A week or so ago I published a news brief on the demise of The Washington Post 's Book World podcast. It was a podcast I had been listening to religiously almost from the day I got my first iPod. The books and literature section of the iTunes podcast directory was the first set of pages I visited, and what I found there was a veritable cornucopia of delight for any book lover with ear pods. This was before I even had a chance to get a look at the audio books pages. I began subscribing to everything that was there: The Guardian Books Podcast, Authors on Tour — Live, The Classic Tales Podcast , and on, and on.
Some of them I unceremoniously dumped after a few weeks. Book Lust With Nancy Pearl never quite delivered the titillation its title promised. KCRW's Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt, was much too impressed with his own voice that more often than not his questions seemed to go on longer than the poor authors' answers. Podcasts from Yale University were aimed at scholars with different priorities.
Some of them I kept around a little longer, the BBC's Book Reviews With Simon Mayo, for example — and this despite the facts that for some reason he regularly had his panel of reviewers take the time to describe in detail the book jackets under discussion but even more importantly that they hardly ever found anything to dislike in any of the books they were talking about. Some like Book World disappeared of their own accord. The CBC's Talking Books, a feisty irreverent review show, unfortunately called it quits after eleven years.
There were, thankfully, always replacements waiting on the bench to take their place. The serialized novel reading podcast Between the Covers, replaced when it seemed obvious we were getting abridgments, was succeeded by Magdalena Ball's Compulsive Reader by way of Australia, courtesy of Blog Talk Radio. The overly erudite Harvard Press: Author Off The Page gave way to the BBC's World Book Club.
Now as I take the time to search for a replacement for the late lamented Book World, I count nineteen separate podcasts devoted to books and literature. This includes readings of poetry, short stories and novels, author interviews, book club discussions, and reviewers. It doesn't include theatrical podcasts, although to omit Shakespeare from the category of literature seems something of blunder, to say the least. It doesn't include podcasts that regularly feature authors and literary reviews in their more eclectic formats — podcasts of shows like NPR's Fresh Air, despite the fact that often when a new book comes out, its author becomes ubiquitous. When Richard Price was on the road touting Lush Life, it was almost impossible to escape him. Recently, it's been Michael Chabon and Paul Rudnik making the rounds for their newly published essays. Repetition is one price of addiction.