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What are the best book podcasts?

We love a bookish podcast. Of course we do! Although, as we’re generally pretty busy making ours we don’t get as much listening time as we’d like. Here’s Kate, with a few of her best book podcasts, and favourite places to get reading recommendations.

 

Backlisted

backlisted podcast ident

It’s not really in order, but first and foremost on my best book podcasts list has to be Backlisted. Andy Miller and John Mitchinson specialise in lesser-known books from the backlist (in the publishing world new releases are known as ‘frontlist’ titles, while previously published books still in print are the ‘backlist’).

I used to think this was my secret discovery but there’s a lot of love out there for this show, and rightly so. It’s great for book recommendations for a couple of reasons. One is that the featured book in each episode is chosen by the guest they have on, which tends to keep the quality up. The second is that hosts and guests are all voracious readers and the featured book is usually a jumping off point for a much more wide-ranging discussion about things to read.

Incidentally, co-host Andy Miller’s book A Year of Reading Dangerously is a brilliantly entertaining tour of books he set himself the task of reading back in the literary doldrums of early parenthood. The chapter on his book club experiences is pure gold.

One to try

Try this episode featuring friend of our pod, Simon Thomas, fellow podcaster, book blogger and literary consultant to the British Library. They're joined by regular guest Bloomsbury publisher Alexandra Pringle to discuss Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker. (And if you enjoy listening to Simon and want to hear more try our episode 39 on his Book of the Year club.)

 


 

What Should I Read Next?

what should i read next podcast ident

I love this podcast that is really well structured and produced, with a brilliantly simple premise. A guest tells Anne three books they love and one book they hate and she tells them what they should read next. She then makes three recommendations from her wide-ranging mental inventory of books.

Anne has grown into a bit of a phenomenon since the early days when she first started and it has been a pleasure to watch her brand flourish. She also has a podcast specifically to recommend individual titles called One Great Book. No-one sums up a book or why you should read it like Anne Bogel. If we were ever to meet I would scatter rose petals in her path.

One to try

I particularly enjoyed episode 271 with Nadia Odunayo of The Storygraph, and went on to read one of the books Nadia talked about, Don't Touch my Hair by Emma Dabiri, which I absolutely loved.

 


 

The Brit Lit podcast

Brit Lit podcast ident

British expat Claire Handscombe keeps a close eye on the UK publishing industry as her regular podcast keeps Americans updated on new releases over here. Claire’s author interviews are always a delight and there are lots of books mentioned in passing that often give me ideas for future reads.

One to try

How the One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones was one of my favourites on the Women's Prize shortlist in 2021, and I loved Claire's interview with her in episode 68.

 


 

The Bookstore Podcast

the bookstore podcast ident

I always enjoy this unassuming gem of a show. This year former-booksellers Becca and Corinne set themselves the task of following a book prompt to guide their choices and I’ve loved the way this has led to some really interesting reading.

Reading prompts are such a good idea that would work really well for book clubs trying to work out what to read next – often the problem is how to narrow down the huge range of options. See below for their list of prompts for 2021 year – follow it or come up with your own.

One to try

Try episode 94.5 (the .5 makes me smile and remember the big fight Laura and I once had over whether to include half numbers in our numbering system) on the prompt 'Read a book you already own', with much discussion of buying books, storing them, and reading or failing to read them.

 

the bookstore podcast reading prompts

 


 

The Bookcast Club

The bookcast club ident

Covering multiple books in each episode, this pod between book-loving friends (Jenny, Alice, Sarah T and Sarah K) is always a good listen and they don’t shy away from saying if they don’t like something (a surprisingly rare element of any book discussion show but catnip to me). It’s got an element of book club discussion and debate that I love. They also have an excellent monthly newsletter that is full of book recommendations.

One to try

Having read and discussed all the 2021 Women's Prize shortlisted books on our show, I  was particularly interested to hear the Bookcasters' take on them in episode #51.

 


 

Books on the Go

books on the go podcast

This short and sweet Australian show from Anna Baillie-Karas and her friends Annie Waters and Amanda Hayes is probably my most regular listen, so had to be on my best book podcasts list. They manage to cover a book a week in a half-hour discussion (so I can keep up) and it’s an eclectic mix from new releases to backlist titles. It’s another one of those rare podcasts with a book club style discussion, and I always love hearing their different views.

One to try

I enjoyed Anna and Amanda on At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop (episode 180), which I went on to read for myself, and loved. If you like Anna and you like us, you might also enjoy this Books on the Go x The Book Club Review Podcast episode where together we come up with our Top 10 favourite book club reads.

 


 

What Page Are You On?

what page are you on podcast ident

Whenever I want to feel like I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the book-world I listen to this show. Alice and Bethany have an effortless rapport you can tell comes from their long-standing friendship. They’re both voracious readers and authors and have a good knowledge of the publishing industry from the inside as well as the usual readers’ take on it, and I always enjoy the extra insight that comes from that. They’re super-bright, funny, and opinionated. I save it for when I need cheering up. It’s always a lot of fun to listen in to their chats.

One to try

I loved their recent discussion of the Sally Rooney publicity campaign and fair-minded evaluation of the book. Listen in to episode 82.

 


 

The New York Times book review

New York Times book review podcast ident

Good author interviews with top of the list authors, and thoughtful book reviews. Where it usually comes to life, though, is in the last ten minutes when the presenters go round and talk about the books they’ve each been reading. That’s the bit I listen for.

One to try

I enjoyed this Brandon Taylor episode on Sally Rooney much more than I thought I would. Recommended.

