Listen Up!: 5 Awesome Lit-Based Podcasts

Once upon a time, there were radio programs. Many of them specialized in specific topics like sports, news, arts and, of course, music. The shows had personal identities. The topics were discussed, music was played, and everyone who listened felt enlightened and fuzzy.

These days, listening-based programs still exist on stations such as NPR, The Spy, WFMU and KEXP, but for the most part the radio waves are filled with syndicated content pumped in from a satellite that auto-plays the same Top 40 pop hits at predetermined intervals on a continuous loop. Sad, really.

Fortunately, there are these newfangled things called “podcasts.” They’re like radio shows, except they aren’t cast out broadly into the world (broadcast, if you will), but rather appear magically via a free subscription on your computer or smart device. I did mention these things are free, yeah?

Not only that, but there are plenty of podcasts dealing with all things bookish, be it celebrities reading short stories, authors reading their own short stories, authors reading other author’s short stories, or people talking about the world of literature.

Won’t you join me in exploring five really good lit-based podcasts? Perhaps you’ll subscribe to one yourself...


1. Unprintable

Yes, even your friendly neighborhood writer’s haven LitReactor offers a podcast. Hosted by columnist/blagger Cath Murphy, Education Director Rob W. Hart, and Managing Editor Joshua Chaplinsky, each episode typically features a news round-up, a “what are you reading” share session, a discussion about a particular hot-button lit topic, and sometimes a conversation with a very special guest.

To give you a taste of the insightful irreverence Unprintable injects into your life, here’s a brief description from the most recent episode’s news:

David Simon thinks just because everyone loves The Wire he is an expert on everything, but Cath thinks he should shut the hell up. Rob seems indifferent. Josh is quasi-famous in the erotica self-publishing arena, to which Rob seems indifferent. Rob gives a eulogy for the Nook, and seems indifferent to his own indifference.

How could you not listen to that? No, really, I’m asking you...

Subscribe via iTunes; Download individual mp3s

 

2. Selected Shorts

If your neighbors happen to overhear you listening to Selected Shorts, they will instantly know you are one classy individual. I mean, freakin’ Jon Lithgow frequently reads the introductory advertisement for Selected Shorts’ primary benefactor, Zabars. And then there’s that smooth jazzy intro music that just oozes sophistication.

The stories/live readings are quite cosmopolitan as well. The tales are read by Broadway, film and television actors, fellow authors, and other personalities onstage at Symphony Space in New York City. Just recently, for instance, actor David Furr read Michael Chabon’s “Art of Cake,” a tribute to his mother’s baking; following this, Tony Award-winning actor Robert Sean Leonard (he was also on House, people) performed Mark Strand’s “True Loves.”

Following the death of Selected Shorts creator Isaiah Sheffer, each episode features a rotating roster of guest hosts, including the aforementioned Lithgow, actress Parker Posey,  David Sedaris, and Neil Gaiman, amongst others. How can you go wrong? You can’t, that’s how.

Subscribe via iTunes; Subscribe via RSS

 

3. Other People

Hosted by author and The Nervous Breakdown founder Brad Listi, Other People features in-depth, usually hour-long interviews with authors, discussing not only their work, but their life outside of writing, making for a well-rounded portrait.

Listi opens the show with a pause-laden, humorous monologue, which typically relates to his guest in some way. For instance, in preparation for his interview with actress-turned-writer Molly Ringwald, Listi contemplated bringing a pubescent photo of himself to prove to her how much he looked like Anthony Michael Hall (he decided against it).

Possibly the best thing about Other People, though, is the fact I haven’t heard of 90 percent of the authors appearing on Listi’s show. Ringwald, Megan Abbot and Owen King—Stephen’s other famous son—were the only ones I recognized in the last fifty episodes. This is a good thing: Other People introduces me to authors I might not have discovered otherwise, thus fattening my to-read list exponentially.

Subscribe via iTunes; Subscribe via Android; Download Other People App

 

4. Nightmare

This podcast features recordings of stories published in Nightmare Magazine. It also features one of the best podcast introductions ever—spooky “Halloween Sounds of Horror” organ music, creepy giggling children and a voice growling “Nightmaaaaaaaaaarrrrrreee.” The horror geek in me is pleased.

Nightmare producer Stefan Rudnicki (he’s a Grammy winner, by the way) gives us quick bios of the authors and the readers (usually other award-winning voice talents), and then the story begins. Recent episodes featured spine-tingling tales from Ramsey Campbell, Laird Barron, and Brit Mandelo. What more do you want me to say? It’s awesome, listen to it.

Subscribe via iTunes; Subscribe via RSS

 

5. Escape Pod

You can thank LitReactor’s very own Rajan Khanna and his column Small Packages: Short Fantasy Fiction for turning me on to Escape Pod (he even does voice work for them). As the clever name suggests, this weekly program offers top-notch science fiction read by other authors and voice actors. Recently they featured Ken Liu, who swept up the Hugos, the Nebulas, and the World Fantasy Awards with his short story “The Paper Menagerie” (that particular story isn’t read there).

