February 3, 2016 § 3 Comments
I like to say that I was listening to podcasts before they were hip (check out this post from waaay back in 2009). Maybe I don’t really think that’s true, but I have been listening to them for a long time. Word on the street is that we’re currently in a golden age of podcasts, and there’s definitely a lot to choose from. Quality and content range from three guys celebrating their love of pencils to a multi-part GE sponsored radio play/commercial publicizing new ultrasound technology. You know podcasts have gone mainstream when even Lena Dunham has gotten into the game.
There are currently 27 different podcasts on my phone (I have a Galaxy and use the Podcast Addict app). Some you might have heard of – five are produced by Slate, three by the BBC, and at least five are radio shows you can listen to on National Public Radio. Welcome to Nightvale and “You Must Remember This” are two projects that were conceived as podcasts and are performed as theater. Both have received huge amounts of well-earned media attention.
What is the attraction? When you think about it podcasts appear like a step back into another golden age… of radio. Which is a large part of their charm. The majority of the ones I listen to, while better produced than their predecessors, stay true to what’s proven to be a successful formula. They are still, for the most part, just recorded conversations. Usually between two and three hosts. The limitation of the medium is precisely what makes it intimate and warm.
Here’s an updated list of a few of my favorites, all with a literary spin of course:
Book Fight! Tom & Mike are university professors by day, underground podcasters by night (literally, they record in a basement). Book Fight! is the only podcast that regularly has me laughing out loud… I’ve completely given up listening to it at work. Whether they are discussing a book, critiquing NaNoWriMo forums, exploring the deepest darkest corners of fan fiction or breaking raccoon news – listening to these guys is like grabbing a beer with a couple of good friends.
The Longform Podcast is a series of interviews with journalists. They have recorded 177 episodes to date. Past guests include Ira Glass, Gay Talese, Alex Blumberg, Hanna Rosin, Tavi Gevinson and Malcolm Gladwell. They’ve interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates three times. If you have even the smallest interest in writing you should be listening to this podcast. Not only is it interesting and entertaining, it’s a capsule education in journalism.
There’s not much to say about The Erasable Podcast other than it’s a podcast devoted to pencils. The three hosts are pencil aficionados who review different brands, critique the quality of graphite, lament off-center cores, rate the best sharpeners and erasers – to be honest, it’s a bit nuts. They’ve spent multiple episodes discussing Field Notes notebooks at great length. To date they’ve recorded 43 episodes. 43 episodes devoted entirely to the subject of pencils. I try to explain it to friends, but they stare back at me blankly. Then they take the perfectly sharpened pencil I offer them (I now own several different varieties, as well as a schoolhouse-style hand crank sharpener and a Field Notes subscription) and wander off.
Here’s The Thing is a national public radio show hosted by Alex Baldwin. Regardless of how you feel about Baldwin as an actor or human being, he is one hell of an interviewer. He has a gift for engaging his guests in conversation, and within minutes they are laughing and joking like old friends at a cocktail party. And it doesn’t hurt that the man has the most beautiful voice on radio. Warning: Baldwin mostly has Hollywood and TV celebrities, with the occasional NYC personality, on his show. So if you aren’t one for celebrity interviews (I’m not either) you might think Here’s The Thing isn’t for you. But you’d be wrong.
The LARB Radio Hour, hosted by Tom Lutz, Laurie Wiener & Seth Greenland reminds me of an old-style late night television show – all about books. I think it’s the opening music. The hosts are knowledgable, irreverent, and just generally lots of fun. Michael Silverblatt, host KCRW’s Bookworm, was a guest for two episodes. It remains one of my favorite interviews of all time. Silverblatt revealed that a listener called him to task for the lack of diversity amongst his guests. Not only did he acknowledge it – he promised the reader that he’d make a change. And if you listen to the show now, you realize that is exactly what he did. Lutz, Wiener & Greenland are publishing industry insiders (Lutz is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books) talking to their peers and colleagues. Their guests trust them – you can hear it in their interactions. It makes for fantastic radio.
December 19, 2011 § 2 Comments
- The Readers Podcast, hosted by the UK litbloggers Savidge Reads and GavReads, is compiling a long list for The International Readers Book Awards 2011. Due to some technical difficulties with the website they’ve decided to extend the deadline until Tuesday, December 20th. ANYONE IN THE WORLD can nominate a book (that’s been published in 2011 in hardback or paperback format) and there are multiple categories to choose from. Including: Best Character, Best Opening Line, Best First Novel and, of course, Best Book of the Year. Follow the link to fill out the longlisted nomination form. And I strongly encourage you to download an episode of The Readers while you’re there (they’re on iTunes as well).
