A year ago, I surveyed my media habits after six months of pandemic living. I looked at bookish blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts. My podcast consumption had suffered the most, since I didn’t drive anywhere. I was also feeling too burned out and disconnected to keep up – imagine, we weren’t even in the second wave yet! Now, from deep in the fourth wave, it’s time to take stock.
Lately I find myself drawn to podcasts. They lend themselves to projects, conversation, and retrospectives, rather than roundups and book hauls, and the tone tends to be more soothing than your average YouTube video. My only frustration with podcasts is that, unlike blogs and YouTube, there’s no comment section.
But that’s the whole point of a blog, right? Spouting off unqualified opinions? Who needs a comment section!
A new bookish podcast launched this month, and it seems tailor made for me. Mr. Difficult is a podcast devoted to Jonathan Franzen, both his works and his public persona. The “project” is reading and discussing Franzen’s novels in order of publication, culminating in Crossroads.
The hosts, writers Erin Somers and Alex Shephard, plus producer Eric Jett, are not fully fledged Franzen stans. In the first episode, they acknowledge that he is difficult to love, and easy to dunk on. Alex says he’s “attracted and repelled” by him, and Erin says she’s somewhere between a lover and hater. Personally, I find his dunkability endearing, but that’s just me…Continue reading
The biggest hit to my media consumption, bigger than blogs or ‘tube, has to be podcasts. I never had a long commute, only about 45 minutes or so in the car most weekdays, but I also used to drive to yoga classes, offsite meetings, and other archaic activites. Now? Well, I filled my tank (in a panic) on March 13 and didn’t get anywhere near empty till August…Continue reading
A feature in which I tell you about my book-related media consumption in a conspicuous manner.
I’ve been driving for about seven years now, and I’ve wasted so much time listening to the radio.
It took me more than five years to realize I could borrow audio books from the library. That was great and all, but I’m trying to cut back on reading this year, so rather than go back to terrible radio commercials, I finally figured out podcasts.
If you are thinking “what is there to figure out?” please remember I am old and that those audio books I listened to were on CD. Anyway, here’s what I needed:
- Android app: Pocket Casts
- Speaker (Not affiliate, just a tip so you don’t have to go through two duds like I did)
- Some good podcasts. See below.
The must listens
Overdue: I love this concept: each week, one of the hosts reads a book that “you should have read by now” and explains it to the other. These guys are funny and take the books just seriously enough, which is to say, not terribly. I enjoy the episodes about books I’ve read more than those about books I haven’t, but, you can definitely still enjoy an episode without reading the book. That’s kind of the point.
Try this episode: Peter Pan
Writereads: Yes, I am a frequent guest host, but hear me out! CanLit is woefully under served in the literary podcast world, and Writeread’s monthly themes ensure there’s something for everybody. Writereads is a book club, so you really should read the book before listening to the podcast, but when I haven’t, I just listen to the first portion in which Kirt and Tania talk about their current reads and CanLit happenings.
Can’t Lit: Besides having the best name, Can’t Lit fills in a very specific niche by interviewing Canadian writers with a heavy focus on poets. No stuffy pretentiousness here, the interviews are offbeat and funny. No need to do the reading, though you’ll probably want to read all the author’s stuff afterward.
Try this episode: Michael Christie
Backlisted: British writers John Mitchinson and Andy Miller (also an excellent Twitter-er at @) resurrect a forgotten backlist title every two weeks and it doesn’t matter if you’ve never read it, or heard of the author, or even intend to read it, the discussion is fascinating. I do hope to read one of the backlisted titles one day, and might start with this one:
Try this episode: Good Morning Midnight
Hidden Histories: This six-episode series is over, but it’s worth going back and listening. The topic at hand is “the great forgetting” of British female authors prior to Austen. I’d heard of Frances Burney and Mary Wollstonecraft, but I learned about Aphra Behn and Hester Thrale and many more. And the episodes are blessedly short.
Try this episode: Bluestocking culture: how did women become writers?
- Reading Envy: A recent episode features “book speed dating,” in which the host reads the first 50 pages of a bunch of books and decides which ones to continue and which to get rid of. Brilliant!
- Lit Up: Interviews with totally important authors, like Nell Zink.
