Listen up, bibliophiles: These literary podcasts are for you!
By Jessica Dukes
As much as we love reading books, we also love listening to podcasts about books. The best book podcasts are entertaining and informative, and they connect you with fellow book lovers from around the world. Plus, that sinking feeling you get after finishing a great read? It disappears entirely once you press play on a podcast that explores the very book you just read! So settle in, bibliophiles. Here are our favorite literary and book podcasts.
LeVar Burton Reads hosted by LeVar Burton
Sure, LeVar Burton was in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Before his turn as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge, however, Burton hosted Reading Rainbow, the educational TV show about children’s books that every kid of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s still holds dear. This book podcast is focused on short stories for grown-ups. Every episode features Burton reading an incredible short story from an author chosen from writers across genres and eras. Recent episodes include readings of The Story We Used to Tell by Shirley Jackson and Little Man by Michael Cunningham. You’ll love taking a story break with LeVar, just like old times.
Books and Boba hosted by Reera Yoo and Marvin Yueh
Reera Yoo and Marvin Yueh dedicate their time to books written by authors of Asian descent — and they welcome all fiction and nonfiction genres, making their book podcast a treasure trove of Asian literature. In addition to discussing books, they also interview authors and keep everyone up to date on publishing news, especially those don’t-miss titles that are about to be released. Recent episodes include discussions of Sandhya Menon’s YA rom-com When Dimple Met Rishi and Kathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning.
Read or Dead hosted by Katie McLain Horner
Every two weeks, Katie McLain Horner and a guest host dive into a captivating mystery, thriller, or true crime book that’s sure to send a shiver down your spine. Because so many books in these genres are adapted for the big and small screens, Katie never misses an opportunity to compare the source material with its adaptation. The podcast also makes a point of discussing breaking Stephen King news. Recent episodes feature a discussion of true crime books that address racial justice and all of the creepy new titles set to hit shelves in 2021.
Twice a month, Dani and Mollie talk about literature written by Black women and for Black women. It can get serious. It can also get hilarious. There may be wine. There are always jokes. All genres are covered, and Dani and Mollie let you know exactly how they feel about a book. Recent discussions include The Cartel by Ashley & JaQuavis and Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn.
You’re Booked hosted by Daisy Buchanan
I have a recurring dream of hanging out with Walt Whitman, talking about books and American history, so I knew this literary podcast had to go on the list. Daisy Buchanan brings popular authors on her podcast to talk about their books. Not the ones they wrote, but the books they used to read under the covers with a flashlight, the books they never returned to the library, or the books they started but never finished. In other words, it’s about how these authors became book lovers long before they became writers. Recent guests include Simon Doonan, Marian Keyes, and Irvine Welsh.
BULAQ hosted by Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey
BULAQ invites you on a deep dive into all of the contemporary literature coming out of the Middle East and North Africa. The podcast is primarily a discussion of literature, but the hosts are also interested in how all genres — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels — impact society and politics. Recent episodes include a discussion of Raphael Cormack’s upcoming nonfiction Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s and a fascinating conversation with guest Anny Gaul about the connection between cooking and writing — in traditional cookbooks as well as in literature.
By the Book hosted by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer
Jolenta Greenberg is a comedian, Kristen Meinzer is a culture critic. Together, they leap into the world of self-help literature so you don’t have to. The hosts regularly integrate lessons learned from each book into their own lives. Results may vary, but one detail remains constant: It’s always hilarious. Imagine having to live up to the standards of Martha Stewart’s Entertaining or confront clutter and mortality all at once after reading Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. This podcast is full of humor and heart.
The Big Gay Fiction Podcast hosted by Jeff Adams and Will Knauss
Gay romance fiction gets its due thanks to the husband team of Jeff Adams and Will Knauss. As avid readers, they’re always quick with a recommendation. In addition to discussing new releases, they conduct author interviews, discuss breaking news in gay pop culture, and have focused discussions about their monthly book club title. Recently, Jeff and Will interviewed Meghan Maslow, the creator of The Magic Emporium series, and discussed their book club pick, Riley Hart’s Awkward Love.
Reading Women hosted by Sachi Argabright, Jaclyn Masters, Sumaiyya Naseem
Every Wednesday, the team at Reading Women presents two or more titles that were either written by women or written about women. This podcast is dedicated to examining the experiences of women from all cultures and experiences, inviting female-identifying authors and industry experts to discuss their books as well as the titles they love. You’ll discover authors from around the world who write in a wide array of book genres. Recent episodes feature interviews with Jenny Offill, the author of Weather, and Rebecca Kuang, who wrote the Poppy War trilogy.
Every book lover knows that wistful “Oh, I meant to read that one!” feeling. Backlisted is dedicated to those books, the hidden gems that may have not hit the bestseller list, but definitely deserve the spotlight. The literary podcast’s hosts and guests are passionate about the titles they feature, championing the books they believe stand the test of time. Recent discussions included Steve Teshich’s Hollywood sendup Karoo and Marghanita Laski’s terrifying novella The Victorian Chaise-Longue. Fair warning: Your TBR pile is guaranteed to grow after listening to this podcast.
The Great Books hosted by John J. Miller
Remember all those classic novels you were assigned to read in high school and college but never quite finished? Here’s your chance to catch up. John J. Miller, the Director of Journalism at Hillsdale College, MI, invites experts and book lovers from all walks of life to guide us through the Western literary canon. Recent episodes reintroduced us to Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. It’s just like being back in school, but cooler.
A radio theater program that features authors reading from their own work? I can’t press play fast enough. Storybound takes its literary podcast production one step further, inviting today’s most respected musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters to provide the soundtrack to each story. Recent episodes include Robert Jones, Jr. reading an excerpt of his new novel, The Prophets, accompanied by Josh Garrels, singer/songwriter of “Home” and “Jacaranda.” Get ready to be swept away by one theatrical listening experience.