Four Literary Podcasts for Book Lovers
Austin Taylor recommends podcasts that every fan of literature should be listening to.
The podcast — much like its visual cousin, streaming — has become an increasingly popular form of entertainment over recent years. Indeed, 7.1 million people in the UK now listen to podcasts every week; Ofcom research shows that more than 50% of these people started listening in the last two years. I, myself, have enjoyed listening to podcasts for a few years now, and have found several podcasts on literature which I would highly recommend.
Doug Metzger’s Literature and History podcast is my absolute favourite of these. The podcast aims to cover literature – chronologically — from the epic of Gilgamesh to modern Anglophone literature, and after a few years of solid content has made it to the New Testament. Metzger neatly blends historical and literary expertise (he, himself, has a Ph.D. in literature, and often runs his scripts through with university academics) with characteristic goofy humour, generally formatting his episodes with the literature first, followed by the corresponding historical context, and a signature comedy song. Whilst the podcast is free, there is also a Literature and History website, which includes free quizzes and additional paid episodes. I am quite biased in favour of this one, but I do feel that Literature and History is a very underappreciated podcast, which serves as an excellent introduction to any piece of literature and leaves the listener enamoured with its subject.
In The History of Literature, prolific podcaster, author and literary expert, Jacke Wilson, indeed does talk us through the history of literature, ranging widely from genres like ancient Chinese poetry to authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Each episode involves lively anecdotes from literature and Wilson’s personal life intermixed with insightful examinations of literary works and authors, although he also does fascinating episodes with guest writers and academics. Wilson expertly injects his unique style, eccentric humour, and love of literature into his podcasts and I would recommend this to any book-lover.
A slight divergence from the other two is The London Review of Books podcast. The podcast form of the famous literary magazine, LRB episodes take a variety of forms, from interviews and discussions with writers and academics, to book readings. Generally, each episode examines topical or contemporary literature- ranging from essays on sport to discussions on Brexit to explorations of the work of Sylvia Plath. Generally, the LRB podcast is a fascinating and thought provoking one, with engaging and nuanced thoughts being offered.
Finally, the classic podcast and radio show for anyone looking to expanding their reading horizons, we have BBC Four’s Bookclub. Bookclub is a monthly radio show in which James Naughtie and a group of readers usually discuss a recent book with its author, with the following month’s book being announced at the end of each episode so that listeners can read it themselves. The podcast includes nuanced discussion on the themes and characters of each book, as well as thoughtful questions from Naughtie and the readers. Overall, it is an excellent radio form of the writer interview.
Podcasts are an excellent way to fill the extra quiet hours you might have now and to learn more in your spare time. In fact, there has been no better time to join the growing trend of podcast listening.