By Andrew Mangan, Colorado Review Associate Editor
We are living in a post-Serial world in which podcasting has broken into the mainstream and proven itself to be a serious form of media. And having recently revamped our podcast here at Colorado Review, I wanted to put together a list of a few other blue-chip podcasts focused on things literary. Here are three of my favorites:
(And if you haven’t yet, check out ours, too! [iTunes link])
Between the Covers: Conversations with Today’s Best Writers, Hosted by David Naimon
This author-interview podcast series is hosted by Portland-based writer David Naimon, and features interviews with many high-profile writers, such as Lorrie Moore, Karen Russell, and George Saunders. Discussions center on in-depth examinations of one of the featured author’s books (i.e., their most recent, i.e., the one they are doing the show to promote).
Naimon is what makes this podcast stand out. He’s not only a perspicacious reader—authors frequently lob Naimon’s way such remarks as “I’ve never thought of it that way” or “That’s an incredibly clever reading”—but his interviewing skills, research into the author’s background/interests, and fluency with related literary works are downright impressive. The discussions, even with authors with whom I’m unfamiliar, are compulsively listenable.
Details: The show is produced irregularly, but tends toward a monthly release; however, the show’s entire back catalog is available for 100%-free listening. (iTunes link)
Yeah, But Where Do I Start?: My recommendation is to start with an episode featuring an interviewee you’re keen on, but having listened to every episode myself, I would have to say the one with Junot Díaz is an A+ place to begin. (iTunes link)
Book Fight is a podcast hosted by writers/teachers/Barrelhouse editors Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister. Each episode is dedicated to a different book, essay, or short story; and the discussions are engaging and educative—both hosts are, as creative-writing teachers, well-versed in the craft of fiction and nonfiction—but also often hilarious when their discussions veer into heated disagreement (denoted, you know, by the title and all).
One of the more remarkable aspects of the podcast is that one not need have read the featured work to find an episode interesting; Mike and Tom’s discussion includes a brief summary and involves craft discussion extensive enough to be compelling in standalone. Mike and Tom have one of the best rapports in podcasting (they’ve been friends since their MFA program), and if I’m to be straightforward, this is my #1 podcast of the twenty or so I listen to with regularity.
Details: New shows debut every Monday, and recently, Mike and Tom have been following seasonal themes, which adds a nice, sort-of continuity for dedicated listeners. The entire back catalog is freely available via iTunes (link) and their website.
Yeah, But Where Do I Start?: Again, if you see a favorite book or short story or essay, go with that episode. Still unsure? One of my recent favorites is the episode concerning Eula Biss’s essay “Time and Distance Overcome,” during which they also cover numerous failed amusement parks as a part of their seasons theme, “Fall of Failures.” (iTunes link)
Bonus pick: Their glorious/vicious takedown of Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook is one of the funnier podcast episodes I’ve listened to that also manages to remain very enlightening craft-wise. (iTunes link)
Similar to Between the Covers, this podcast features author Brad Listi’s interviews with notable writers, poets, and book editors, such as Stuart Dybek, Edwidge Danticat, and Leslie Jamison. Each episodes starts with Listi’s short, interesting, op-ed-ish monologue from Listi concerning, most frequently, contemporary literary news, followed by the interview. But unlike Between the Covers’s examinations of a particular work by the featured author, Listi tackles the author’s personal history and creative process—how they write and publish, and how they grapple with the serious, downer-inducing stuff intrinsic to both.
Details: New episodes debut every Wednesday, and the previous fifty episodes are available to download from iTunes, but the episodes prior to that are behind an app-only pay wall. (iTunes link)
Yeah, But Where Do I Start?: Standard answer: pick the author you’re more interested in, but if you’re unsure, teacher/author Elizabeth McCracken has a particularly heartfelt and winsome interview with Listi about her memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, the horrible experience behind it, and how she managed to channel her pain through her writing. (iTunes link)
Slate’s Audio Book Club – A rotating cadre of critics from Slate host a book club once a month. Unlike Book Fight, one more or less needs to read the book. (iTunes link)
New Yorker: Fiction – A monthly series in which a famous writer (e.g., Jennifer Egan or Rebecca Curtis) reads another famous writer’s (e.g., Denis Johnson or Mary Gaitskill) New Yorker–published work, then discusses the piece briefly with New Yorker Fiction Editor Deborah Triesman. (iTunes link)