Listen Up!

My favorite podcasts about books and the literary world

I’ve always been a big reader, but graduating during a pandemic has made this even more true. While some people used the lockdown at the start of the pandemic to learn how to knit or get a sourdough bread starter going, I focused on getting to all the books I did not have time to read while in college. With libraries closed and small businesses struggling I became (maybe a little too) invested in supporting my favorite independent bookstores across the country. In order to get recommendations of what to read and to learn about new releases I started reading The New York Times Book Review, following some trusted sources on Instagram, and ultimately, listening to book podcasts. Since March 2020, I have made these podcasts part of my weekly routine and enjoy the different types of content that each provides. All of the podcasts can be found on the normal platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast and PocketCast (my favorite).


From the Front Porch

From the Front Porch is hosted by Annie Jones, the owner of a small independent bookstore called The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. Episodes are released weekly on Thursdays, with different themed episodes depending on the time of the month. The first podcast of the month is a conversation between Annie and a few other booksellers about their most anticipated new releases in the coming month. Each of the booksellers specializes in a different genre, so the advertised books range across a spectrum of preferences. The second episode of the month is usually reserved for “literary therapy” in which Annie solves literary-related problems submitted by listeners that range from questions like “how do I mix new genres into my reading life?” to “how do I deal with balancing my library book collection with all the books I already own?” — a personal problem of mine. The third episode varies depending on the season, leaving the final episode in which Annie recounts and reviews what she read in the month. This is my favorite episode, especially because my reading tastes align closely with Annie’s fiction preferences, and I will often use this episode to identify books that I want to pick up in the coming month or put on my radar. Although the episodes are free, Annie does advertise her store throughout and provides discount codes for “Shelf Subscriptions,” a monthly curated book subscription, which I enjoy. This is one of my favorite podcasts; I love listening to what it is like to run a bookstore as well as all of her recommendations.

The New York Times Book Review

The Book Review hosted by Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review at The New York Times, is a staple in my podcast rotation. Episodes are released every Friday and follow the same structure each week. The first two segments of the podcast feature two different interviews with either the authors of recently released books or interviews with an author who has recently penned a review for the Times. Pamela Paul is (obviously) able to attract fabulous talent to the show to discuss their recent fiction and non-fiction works, with recent episodes featuring conversations with Colson Whitehead, Brandon Taylor, Katie Kitamura, and George Packer. In the latter half of the show Paul has a short discussion with a colleague about sales and trends in the publishing world, which I find fascinating, and finishes up by discussing what she and her fellow critics are reading. The Book Review is ensconced in the literary criticism scene so it can feel pretentious at times, however the podcast is most definitely still accessible to the average reader. And, if you like the podcast, you can subscribe to the Book Review newsletter that is emailed every Tuesday and Friday.

Novel Pairings

Novel Pairings is hosted by Sara and Chelsea, two English teachers “dedicated to making the classics easy, readable, and fun.” Sara and Chelsea started the podcast in the beginning of 2020 and since then both have left their teaching jobs because of the pandemic and dedicated themselves full-time to the podcast and spreading their love of the classics. Depending on the length, every few weeks to a month the hosts choose a different book to read and discuss on the show. Listeners are given advance notice of what the season’s lineup will be in an episode released at the beginning of the cycle and have the option to follow along in a type of virtual book club. At the end of the episode, Sara and Chelsea pair the classic with modern or recent books that carry similar themes, plot lines, or styles. I know that I am often intimidated by classics without an accompanying classroom-style discussion, but this podcast serves as great encouragement to bypass this fear and enjoy the classics. In between discussion episodes, Sara and Chelsea talk about their favorite books of the season, pair new releases with backlist titles that are easier to find at the library, and host discussions with other voices in the online literary world. I don’t participate in this feature, but for $5 a month there are additional resources and interactive discussions available through their Patreon community. Sara also hosts her own book club on Patreon called Fiction Matters (also her Instagram handle), which I do subscribe to for Sara’s recommendations and rundowns on recent reads.

The Stacks 

The Stacks is an interview podcast released every Wednesday with authors of new, mostly non-fiction, releases. Traci, the host of the show, attracts authors with popular new releases, but not necessarily with the same blockbuster appeal as The New York Times. Traci’s conversations are always intensely thoughtful, especially because many of the authors that she interviews have written books on relevant cultural, political, or racial issues. The Stacks is also guided by its monthly book pick, which includes one episode with the author of the book to discuss inspirations and their writing process and another episode with a separate author to discuss the selection. January’s pick was The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans, one of my favorite books of the year. I loved the interview with Evans as well as the discussion a week later with The Secret Life of Church Ladies author Deesha Philyaw. I don’t listen to The Stacks as frequently or religiously as the other three podcasts, but I definitely enjoy listening to Traci’s interviews when I have read or am familiar with the book.

Although not dedicated to books year round, I have also gotten good recommendations from the summer reading special of The World Next Week from the Council on Foreign Relations, the occasional author interview on NPR’s It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, and the conclusion of every episode of The Ezra Klein Show of The New York Times.

If you have a good podcast to share, let me know! And if you like what I’ve written or want to see more reviews, recommendations, and round-ups about a wide range of novels, histories, and more, consider subscribing now by entering your email. It’s free and it’s about books. What’s not to like?