Bookish Podcast Playlist

A Bookish Podcast Playlist for Your Next Roadtrip

Bookish Podcast Playlist

I know how it goes. Someone recommends a podcast and you go to listen but the most recent episode is something about shipping containers or wayward birds. Maybe it’s interesting, but maybe you really want to hear some of the best episodes first, especially if you’re new to podcasts. So, let’s do a playlist…something good enough for hours of listening (maybe even a roadtrip!) and can hit the “best of” some great bookish podcasts.


NPR’s Fresh Air

Terry Gross is my hero and if you’re not a regular Fresh Air listener, we need to change that. Nonfiction writers pop onto the show almost weekly, but fiction takes the stage every once in a while, too.

The Jacket Designer’s Challenge: To Capture a Book By Its Cover

Super, super fascinating talk with cover designer Peter Mendelsund on his process and his book What We See When We Read.

Maurice Sendak: On Life, Death and Children’s Lit

This is one of my favorite episodes of the show, but it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Seriously. Have about a dozen tissues ready, especially for the end.

How Gatsby Went From a Moldering Flop to a Great American Novel

Terry Gross talks with Maureen Corrigan about her book So We Read On, which focuses on how The Great Gatsby became the beloved book it is today.


Literary Disco

I think it’s well known that Literary Disco is my favorite bookish podcast. Though each episode is centered around the trio reading a book, that chat is usually just half of the run time and episodes can be safely listened to even if you haven’t read the title.

Episode 29: The Fault in Our Stars

This my favorite way to introduce new listeners to the podcast. You get a perfect tour of everyone’s personality and reading preferences along with a really smart discussion of YA literature and its purpose.

Episode 71: Dept. of Speculation

Before talking about Jenny Offill’s great book, Tod, Julia and Rider have a wonderful discussion about being a pretentious reader.

Episode 78: Nancy Drew

The episode starts with a fantastic discussion on whether or not we should feel shame for reading certain books before moving on to a hilarious jump back in time with the young detective.


Slate’s Audio Book Club

These are all super spoilery, so my best advice is to pick any episodes for books you’ve read. The conversations are always great and in-depth without being ridiculously esoteric. These are a few I’ve loved:

All the Light We Cannot See
The Goldfinch
The Interestings


What are some of your favorite podcast episodes?


  • NPR Fresh Air! And the Sendak episode? It killed me! Whenever I get into a funk I listen to a TED Radio episode or On Being. Any of them. Whatever is bothering me, I find an episode that deals with my concern and it’s like free therapy. Literally free! ;) Haven’t tried Slate yet.

  • I loved that Nancy Drew episode of Literary Disco! I used to read those all the time growing up and some of their adult observations were right on!

  • The literary disco podcast about Nancy Drew was HILARIOUS. I almost had to pull over I was laughing so hard. Mostly at the part where Rider was talking about reading it while on jury duty, and how he felt like a such a creep. I am SO going to check out the rest of these – this is just the best!

  • Noora

    I recently discovered Drunk Booksellers: The Podcast and so far they’ve only done one episode on the Independent Bookstore Day. It was very lovely to hear how the booksellers themselves pitched books to read!

  • Lindsey Stefan

    Oh Shannon, did you write this post for me?? :)

    I love listening to the BookRiot podcast but have been looking for some new ones, especially now that I’m commuting to work again!

  • I’ve been longing for some new bookish podcasts, so this is perfect! Any other recommendations? Bookish or otherwise.

    • I really like Books on the Nightstand, The Readers, and Lit Up when it comes to bookish podcasts. Most of Slate’s podcasts are great (Culture Gabfest, XX) and the Dear Sugar podcast is wonderful as well.

  • Oh, these are so great, Shannon! I do listen to Fresh Air (pretty much every episode), but I’ve not heard of these others. I enjoy listening to podcasts during my long runs (music has a tendency to dictate my pace and I have to be careful about that) and, until something like Serial begins again, I’ve been in a slump. I will definitely check these out; great post!

    • I hope you find one that works for you! Some of these are only every few weeks, so definitely not as often as Fresh Air, but podcasts like Books on the Nightstand are great and more frequent.

