I have become quite a fan of podcasts over the last year having thought they were complicated to locate, down-load and listen to.  Podcasts are currently experiencing a boom in listener numbers

So if you haven’t moved into the podcast world here are some simple tips:

What is a podcast?

A podcast is an episodic series of spoken word digital audio files all focused on a particular topic or theme, that a user can download to a personal device (mobile phone, ipad, lap-top) for easy listening.

How to listen to a podcast

The most convenient way to listen to a podcast is through your smartphone. All you need to do is download a podcast app.  I use Apple Podcasts from the Apple App store. Actually most iPhones now have this already downloaded.

For owners of Android phones you will have a podcasting app built in – Google Podcasts.

Both apps have a straightforward search facility. Podcasts are free. If you like the podcast you can hit the subscribe button and get all episodes automatically downloaded to your device.

Podcasts can be listened to via laptops, ipads and Alexa.  Listens through Alexa increased by 26% in March 2020 compared with February.

BBC Sounds is another source for BBC podcasts. You can download your favourite radio programme here e.g. Start the Week, Front Row, Saturday Live, Desert Island Discs.

Some good book-related podcasts for you to download:

Books and Authors

From Radio 4 this podcast combines Mariella Frostrup’s Open Book and Harriett  Gilbert’s A Good Read. There hasn’t been A Good Read, where Harriett discusses favourite books with two guests, since early April.  Mariella, who talks to authors about their work, continues to broadcast weekly. Last Sunday’s one included  a discussion about Dickens with Thomas Keneally.  A couple of weeks ago Mariella had Tayari Jones discussing her new novel Silver Sparrow. Tayari came to everyone’s attention last year with the publication of An American Marriage, a huge North American best-seller. I was surprised that none of our local book groups has read this.

World Book Club

My most recent discovery is World Book Club, a BBC World Service podcast. The world’s great authors discuss their best-known novel with Harriett Gilbert. This year it is focusing on women writers and has recently included Hilary Mantel discussing Bring up the Bodies, and Fatima Bhutto discussing The Shadow of the Crescent Moon and next Sunday (7th June) will feature Deborah Levy discussing Hot Milk.

You’re Booked

This is journalist Daisy Buchanan chatting to one author/personality a week, most recently Louise Doughty author of Apple Tree Yard,   comedian and writer Sara Pascoe (a huge reader) and Isabel Allende. This is described as the podcast for literary nosy parkers who would like the chance to snoop around their favourite author’s bookshelves.


‘Giving new life to old books’. This podcast is introduced by John Mitchinson, author and broadcaster, and author Andy Miller (The Year of Reading Dangerously) and features a range of guests who discuss books that were published some years ago. This has featured The Blessing by Nancy Mitford(1951), Frost in May by Antonia White (1933), Something Happened by Joseph Heller (1974),  and The World According to Garp by John Irving (1978).

The New Yorker: Fiction

I have been canvasing my book-reading friends and have been introduced to The New Yorker Fiction podcast.  This features short stories that have been published in the New Yorker, chosen and read by another author. For example Margaret Attwood reading Alice Munro and Orhan Pamuk reading Jorge Luis Borges.  This is a monthly podcast going back over the last 13 years.

A 5* review: “This podcast is a delight. Beautifully read short stories complemented by intelligent and informed discussion of their merits. I am feasting on the back catalogue whilst taking my daily hour-long Covid-19 enforced lockdown exercise on my static bike.  An introduction to so many great writers with a healthy dose of Updike, the genre’s master”.

A Stab in the Dark

One for crime fans: multi-award winning crime writer, Mark Billingham, presents an in-depth look at the very best super-sleuths from literature and TV.  This podcast was due to cross-over into a live event at Wilton’s Music Hall in early April. I had tickets but ….

Please post your podcast recommendations on our  Facebook BLS Book Group page. Email [email protected] to join the group.