Ear words: 10 of the best indie books podcasts

08 Oct

For whatever reason, you don’t want to - or can’t - look at another page or screen for the next half-hour. This is when the podcast comes into its own. A good podcast is the friend of every multi-tasker.

1. All the Books! 

Book Riot

In this weekly podcast from the US, a lady duo (presenters vary) focuses on new releases. It is girly, leisurely chat, with a slightly low-fi feel, but its also warm and enthusiastic, with a straightforward and mainstream approach to interesting choices. They’re so sweet, in a recent episode they warned readers because a book describes the author’s pet dog passing away.

2. Breaking the Glass Slipper: Women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror

Presented by Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond and Lucy Hounson


In their own words, they celebrate writers, creators and characters in speculative fiction, with a focus on intersectional feminism.  

It is more fun and less academic than it might sound, with highly relatable opinions shared as they move easily and knowledgeably between film and TV (Alien, The Princess Bride, Disney and NetFlix’s Bandersnatch), comics, and literature (ghost stories, Grimdark, WB Yeats, fight scenes in books, and author interviews). Thoughtful and honest conversation, in addition to being hugely informative.

3. Not Another Book Podcast

ShoutOut Network


This podcast covers topics around books, rather than titles exclusively: their cultural implications, the importance of book covers, experiences at literary festivals, how we think about genres and mediums, to name a few. It has a global, multicultural perspective, with a lot of laughter.

4. Backlisted



John Mitchinson and Andy Miller are joined by a guest from the publishing and creative industries to discuss one of the classics. It is very British – jovial and slightly chummy – but they talk about the experience of reading different authors incisively. Plenty of titles to choose from, and they don’t go for the most obvious – examples include Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf, The Gift by Nabokov, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos.

5. The Literary Salon

Damian Barr

Writer, columnist and playwright Damian Barr interviews a diverse range of personalities – most are whom are household names – in front of a live audience. Guests in previous episodes have included First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, David Nicholls and Jojo Moyes.

Damian is the first presenter in this list to possess a Scottish accent, which is particularly lovely to listen to (not that I’m partial).

6. The Invisible College

Radio 4

Broadcast on Radio 4, but independently produced, this is one for writers, an 18-episode block of neat 10 minute parcels, which relates learning and wisdom from the greats, on topics including crafting dialogue and dealing with critics. We hear archive clips from the masters themselves. Still available on iTunes.

7. Book Fight!

Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister


Back to the US, these presenters consider both classic and contemporary books. What is interesting – and actually uncommon – is that Mike and Tom sensibly relate fictional characters and their concerns to real, contemporary life. They are editors at Barrelhouse Magazine, a non-profit literary organisation that is been running for 15 years, and are authors themselves, so they know their stuff, but it is a pretension and stress-free zone here.

8. Friends at the Library

by Jenn Martin and Jennifer Wong

This is the sort of podcast that will feel perfect in the late or early hours. These are peaceful, intimate conversation which is more about the power and experience of reading, and reading particular books, and less about cool criticism. Episodes are directed by an emotional or political theme – some titles are Peak Nostalgia, Family Sagas, and Reading for a Better World. A great blend of contemporary, classic and retro reference points.

9. Book Shambles with Robin and Josie

by the Cosmic Shambles Network

Robin and Josie are Robin Ince and Josie Long, in conversation with a diverse range of guests (Mark Radcliffe, physicist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili and Jenny Eclair to name some of the most recent). Broad conversation (as the podcast title hints at) soon leads to strong opinions and speculation on the big subjects.

10. Literary Disco

LitHub Radio

‘Three old friends who love to read, debate, and sometimes agree’ is how this presenting trio, Tod Goldberg, Julia Pistell and Rider Strong - describe themselves. In true podcast tradition, banter and laughter are the biggest priorities. The chat is a bit bonkers, but the angle each episode takes is innovative, book selections are diverse, and it is not a slave to publishing trends.

Great podcasts are often shared by word of mouth, so if there is a books-and-lit podcast I have missed, let me know @SGordonAtoms. Happy listening!