2020 has been the year of the podcast. I have always been a listener, but as my anxiety levels have increased (and… I mean… 2020.) my pod hours have sky rocketed. Truthfully, I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time listening to podcasts, but as vices go, I could have chosen much worse. For the first time, this year I started deliberately seeking out bookish podcasts, so today I thought I’d share three of my favourites.
Bookish, introspective, whip smart and brimming with exciting recommendations, it’s always a good day when a new episode of Literary Friction lands in my feed. Hosted by Carrie Plitt and Octavia Bright, expect in-depth author interviews and thematic discussions on everything from the necessity of hope, to sisterhood, race, therapy, vanity, social media and so much more. I recommend listening in a hot bath – some sort of bubbles/salts essential – with a towel pillow. Literary Friction is the perfect accompaniment to a lazy, introspective Sunday afternoon.
Dip in: State of the Nation with Olivia Laing. Recorded in 2018 with the release of her novel Crudo, this is a look at the role of the state of the nation novel – those books that capture the Zeitgeist and push us to reflect on the current moment.
City of Voices with Zadie Smith. Honestly I could listen to Zadie Smith talk all day. This episode, a live recording of an interview celebrating the release of Grand Union, Smith’s first short story collection, is all about embracing our inner chaos and turning our backs on the influence of social media (to whatever extent that is still possible).
If you’re into the newsy, gossipy side of the book world then Book Riot, hosted by Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the show for you. A weekly delve into the latest in the book world, they cover the bookish buzz, scandals and publishing insider info you need to know. As someone always several weeks behind of the goss – at least before I listened to this show – I get a lot of satisfaction being up to date with what’s going on, whether that’s the books making the awards lists, the publishers launching new, exciting imprints or the tell-all essays on whatever latest old science fiction writer turned out to be a perv. I would say I think this show suffers from being slightly too regular (they’re pushing two pods a week at the moment) but you can always skip one when they fall too far into the irrelevant (for example there’s one in my feed right now about The West Wing I don’t feel the need to listen to). Overall though, Jeff and Rebecca’s critical eye to the publishing world and regular dose of bookish excitement is enriching, and has provided me with a much greater insight into the industry than I previously had.
Dip In: Our Favourite Reads of Summer 2020. Who doesn’t like a good recommendations show? As if we don’t already have longer TBRs than we could ever possibly tackle! What I particularly enjoy about Jeff and Rebecca’s recommendations is they don’t necessarily feel the need of pick up every book simply because it’s ‘of the moment’ – there’ll always be a few gems in their lists I’ve never heard of before.
Deals deals deals. A very publishing ‘inside baseball’ type episode, this is a look at the recently announced book deals and pretty much whether or not Jeff and Rebecca think they’re worth the money. Again, if you’re interested in the inner workings of the publishing industry then this conversation will interest you.
The High Low
While technically a news and pop culture show, The High Low, hosted by writers Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton, has a strongly bookish flavour. It’s a show that celebrates writing, and is filled with author interviews, bookish recommendations and links to the best articles and essays Pandora and Dolly have enjoyed that week (something that makes my journalist heart oh-so-happy). As the name implies, The High Low embraces the silly as much as the serious, giving rise to a wide-ranging conversation that one week might centre an absolutely devastating, necessary piece of political writing, and the next might be consumed by an essay on what coronavirus means for the future of the buffet (someone really wrote this, and it was fantastic).
The High Low just aired its final episode (literally heartbreaking), but I think it still deserves its place on this list and I will be going back to listen to my favourite episodes again and again. Dolly and Pandora created a beautiful community of people celebrating things they loved and having challenging conversations with empathy and introspection. It might not be current any more, but it’ll always be relevant.
Dip in: Wiley’s Anti-Semitism, Kiley Reid’s Such A Fun Age & An Author Special With Nesrine Malik. Recorded back in July, the interview with Nesrine Malik (who, if you don’t know please Google all of her work immediately – this piece about cancel culture is a wonderful start point) about resisting cultural myths is vital listening.
Anti-Racism Resources & An Author Special with Candice Brathwaite. At some point I will finally get around to reviewing I Am Not Your Baby Mother, Candice Brathwaite’s utterly mesmerising memoir/ social and political commentary on Black motherhood in the UK. This episode of The High Low was where I first encountered her, and I fell in love immediately. It’s an utterly compelling conversation on the inequalities, joys and frustrations of Black motherhood in the UK, and the groundbreaking work in representation Candice has done in the last few years in the ridiculously white world of the mummy bloggers.
Do you listen to many podcasts? What are some of your favourites? Let me know in comments so I can keeping feeding my obsession