My two main obsessions in life are books and podcasts. Hearing people gush about books is the best ways to convince me to read more of them, so naturally, I consume more than my share of book podcasts. They’re a great way to eavesdrop on the kind of book-loving conversations you used to have to join a book club to experience, and to be exposed to potential new favourite stories and authors you might never have encountered otherwise.
On this list, explore podcasts like Chelsea Devantez’s Celebrity Book Club, Barnes & Noble’s Poured Over, and an audio book matchmaking program. These shows will tell you about which new things to read, which classics you shouldn’t, which celebrity memoirs worth checking out, and more. All of them will make your TBR pile a little more exciting.
On every episode of this fun, academic look at celebrity memoirs, Chelsea Devantez pages through a famous person’s life story with an assist from her comedian friends. If you think celebrity memoirs are just dishy lightweights, think again — Chelsea is able to pull from these stories, all penned by women, the extreme highs and lows of being a woman in the spotlight: the wrongdoings, the sexism, and what it does to a human to be famous. She pays special attention to the ghostwriter, if there is one, and at the end of each episode runs the book through her “Bookdel Test,” which asks, “did the author share her truth?” and “was it entertaining to read?” and “did reading this book elevate your life in some way?”
Episodes have covered everything from Shania Twain’s From This Moment On (with Molly McGlynn), to Cher’s The First Time (with Albertina Rizzo), to Margaret Cho’s I’m the One That I Want (with Margaret Cho herself), and more.
Barnes & Noble obviously has the clout to land any author interview they want, and they certainly do so on their podcast. On Poured Over, host Miwa Messer serves as both host and critic, engaging her her guests with the most interesting questions — there is no bigger book lover than her. She digs into the lines, the themes, and the word choices, and makes all the books she covers sound so appealing you might go broke building your TBR list. There’s lots of diversity, too: Miwa focuses on BIPOC authors and has had mind-blowing conversations with Hanif Abdurraqib (A Little Devil in America); Jeff Yang, Phil Yu & Philip Wang (A Pop History of Asian America from the 90s to Now); Viola Davis (Finding Me); and Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Committed).
In 2015, Glory Edim launched Well-Read Black Girl, a Brooklyn-based book club with a digital community, focused on celebrating the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood. It’s been growing ever since (Glory has even organised a WRBG festival and is publishing her own book, On Girlhood, in the fall). Now, she is amplifying her movement with a podcast. Glory interviews readers and writers alike about the books we can’t miss. Look for in-depth conversations with people like Tarana Burke, Min Jin Lee, Anita Hill, Gabrielle Union, Elizabeth Acevedo, and more.
Storybound is described as a “radio theatre program,” and it’s unlike any book podcast you’ve heard. In each episode, listeners hear their favourite authors reading some of their most impactful stories or book excerpts, enhanced with immersive sound production. There’s something magical about hearing an author read their own work, and Storybound’s five star treatment will take you to another place.
You’ll feel like you’re five and sitting on the library rug hearing your favourite book read to you, but with music and sound that you’ll want to listen to via headphones. Standout installments to start with: Hear Tommy Orange read his short story Copperopolis, Nichole Perkins narrate part of her book Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be, and Ruth Reichl reading Letters to the Editor pulled from Thanksgiving issues of Gourmet Magazine.
Thresholds is an interview podcast hosted by author Jordan Kisner that focuses on the transformative experiences that have shaped the work of popular writers. It’s not so much about the incredible things these authors have done; rather, it zooms in on a pivotal moment that happened during the writing process — events that changed the authors, and changed the books you’ve already read or are about to read.
These conversations tell the story behind the story and highlight the vulnerability required for an artist to share their work. Hear Ross Gay talk about confronting his sadness, Ocean Vuong talk about realising he didn’t understand art or poetry, Sheila Heti grapple with understanding her own mourning process, and more.
Blind Date with a Book is an audio game show for book nerds. Hosts Elena Nicalou, Kristen Evans, and Rachel Mans McKenny send guests a customised dating app questionnaire to learn all about their reading preferences, their favourite karaoke songs, and their dream vacations — and then they each give their guest a recommendation for the perfect book. The hosts are trusted sources — Elena is the culture editor of Oprah Daily, Kristen is a culture writer and book critic, and Rachel is a culture writer and author of The Butterfly Effect.
Their fast and fun conversations will make you wish you were on the show with them, and if you identify with the guest in any way, you’ll feel like you just got a personal rec. A comedian gets recommended books with unlikeable characters, a playwright gets served some books to quench her thirst for Italian culture, and a ukulele enthusiast learns which engaging non-fiction books to pick up.
In her book Inheritance, Dani Shapiro documents her experience of learning that her dad was not her biological father, and on her podcast Family Secrets, she gathers stories from guests who have discovered long-hidden secrets from their families’ past. You’ll appreciate the show if you’re a reader — Dani is a poetic interviewer, and all of her guests are writers, and writers generally make for excellent storytellers.
Each episode will draw you into the author’s story and leave you wanting more, with each story pulling skeletons out of closets, identifying how harbouring secrets can impact our identities, and what it’s like to share them with the world. Interviewees include Every Last Tie author David Kacyznski, whose brother was the unabomber; Lacy Crawford, who documented her assault at a New England boarding school in Notes on a Silencing; and Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who wrote about being Steve Jobs’ daughter in Small Fry.
Little Atoms is for readers who want to stretch their brains. Each week, host Neil Denny brings you an exclusive interviews with the best writers in literature, science, art and politics. The how started life on the radio in 2005, and since then it has served as a platform for conversations centered on reason and open debate. These won’t be the authors you see making rounds on other shows. Recent episodes focused on Christine Smallwood’s The Life Of The Mind, Laurie Winkless’ Sticky, and Lisa Harding’s Bright Burning Things.
Marlon & Jake Read Dead People is a show that tells you what old books you should read, and what old books you shouldn’t. As the name implies, Booker Prize-winning and internationally bestselling author Marlon James and his editor Jake Morrissey have conversations about dead authors only, working out whom among them are worth the hype. Since the authors are all dead, Marlon and Jake don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings, so they can be brutally honest as they go back and forth on the spectacularly good and the hilariously bad books. Fun segments like literary giants in a grudge match — Charles Dickens versus Anthony Trollope and Louisa May Alcott versus Laura Ingalls Wilder — make this show fly by, and might save you from reading an overrated “classic” that’s not for you.
Every two weeks, Strong Sense of Place hosts David Humphreys and Melissa Joulwan choose one destination and explore it through books of all kinds — novels, nonfiction, graphic novels, short stories, and more. This is escapism at its best — press play to take yourself to a distant part of the world, and get book recommendations set in those places that will send you on mental vacation to Iceland or Appalachia, to a floating taco bars or a swanky hotel. If that’s not enough, every week they publish a 5-minute mini-series called “The Library of Lost Time,” sharing two new book releases at the top of their TBR piles. Search episodes by destination or binge the whole thing.