindness talked about in Episode 251: Books, Words, and Punctuation. I have not been disappointed by any of their suggestions. Plus Ann loves Pat Conroy, and The Prince of Tides is one of my favorite books of all time, so that gives her a special place in my heart. Follow Books on the Nightstand on Twitter at @BksOnNightstand.
Bookrageous: a podcast about books and why they’re awesome: Bookrageous is like sitting around with friends and talking books. When I listen to this one, I often find myself opening my mouth to chime in, then realizing Josh, Jenn, and Rebecca are not sitting on my bathroom counter. They can’t hear me. It’s just my phone. But its fun to pretend. Follow Bookrageous on Twitter at @bookrageous.
The Readers: This podcast’s tagline is “Book Based Banter,” which captures its charm brilliantly: the hosts are an Englishman and an American, and their exchanges tickle me. Every time Simon chuckles, which is often, I smile. I particularly loved episode 85: Your Country in Ten (or Eleven) books, in which they each selected ten books from their home country in an effort to showcase the culture and sense of place of the US and UK. My TBR list grew by 15 books that day. Follow The Readers on Twitter at @BookBasedBanter.
Dear Book Nerd: Hosted by librarian Rita Meade, Dear Book Nerd is a podcast that grew out of Meade’s “Dear Book Nerd” advice column on Book Riot in which she answers questions like “What’s the Best Pickup Line to use on a Librarian?” The podcast is relatively new – 7 episodes as of this writing – and she has tackled questions ranging from how to not feel defensive about not reading literary fiction to the risky business of lending books. You can follow Rita Meade on Twitter @ScrewyDecimal.