Favourite Book Audio Programmes

toptentuesdayThis week’s Top Tuesday topic looks at the world of audio. We’ve moved a long way forward in delivering books and other materials in formats other than print or digital. Remember when if you wanted to listen to music or a book on audio you had just the one option of cassette tapes? They were light so easily portable but guaranteed to jam at the most inappropriate moment. To reduce this involved getting a pencil, sticking it into the one wheel while  and trying to unravel the crinkled tape while simultaneously holding the other  wheel stationery. jIt also includes podcasts. CDs have no such issues except they do skip and to listen to a whole book requires multiple changes of discs that are not that convenient to carry around in the gym or on a walk. Podcasts have been my saviour on many a long journey so here’s a  very short list of ones I listen to regularly or find useful resources.

  1. The Readers – a book based banter podcast with Simon and Thomas. Most of you already know this and follow it. It’s a good blend of recommendations on what’s about to be published or just published, general reading topics like how to find more time to read or what to take on your holidays plus you get insight in the reading habits of the two hosts. Plenty of good humoured banter and misunderstandings between the British and American way of life to keep you amused. Be warned though you are likely to end up with an even longer wish list after listening to their recommendations.
  2. Guardian podcast: A Good Read. This is a regular program where two guests and the host select a book that they they rate highly and argue why other people should read it. Each guest describe they book, why they enjoy it and then they have a discussion about its merits. It was through one of these episodes that I was encouraged to read Cannery Row by Steinbeck which I had somehow thought would be rather dreary but proved hilarious at times.
  3. Backlisted podcast: This is a relatively new find for me but I’m enjoying what I’ve heard so far. It’s issued every two weeks and is based on the idea that the simple two hosts choose an old book they think everyone should read. One of the hosts is Andy Miller who wrote The Year of Reading Dangerously in which he talks about how he re-ignited his passion for reading. Expect to hear a fair amount of blokish chit chat – the podcast seems to be recorded around a kitchen table where the hosts do a general catch up with their invited guest for the episode. In one of the first episodes I heard which was about The Riddle of the Sands, a good 30 minutes was taken up with discussions about gin and what each person in the room was reading (and why). When it gets into the meat of the broadcast though, which is the book in question, expect to hear some good quality insight. The podcast is available via SoundCloud or ITunes.
  4. ITunes: A wealth of material here including recordings of entire books. Librivox is one of the main contributors here – these are recorded by volunteers so the quality is extremely variable. I’ve had to give up on a few because I really didn’t like the narrator’s voice but that’s just my taste. My favourites have been some old time radio programs with Adventures of Inspector Maigret by George Simenon and Agatha Christie. It takes a bit of searching to get to them but the reward is worth it.
  5. ITunes University: many leading universities around the world make some of their lecture programmes available via ITunes – to find them go to ITunes and then select ITunes U. The quality can vary enormously – bear in mind that sometimes the lecture itself is recorded as it’s delivered in the lecture room so you may find you can’t pick up the discussion or questions from students. But that’s a minor inconvenience for the value of often feeling you are in the room at some of these prestigious academic centres. A few interesting ones I’ve come across that are good quality are
    1. Oxford University: George Eliot – an introduction to her major works and her intellectual interests.
    2. Open University: good introduction short podcasts on some of their modules. Explore Wordsworth or European Romanticism or creative writing.
    3. Cambridge University: Literary criticism key terms. A great resource for people who want to know what the ‘sublime’ or the ‘pastoral’ means in literature for example.
    4. My current listening is from La Trobe university in Australia which has two courses on children’s literature – one on genres looks at the history of picture books and fairy tales and another takes a post colonial approach. You’ll get used to the accent after a while.

As a bonus here (just to make it up to a list of 10!) is a non book audio program which is a must listen for me:  The Archers podcast. For those of you in the UK this will be a familiar program. But for non UK residents it will come as a bit of a surprise that this is a  5 day a week, 13 minute BBC radio soap opera set in a fictional farming community in the heart of England. Most of the characters are farmers or connected to the land in some way but we also have the village pub, the tea room, a stately home and a grand country hotel to give variety. It’s long evolved from its roots in the 1950s when it was created as a way to give farmers tips on how to increase production to help a country still dealing with food rationing. Today it’s billed as a “Contemporary drama in a rural setting’ which means yes you still get farming issues but there’s also adultery, teenage angst, crime,  road building and currently, the hottest topic of all, marital abuse.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on September 20, 2016, in Audiobooks, Memes, Podcasts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. I really recommend the Reading the End podcast, ‘by the demographically similar Jennys.’ Two friends talking about books and literature in general; it never fails to make me smile.


  2. Thank you. I am always looking for new podcasts. And I think this fits right in. I have to check some the ones you have listed.


  3. I have very poor attention levels on audio. I’ve tried getting into audio books and podcasts, but somehow I tend to drift off and lose track.


  4. Thank you! Some new ones to add to my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If you are into podcasts at the moment, have a listen to Serial 1 and 2, they are outstanding and addicted


  6. I like The Readers too! I listen from time to time. Some other great bookish podcasts are: The Bookrageous Podcast – even though they haven’t updated this year yet 😦 and Books My Job Gave Me with Brionna 🙂


  7. The Blacklisted podcast is one of my favourites, and I’m not just saying that because Andy was kind enough to speak to me about Jean Rhys! What I particularly like about it is the way they shine a light on an old book, often a lesser-known work that deserves to be read more widely. Raymond Chandler’s The High Window, for instance – not one of his most famous works, but a very interesting step in his development as a writer.


  8. There is also LibriVox for the classics. Free in numerous formats, read by volunteers.


  9. I’ve really enjoyed iTunes U and found a fantastic set of lectures on The American Novel Post-1945 from Yale – the instructor is called Amy Hungerford. The episodes on Wise Blood, Black Boy, Lolita and Blood Meridian are particularly great. I tried listening to Backlisted but it just drove me mad; the meandering was too much! And the hosts’ voices…well…were irritating. Superficial, I know.


  10. I like the sound of The Readers, nothing too serious :-). Great post!


  11. >


  12. Glad to meet a fellow Archers fan. I have just discovered the Podcast, mainly so I would not miss the trial week when away. Thank heavens for Eileen Atkins. Will try out Guardian books . Great post!


    • it was a brave choice to go for that storyline – a few times i found it a bit repetitive (how many more times can the mother say I should be with her). But what an even braver choice to totally move away from the cast everyone knows and introduce a secondary cast in the form of the jury. I know the stalwarts of the show don’t like some of the new developments but I think the scriptwriters are ace


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