What a life it would be to read books all the time – just reading all day, inhaling stories like air. But we can't, because in life we have to do things like driving and bathing our kids and putting up shelves in which books, alas, are just plain dangerous.
Fortunately, for those moments, we have podcasts, which are the next best thing. So, here are 39 of the best literary podcasts, from discussion groups to reviews to author interviews, to dive deeper into the world of books.
The Penguin Podcast
Where else to start than with our very own Penguin Podcast? Featuring leading writers and pioneering thinkers, this fortnightly conversation asks authors to bring along a selection of objects through which we explore their inspirations, aspirations and the struggles they've faced along the way. Recent guests include Alexander McCall Smith, Paula Hawkins, Adam Kay and Zadie Smith – and with objects as varied as a replica Roman sword, a wooden carving of two cats and a bone-cutting saw there's never a dull moment on this podcast.
The Maris Review
Cultural critic and write Maris Kreizman talks to authors (and celebrities) about their own books and the books they love, as well as the TV shows and films they’ve watched, music they’ve loved, and what they’ve been reading online. Recent guests include George Saunders, Rumaan Alam and Kiese Laymon.
Listen on: Apple Podcasts
On the Road with Penguin Classics
This new podcast from the Penguin Classics’ team takes a stroll around the world’s favourite books. Hosted by editor, and author of The Penguin Classics Book, Henry Eliot, each week the podcast will head to a different literary location to explore a book in the company of readers.
Books & Boba
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of Asian and Asian American authors, Books & Boba is the podcast for you. It covers a range of genres, from historical fiction and graphic novels to science fiction and thrillers. As well as author interviews, the podcast picks a book for its book club each month, and has updates on recent news in the book world.
Listen on: Apple Podcasts
The Puffin Podcast
We’re definitely biased when we say this is currently the best children’s podcast out there. But it really is the best children’s podcast out there! Hosted by comedian, actor, and Celebrity Gogglebox star Babatúndé Aléshé, every episode he and two Puffineers team up to take young listeners on an adventure to a magical world. They’re also joined each week by one of our awesome Puffin authors – guest appearances so far have included Greg James, Jen Carney, and Humza Arshad.
Journalist and author Caroline O’Donoghue talks to other female writers about that most unjustly maligned genre, chick-lit. Far from a guilty pleasure, chick-lit, she argues, should be celebrated as legit documentations of the female experience. It's not all serious feminism, though. It's fun, thoughtful and wildly entertaining as she and guests examine the books and culture that make chick-lit so special.
This is a podcast dedicated entirely to audiobooks. Hosts Brad and Britney – best pals for more than a decade – review the hottest new releases, interview narrators and authors and discuss industry news with all the energy and enthusiasm of two kids in a sweetshop. Which isn't to say they can't do serious. They can. They're a joy to listen to.
The Great Books Podcast
The thinking podcaster's podcast, this, from highbrow American magazine The National Review. Author, journalist and academic Pr. John J. Miller is joined by an array of esteemed literary experts to dive deep into literature's greatest classics, from the work of Evelyn Waugh, Herman Melville and James Joyce to Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and more.
The History of Literature
Author and literature expert Jacke Wilson journeys through time to examine history's greatest literary moments and achievements, from dissecting the lives of our greatest authors to the writers who went to war to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The perfect audio companion for anyone who cares where literature is, and where it has come from.
Read Learn Live
The mission of this highly-engaging and informative podcast is to help readers 'improve [themselves] through literature'. In each episode, host Jon Menaster conducts an in-depth interview with a well-known author to understand not only what makes them tick, but how, and why, they wrote their books.
Hurry Up and Read
Host Jason Balmet reads through classic Christian books as he delves into the minds of the most influential Christian writers throughout the course of history. With a new episode every day, five days a week, he breaks each reading session down to 20-minute chunks to keep listeners engaged and on track.
This is one of the best storytelling podcasts around. Produced by National Public Radio’s WNYC radio station in New York, Selected Shorts is a live event in which screen and stage actors read classic and new short fiction before a live audience. Over the years it has been hosted by a glittering line of well-known actors, authors, and entertainers such as David Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Cynthia Nixon and Jane Kaczmarek.
Anything But Silent
Libraries don’t just keep our stories safe; they’re where new ones begin. That’s the premise of the ‘buzzing, creative and brave’ in-house podcast from the British Library. Cleo Laskarin, from the building’s exhibitions team, interviews all manner of guests, from famous writers to the people who make the British Library tick, on subjects ranging from how Minecraft is opening up literary worlds to library druids from the west of England.
The VINTAGE Podcast releases weekly and covers author interviews, book news and discussions on bookish subjects ranging from literary fiction to graphic novels, cookery to crime fiction, history and travel to biography and poetry.
This Is Spoke
Hosted by director and journalist Fenn O'Meally and grime MC Big Zuu, This Is Spoke is an uncensored and unapologetic podcast that explores today's most important issues with some of the UK’s hottest writers, musicians and artists. Expect conversations about heritage, beauty standards, money, queer culture and everything in between!
Backlisted, brought to you by Unbound, aims to give new life to old books. Regular presenters John Mitchinson and Andy Miller enter into a lively discussion with a guest to convince their listeners to read a book while arguing why it has stood the test of time. From Dickens and Jilly Cooper to the more obscure, in two years Backlisted has become one of the most popular book podcasts around.
‘The hosts are relatable and their enthusiasm and passion for books is contagious.’ ‘It feels like I’m hanging out with friends.’ The reviews say it all – Mostly Lit is a laid-back listen and millennial-focused experience that showcases the crossover in wellness, literature and pop-culture.
