Literary Podcasts: My Current Favorites

Now it's Route 91 and it's still pretty but so much busier...

Postcard view of the Connecticut River Valley circa 1930-1945, Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection #71674. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:,_showing_Mt._Holyoke_Range,_Holyoke,_Mass_(71674).jpg

I spend a lot of time on the road these days, and though I never used to be much of a podcast listener, I’ve become a convert, largely thanks to these several podcasts that keep me company on my peregrinations:

For a short thoughtful dose of poetry

  • The Slowdown, with Tracie K. Smith – a 5-minute daily dose of personal reflection and a single poem, read by a US Poet Laureate. She usually talks more about what the poem makes her think of, rather than the technicalities of the poemcraft, but sometimes there’s a bit of that too.

For the joy of listening to stories, with great voice acting and diverse authors/cultures

  • Levar Burton Reads – Reading Rainbow for grown-ups.  Mostly speculative fiction, but with a dash of anything and everything else, with introductions and conclusions where Burton talks about what draws him to these short stories. (Dangerous to listen to on late night drives because his voice is so warm and comfortable it’s like a bedtime story, but great for keeping calm in rush hour traffic!)
  • Circle Round – Hosted by WBUR with the tagline “Where storytime happens all the time,” this is kid-safe folktales and fairytales, from many cultures, with fabulous guest actors/readers and great sound and music effects. It’s more like a radio play than a single-reader storytime, and while it’s pitched to kid listeners, with suggestions for conversations and activities to do with one’s family/friends after each story, the stories themselves are ageless.

For story-craft, author interviews, etc

  • Cooking the Books – Hosted by two authors, Fran Wilde and Aliette de Bodard, ‘where genre fiction meets food,’ each episode features an interview with an author talking about a recently published or about to be published book, with questions mostly focused on food and worldbuilding, but with fun departures into other parts of storycraft, personal interests, etc. I add a lot of books to my TBR list from this podcast. They also have a recipe from each author on the website, which is fun.
  • Imaginary Worlds – Hosted by Eric Molinsky, a show about the worlds we create, how, and why.  It’s both about creators and fans, the experience of fandom in many forms, and across many platforms, including books, movies, games, and more. Not every episode speaks ‘to me,’ but there’s humor and interesting things to think about in every episode, even the ones that are initially more of a stretch for me to appreciate.

For word-geekery

  • Lingthusiasm – “A podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne.” I’ve always been fascinated with words and languages, and in another reality there’s likely a version of me that decided linguistics was the way to go. This universe’s version of me enjoys listening to people who know what they’re talking about be excited about things like the sounds you stop hearing once you’re no longer a baby, or the way concepts of color are constructed in languages around the world, or that ‘every word is a real word.’ It gives me thoughts about world-building, of course, but it’s also just fun and gives you random cool facts to bring up at the dinner table.

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