I love reading books.
Books have the unique ability to defy the laws of time and space to connect us with past book lovers, future book readers, and writers who hold the same curiosities about the world as we do.
Books allow us to be lifelong students … without the crippling student debt. They open our minds to a world full of knowledge that otherwise wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this beautiful industry full of artists and storytellers and teachers and dreamers.
Books can act as an escape into other worlds or teach us more about the one we live in. They give us nuance, teach us perspective, and help us shift our focus within.
They give voice to the stories that deserve to be told. The stories that are meant to be heard by audiences both young and old.
But some claim books are outdated. Can you blame them? Children are growing up with touch screens and innovative devices that make everything accessible with the mere click of a button. Why read a 300-page book when you can watch a 20-minute TED Talk?
Because reading provides us with a healthy break from technology, and sometimes we need to disconnect from technology in order to reconnect with ourselves.
And there’s no better way to do that than with a good book.
Books have become a huge passion for me. I read 52 books in 2018, and I’ll have finished nine books by the end of this month alone. But I don’t have a lot of friends to discuss books with and I’ve never been part of a book club. Sure, I visit local indie bookshops and chat with booksellers, watch Booktube, and get online book recommendations from Ryan Holiday and Emma Watson … but that’s not enough.
So I started to search for other means to connect over books.
I wanted to be able to discuss the importance of reading with more people. I wanted to find a community that encourages one another to read 500-page novels in favor of the shorter, clickbait pieces of content the internet is littered with.
And then it hit me.
What better way to bridge our love for technology with our love for books than a podcast about books? So I set out to find the best podcasts for book lovers, and I wasn’t disappointed with what I found. Here are the top 9 best bookpods:
By the Book
Fellow self-help junkies with a tendency to swear, this one’s for you. If you’re a fan of Mark Manson (author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck), then you’ll love this podcast. Now, the thing about self-help books is that they’re hit or miss. They often hit the nail on what’s wrong with you and then forget to actually drive the nail home, leaving you feeling broken with some kind words floating around in your head. We don’t just want to know what’s wrong with us, we want the how to guide to healing as well. That’s where By the Book comes in. Hosts Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer are here to rescue you from the sea of self-help books the book industry is drowning in.
During each podcast episode, Jolenta and Kristen discuss a new self-help book and whether or not the book actually helps them or hurts them even more. They’ve discussed bestsellers like The Secret, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and The 4-Hour Work Week. If you’ve heard mixed reviews about self-help books, then maybe Jolenta and Kristen can help you differentiate between the givers and the takers. (The givers being the books that give us actionable knowledge and takeaways, and the takers being those books you wasted $10 on at a used bookstore that you now realize ended up at a used bookstore for good reason.)
The Guardian Books
Have you ever wondered what short stories shaped the greatest authors of our time? What inspired them to share the inner workings of their minds with the world and spill their deepest thoughts onto pages? The Guardian Books strives to answer those questions. Every week, The Guardian Books releases a new podcast episode on books, poetry, and all things literary. Man Booker prize winners like Dorthe Nors and bestselling authors such as Neil Gaiman have all been featured on the podcast.
During any given episode, you could listen to an entire short story read by a bestselling author like David Mitchell (Author of Cloud Atlas) despite the fact that he didn’t write it himself, or hear Steven Pinker argue why we should have a more optimistic outlook on life and defend his arguments presented in his book Enlightenment Now. Guests have even dared to touch on controversial subjects like whether or not listening to audiobooks is ‘cheating.’ (And we all know it is — but sometimes we learn beautiful lessons from our mistakes.)
Ariel Bissett’s Youtube Channel
Okay, fine. This isn’t a podcast. But who cares? We’re just looking for ways to bridge our love for books with our incessant need to be connected to the internet … and here’s another solution. Ariel Bissett’s hilarious Booktube videos. Booktube refers to a group of content creators on YouTube that film videos about — you guessed it — books. And Booktube followers are one of the most intimate, tightly-knit online communities (watch out, Reddit!).
Ariel Bissett is one the best Booktubers on Youtube. Her love for reading coupled with her contagious energy makes her Booktube channel one of a kind. And when you feel like you’re connecting with someone through the technological barrier of a computer screen … well, that says something. If you don’t read a lot, watching her videos about her love for reading will make you want to. Need a Booktube video to start with? Check out her video ‘7 books I want to read that nobody cares about.’ Nothing heals book shame and book guilt like admitting no one cares about the books you read. You don’t read for others, you read for yourself. So if Fifty Shades is your thing, then own it.
3 Books with Neil Pasricha
3 Books with Neil Pasricha is one of the newest podcasts to enter into the wonderful world of bookpods, and I think it’s proven to be a welcome addition. (Full Disclosure: I’ve been a fan of Neil’s work for a while and I work with him today. That doesn’t mean he gets top book podcast billing on my list, though. Sorry, Neil.) Hosted by the bestselling author of the Book of Awesome series and The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha, 3 Books is perfecting the art of book recommendations. Each episode (or ‘chapter’ as Neil likes to call them) Neil uncovers and discusses the three most formative books of an inspiring individual.
