A Book and a Podcast: The Perfect Pairings

When you finish a book, librarians often have recommendations for what to read next. I’m going to take a slightly different approach and recommend several podcasts based on books that I have enjoyed.

These programs aren’t all strictly podcasts. Some broadcasters, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), make radio content available online in a similar format to a podcast. The programs I recommend here are all free, and most have episodes that are able to be downloaded and saved for listening to later.


Book: This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You by Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas
Podcast Pair: Desert Island Discs (available on BBC Sounds and Apple podcasts) and Inheritance Tracks on BBC Sounds.

This Is What It Sounds Like examines music from seven different dimensions to explore what it is that attracts you as a listener. Knowing about these dimensions may help you to pinpoint what you love about the music in your collection and it may also help you find more music that you connect with. Susan Rogers writes in the book: “It is fortunate for the art of music that we each respond to music in our own unique way. And it is fortunate for human beings that, on occasion, a record provides two people with the same jolt of delight, creating the opportunity for a connection that can run deeper than words.”

I think that connection with people is one reason I enjoy listening to the programs Desert Island Discs and Inheritance Tracks. Desert Island Discs is a long-running interview program from the BBC. The guests include a mix of celebrities and professionals. Each guest chooses eight tracks they would take along to a desert island. It’s available as a podcast or on BBC Sounds and has a vast archive of past episodes. A few of my favorites are Douglas Adams, Simon Armitage, Paul McCartney, and Stella McCartney. Inheritance Tracks is another program from the BBC. Celebrities speak about a track they’ve inherited and a track they would like to pass on while the song plays in the background. Recent episodes are available on BBC Sounds.

I loved the idea of a record pull—sharing your favorite songs—that Susan Rogers describes in the book, which is similar to the premise of these shows. But I also like the feature of skipping ahead on a podcast—because, as is mentioned elsewhere in This Is What It Sounds Like: “When it comes to our listener profiles, one listener’s green zone can be another listener’s circle of hell.”


 Book: The Lyrics by Paul McCartney
Podcast Pair: Paul McCartney: Inside the Songs and Give The Beatles Back to the Irish on BBC Sounds

Every song has a story, some stories are more mythologized than others. With the help of the poet Paul Muldoon, Paul McCartney has collected a large number of songs from his extensive catalogue to discuss in The Lyrics. It’s a two volume set with a generous amount of photos from McCartney’s personal archive. Since it’s quite hefty and can be expensive for the personal collection, I’m so glad it’s available at the library! The essays are brief and organized alphabetically so that you can jump right to your favorite track, from “All My Loving” to “Your Mother Should Know.” Reading through this trove of stories, you may find some myths disproved!

The program Paul McCartney: Inside the Songs is a perfect companion to The Lyrics. McCartney is interviewed by John Wilson about well-loved songs such as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Penny Lane,” and “Yesterday.” It’s available on BBC Sounds and episodes are even downloadable for listening to later. Give The Beatles Back to the Irish is a program hosted by the creators of the podcast Nothing is Real. In four episodes, Jason Carty and Steven Cockcroft outline all the reasons why the Beatles are really an Irish band! It’s full of obscure bits of information about the members of the Beatles (which could come up in trivia someday, who knows?) and it’s pretty funny.


 Book: Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye
Podcast Pair: Poetry Unbound on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and most other podcast platforms

Everything Comes Next contains poems on all sorts of topics: family and heritage, history, food, poetry itself, conflict. Nye brings inanimate objects to life with her details, makes observations, and often poses questions. Listen to a few lines from this poem, called “Famous”: “I want to be famous/ in the way a pulley is famous,/ or a buttonhole,/ not because it did anything spectacular,/ but because it never forgot what it could do.” (may set off as a verse) If you haven’t read any of Nye’s work, this collection is a great place to start.

Poetry Unbound is a podcast from The On Being Project hosted by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Each episode features a short essay that he’s written about a poem. The poems are mostly contemporary selections with occasional classics. I really appreciate that he reads the poem at the beginning and then again at the end. Hearing his thoughts often expands my understanding of poetic language and changes my opinion of the poem. I can hear that his two readings are in real time, he doesn’t just replay his first reading at the end again. A couple of my favorite episodes are on the poems “Learning about Constellations” and “Leaving the Island.”


 Book: The Joy of Reading by Donalyn Miller and Teri S. Lesesne
Podcast Pair: Kids Ask Authors and Book Club for Kids on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and most other podcast platforms

I recommend The Joy of Reading, coauthored by the author of The Book Whisperer, for anyone who works with kids. Though primarily aimed at teachers and reading in the classroom, it’s full of advice and pep talks for encouraging book talk with the children in your life. Instead of quizzing them on the classics that you’ve read or think everyone should read, talk with them about why you love those stories and find out what they love about books they have read. You will be helping them to practice book talk and can be a role model for reading joy!

The Kids Ask Authors podcast is hosted by the author Grace Lin. She chats with a different author in each episode about a question asked by a kid reader. Some great questions have been: “What do you do when you run out of things to write about?” with Saadia Faruqi, “What was the hardest scene to write?” with Veera Hiranandani, and “What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done to get your book read?” with Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr.

On Book Club for Kids, students from schools across the country read and discuss chapter books. Author Kitty Felde facilitates these conversations about books with a small group of students in each episode. I enjoy getting a sense of all the books I haven’t read through listening to the discussions, and it’s interesting to hear other readers’ reactions to books I have read.


 Book: Plasticus Maritimus by Ana Pêgo, Isabel Minhós Martins, and Bernardo P. Carvalho, translated by Jane Springer
Podcast Pair: The Age of Plastic and Practical(ly) Zero Waste on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and most other podcast platforms

Ana Pêgo is a beach-comber from Portugal. She writes in Plasticus Maritimus that we should treat plastic like an invasive species. It destroys habitats by breaking into ever smaller pieces, but never entirely disappearing; it leads to the death of seabirds and other creatures who fill up their stomachs on the stuff thinking that it’s food; and even garbage that’s properly disposed of sometimes finds its way into the ocean through rivers and streams. Ana shows a variety of plastic items she has found while beach combing, safe ways to pick up trash in the areas you visit, and how to use less plastic. Since I try to live a lifestyle that creates less plastic waste, it’s good to know about companies and individuals who are actively helping the environment.

Topics covered on The Age of Plastic include composting, alternative packaging, and closed-loop recycling. There’s one question host Andrea Fox always asks her guests: “Is there an item in your life that contains plastic that you are grateful for?” Before dismissing plastic, it’s important to examine what is an improvement in technology due to plastic and what is an unnecessary or superfluous use of plastic. One episode that blew me away was “The End of Plastic?” about a material called AirCarbon. Why isn’t everyone talking about this?

The Practical(ly) Zero Waste podcast hosted by Elsbeth Callaghan is on hiatus right now, but its previous episodes are full of thoughtful interviews and useful information. I’ve found it encouraging to listen to other people’s successes and failures with maintaining a low-waste lifestyle, so I enjoy the episodes that reflect on what’s working well and what’s still a struggle. Episode 13, “Being Normal” is one good example.

earbuds on books
Marathon County Public Library

Marathon County Public Library (MCPL)