But it’s not just big names you’ll find on this podcast. I didn’t know Merrie Haskell before I heard last month’s “Zebulon Vance Sings The Alphabet Songs Of Love”, a wonderful, funny story read in a perfectly appropriate deadpan by Amanda Ching. Everyone should listen to this.

Though not listenable, Escape Pod also features film and book reviews, so be sure to check out their website as well. All content is free because the creators, Escape Artists, rely on donations, so if you dig it and/or you’re feeling generous, be sure to click the Paypal button. BONUS! Check out Escape Artists’ other podcasts, Podcastle (fantasy) and Pseudopod (horror).

Subscribe via iTunes; Subscribe via RSS


These five lit-based podcasts are only the tip of the tip of the iceberg. There are far more out there, awaiting your eager ears. If you have any good ones you’d like to share, shout out in the comments section. Until next time...

Christopher Shultz

Column by Christopher Shultz

Christopher Shultz writes weird, dark fiction. His stories have appeared both online and in print, including most recently in Apex Magazinefreeze frame flash fiction and Grievous Angel. In addition to LitReactor, he has also written for Ranker.comCultured Vultures and Tor.com. At times, he dabbles in digital art and photography. Christopher lives in Oklahoma City with his fiancée Lauren and their two mostly well-behaved cats. More info at christophershultz.com.

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Comments

Steve Weddle's picture
Steve Weddle is reading BLAME | Jeff Abbott August 19, 2013 - 12:58pm
Isaac Kirkman's picture
Isaac Kirkman August 19, 2013 - 2:01pm

Book and Booze has a fly podcast, lots of candid and insightful dialogs with writers. www.books-booze.com

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three August 19, 2013 - 1:57pm

Booked. Podcast!

Gareth Spark's picture
Gareth Spark from Whitby is reading The Bayou Trilogy August 19, 2013 - 1:59pm

I agree, Books and Booze showcases exciting, edgy work and writers, and is never anything less than awesome. http://www.books-booze.com/

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne August 19, 2013 - 2:07pm

Seriously, how do you guys miss Booked. and Books & Booze? Both have close ties to LR and friends. Cool list, though, I haven't heard of a couple of those. Will have to check them out.

Also, don't miss the Drabblecast!

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers August 19, 2013 - 2:38pm

There are only two podcasts: Booked. and Books and Booze. The others listed here...never heard of them. They might be good, but not even mentioning the award winning Booked. Podcast seems a little strange.

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres August 19, 2013 - 3:55pm

This is super nuts. How many episodes have some of these podcasts even run? The LitReactor one has gone, what, ten episodes at most? And it made the list?

Books & Booze is hitting episode 60 soon, Booked. is in the hundreds AND WON A BEST PODCAST AWARD! Both actually feature authors that users of LitReactor find relevant (alas, neither has featured John Lithgow yet...)

Craig Clevenger, Stephen Graham Jones, Richard Thomas, Brandon Tietz, Jon Gingerich, etc, etc, etc... have all appeared on one or both of these, as have many of the authors of the monthly Book Club discussion. I'm sure if you were to ask these folks, they'd more than likely mention these podcasts. 

What gives? Seriously?

Daniel Donche's picture
Daniel Donche from Seattle is reading Transubstantiate, by Richard Thomas August 19, 2013 - 4:21pm

I agree. Both Booked and Books and Booze should have made this list. 

Andrez Bergen's picture
Andrez Bergen from Melbourne, Australia + Tokyo, Japan is reading 'The Spirit' by Will Eisner August 19, 2013 - 6:24pm

I'm right with most of you (above)—Books and Booze and Booked are essential.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like August 19, 2013 - 6:49pm

What is this "booze"?

Sound's picture
Sound from Azusa, CA is reading Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt August 19, 2013 - 8:02pm

Had no idea Nightmare had a podcast. Made me go look around and found that so do Lightspeed and Clarkesworld. Def subscribing--thanks!

Cath Murphy's picture
Cath Murphy from UK is reading Find out on the Unpr!ntable podcast August 20, 2013 - 4:03am

Now, now children. Calm down.

I think the mention of Unpr!ntable might have been a tiny bit tongue in cheek ;)

Anyway Chris covers a range of different casts here, which is nice because I hadn't heard of some of these.

 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading A lot of Brian Evenson August 20, 2013 - 5:28am

Waaaah! We don't want to be introduced to something new. We want to see our friends mentioned!

...says the man whose podcast was first on the list.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies August 20, 2013 - 6:12am

Booked. Podcast. has been doing great work for some time now. They definitely should be on this list. And B&B is doing a great job, too. 

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines August 20, 2013 - 6:54am

Writers talking about writing is so....meta, but I can't get enough of the people behind the words. I'm a pretty big Listi fan, so it was nice to see his podcast get a shout out, and I'll check out some of the other recommends. The crew behind Unprintable are top shelf writers and people. 

Books & Booze was the first lit podcast I turned on to. With the hosts being longstanding active members of the LitReactor community, it would have been gracious of Mr. Schultz to give these fine people (who have done so much for LR from the inside out) at the very least a nod. Tisk.  

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters August 20, 2013 - 7:05am

Hmm...

