Bookcasts Part One

I am lucky enough to have a job that lets me work with books. I am doubly lucky in that my job allows me to listen to headphones, and rather than listen to music, I listen to audio books and podcasts, most of them dealing with the subject of books. As this is, of course, a book-related blog, I thought I would share those I listen to with you. Those that only occasionally deal with books (their primary subject matter being something else, or perhaps even simply general interest) will be marked with an asterisk. There are quite a few of them, so I will spread the out over two or three posts.

Authors On Tour—Live!

Recorded in Denver at an indie bookstore called The Tattered Cover, this podcast is a weekly series of author readings. It features authors from a multitude of genres, from fiction authors of all stripes to historians, politicians and journalists.

The Good: Most of the authors are clever speakers and often they show a personal side that doesn’t come out in formal interviews.

The Bad: The sound quality can be hit and miss.

Barnes & Noble’s Meet the Writers

This is a series of extremely short interviews with authors, conducted by Steve Bertran (sp?) on behalf of American big-box bookseller Barnes & Noble.

The Good: For such short interviews, Bertran does an enormous amount of research, asks intelligent questions and has an easy rapport with most of the writers.

The Bad: If Bertran doesn’t get the answer he expects he will often rephrase the question two or three times in what seems like an effort to elicit the desired response. The authors don’t seem to notice so much, but it can be irritating at times.

Books on Guardian Unlimited

The Guardian podcast is a mix of book news, author interviews, and every so often features a “book club” Q & A session with a live audience.

The Good: The Guardian is extremely professional and covers stories that won’t always appear in the North American press. The book club segments are exceptional.

The Bad: The audio quality sometimes borders on amateurish, and updates are few and far between.

CBC Radio: The Best of Definitely Not the Opera*

Hosted by my long-time celebrity crush, Sook-Yin Lee, the show mostly focuses on whatever topic strikes Ms. Lee’s fancy on any given week. The show airs every Saturday on the CBC, but the podcast only airs certain portions of the show (the music, for example, is cut out for reasons of copyright).

The Good: Sook-Yin Lee! The show is funny and irreverent, and many of the guests can be extremely entertaining.

The Bad: Book-related content is fairly rare, and when it appears over the airwaves on Saturday it doesn’t always make it into the podcast on Sunday. Also, many members of the DNTO team don’t seem entirely comfortable in a radio setting (Sook-Yin, while still cool as hell, does better on television, for instance), and as a result it sometimes feels like a college radio show with a budget.

CBC Radio: The Best of Ideas*

Ideas is probably one of the longest running programmes on CBC radio, and also one of the best. Every week features a new topic, normally unrelated to the previous week, and spanning nearly every conceivable subject. Literary subjects are fairly rare, but they do pop up from time to time.

The Good: This show is remarkable in the depth and breadth of its reportage. It would be impossible to say too many good things about it.

The Bad: Sometimes the show falls into the CBC cliché of addressing its audience as though they are all senior citizens, and additionally Paul Kennedy’s voice is somewhat cloying.

CBC Radio: Words at Large

Words At Large collects book-related content from a variety of CBC Radio programmes; everything from interviews, news items, and short documentary pieces from the CBC archives.

The Good: The content is varied and the hosts are obviously long-time broadcast professionals.

The Bad: The content is sometimes trite. Many times a book will be mentioned only to spark a conversation about the topic of the book with little or no attention being paid to the actual content of the book itself, or issues like the writing process or literary creativity. An episode just before the holiday hiatus featured a wine-related book, and the episode felt like an extended advertisement for the LCBO’s wine section. It often feels like an infomercial rather than a serious radio show.

Part two will be up in a day or so.


Writer. Editor. Critic.

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