Sunday, September 9, 2012

podcasts for readers

I've always hated running. I'd try for awhile, get fed up or exhausted or lazy, and then not try again for months. But this summer I had more free time on my hands than usual and was also more determined than usual (because if so many people can run and enjoy it, why can't I?) and I'm slowly succeeding. It's still a struggle sometimes and my speed is on par with a turtle, but the fact that I've kept it up for about three and a half months makes me proud.

So how did I do it? This is not a fitness blog, so I won't go into the details, but there is one factor worth mentioning. 

Once the temperature dropped to the point where I could bear running outside (rather than running on a treadmill), I did, but listening to music bored me (I had previously been watching TV/movies while running). Listening to the same songs over and over (because there are only so many pump-you-up workout songs out there), I would focus on my body's struggle and become desperate to stop and walk. But luckily, I soon discovered a beautiful thing: the podcast.

If you don't know, podcasts are like radio shows. You can find them in the iTunes store (and probably other places as well) and all of the ones I've listened to have been free. All you have to do is click "Subscribe" and the podcast will pop up in your iTunes library (usually with only the most recent episode available, but you can "Get" all the episodes you want by clicking through).

And I've gotta say, they're fantastic for distraction purposes. Where songs get repetitive and feel like background noise, effective podcasts have me engaged and always thinking. They're the perfect way to make it through my runs. Sometimes I even enjoy them :O

So for anyone else needing something new to listen to at the gym or in the car or wherever else you may be, I thought I'd give recommendations for some bookish podcasts I've been loving lately. Enjoy!


The Basics: Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman (who both work at Random House) have conversations about anything book related: recommendations, critiquing book covers, books-to-movies, the importance of a good title, etc. They obviously have credentials (so you know they know what's what), but the discussions are not an advertisement for their employer. They've just got a lot of interesting things to say.

Recommended Episode: Judging a Book By Its Title (7/17/12)

I couldn't find a logo for Meet the Author, but I did find this. Yes, the kid from Glee wrote a book.


The Basics: iTunes/Apple presents this podcast, which is basically just interviews with authors. They usually begin with a reading and then move on to questions, so they're fairly lengthly. I've only listened to two and they've both been very entertaining. My only critique of this program is that a lot of their authors are not novelists but celebrities (chefs, comedians, musicians, etc.), but that can be cool too.

Recommended Episode: Stephen Colbert (10/26/07)


The Basics: Just what you'd imagine: more interviews with writers. Only this time they're presented by Barnes & Noble and they're usually videos (which doesn't mean you can't listen to them the way you would the others; you just have the added option of watching too). The only downside is that since it's not an audio file, you can't play around with your iPod while you listen. So if I want to check my stopwatch, I have to exit, stop listening, and then start again when I'm done. But it's worth it, of course. They have a lot of great authors in their archives.

Recommended Episode: Chuck Palahniuk (5/4/07)


The Basics: Writers published in the New Yorker read their favorite New Yorker-published stories (not their own, of course). And afterward, they chat with the host, New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman. This podcast is a hit or miss for me. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, so more than half of these stories just don't do anything for me. But the ones that do have been pretty great and introduced me to new writers.

This is one that I would NOT recommend for running. Bit too slow-going for that. Great for long drives though.

Recommended Episode: Joshua Ferris reads George Saunders's Adams (8/10/09)


The Basics: Slate critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner (and frequent guests) discuss anything related to pop culture: music, TV, movies, books, etc. I've listened to episodes on Game of Thrones (the TV show), Downton Abbey, and the lies behind HGTV's House Hunters (which I love regardless, by the way).

Recommended Episode: Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (5/29/12) . . . in which they discuss the difference between literary and genre fiction, among other things.

I hope I've inspired you to check out podcasts or add a new one to your subscription list!

If you want more literary podcast recommendations, check out Leah's post on Books Speak Volumes. She had the same idea as me last week :) I've just added some of her picks to my iPod. Hopefully they'll become new favorites!

And I'm still a newbie to this whole podcast thing, so if you have any recommendations (book-related or not), I would love to hear them! 


  1. These all sound great! Looking up the Barnes & Noble "Meet the Writers" podcast, I noticed that there are both audio and video podcasts. I'm not sure if they're the same interviews, but the audio ones might be easier for you to listen to while running.

    I've listened to The New Yorker Fiction podcast and enjoyed it, but it's usually longer than my walks and I don't like to stop midway through a short story. They're nice to listen to when I have more time, though.

    Thanks for the great suggestions; I'm looking forward to listening to these!

    1. Thanks for letting me know! I must have missed that when I started getting episodes of "Meet the Writers," but now that I know I'll definitely stick to audio files (at least while exercising!).


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