- Kimbofo of Reading Matters has designated January 2012 Australian Literature Month – complete with a challenge. The rules are simple: read an Australian book and celebrate the writers from the land down under (and NO! New Zealand books do NOT count! I’m still blushing over that faux pas). If you blog – not a requirement – Kim has created a set of 5 badges to use in your posts. Each one features a different Australian native animal. And, finally, if you’re unsure what to read I recommend visiting Lisa at ANZ Litlovers. I guarantee she’ll set you on the right track.
- Closet political junkie? Levi Asher over at Litkicks has been hosting an ongoing discussion about the Occupy and Tea Party Movements. Whichever side of the debate you fall on – or if you find yourself performing a balancing act on razor-wire between the two – you’ll be welcomed. Your opinions (as long as you keep it polite) will be heard. And let’s be honest. That’s more than most of us got over Thanksgiving dinner with family.
- Speaking of politics: it seems that there’s a new Republican front-runner! Lori at TNBBC is hosting a giveaway of TAFT 2012, a novel by Jason Heller published by Quirk Books. Follow the link to learn about the book, view the trailer and to enter to win the fantastic prize pack that includes a campaign pin and poster! (I’m such a geek). 5 winners, U.S. residents only and the opportunity to join a group discussion with the author on GoodReads in January. All entries need to be in by December 21st.
- If we’re handing out points for creativity: Quirk seems to be ahead of the curve in keeping print books relevant in the wake of the e-book revolution. How do they do it? By making the physical object as unique and desirable as the text it contains. Case in point: their upcoming January release The Thorn And the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story by Theodora Goss.
This novel is beautifully illustrated, comes with a slipcover and without a spine. It’s what is known as an accordion book. In Goss’ incarnation each side opens up to the same story told from a different perspective, each perspective containing new revelations. (A shame this wasn’t out in time for the holiday because it would make the perfect stocking stuffer). Watch this space for my upcoming review.
- And last, but not least, check out this tweet from last week:
Are you as excited about a new Toni Morrison book as I am???
Please feel free to use the comments to post any contests, challenges, awards and exchanges that you’re hosting, taking part in or just geeking-out on. ‘Tis the season for sharing!
November 18, 2009 § 4 Comments
I haven’t participated in a Weekly Geeks for a while – but I couldn’t resist this week’s entitled “Podcasts Anyone?”
My original list of favorite podcasts went up back in April – but since then I’ve discovered a few more to share. Because, I’ll say it again, the next best thing to reading books is reading about books. And when that isn’t an option…
The Guardian Books Podcast (with Claire Armitstead) – This weekly podcast provides an overview of what’s going on in the world of books, authors, literary prizes and festivals on the other side of the pond. It’s a showcase of all things literary out of the UK and I became completely hooked thanks to their series on the 2009 Hay Festival (a yearly literary festival held at Hay-on-Wye in England). Festivals aren’t your thing? The author interviews and book discussions are also well done, informative and entertaining. The podcasts provides a nice heads up on books yet to be published Stateside. But there is a dark side… How so? you ask. Well, lets just say I’ve discovered first hand the strength of the dollar on amazon.uk.
Start the Week with Andrew Marr –While not ostensibly about books, Marr hosts men and women with different areas expertise – often authors, musicians, filmmakers and other artsy types – in a roundtable discussion. It’s a lot like finding yourself at a fabulous cocktail party full of interesting people. There’s no theme and appears to be no logic as to who is chosen for a particular show. (Case in point, the programme information from this week reads: “Tom Sutcliffe discusses tradition and modernity with musician Nitin Sawhney, drama and wartime plots with writer and director Stephen Poliakoff, progress and conservation with the science historian Harriet Ritvo, and the uses and abuses of scientific ideas with Dennis Sewell”). Your best course of action, at the party and with the podcast, is to nod knowingly and attempt to laugh at appropriate times. Added bonus of the podcast: no need to try to keep up with the witty repertoire.
Book Reviews with Simon Mayo – The Brits take their reading seriously. My current fave, Book Reviews with Simon Mayo features two authors, their books, 3 critics and Simon (or is it 2 critics and Simon?… dam accent). Everyone, including the authors, have taken the time to read both books and are expected to weigh in with their opinions. The discussion is in-depth (down to the cover art). Even better: no one pulls their punches. That means not all books get a positive review. But the tone is civil and the critique usually spot on. These are people who love books and are having a good time discussing what they’ve read. Rather than attempting to impress each other with their literary prowess.
