8 Great Literary, Book Nerd, and Storytelling Podcasts

I am a huge fan of the podcast medium. I listen while I clean, while I walk, while I cook, while I dress after my shower. I do not subscribe to print periodicals that run book reviews, I am not a librarian, and I no longer work in a book store, but I am a reader who is interested in what’s going on in the book world, in reading culture, and who loves a well-told story. With limited time to consume print media, but with ample time to listen, I have become an avid fan of podcasts, and my hungry mind devours the bookish and storytelling podcasts below. These shows provide the literary fix I need as a word nerd. I plan special walks or add extra chores to my list when any of these drop new episodes. I hope you enjoy them, too.

The New Yorker Fiction Podcast icon on iTunesThe New Yorker Fiction Podcast: Hosted by New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, this podcast highlights the best of the best of the short story. Each month an esteemed writer chooses a story from the archives of The New Yorker, reads it aloud, and then discusses it with editor Deborah Triesman. Many of the stories are classics, like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and the discussions are every book-lover’s book-club dream: Triesman and the reading-writer discuss what makes it a good story, they discuss craftsmanship, they attempt to tease out meaning, and – most importantly for any listeners who might one day hope to be published in The New Yorker – the discussions provide insight into the personality and inclinations of a high-quality fiction editor. My favorite episodes include David Sedaris reading Miranda July, Tessa Hadley reading Nadine Gordimer,  and Karen Russell reading Carson McCullers. Follow New Yorker Fiction on Twitter @NYerFiction.

book riot podcast iconBook Riot Podcast: Described in their intro as “A weekly news and talk show about what’s new, cool, and worth talking about in the world of books and reading,” this, along with The New Yorker Fiction Podcast, is my favorite podcast. Hosts Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Schinsky are the editors of Book Riot, and I like hanging out with them: they’re smart and they make me laugh. On the podcast, they don’t just talk about new releases or prize winners or good books that will make your to-be-read pile even more overwhelming (though that does happen), they cover news that is of interest to readers: new technology in the reading world, the latest research on how reading affects human behavior, notes from backstage in the publishing world, and encouragement for diversifying our reading lives to include authors and characters who don’t look like us. If you like books and you’re fun and you’re looking for a podcast that isn’t simply reviews or more talk about the latest NYT bestsellers, start with Book Riot. Follow Book Riot on Twitter at @BookRiot.

The Moth icon from iTunesThe Moth: True Stories Told Live The Moth is true stories told live on a stage, and the first time I listened, I was so inspired I paused the episode, leaned on my mop, and recorded a 15 minute story of my own onto my phone’s voice recorder. Since I first began listening I’ve heard Moth stories featured elsewhere, most notably on NPR’s This American Life and as inspiration for a Radiolab story about a man who forgave his daughter’s murderer via letters sent to and from the killer in jail. Moth stories are quality live storytelling, without notes. Most stories include comedic elements but they are all powerful (and true) narratives, often told by renowned storytellers or comedians, and sometimes told by regular people. I eagerly await every new episode. My favorite recent stories are Simon Noonan’s Every Expense Was Spared and Elise Hunter’s story about dumpster diving.  Follow The Moth on Twitter at @TheMoth.

Selected Shorts from PRI iconSelected Shorts: Let Us Tell You a Story I only recently found this storytelling podcast, and I am already in love with it. Kind of a mashup between The Moth and The New Yorker Fiction podcast, Selected Shorts are performed live as on The Moth. Unlike The Moth, though, where the storyteller tells his or her own true story, Selected Shorts are actors and performers reading others’ short fiction, as on The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. There is no discussion of the work as there is with The New Yorker, but each episode contains several quality works. The one I listened to today, Romantic Disasters, had a wonderful story from Miranda July (I seem to be a Miranda July fan) read by Parker Posey, in which the main character coaches an octogenarian swim team – without a body of water to instruct in. Follow Selected Shorts on Twitter @SelectedShorts.

