Columns > Published on January 14th, 2019

Instead of Joining a Book Club This Year, Subscribe To a Literary Podcast

It’s the first month of 2019, so what are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Join a reading club? Haven't you already been there, done that?  

Join a gym? Good luck.

So how about… subscribing to a literary podcast? Over the last few years, literary podcasts have experienced a surge in popularity for a good reason: there’s something for everyone. If you want a podcast that reads a short story to you over your morning commute, you can find it easily. How about a podcast that gives you tailored recommendations for books you know you’ll love? There’s one for that as well.

So without further ado, here are six of the best literary podcasts around to get you started.

1. LeVar Burton Reads

No surprises here: LeVar Burton Reads is what it says right on the tin. LeVar Burton was the star of Reading Rainbow, a popular kids’ show on PBS that ran for more than twenty years. In fact, it was so acclaimed that the adults in the world got jealous — and started asking Burton when he would do a ‘Reading Rainbow’ for adults.

LeVar Burton Reads is the answer to these inquiries. Each episode features Burton and his deep, warm tenor voice reading a piece of short fiction. He chooses each piece himself, so the genres may range from science fiction to comedy to mystery.

This is for you if: you’re in the mood for the literary equivalent of Morgan Freeman soothingly reading short stories to you during your morning drive.

2. Bestseller

Newly launched in December 2018, Bestseller follows one woman’s story to publish a book against great odds. Shaz Kahng was a CEO and high-flying executive when she quit her job to self-publish a novel. What motivated her to do it — and, more importantly, how did she put all the puzzle pieces together to pull off such a feat?

These are the questions at the heart of this podcast, which is expertly hosted by Casimir M. Stone. Thoughtful and engrossing, it’ll take you through all the steps in Kahng's self-publishing journey and explore the age-old saying that everyone really does have a book inside of them.

This is for you if: you’re thinking about self-publishing a book this year (and wondering how to do it).

3. Reading Women

Virginia Woolf once said, “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” Well, Reading Women is determined to fix that and bring female writers into the foreground. Released four times a month, it sets out to shine the spotlight on books written by women.

Founded by two friends who realized that their long book discussions could be turned into a podcast, this engaging podcast is structured by theme: two episodes each month discusses books by women, and two episodes feature author interviews with women writers. And as their site proclaims: “The rest, as they say, is herstory.”

This is for you if: you’ve been wanting to diversify your reading list and one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to start reading more books by women.

4. Longform Podcast is one of the best sources on the Internet for great longform journalism — and their podcast follows in its stride. The Longform Podcast goes behind the scenes to get the scoop on how great writers create stories worth reading on the regular. More than that, it’s a highly thoughtful analysis of the craft of writing.

Longform started out as a show made by journalists, for journalists. However, after 150 episodes, it’s grown to be for all writers. This inclusiveness is reflected in the big-hitting guest stars that have appeared on the podcast in the past, from Malcolm Gladwell and Cheryl Strayed to George Saunders.

Whether you’re a regular devourer of nonfiction or you’re just looking to chow down with some of the best writers around today, this podcast is definitely worth a listen.

This is for you if: you’re a fan of attentive, well-researched discussions of longform writing.

5. The New Yorker Fiction Podcast

Have you ever wondered how famous writers might read and perceive one another’s work? The New Yorker Fiction Podcast, created by (you guessed it) the ever-excellent New Yorker, tries to answer that question for you: it invites an acclaimed writer onto the show to read another writer’s New Yorker story.

The results are surprising, creative, and sometimes magical as you find out what a story might sound like in another’s voice. So is the discussion that follows, as host Deborah Treisman talks to the guest of the week about what the story means to them. Insightful, funny, and thought-provoking, the New Yorker further solidifies its status as a force in the literary world with this podcast.

This is for you if: you think of Julian Barnes reading Frank O’Connor, Jennifer Egan reading Lore Segal, or David Sedaris reading Miranda July and get excited.

6. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

Pop quiz: what do POA, OOTP, HBP, and GOF stand for?

If you recognized these immediately as the shorthand that Harry Potter fans lovingly use to refer to the series, get ready to introduce one more Harry Potter-related acronym into your life: TSC. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is the one and only podcast that dissects each Harry Potter book to your heart’s content.

Just as Christians have the Bible, hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile discuss Harry Potter in this podcast as if it were a sacred text. In each episode, our hosts look at themes, word choice, and symbolic elements to completely redefine the meaning of “literary enlightenment."

This is for you if: you’re the kind of person who regularly gets 100% on Harry Potter-related Sporcle quizzes.

How about you? Have any favorite literary podcasts to share?

About the author

Emmanuel Nataf is a Founder at Reedsy, a marketplace and set of tools that allows authors and publishers to find top editorial, design and marketing talent. Over 3,000 books have been published using Reedsy's services.

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