It is pretty strange to snub Booked. As mentioned, they won an AWARD for best podcast. 

How do I feel about MY podcast being overlooked?  Well, it seems tacky to talk about here. But if you happen to listen to the new episode of Books and Booze Thursday evening (featuring Jason Donnelly) you might just hear some opinions!! 

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break August 20, 2013 - 7:52am

I'll add another vote for Booked. and Books and Booze.

And my vote counts double because I work for LitReactor...so there.

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 August 20, 2013 - 8:02am

Well, I've certainly stirred up a shitstorm, haven't I?

I in no way meant to snub Booked and Books and Booze, and I'm happy that I know about them now, because they sound excellent. But that's the key: I have to plead ignorance on this one. My columns are about as anecdotal as they get, i.e., I'm not setting out to create definitive lists, to be set in stone tablets and carried down from Mount Sinai. I do what every successful author advises you to do: I write what I know. The five podcasts I selected are ones that rotate on my iPhone while I'm getting ready for work, discovered over a natural progression of time and through the vetting process of my personal tastes. When I wrote the column, I picked what I liked. 

Now, this isn't to say I don't like giving shout outs to fellow LitReactor peeps. I do. That's why Unprintable is mentioned. That's why Escape Pod is mentioned. Well, really, they're mentioned because I like them, but it's a bonus to give them accolades and promotion. Had I known about Books & Booze and Booked, I probably would have gone out of my way to include them.

Could I have done a bit more research and discovered they existed? Absolutely. That's my bad, and I take responsibility for it. But my people, please don't blame the other podcasts, and please listen to them. For me, writing columns at LitReactor gives me a chance to share the things I love and enjoy with everyone else, but I also love learning about new things—new books to read, new authors to check out, new podcasts to listen to (I'm subscribing to Booked and B&B). Do you know how fat my GoodReads queue has gotten reading Lurid alone? I have  over 500 short stories backlogged in my Pocket queue, and many of those came from Richard Thomas's Storyville column. We're a community here, and discovery is just as important as promotion.

Still, I want to do right by my fellow LitReactorers who feel snubbed. Here are subscription links to both Booked and Books & Booze. I haven't listened to them yet, so I can't give you the same kind of rundown as the others, but do check them out. I know I will.

Booked:

iTunes

Website

Books & Booze:

iTunes

RSS

Website

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies August 20, 2013 - 8:28am

No worries, I know your list wasn't meant to be exhaustive. Pseudopod is a good one, too. 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters August 20, 2013 - 9:01am

No hard feelings, Chris (can I call you Chris?). 

But honestly, it's really nice to see our fans and listeners giving us some friendly promotion and love.  Thanks guys.  We like you just fine.  I promise to have a drink on the next episode for each and every one of you. 

Lawrence's picture
Lawrence from Dallas, Texas is reading Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King August 20, 2013 - 9:26am

I think the list was great. I listen to all of those shows plus, Booked. Pseudopod is probably my favorite.

I actually have my own genre fiction short story podcast called, New Worlds. You can find it here http://www.earth2network.podbean.com or by searching Earth 2 Network on Itunes.

I read original short stories in which I add some slight production value and then I do a quick interview with the author as well.

We've had Leah Beth from the site on the show recently and if any of you guys are interested in "donating" a short piece of genre fiction for the show I would love to read it and interview you.

All submissions can be sent to newworldspodcast@gmail.com

Thanks!

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. August 20, 2013 - 10:59am

Lemme add my love to Books & Booze (so much love, ladies and gentleman!) and New Worlds!! They are both FABULOUS and deserving of the love!

But lemme also add some love to Chris(topher), because it's no fun when you write something light and happy and wind up hurting people's feelings and/or getting fussed at.

Trust me.

So....c'mon people now...smile on your brother...everybody get together, try to love one another right now.

(Too much??)

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder August 20, 2013 - 12:06pm

I have been meaning to poke around out there for some decent podcasts, and then this column came along.

Favorited-ed!!!

Thank you Mr. Schultz, and thanks for the additional choices from fellow commenters. 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books August 20, 2013 - 7:55pm

Hey, let's be honest, it's pretty cool to see people get passionate about books.

 

And it was really cool to see so many supporters of B&B and Booked. Come out in the comments. I don't know Chris, so I accept pretty readily that he just didn't know about us... I mean, the majority of the world doesn't... YET. DUN DUN DUN.

Andrez Bergen's picture
Andrez Bergen from Melbourne, Australia + Tokyo, Japan is reading 'The Spirit' by Will Eisner August 20, 2013 - 8:10pm

;)

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. August 21, 2013 - 1:42pm

Renee...I would totally favorite your comment, if only we had a favorite button. :D

.'s picture
. August 23, 2013 - 1:44am

Agreed ^

Mokoshne's picture
Mokoshne August 25, 2013 - 6:13am

podd socks should get a mention http://www.poddsocks.com because they are just jolly folks.

Hetch Litman's picture
Hetch Litman from Ojai, Ca. is reading Father and Son by Larry Brown September 23, 2014 - 12:52pm

Crimewav and This Is Horror