Books on the Nightstand iconBooks on the Nightstand: Hosts Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, who seem to have read everything and who also work in the publishing industry, give book recommendations and talk about the behind-the-scenes world of the book industry. They are friendly, funny, knowledgeable, and approachable, and I’ve read several of their recommendations, including A Compendium of Collective Nouns which Kindness talked about in Episode 251: Books, Words, and Punctuation. I have not been disappointed by any of their suggestions. Plus Ann loves Pat Conroy, and The Prince of Tides is one of my favorite books of all time, so that gives her a special place in my heart. Follow Books on the Nightstand on Twitter at @BksOnNightstand.

Bookrageous podcast iconBookrageous: a podcast about books and why they’re awesome: Bookrageous is like sitting around with friends and talking books. When I listen to this one, I often find myself opening my mouth to chime in, then realizing Josh, Jenn, and Rebecca are not sitting on my bathroom counter. They can’t hear me. It’s just my phone. But its fun to pretend. Follow Bookrageous on Twitter at @bookrageous.


The Readers Book Based Banter podcastThe Readers: This podcast’s tagline is “Book Based Banter,” which captures its charm brilliantly: the hosts are an Englishman and an American, and their exchanges tickle me. Every time Simon chuckles, which is often, I smile. I particularly loved episode 85: Your Country in Ten (or Eleven) books, in which they each selected ten books from their home country in an effort to showcase the culture and sense of place of the US and UK. My TBR list grew by 15 books that day. Follow The Readers on Twitter at @BookBasedBanter.

Dear Book Nerd podcast iconDear Book Nerd: Hosted by librarian Rita Meade, Dear Book Nerd is a podcast that grew out of Meade’s “Dear Book Nerd” advice column on Book Riot in which she answers questions like “What’s the Best Pickup Line to use on a Librarian?” The podcast is relatively new – 7 episodes as of this writing – and she has tackled questions ranging from how to not feel defensive about not reading literary fiction to the risky business of lending books. You can follow Rita Meade on Twitter @ScrewyDecimal.

Authors of Color From Each US State – A Photo Gallery

I am looking for titles set in each US state by authors from that state. Can you help fill the gaps or notify me of egregious omissions? Scroll down for details on the project. Thank you!

One of the most challenging aspects of my Andrea Reads America project has been finding works of fiction set in each state written by non-Caucasian authors who are either from the state or have lived there as a resident. When I wrote about this difficulty in a previous post, Where are the ethnic authors?, several readers asked that I compile a list of the titles I have so far so that they could help fill in the gaps. (Thank you @LissGrunert and The Afro-Librarians for the suggestion. I’m holding you to your offer now.)

As of this posting date, March 12, 2014, I have found non-Caucasian authors from 38 states and the District of Columbia. I lack titles for the remaining 11:







New Hampshire

South Carolina


West Virginia


If you have favorite titles that meet the following criteria, please leave me a note in the comments below (or via Twitter at @andreabadgley) and I will add them to the list. If you know a title set in a specific state but do not know where the writer is from, don’t worry: please give me your titles anyway and I’ll research the author’s background. All genres are welcome:

  • Non-Caucasian author (African-American, Asian American, Latino, Native American, Indian American, etc.)
  • Narrative set in a specific US state
  • Author born in or has lived in the state in which the title is set OR author writes about personal ancestors in the state

Thank you so much for your help, and here we go!


Train Whistle Guitar by Albert Murray

(completed: please see Andrea Reads America: Alabama for writeup)


Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival by Velma Wallis

(completed: please see Andrea Reads America: Alaska for writeup)


Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko

La Maravilla by Alfredo Véa, Jr.

