According to some, there was no such thing as a podcast until Serial. For these people, in 2014, This American Life reporter, Sarah Koenig, changed their lives. The reality, of course, is that a lot of people have been making and listening to podcasts for years. It just took Serial to really bring the format to the forefront of people’s minds and conversations.
Derived from the words broadcast and pod (as a nod to the success of the iPod), podcasts provide listeners with stories, news, facts, interviews, discussions and, in the case of Serial, phenomenons on just about every topic you can think of. If there’s a corner of this world that interests you, I can guarantee you there’s a podcast about it.
Want to hear two guys dissect every single episode of The Gilmore Girls? There’s a podcast for that. Ever wondered what would happen if two people watched the same movie every single week and then discussed it on air? There’s a podcast for that. Curious about the ‘facts’ behind monsters, goblins and aliens? There’s a podcast for that. You get the idea — there’s something for any topic you’re interested in, and if there isn’t, maybe you should start one. The aforementioned Gilmore Guys started as a couple of guys talking about a TV show and led to them interviewing the actors, selling out live shows and even being talked about at the recent ATX Gilmore Girls reunion.
Given the size and passion of the writing and reading community, it should come as no surprise that there's a plethora of podcasts out there discussing every nook and cranny of the publishing industry. Below is just a selection of a few I've found to be the most helpful, interesting, funny and inspiring.
Podcasts for Writers:
This is particularly relevant to the Australian audience, but its themes are pretty universal. Once a week, Valerie Khoo, the Director of the Australian Writers Centre, and writer, Alison Tait, discuss the ins and outs of the writing business, and share personal advice about how to get into the bizz, as well as host interviews with others who share their passion
An interview series where writer, Ben Blacker, invites other writers onto the show to talk about their specific fields, how they got into it and what they have learnt. The guests range from screen writers to novelists to video games writers – basically, anyone who writes for a living
3. Grammar Girl
This isn’t necessarily a podcast that you could sit down and binge listen to, but Grammar Girl is a fount of knowledge about all things grammar. The episodes are short lessons about one particular element of grammar, so it’s something you could dip in and out of if you have a specific issue or need to solve one of those critical office punctuation debates.
This is another short podcast, only 15 minutes long generally, in which four writers discuss all sorts of techniques and elements of the writing process. Topics range from world-building and character development to idea generation. And just to make sure that you aren’t neglecting your writing in favour of listening to podcasts, each episode also includes a writing prompt/exercise to get you back to work.
Podcasts for Readers:
5. Book Riot
This is more like four podcasts for the price of one. Everything Book Riot does is great, and they have five podcasts in their stable, all of which are entertaining, interesting and useful. The Book Riot podcast is the original, and is an informal chat between two of the editors (usually Jeff and Rebecca) about what’s happening in the world of books and reading. They also have Dear Book Nerd, which tries to solve common reading problems, such as should you fold down the corners of borrowed books and should you read the classics. Reading Lives is an interview series with authors and people in the publishing industry about their, as it says on the box, reading lives, and All of the Books is a weekly show outlining the best new books released that week
A rotating array of reviewers meet once a month to discuss one book in detail. I find this one particularly useful for my own book club, because I can listen to what the super intelligent people at Slate have to say about a book, and then appropriate some of their insights. Warning – read the book before listening to this, it is far from spoiler free.
7. The Readers
The tagline of this podcast, ‘book-based banter’, pretty much tells you everything you need to know. The hosts of the show are book lovers and bloggers: Simon Savidge, who is UK-based and Thomas Otto, who is in America. They get together (in the virtual sense of the words) once a week to discuss the books they’ve been reading, answer listener questions, discuss book-related topics and just generally shoot the breeze about all things books and reading. The result is a funny, interesting and informative chat between two people you're going to wish were your friends
I can’t write an article about podcasts without mentioning this glorious example of the format, where Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales discuss everything from politics to Portuguese custard tarts, with a particular emphasis on what they’ve been reading and watching. One particularly fabulous episode involves them seeing 50 Shades of Grey and sharing their thoughts (and copious giggles) after it. They are funny, intelligent, well-informed and just plain wonderful women – why wouldn’t you want to spend half an hour a week with them?
* * *
This list has barely even scratched the surface of the selection of reading and writing podcasts, and so I apologise in advance for whatever it is you are going to have to drop from your schedule to fit in all this listening. Trust me, it's worth it.