The Moth Podcast –The Moth is an open mike where people tell true stories, without notes, in front of a live audience. That’s the intro to the podcast. (Yes, I memorized it. No, I don’t have a life). If you only have time to download one podcast after reading this post – this is the one. The stories range from incredibly funny (the American editor of French Vogue’s haunted apartment in Paris), to harrowing (a girl in her 20’s capture and escape from Congolese rebels), to a combination of the two. The Moth is proof positive, week after week, that you can’t make this stuff up.
The New York Review of Books (NYRB) –This seems to have become a BBC scewed list. Thank goodness for my NYRB! Not to be confused with The New York Times Book Review, the NYRB is a monthly-ish journal that features reviews of fiction & non-fiction titles, as well as articles on current events that may not have made it to prime time. The podcast ties into the current issue and provides an in-depth discussion of a single article featured in the print copy. This is not a re-hashing of the actual article, but a companion piece that often takes the form of an interview with the author. Listen to the NYRB and if you ever do get invited to that cocktail party at Andrew Marr’s you might have something to add to the conversation.
April 10, 2009 § 2 Comments
The next best thing to reading a book is reading about books. Fact. But let’s face it: there are only so many hours in the day. Thankfully there are the Podcasts. (Seriously, what is sexier than an Ipod?) I subscribe to a few different ones on a variety of topics. Below are a few of my favorite literary podcasts. Needless to say (we are in a recession) they’re all free to download.
The Penguin Podcast – Beware! There are both British & American versions. My personal favorite is the British and it’s not just because of the nifty accent. Its has been a great source for new books and authors that haven’t yet made the leap across the pond. Luckily, even we Yanks can order from AmazonUK. All the books featured are published by Penguin (and eventually its American affiliates). Additional value comes from good quality production, entertaining readings by the authors and rather catchy music mixes featuring quotes from books in the Penguin library. Average time: 15 minutes per episode, with new episodes about 1-2 times a month (though lately they seem to be updating less).
Slate Audio Book club – Young, terminally hip and bordering on unacceptably smug… this podcast conforms to the Slate brand identity. The NYC group of three usually discusses a book that falls squarely into the critically acclaimed bestseller category. (Lately they’ve been reading a lot of recently deceased authors such as Updike and Wallace). Keep in mind that this is a discussion group, not a reading and not a review, so major plot points are revealed. There’s the added frustration of listening to people express opinions you don’t agree with and can’t respond to. On the plus side, it’s always informative, and a great resource for current fiction and non-fiction. Each episode lasts 1 hour.
World Book Club (The BBC) – I love the BBC (that accent again). This podcast features author interviews done in front of a live audience – doing a quick question and answer with the host and then taking audience, call in and emailed questions from readers. The authors featured are always at the top of their game. Toni Morrison, David Guterson, Iain Banks, Armistead Maupin and Michael Ondaatje are some examples. Overall the podcast is very entertaining, informative, with the added bonus of hearing the audiences’ responses, laughter and applause. Each episode lasts approximately 1 hour.
KCRW Bookworm – This is National Public Radio – kickin’ it OLD SCHOOL! Here is your chance to experience the classic author interview, done by an erudite NPR host. Expect obscure questions and inferences into the text that even the author has trouble following. Marvel at the strange emotional intonations and inappropriate pauses for emphasis as the interviewer goes on lengthy tangents that no one understands. And always expect to be faced with the age old question – who is REALLY the expert on this book? – The author or the NPR host/critic? Bookworm is a weekly radio program (more of an institution) out of California, so scheduling is consistent, shows 1 hour in length, and features a steady stream of relevant & established contemporary authors.
Short Stories (for those awful and unfortunate times when you can’t read):
The New Yorker: Fiction – The podcast features short stories from the archives of the New Yorker. The stories are guaranteed to be well written and well read. The stories are selected and read by a contemporary figure (writers, actors) – and always feature an insightful (or at least interesting) interview as to why the story was chosen. Each episode averages about a ½ hour, and they come out monthly. These are great on headset for doing chores, running errands, walking the dog or commuting to work.
PRI: Selected Shorts – Fabulous reading from members of the American Theater at the NY Symphony Space (broadcast by NY Public Radio). Each episode lasts about 1 hour and consists of a variety of short readings. One program I listened to included a short story by Kate Chopin, Mark Twain, a fairy tale and readings from Capote letters. The readers are equally as impressive, featuring the likes of John Lithgow (my personal favorite). Recommend listening while making dinner.