Who are these ‘inspiring individuals’? So far, they’ve been pretty much anyone Neil finds interesting — from bestselling authors like Seth Godin, David Sedaris, and Mitch Albom to his favorite Uber driver to his wife Leslie. Neil’s enthusiasm to bring back our love of physical books does not go unnoticed as he shouts witty lines like “humans are the best algorithms,” “we only do in-person interviews,” and “we hate Kindles.” Down with technology, up with librarians? I can dig that.
Lit Up is a one-stop shop for short, snippy interviews with big name authors and actors alike. Hosted by the bright and peppy Angela Ledgerwood, this podcast will start your morning commute with a literary bang with a Hollywood twist. With incredible guests like Anna Kendrick, Mohsin Hamid, Emma Donoghue, and Ann Patchett featured on the podcast, you’re bound to learn a thing or two about writing and get a few great book recommendations along the way.
Part of Angela’s unique style is that she is incredibly flexible about where she interviews her guests. Whether she’s in a Barnes & Noble interviewing actress Anna Kendrick or skyping with world-renowned philosopher and writer Alain de Botton, she’ll often interview her podcast guests anywhere, anytime, and if there’s a live audience … well, then that’s even better. The authentic vibe of the podcast dulls out any distractions from screaming fans in the background.
The New Yorker’s The Writer’s Voice
I never really understood the power of short stories. I couldn’t help but feel like I was getting gypped by the writer, as if the narrative was cut off just as I was just getting sucked in … but then I read One More Thing by B.J. Novak and realized how wrong I was. A good storyteller can hook you into a book within the first few chapters, but a great storyteller can touch your soul within the first few sentences. When it comes to short stories, the writers only have a few pages to really sink into your skin and leave their mark, so when a short story is done really well, it has the power to leave a lasting impact.
And that’s what The New Yorker’s The Writer’s Voice podcast is all about. Each episode a new writer shares their short story with the world, reading it aloud for whoever wants to listen. There’s not much of an intro, and the podcast concludes just as suddenly as it begins … with an abrupt ending that leaves you wondering who the narrator was and what inspired them to write such a profound tale using so few words. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, try The Boundary by Jhumpa Lahiri, full of nostalgia from summer days past and highlighting the dichotomy between what we perceive in others versus the true nature of their reality.
What Should I Read Next?
A bookseller’s job is no walk in the park. Figuring out which books would speak to each individual soul? Instinctively knowing exactly which books would be best suited for a person’s tastes, even if you’ve only known them for a few minutes? That’s barely enough time to identify a couple defining characteristics about them, let alone choose what books would be most formative or relatable to them. Sounds more like a nerve-wrecking episode of Jeopardy to me … but not to Anne Bogel, the host of What Should I Read Next?.
Anne, or Modern Mrs. Darcy as she refers to herself as, may not advertise herself as being a formal bookseller, but this woman certainly knows how to sell books. She can convince even the Netflix binge-watchers that reading is cool, and can pick out the soon to be Twilight-lovers from the potential Hemingway-fanatics with grace and speed. Anne gives us insight into how we can identify the books that make the best gifts for others and how we can better understand our own reading preferences as well.
This is a podcast that doesn’t discuss books per say … but each episode is presented as if the host, Aaron Mahnke, is reading from a historical fiction novel. As our world becomes more technologically advanced, our relationships with books are changing. We use e-readers, listen to audiobooks, watch Booktube, use apps like Wattpad, and get lost in folklore stories on podcasts like Lore. The host will have you perched on the edge of your seat wondering whether or not you should believe his odd mixture of ghost tales and human history (though Aaron maintains they’re “true life scary stories”), and will force you to reflect on how our darker past may affect, and in some cases mirror, our future. The executive producer of The Walking Dead and an executive producer of The X-Files were so inspired by the podcast that they created an entire show called Lore.
A good piece of fiction combines elements of the truth with fantasy, allowing readers to get lost in a world that’s nothing like their own while simultaneously allowing them to relate that story back to their lives. And a good history book has a way of embellishing the truth so it can better relate to the present. This podcast eerily accomplishes both of these things. Be afraid of where this podcast may take you … Be very afraid.
The Paris Review
What can I say? I like to save the best for last. Fair warning: this show packs a punch. It goes down with a burn — straight shooter, no chase. The show doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects, and it’s presented with a vulnerability that almost smacks you in the face. In a society where trust is at an all time low, the authenticity and incredibly raw artistic expression that’s embedded within each and every episode is exactly what we need.
From poetry readings to short stories to decades-old archival taped interviews with literary geniuses like Jack Kerouac, The Paris Review offers a new approach to podcasting in general. One episode could start with a poem on the difficulties of marriage, and then dive into a debate about Buddhism, and finally end with a scandalous piece of erotica. You really don’t know what you’ll get with each episode, and that’s the beauty of it. The format is just as complex as the artists featured in them including David Sedaris, Dakota Johnson, and Maya Angelou. My favorite episode featured Shelly Oria’s reading of My Wife, in Converse.
Have any good book recommendations? Know of any other bookpods? Want to start a bookclub together? Drop me a line at [email protected].