(completed: please see Andrea Reads America: Arizona for writeup)


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Janis F. Kearney

Ark of Bones and Other Stories by Henry Dumas

(completed. Please see Andrea Reads America: Arkansas for writeup)


The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Lê Thi Diem Thúy

The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

(completed. Please see Andrea Reads America: California for writeup)


The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz by Manuel Ramos (added March 23, 2014)


The Narrows: A Novel by Ann Petry


I’m On My Way But Your Foot is On My Head by Bertice Berry

District of Columbia

Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


The Color Purple by Alice Walker


Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport

House of Thieves by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers by Lois-Ann Yamanaka


The Jailing of Cecelia Capture by Janet Campbell Hale


Native Son by Richard Wright

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks


(no authors of color yet)


Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee


Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes


Blackberries, Blackberries by Crystal Wilkinson

Water Street by Crystal Wilkinson

Blacks in Appalachia, edited by William H. Turner (KY) and Edward Cabbell (WV)


Cane River by Lalita Tademy


(no authors of color yet)


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass


The Living is Easy by Dorothy West

The Wedding by Dorothy West


The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcom X and Alex Haley

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson


The Birchbark House by Louse Erdrich


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Black Boy by Richard Wright


(no authors of color yet)


Winter in the Blood by James Welch


(no authors of color yet)


(no authors of color yet)

New Hampshire

(no authors of color yet)

New Jersey

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

New Mexico

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

New York

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

Passing by Nella Larsen

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

North Carolina

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacob

North Dakota

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich


Beloved by Toni Morrison


Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan


The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson


Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asante

Rhode Island

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

South Carolina

(no authors of color yet)

South Dakota

From the Deep Woods to Civilization by Charles Eastman


Roots by Alex Haley


The Border is Burning by Ito Romo

Caballero by Jovita Gonzalez


(no authors of color yet)


See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid


The Known World by Edward P. Jones


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

West Virginia

(no authors of color yet)


Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr


(no authors of color yet)

Please pass this list around to any readers you know so we can fill it in and provide a resource for folks who’d like to diversify their reading. Thank you!

This was originally published January 13, 2014 on Andrea Badgley’s Butterfly Mind.

Resources for taking a geography-based literary tour of the US

I am devouring the final pages of my third Alaska novel and will soon be moving south to Arizona, which means I am spending a lot of time on the couch, cup of coffee by my side, feet propped on the table and laptop on my lap, browsing bookish websites. Sleuthing titles from each state has already become one of my favorite pastimes. I love sorting through book lists, reading synopses, receiving recommendations, organizing titles and authors, getting that tingly “Oooh, I have to read that one!” feeling, and most importantly, lining up my book queue so that I always know what I’m going to read next.

I’ve only selected books for three states so far (Alabama, Alaska, and Arizona) because I’m winging this as I go. My process has been to assemble the next state’s book list when I begin reading the final pick of my current state. I start with a call for recommendations from you and from Twitter. I enter your recommendations into my spreadsheet (yes, a spreadsheet of book titles. How geeky can you get, right? I know you want to see it though. I’ll give you a taste in a minute.) and then start running through my list of geographic-reading resources:

1. LitMap Project

Screnshot of LitMap Project North America map on andreareadsamerica.com
Screnshot of LitMap Project North America map

I heard about LitMap on one of the early episodes of the BookRiot podcast and put it in my pocket for my reading road trip. Though the screenshot above only shows North America, on the LitMap Project website you can search locations all over the world. And even better? You can submit titles too. So if you know books set in specific states, please submit titles. I think this is a really cool idea and would love to see it get lots of action. Navigating the map took a little getting used to at first, but I think that might have more to do with my mouse than the website.  I have registered and will be litmapping all of my reads for this project. (And I just saw that I am in the Litmappers Hall of Fame! Awesome.)

2. Business Insider’s map of the Most Famous Books Set in Every State

Most Famous Book Set in Every State from Business Insider on andreareadsamerica.com
Most Famous Book Set in Every State (credit: Business Insider)

I wrote about this map in my introductory post about the project, It’s official: I am reading America, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about it here. I won’t necessarily be reading all the books from this map, but it gives me a good jumping off point and reminds me not just of titles I love, but titles that have long been on my TBR list and I will now get to thanks to this project.

3. Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Maps

After reading the Science paper linking literary fiction and empathy, I decided I want to read literary award winners set in various states around the US. When I began my reading project I couldn’t find maps of Pulitzer and National Book Award winners based on setting. So I made them. I wrote down every title from the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction list, plus the finalists, read synopses of all the works, and marked the titles that were set in a particular state. I did the same with the National Book Award list. Now these maps serve as a quick reference when I research a new state.

Map of Pulitzer winners and finalists set in each US state on andreareadsamerica.wordpress.com
Pulitzer Prize fiction winners and finalists set in specific US states
Map of National Book Award Fiction Winners set in each US state on andreareadsamerica.wordpress.com
National Book Award fiction winners set in specific US states

4. TripFiction

TripFiction: see a location through an author’s eyes is a website where you can search by location to find books set in a particular area. The site includes reviews for each book and offers opportunities for readers (that’s you!) to submit titles and reviews.

5. USA Literary Map

Hand-lettered literary map of USA available at The Literary Gift Company
photo source: The Literary Gift Company

I adore this hand-lettered literary map designed by Geoff Sawers and Bridget Hannigan, and when I’m stuck, I often refer to it for author names. The map is available at The Literary Gift Company, along with close-up shots of regions of the US that are difficult to see on the full map.

6. Authors of color from each US state

Reading diversely – reading the perspectives of men, women, white authors, black authors, Native American authors, Hispanic authors – is a major component of my Andrea Reads America project. Finding authors of color who hail from each state and who set their work in that state has proven challenging. I sent out a plea – Authors of color from each US state: will you help me fill in the gaps? – and was thrilled by the response from readers. The result is a photo gallery of authors from each state, titles they set in their home state, and a state-by-state list of those titles. If you are looking to diversify your reading life, this is a great place to start.

7. The Readers podcast

On The Readers episode 85, recorded in October 2013, hosts Simon (UK) and Thomas (USA) each chose and described 10 (or 11) books that represented the different regions of their respective countries. I had already started my US tour in Alabama, and I think I may have squealed when I heard the show’s topic.  I scribbled down most of the titles Thomas suggested for various regions of our country. It’s a great list by a thoughtful reader, and Simon has me wanting to take a British tour as well.  Maybe when my current project is done, I’ll hop across the pond.

8. Goodreads

Thank heavens for Goodreads lists, and for reviewers who tag books based on geographic setting. I found many of my Alaska titles on the Goodreads Best Books on Alaska list. I’m still learning how to navigate Goodreads (e.g. I don’t know how to tag books), but I have a feeling I’ll be an expert by the time this is all over.

9. Google search

After I’ve gone through steps 1 through 8, I run a basic google search. For Alabama, I searched “books set in Alabama by Alabama authors” and found this great list, 10 favorite novels by Alabama authors set in Alabama. For Arizona, I found an exhaustive list, Reading Arizona: The Literary Landscape, which even includes the specific region in Arizona the book is set in.

The Spreadsheet

It did not take long before I realized I had some serious data management issues when all I was doing was scribbling notes in my yellow composition book. When recommendations started pouring in as comments on blog posts, I decided to set up a spreadsheet to organize titles. As I run through the resources above, and when you all are so kind as to give me recommendations, I enter the information in my spreadsheet:

Andrea Reads America: screenshot of title and author spreadsheet, organized by state on andreareadsamerica.com
Andrea Reads America: screenshot of title and author spreadsheet, organized by state

Since part of my project is to read men, women, and non-Caucasian authors, I often have to dig deep to find a minority author to flesh out my list (although in Arizona I’ve got several Native American authors to choose from – very exciting). I mark the titles I am most excited to explore based on recommendations, book blurbs, and literary awards, then go through my short list to make sure all three authorships are represented. Twice my short list was comprised of three women (an exciting problem), and so I went back in and adjusted til my list of three was well rounded.

Then? I read.

Reading: good times.