  • **applause** Yay Podcasts!!!

  • I hate to admit it, but the few times I’ve listened to Fresh Air, I was kind of bored? Like it was too high-brow for my taste. But maybe I’ll try the episodes you recommended! And I have to try the Slate Audio Book Club!

    I think the Fault in our Stars episode of Literary Disco is my favorite, too. Because Ryder’s rants are my favorite thing, and this ep is PEAK Ryder.

    • My heart, it’s breaking.

      It can definitely depend on the topic/segments, but Terry Gross is so fabulous. I say give some of Shannon’s picks a shot and see if that changes your mind. :)

    • I think Fresh Air can definitely depend on which episode you stumble on…if you turn it on something that doesn’t interest you, I can totally see how it would be boring. I skip maybe a quarter of them when I see what they are on my podcast app because of that. But yeah, check out one on a topic that’s in your wheelhouse (even if it’s not books)…Terry Gross is an amazing interviewer and makes me interested in things I never thought I would be.

  • I’m so bad at podcasts. I want so badly to be the type of person who listens to them (I went through a phase in college), but I always end up forgetting they exist. I’ll have to try out some of these episodes and see if they can jolt me back into a podcasting phase.

    • Having a podcast app on my phone that downloads my faves automatically has been a gift from the gods. Stitcher is a great free app, but I’ve moved on to PocketCasts because I have to pay for my habit now ;)

      • How ridiculous is it that I actually *did* spend money on a podcast app (BeyondPod) and then promptly abandoned it? I’m impossible.

  • I really should listen to podcasts more…maybe this will inspire me. Emma

  • Ooh, I like having bookish episodes of Fresh Air picked out for me. On my iPod it doesn’t tell me what the episode is going to be about and I like to pick and choose because I don’t have that much listening time. Literary Disco sounds fun too. I like Nancy Pearl’s monthly “Book Lust” interview series on the Seattle Channel — she has a wide mix of authors and other literary folk. Lizzie Skurnick is the latest, but back in the archives there are Rachel Hartman, Jeffrey Eugenides, Edmund de Waal, G. Willow Wilson, and many more.

    • I’m not sure if you use iTunes or another app, but in dedicated podcast apps (like Stitcher, Downcasts, PocketCasts) you are usually able to see what the episode is (you can also go back and download all the old episodes, too!).

      • I should try those. I’ve just been using iTunes and with some shows I can see what the episode is about, but not with Fresh Air.

  • Mm, special selections from Shannon! Thank you madam! I will note these down for the next time I have to take a trip.

  • Thank you so much for these suggestions! Book Riot is pretty much the only bookish podcast that I listen to regularly, so now I have several more to check out.

  • AnnabelSmith

    Excellent! I’m about to head overseas and have been looking for some new bookish podcasts so thank you.

  • You changed your look! Again! As usual, it looks beautiful.

  • Amy Sachs

    I’ve tried so many other book podcasts but nothing hooks me in the way Literary Disco did! I just love the three of them together, and the tangents they go on are SO FUNNY.

  • ThomasHogglestock

    On the topic of podcasts, you may be interested to know that Books on the Nightstand and The Readers are going to be joining forces to record two episodes live in front of the Booktopia audience in September.

  • You picked the best Literary Disco episodes 100%. It’s so good. I love podcasts with hosts that are casual and not super afraid to say what they like and don’t like because they’re afraid of alienating people or whatever. The Readers podcast is also really good for that funny casual not giving a fuck-ness.

    • SO agree…I love that they’re not afraid to say that some people maybe should be a little ashamed of what they read in the one episode. And totally love The Readers, too!

  • agentmule

    KCRW’s Bookworm is great, if you like SciFi Luke Burrage’s Science Fiction Book Review Podcast is bananas, BookFight can be good though also drift far from book/story, Inside NY Times Book Review, LA Times Review of Books, Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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  • I’ve recently discovered podcasts with Welcome to Nightvale, so I might try these out. Thanks for the episode recommendations! It’s always nice to have a place to start with a new series :)

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