Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Review Podcasts

I have been listening to several book review podcasts for a couple of months now. Each week I connect my iPod to my computer on Saturday, and iTunes loads episodes of The Washington Post Book World (Friday), The New York Times Book Review (Friday), and NPR Books (Thursday). I then usually listen to them while I cook one of the weekend meals. As I prepare dinner, I keep a pencil and pad nearby to jot down titles and authors. I later check whether my library owns the books and place reserves for the titles that interest me.

My favorite of the three programs is The Washington Post Book World with Rachel Hartigan Shea, which usually begins with some book news, is followed by two author interviews and a poetry reading, and then ends with a litany of author events in the D.C. area for the coming week. This week the news included a brief recap of the Amazon sales rankings controversy and quick announcements of literary prizes. The first interview featured Warren St. John discussing his new book Outcasts United, an investigative report about a soccer team composed of foreign refugees living outside Atlanta, Georgia. St. John recounts how the players and their coach came to be living in the American South after fleeing their homelands. The second author interviewed was with Barbara Moran, who wrote the forthcoming book The Day We Lost the H-Bomb. She described a mid-air collision between a B2 bomber and a fueling tanker in 1966 that resulted in the U. S. Air Force losing a hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Spain. The entire program was about twenty-six minutes.

The weekly podcasts with Sam Tanenhaus for The New York Times Book Review also feature two author interviews along with book news and a report on the weekend's NYT bestseller lists. With only fifteen minutes and more emphasis on the other features, the interviews are briefer than those in The Washington Post Book World. This week's NYTBR report on Amazon's troubles was more detailed than that in the WPBW. Tanenhaus draws reports from several of his paper's editors each week. The program is a pleasant companion while I chop vegetables and stir the soup.

NPR Books varies greatly from week to week. Unlike NPR Science, this podcast has no hosts introducing the stories and reviews. This week the podcast had three stories, including an interview with Romi Lassally of True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real, each taken from All Things Considered or other NPR broadcast programs. The podcast lasted about fourteen minutes. Some weeks the podcast lasts nearly thirty minutes. Any type of book may be featured. NPR is more likely to have an obscure book than WPBW or NYTBR.

All of the podcasts refer listeners back to their websites for more information on books and publishing. Readers who enjoy getting background on how books are written and hearing about book trends will appreciate these lively programs.

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