Sunday, April 26, 2015

Some Thoughts About Book Blogging and Book Podcasts

So being new to talking about books in a more formal setting and actually writing my thoughts down, I figure it will take a while to sound very intelligent so I am trying to write regularly on the blog but at the same time trying to take a bit more time to write my reviews. I just finished reading Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healy, which was brilliant and a must read for those who were drawn into the mystery of this year's hit The Girl on the Train. I'll get a full review up by the end of the week to give everyone a better flavour.

In the mean time I want to talk about Podcasts! I often get asked where I hear about books and I have many answers. I check out a few bloggers and listen to the occasional radio show (CBC's The Next Chapter is great!) but in the last four months I have taken to listening to book podcasts (which is when I think I crossed into the realm of obsessive), which are great places to hear intelligent discussions about books and also to hear the buzz about things coming out. So for those who are interested, I wanted to give my take on the Podcasts I have been listening to.

My favourite, and probably the one that has been around the longest and most influential, is Books on the Nightstand,  which is hosted by Anne Kingman and Michael Kindness, both of whom work for Random House but do this podcast as a personal project. This podcast is great for many reasons. One is the likability of the hosts, who come off not as bookish snobs but just people who love reading and managed to get the best jobs possible to satisfy this love. Another great thing about it is that they have very different tastes. Kingman is more into deep, emotional literary journeys, while Kindness has a greater interest in science fiction, graphic novels and quirky fiction. You get a nice range of book recommendations because of their distinct tastes. Anyways, each week they talk in depth about a particular reading issue, be it "why we read dark" or "fiction books within works of fiction", and while the structure is very loose and sometimes rambling, they manage to keep it quite engaging. 

The next podcast I started listening to was The Readers, which I frankly found difficult to get into at first. It is much less structured. While Books on the Nightstand follows a format of introduction - audiobook of the week - weekly topic - book recommendations, The Readers is just an hour long conversation between the two hosts. What was a draw is that the two hosts, Thomas Otto and Simon Savidge, are not book professionals per se (although Savidge has scored more book oriented gigs recently) but just pure book lovers who go through very smart, intense, sometimes testy discussions about novels they have loved, hated, or had neither here nor there feelings about. They also bring quite different perspectives to the show (with the American Otto being more adverse to newer stuff) and the British Savidge being up to date with the newest thing. Each show has a new theme (this week's was "how many chances do you give an author before giving up on them") and they are just a joy to listen to. You also get some more negative feelings expressed by the hosts than Books on the Nightstand, and although I don't always agree with their take it is nice to hear some bluntness about their feelings.

Another one that took me a while to get into was the weekly Book Riot. The Book Riot website has been around for several years and the hosts all seem to be professionally employed by it. And before talking about the podcast I have to say that the website is amazing. There are daily links to fun book stories, ebook deals of the day, and regular reviews about up coming novels. The show is definitely more than just reading though, with hosts that are much more attuned and interested in happenings in the publishing industry and this is a large part of the show's discussion. The hosts are all amazing book lovers and they offer strong recommendations, but it definitely has a different tone. One politically nice thing about the show is that they are very conscious of how publishing is so male dominated and they go out of their way to promote women and writers of colour. This has definitely made me think more about my own reading habits, and I have tried to increase my consumption of female writers in recent months as a result of some of the discussions on the show. One thing I find annoying is that peppered throughout the show are the sponsorship segments, where one host reads off the blurb about sponsor X or sponsor Y. I am less bothered by the sponsorship (because in the world of podcasting it's hard to support your shows otherwise) but Books on the Nightstand does it a bit better by only using the opening moments of the show to do their bit.

Lastly (but not last really) is one I more recently discovered called So Many Damn Books, hosted by two young reading enthusiasts who again just love reading. they have a particular fascination with the Tournament of Books, which is great. They get a regular stream of authors and critics to appear on the show and the discussion is a little less insider and a little more fandom but that is a nice break from the other shows. They also have some great theme shows (like one on Stephen King) which was great.

Anyways, there are a few others worth mentioning that I won't go into detail like The Bookrageous Podcast and Adventures with Words. I'd go check them out and see which you like best but hopefully I have given you some direction. 

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