- No Resemblance: This podcast hasn’t even put out an episode yet, but check out the intro: writers submit short stories, which will be read by the host. This one’s local and I’m excited to see what kind of stuff comes in.
So, do you like stuff? Specifically podcasts? Tell me which ones!
If you didn’t get your fill of book battles from Canada Reads or the Tournament of Books, here’s one where you can have your say: help me choose which book to feature on Write Reads podcast in May! Yes, I’m guest hosting again. Check me out talking about Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music last year.
It’s new release month, so the contenders are both Canadian novels released in 2015 and they’re both new authors to me: Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis or If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie.
If you’re not sure, let’s take a closer look at the contenders:
— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
— I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
If I Fall, If I Die:
Will has never been to the outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their little world comprises only the rooms in their home, each named for various exotic locales and filled with Will’s art projects. Soon the confines of his world close in on Will. Despite his mother’s protestations, Will ventures outside clad in a protective helmet and braces himself for danger. He eventually meets and befriends Jonah, a quiet boy who introduces Will to skateboarding. Will welcomes his new world with enthusiasm, his fears fading and his body hardening with each new bump, scrape, and fall. But life quickly gets complicated. When a local boy goes missing, Will and Jonah want to uncover what happened. They embark on an extraordinary adventure that pulls Will far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers.
Fifteen Dogs: Montreal Gazette, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly – all the big players. But new media is in on it too; my fav Book Rioter Amanda Nelson wants to read it “pretty hard.”
If I Fall, If I Die: Impressive list of authors: Karen Russell, Philipp Meyer, David Gilbert, Patrick deWitt. Lots of skateboarding analogies: “This is a bruiser of a tale, one you will feel in your shins and your solar plexus.”
Publisher’s bio: André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His other previous books include Asylum, Beauty and Sadness, Ingrid & the Wolf and, most recently, Pastoral, which was also nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was named a Globe and Mail Top 100 book of 2014.
Publisher’s bio: Michael Christie‘s debut book of fiction, The Beggar’s Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. Prior to earning an MFA from the University of British Columbia, he was a sponsored skateboarder and travelled throughout the world skateboarding and writing for skateboard magazines. Born in Thunder Bay, he now lives on Galiano Island with his wife and two sons. If I Fall, If I Die is his first novel.
(NB: Christie writes about parenting, too. Also he is devastatingly handsome. #AuthorCrushAlert)
Fifteen Dogs: 4.61 rating on Goodreads, but only 18 ratings, as this book isn’t out till April 14. Naomi at Consumed by Ink says, “Fifteen Dogs is the most creative and unique book I have read in a long time. It was funny, smart, inventive, moving, thought-provoking, and I didn’t want to put it down.”
If I Fall, If I Die: 3.40 rating on Goodreads, with a decent 600 ratings. Karen of One More Page says, “If I Fall, If I Die has layers upon layers to be dissected, analyzed, and loved. It was a pleasure to read a book that was able to capture so many voices so accurately with such beautiful prose and emotion. This is a book you won’t want to miss in 2015.”
Confused yet? Make your choice by next Tuesday and hear me, Tania and Kirtles break it down for you next month. May the best book win!
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6. Write Reads Podcast
And bookish podcasts in general. It’s super embarrassing that I forgot to include Write Reads, not only because I know co-creator Tania in real life, but because I am appearing on the podcast in May!
The concept is pretty simple: Kurt and Tania choose a Canadian book each month according to a schedule and discuss. I love that their blog lists all the other books mentioned in each podcast, though it’s dangerous for an already overflowing TBR. And I love that they talk about books and authors I’ve never heard of. I mean, I consider myself fairly well read and current, but it’s like there’s this whole other world of CanLit out there that only they can give me access to.
Listeners can and do get involved in book selection, so there is an interactive element. And they write plenty of discussion posts in between podcasts, like this one about a disturbing trend of Canadian writers declining to set their books in Canada.
Here’s their latest podcast, about Nicole Lundrigan’s The Widow Tree. The March pick is Blood by Laurence Hill, which has been sitting on my shelf since October. I suggested that we read Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music in April and you can hear me babble about it sometime in May.
Wondering how I know Tania? Here’s a picture of us from about six years ago:
We will probably be more casually dressed when we record the Frog Music podcast, but you never know.
Anything else I forgot? Do you listen to any literary podcasts? Should I post more of my belly dance pictures?