 


 

So Many Damn Books

so many damn books podcast ident

I’ve always had a soft spot for this conversational show recorded over drinks in New York. I discovered them when they had illustrator and author Leanne Shapton on (don’t get me started on her genius, but Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris is the entry point if you’re new to her). If you like the idea of pulling up a chair, sipping a cocktail and enjoying a rambling but never boring discussion about books, often joined by authors or other literary folk, this is the one for you. An additional treat is their fantastic archive of cocktail recipes, all inspired by books they’ve discussed. Definitely a good addition to any best book podcasts list.

One to try

That Leanne Shapton episode I mentioned.

 


 

The New Yorker Fiction Podcast

The New Yorker Fiction podcast ident

One of our favourite regular guests, Phil Chaffee, reminded me about the joys of this podcast which I don’t listen to nearly as often as I should. It’s a very simple premise, an author reads a short story in the magazine and then chats about it for a bit with fiction editor Deborah Treisman.

It’s such a great way to encounter a story, and the discussion is always fascinating. There are no bad episodes, dip in anywhere and be delighted.  You could concievably have a book club discussion around an episode of this show.

One to try

This episode in which Andrew Sean Greer (whose novel Less we discussed in episode 24 of the pod) reads Dorothy Parker.

 


 

By the Book

by the book podcast for best book podcasts article

I love this show; it had to go on my best book podcasts list. It doesn't seem to be well known here in the UK (going by the number of people I've mentioned it to who have never heard of it). Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer read a self-help book, spend two weeks living according to its rules, and then report back. I particularly love the comments from their partners, who have to put up with an ongoing rotation of fairly major lifestyle changes, but do so (mostly) with patience and good grace. It's joyfully entertaining, but also full of genuinely excellent life advice as they figure out the stuff that actually works.

One to try

Every episode I've listened to has immediately become my new favourite, but I particularly enjoyed this one on how to write a bestselling book in less than 7-14 days that will make you money forever.

 


 

Book-off

book off podcast

A late entry, but too good a show to leave out of the best book podcasts list. Host Joe Haddow invites two authors on to talk about their own books. They then each have three minutes to pitch a book that they love and Haddow decides the winner. Authors often make the best readers. Much like Backlisted (see above) this podcast is a reliably good source of excellent book recommendations.

One to try

As I'd just finished reading Olivia Laing's book Funny Weather, I enjoyed listening to her discussion with Howard Cunnell in this episode.

 


 

Tea or Books?

Tea or Books podcastAs mentioned at the start of this article, friend-of-the-pod Simon Thomas is the wisest person we know when it comes to discovering forgotten literary treasures. Tea or Books is his podcast, in which he and his friend Rachel (Booksnob) choose a question to try to answer and build an episode around the theme. They consistently mention more books per episode than any other pod I can think of, plus listening to them is like being a fly on the wall of a delightful bookish conversation. We love it.

 


 

Other bookish podcasts

If I did but have the time I would be a regular listener to all of these. As it is they're all in my feed and I dip in and out from time to time: Heyer Today (as a Heyer fan, how could I not love this, and I do), The Spectator book club, Books and Authors (from the BBC), All the Books (from Book Riot), What You Should Read, Monocle on Culture, What You Will Learn (and see our recent episode #103 for more from hosts Adam Ashton and Adam Jones), Le Masque et la Plume, The Adam Buxton Podcast (for the book episodes, try Episode 101 on The Catcher in the Rye, or this enjoyable interview with Kazuo Ishiguro. Also, for fellow Michal Lewis fans, this!), Literary Friction (really this should be in the main list, I listen to it fairly regularly – such an intelligent and thoughtful show), Dragon Babies (SUCH a sweet one, in which Grace and Madeleine Harnois reread the beloved YA fantasy classics of their childhood), Diving In (another gem, this time from Australia, a reliably excellent listen), The Slightly Foxed Podcast (again, when I listen I love it), Ear Read This (for when I’m feeling academic, Ash Caton’s highbrow literary show), The Guardian Books Podcast, Across the Pond (a recent discovery, with bookshop owner Lori Feathers and British journalist and publisher Sam Jordison), and last but by no means least, You're Booked, author Daisy Buchanan's delightful show pitched at, as she describes it, literary nosy-parkers who want to snoop around their favourite authors' bookshelves. It's another one where you get so many book recommendations, you want to run to the bookshop after listening. A gem.

 

May we also recommend...

Since you're here why not have a browse of our archive of over 100 podcast episodes. Listen in and let us help you find your next favourite read or a book that will get your book club talking.

 

What are your best book podcasts?

What have we missed? Comment below and let us know.

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4 Comments

  • Renee
    October 22, 2021 at 2:17 pm  - Reply

    Hi ! I love your podcast and wait eagerly for each episode.

    Daisy Buchanan’s You’re Booked podcast is excellent!

    • brc-admin
      November 20, 2021 at 3:04 pm  - Reply

      Oh my goodness, I completely forgot about You’re Booked. I agree, it is always an excellent listen. I’m going to have to go back and add that one in! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  • Cindy
    October 22, 2021 at 4:25 pm  - Reply

    Yes yes yes to the last 10 minutes of the New York Times Books podcast – it is pure toe curlingly good pleasure. So often I am nodding my head in agreement when I have read the book. Pamela Paul is a hero of mine, and now Molly Young has joined the team from New York Magazine I couldn’t ask for more (however more than 10 minutes *would* be better, now I think about it).
    I love Tea or Books – it is a rare gem, with the aforementioned Simon and his pal Rachel. I think a good friendly banter is so necessary, which is why your podcast is also so great.

    • brc-admin
      November 20, 2021 at 3:09 pm  - Reply

      Molly Young is my absolute FAVOURITE person to read on books. I hadn’t thought it through that she’d be appearing on the NYT podcast! That is going to be a total delight. I also share your feelings about Pamela Paul.

      Of course you’re quite right, Tea or Books deserves its own slot. I’m going to amend it now. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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