I’m just catching up with Bookish Podcasts

So I need your help. I am fairly new to podcasting. Not to making them, I don’t do that. I mean that I have only recently begun listening to them. On the train, while I wash up, or cook or clean my walking boots.

First, I had to discover how to find them – by accessing the podcast app on my ipad. It turned out it was simple.

Then I had to find the ones I wanted to listen to. There are lots of different podcasts, all keen to be listened to. It was a little like investigating apps on my first smart phone. I didn’t know that so many were available. They were simple to download but hard to choose between. The search facility will bring lots to your attention.

And then to be more discerning I began to pay attention to recommendations and emails from organisations that make them, in particular the publishers. And now I am asking you for your recommendations.

So what is a podcast?

Let’s consult the oracle.

podcast is an episodic series of digital, audio or video files that a user can download in order to listen. Alternatively, the word “podcast” may refer to the individual component of such a series or to an individual media file. (Wikipedia)

They often have an automatic facility to download onto your device through a subscription. Subscriptions are usually free, btw. They’ve been going since about 2004. I told you I was late to the party.

How is a podcast different from a radio programme?

The main difference is through the subscription and downloading aspects. But in many ways podcasts are a way of spreading audio content, as radio programmes are.

In practise I think they are often longer than the average radio programme, aimed more at a specific interest group than the general listener, and often presented as a conversation 

I would also point out that radio programmes about books and writing are becoming harder to find. But there are any number of podcasts about books it seems.

Which bookish podcasts have I been enjoying?

You can search for these four that I regularly listen to:

Slightly Foxed: this podcast is recorded in the offices of the magazine of the same name. The magazine features essays by readers who describe books they love. The podcasts take up this theme often with guests on particular topics. I particularly enjoyed the recent discussion about George Mackay the poet from Orkney.

Backlisted: it has been going for about 2 years. Each episode features a guest (usually a writer) who has chosen a book they love and which they think deserves a wider audience. Though sponsored by the crowd-funding publisher Unbound, it isn’t about selling new product: it’s about how and why some books stand the test of time. As their title suggests this is not so much about new books. Each episode is about an hour long.

Virago Books: a monthly podcast featuring writers published by Virago. I always want to read the book they feature. This month it was Between the Stops by Sandi Toksvig. Usually about 30 mins.

Guardian Books: a weekly look at books, poetry and great writing, hosted by Claire Armitstead, Richard Lea and Sian Cain. I have recently listened to an interview with the poet Kathleen Jamie. Each podcast is about 30 minutes.

The podcasts usually feature recommendations and some include episode notes (aka show notes) with details of books discussed or recommended.

And others?

Not so bookish, but interesting and entertaining:

Fortunately features Jane Garvey and Fi Glover who ‘share stories they probably shouldn’t’. Recommended by friends as soon as I said I was trying out podcasting. Weekly. About 45 minutes. 

Something Rhymes with Purple: Susie Dent and Gyles Brandreth talk about words and language. Just right for a train journey I have found. Weekly. About 30 minutes long.

The Verb: hosted by Ian MacMillan. This really is a radio programme, sent out weekly and lasts about 45 minutes and featuring all sorts of writing stuff.

And some lists

Penguin books: 25 of the best literary and book podcasts for book lovers. There are quite a few suggested podcasts on this list to explore.

Sunday Times: has apparently recently published a list of 100 podcasts to love. But it is behind a paywall, so good luck.

How you can help

As you can see, I enjoy listening to people discussing books almost as much as I like talking about books myself. And I like hearing writers’ recommendations of books that are not necessarily new. So you can help me by adding more recommendations of bookish podcasts you think are worth listening to. Happy listening.


Filed under Books

12 Responses to I’m just catching up with Bookish Podcasts

  1. Lovely post, Caroline! I am a great fan of ‘Backlisted’, and now I will try ‘Slightly Foxed’! One of my favourite podcasts is ‘Tea or Books?’, hosted by Simon (from the blog Stuck in a Book) and Rachel (from Book Snob). I think you might enjoy it too 🙂

  2. Backlisted is my favourite, but I confess I don’t often have time to listen to many others. Simon at Stuck in a Book does a Tea or Books? one on a regular basis which is quite fun!

  3. Marianne Coleman

    Thank you so much for this Caroline. I had been asking the same questions as you and trying to come to terms with podcasts. Great to have bookish ones to explore now.

    I have listened to Fortunately and liked it, but had not come across any of the others.

  4. Hello,
    I prefer old-fashioned linear live radio to podcasts because I don’t care to know what’s coming up next and I certainly don’t want the responsibility of choosing what I listen to. I just can’t see the point of that sort of ‘radio’ at all, which for me should always be insidious minus the harmful element. I’m more than happy to defer to the sages of Radio 4 and if I don’t agree with their decisions or tastes I either switch over to R3 or exercise the ultimate decider, the off-switch. Old school, that’s me.

    • Caroline

      Hi Paul, thanks for joining in. I can see what you mean about enjoying the randomness of listening to the radio, but I also enjoy programmes discussing books, and those rent on when I’m doing the washing up.
      I’ll continue with both.

  5. I’ve tried loads of book-related podcasts over recent years. Quite a few I ditched after just one episode because I found the host/hosts deeply irritating (too many of them are just giggly conversations between friends or they are just gushing about the books they’ve got as ARCs). So it’s not just a question of content for me, but also the delivery.
    Backlisted ticks all the right boxes for me. I also enjoy the BBC podcast A Good Read where 2 invited guests recommend a book – its usually one that means something special to them.

    • Caroline

      Thanks for this contribution. I am hoping that these suggestion will mean I avoid the irritating giggly gushing kind of talk and introduce me to thoughtful and enlivening bookish thoughts. I will give A Good Read a go, having sometimes caught it on the radio in the car.

  6. I love Fortunately! One that is quite similar, with Australian presenters, is Chat 10 Looks 3.

    And I’m pleased to see that others got in and recommended my podcast so I didn’t have to 😉 Thanks Karen and Juliana!

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