The Guardian Books Podcast
The Guardian Books podcast is a weekly delve into the world of writing. It features some of the world’s best authors through in-depth interviews while discussing wider trends, round-ups, prize winners and retrospectives on classic works.
Journalist Daisy Buchanan hosts this chatty podcast which allows listeners to snoop through guest’s bookshelves and discover the books that made an impact on them. Daisy’s dulcet tones are worth a listen alone, but tune in for fun conversations with recent guests including Dolly Alderton and Elizabeth Day.
The New Yorker: Fiction
The imitable New Yorker’s podcast on the biggest happenings in fiction runs monthly, with their fiction editor Deborah Treisman at the helm. Listen along for some of the biggest names in literature such as Dave Eggers, Roddy Doyle and Tess Hadley.
The Stories That Changed My Life
Regular guests share the stories that have made a mark on them. Priding itself on being a ‘books podcast for the non-bookish’, recent guests include journalists Lauren Bravo and Zing Tsjeng. Join them as they reminisce in a mash-up of good old fashioned storytelling and Desert Island Discs.
London Review Bookshop Podcast
This is a great podcast if you want to hear authors talk and present. The London Review Bookshop hosts live events and thankfully records them for your listening pleasure. With over 200 episodes, there are plenty to choose from including readings, debates and discussions.
Books and Authors
BBC Radio 4’s resident books podcast, expect in-depth literary discussions on the latest tomes in true Radio 4 style. Recent guests include industry heavyweights such as Pulitzer-winning Jennifer Egan and Booker Prize nominee Richard Powers.
Freedom, Books, Flowers & the Moon
A weekly podcast focusing on culture and ideas by the Times Literary Supplement. Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s question, ‘With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?’ expect interrogation on everything from Bronte to Reddit.
Hosted by friends Carrie and Octavia, Literary Friction is a monthly conversational podcast. On each show, built around a theme, the hosts interview up-and-coming and more established authors. There are lively discussions, personal recommendations and more…
It’s been 30 years since Ayatollah Khomeini called on his fellow Muslims to murder Salman Rushdie for blasphemy following the publication of The Satanic Verses. There were book burnings, firebombings and the novel’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death. This 10-part series, from BBC Radio 4, tells the story of that story from both sides of the controversy in vivid and thrilling detail.
Listen on: Apple Podcasts
Banging Book Club
Banging Book Club is the the result of three friends who read a book about sex and gender together, covering topics such as intersectional feminism to Aristotle and Dante. This podcast has sadly now finished but there are still 47 episodes to wrap your ears around.
There’s a fresh stance in this weekly podcast about ‘books, writing, reading, and racoons’. The hosts dive into books they love, but most interestingly books they hate, too. Join them in an open and honest conversation where they digress and take tangents to discuss the latest happenings in lit.
Not Another Book Podcast
‘The podcast that says what you’re thinking but too afraid to say.’ This three-woman fronted show showcases the latest African writing in a chat format showcasing both popular and unpopular opinions. Packed with relatable insights, Not Another Book Podcast is for listeners that like to keep up with trends.
The Invisible College
Another of BBC Radio 4’s outputs, The Invisible College is for anyone with a love of creative writing. Featuring lessons from the greats in literature including Ted Hughes and Allen Ginsberg, listeners can learn everything from how to create characters to dealing with writers block.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books
A weekly witty podcast that focuses on the romance genre. Host Sarah Wendell interviews everyone from bloggers to editors about swoon-worthy love stories. Expect a distinct lack of seriousness that includes reviews, author appearances and the latest romantic recommendations.
Black Chick Lit
Black Chick Lit is a bi-monthly podcast that discusses books written by, and created for, Black women. This conversational podcast run by hosts Dani and Molli involves wine - and a lot of laughing.
Created by book website Book Riot, Hey YA focuses on the latest in the world of young adult novels. Hosts Eric and Kelly discuss everything from new releases to forgotten classics, on-screen adaptions and even current issues in the genre.
Bad Book Reviews Podcast
A podcast that takes itself a little less seriously, The Bad Book Reviews Podcast offers authors the opportunity to joke about their terrible reviews and while also taking on board the critiques.
Listen on: Stitcher
Metro Book Chat
Brought to you by the Metro Newspaper, Metro Book Chat sees their regular bookish print section brought to life in podcast form. Join them as they chat through book news with the latest authors and bloggers in the world of publishing.
Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year
Presenter Simo Mayo invites some of the world’s most exciting authors into the studio for a cheery conversation about their latest books. Described by a listener as ‘like meeting up with old friends’, watch out for our very own Lee Child and Kate Atkinson.
The Literary Salon
World-class writers join host Damian Barr where they read from their biggest and boldest works in front of a live audience in exciting locations. There are exclusives and world premieres, the past line up has included Bret Easton Ellis and Jojo Moyes.
Moms Don’t Have Time To Read Books
Zibby Owens has been described as ‘New York’s most powerful book-fluencer’. A writer and mother of four herself, she knows the struggle of being too busy to read books. MDHTTRB is her remedy. In each short episode, she interviews an author about their work, asking the questions readers have for their favourite books. Launched in 2018, this highly-entertaining, and blisteringly-popular, podcast (that, by the way, isn’t just for mums) gives busy book lovers a way to stay up to date with the world of books.
So Many Damn Books
If you like drinking cocktails while listening to people chat about books, then this is the podcast for you. The effervescent duo Christopher Hermelin and Drew Broussard talk to well-known authors about reading, literature, publishing, and how to make it through your ever-growing stack of books you want to read, all while drinking a themed cocktail of their own design (usually linked to the author in question). It’s certainly one of the more fun literary podcasts on the circuit right now.