What could be better than listening to stories or to writers talk about fiction and their writing process? There are many wonderful literary podcasts out there. Here are some of our favorites:
Once a month, a New Yorker writer chooses a story from the New Yorker archives, reads the story aloud, and then discusses the story with Deborah Treisman. It’s quite wonderful to hear one famous writer read the words of another, and the conversations can be illuminating. Some of our favorites include: Jhumpa Lahiri reading William Trevor’s “A Day;” Edwidge Dandicat reading Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and “Wingless; and Mary Gaitskill reading “The Five-Forty-Eight” by John Cheever.
In this podcast, each story that is published in The New Yorker is read aloud by its author. There’s no discussion of the story, as there is their fiction podcast, but it’s wonderful to hear a story in the writer’s voice. However, the New Yorker does publish interviews with each author. Recent favorites of ours include Colin Barrett reading “Whoever Is There, Come on Through”; Curtis Sittenfeld reading “Show Don’t Tell”; and “Christina the Astonishing (1150-1224), read by Kirstin Valdez Quade.
James Scott, author of The Kept, hosts this podcast which generally splits in two: Scott talks with a writer and then with their editor or agent. Scott is a terrific interviewer, and the result is a podcast that feels more like you’re hanging out with a few friends talking writing. There’s something to be learned about writing and about the business of writing in every episode. It’s also a great way to get a sense of the aesthetics and interests of various agents and editors. Check out the episode with Hannah Tinti which runs for almost two hours. And if you’ve never heard Benjamin Percy’s amazing voice, this is your chance.
Selected Shorts, is a series that’s performed live, both in New York and across the country, where actors read the work of selected writers. It’s amazing how stories come alive when actors perform them. The episodes are typically focused on a given theme or author: love, say, around Valentine’s Day, or holiday stories in late December. If you get a chance to see the series live, go! But if not, the podcast is a great way to feel as though you’re there. Some of our recent favorites include It’s a City of Strangers, with stories about New York, including a Didion essay; Through Young Eyes: Stories by Carson McCullers; and Tiny, but Mighty: Stories by Lydia Davis.
This podcast, of course, features writers telling stories from their own lives but the writers that make it to the broadcasts are stellar storytellers, and much can be learned about how to tell a story in a way that captures the listener and, often, how to incorporate humor. The stories are typically under 10 minutes, too. Stories are told by people you may not have heard of but also by famous writers. We love Meg Wolitzer’s “First Love, Long Island, 1975” and “Frenchie’s Silent Retreat” by Jon Jay Read.
Hosted by Pamela Paul, of the New York Times Book Review, this weekly podcast talks to the reviewers or the authors of books featured in that week’s review; discusses weekly news in publishing; and considers the bestseller charts. We love hearing Jesmyn Ward talk about Sing, Unburied, Sing as well as Elif Batuman discuss The Idiot. It’s great to listen to this in conjunction with reading the review, as the discussions can often illuminate the book and the review.
This podcast, hosted by Michael Silverblatt, and aired live on KCRW, is just terrific. Each thirty-minute episode features a conversation with a writer. Silverblatt is well-read and his questions almost always get the writer to talk about their work at a deep level. And what writers Silverblatt is able to book! Just in the past few months, Silverblatt has talked with such diverse writers as Chris Kraus, Morgan Parker, and Mark Danielewski. We loved the two-parter with George Saunders and the discussion with Rachel Cusk.
Hosted by Slate, this podcast brings together critics to discuss a given book in each episode. The conversations are always lively and entertaining, with participating critics including Meghan O’Rourke, Emily Bazelon, and Laura Miller. They’re fun to listen to whether you’ve read the book or not, although often there are often spoilers. The talk tends to delve into interesting topics, focusing, often, on thematic concerns and craft. The critics are smart and passionate. If only real book clubs could operate at this level of conversation! Some of our favorite recent books discussed include Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. (Note: as of this writing, it’s not clear about the future of this podcast, but the archives are terrific!)