Podcast

The Book Club

Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.

Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.

The Book Club

Roger McGough: Collected Poems 1959-2024

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Roger McGough, whose new The Collected Poems: 1959-2024 anthologises a poetic career 65 years long and counting. Roger tells me about revisiting his old work and making it new, why he’s ‘not being serious’ about the future of Poetry Please, and how he narrowly missed being on the Pyramid Stage

Play 35 mins

The Book Club

Michael Nott: Thom Gunn’s Cool Queer Life

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Michael Nott, author of the new biography Thom Gunn: A Cool Queer Life. He tells me about the poet’s early trauma, his transatlantic identity, his unconventional family and his compartmentalised life, part teaching and writing, part sex, drugs and rock and roll. 

Play 29 mins

The Book Club

Kathleen Jamie: Cairn

In her new book Cairn, the Scots poet Kathleen Jamie sets a capstone of sorts on her trilogy of short prose collections Findings, Surfacing and Sightlines. She joins me on this week’s Book Club podcast to talk about why she hesitates to call herself a nature writer, how prose found her late in life, and

Play 24 mins

The Book Club

Åsne Seierstad

My guest for this week’s Book Club is the journalist and author Åsne Seierstad. She tells me about her new book The Afghans: Three Lives Through War, Love and Revolt; how and why she constructed a novelistic narrative about real-life people and events, and what her encounters with human rights activist Jamila, Taliban commander Bashir and

Play 48 mins

The Book Club

Mark Bostridge: In Pursuit of Love

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Mark Bostridge. In his new book In Pursuit of Love: The Search for Victor Hugo’s Daughter, Mark describes his quest to uncover the traces of Adele Hugo and the doomed love affair which cost her her sanity. He tells me how Adele’s story chimed in poignant ways

Play 41 mins

The Book Club

Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Marlon James, who ten years ago published his Booker Prize winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. He tells me how that remarkable book came about, how he feared it would be ‘my Satanic Verses’, what genre means to him, the importance of myth, and what

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

Richard Flanagan: Question 7

In this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is the Booker Prize winning novelist Richard Flanagan, talking about his extraordinary new book Question 7. It weaves together memoir, reportage and the imaginative work of fiction. Flanagan collides his relationship with his war-traumatised father and his own near-death experience with the lives of H G Wells and

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

The legacy of Franz Kafka

June 3rd marks the centenary of Franz Kafka’s death. To talk about this great writer’s peculiar style and lasting legacy, I’m joined by two of the world’s foremost Kafka scholars. Mark Harman has just translated, edited and annotated a new edition of Kafka’s Selected Stories, while Ross Benjamin is the translator of the first unexpurgated edition

Play 51 mins

The Book Club

Conn Iggulden: Nero

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Conn Iggulden, probably the best selling author of historical fiction of our day. This week Conn publishes Nero, the first in a new trilogy about the notorious Roman emperor. He tells me about how he learned to write historical fiction, his years-long path to overnight success, and the

Play 43 mins

The Book Club

Olivia Laing: The Garden Against Time

A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot! On this week’s Book Club podcast I’m joined by Olivia Laing to talk about her new book The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise. Olivia explores what it is we do when we make a garden, through her own experience of restoring the beautiful garden

Play 33 mins

The Book Club

Jackie Kay: May Day

This week, my guest on the Book Club podcast is the poet Jackie Kay, whose magnificent new book May Day combines elegy and celebration. She tells me about her adoptive parents – a communist trade unionist and a leading figure in CND – and growing up in a household where teenage rebellion could mean going to church.

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

Ariane Bankes: The Quality of Love

On this week’s Book Club podcast I’m joined by Ariane Bankes, whose mother Celia was one of the great beauties of the early twentieth century. Ariane’s new book The Quality of Love: Twin Sisters at the Heart of the Century tells the story of the defiantly bohemian lives of Celia and her twin sister Mamaine, whose love

Play 35 mins

The Book Club

Kathryn Hughes: Catland

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the author and historian Kathryn Hughes, whose new book Catland tells the story of how we learned to love pusskins. Content warning: contains Kipling, Edward Lear, some stinking carts of offal, and the troubled life and weird art of the extraordinary Louis Wain.

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

Percival Everett: James

On this week’s Book Club podcast I’m joined by Percival Everett, who has followed up his Booker-shortlisted The Trees with James, a novel that reimagines the story of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the point of view of the fugitive slave Jim. Percival tells me what he learned from Mark Twain, how being funny doesn’t make him a comic

Play 23 mins

The Book Club

Dorian Lynskey: Everything Must Go

In this week’s Book Club podcast my guest is Dorian Lynskey. In his new book Everything Must Go, Dorian looks at the way humans have imagined the end of the world from the Book of Revelations to the present day. He tells me how old fears find new forms, why Dr Strangelove divides critics, and why

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

Annie Jacobsen: Nuclear War

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is the investigative reporter Annie Jacobsen, whose hair-raising new book Nuclear War: A Scenario imagines – minute by minute – what would unfold if the nuclear balloon went up. But rather than a work of fantasy, this is based on meticulously sourced reporting about the effects of nuclear weapons

Play 45 mins

The Book Club

Viet Thanh Nguyen: A Man of Two Faces

In this week’s Book Club podcast my guest is the Pulitzer prize winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose new book is the memoir A Man of Two Faces. He tells me about the value of trauma to literature, learning about his history through Hollywood, falling asleep in class… and the rotten manners of Oliver Stone.    

Play 43 mins

The Book Club

Joel Morris: Be Funny Or Die

My guest in this week’s Book Club is Joel Morris, an award-winning comedy writer whose credits run from co-creating Philomena Cunk to writing gags for Viz and punching up the script for Paddington 2. In his new book Be Funny Or Die, he sets out to analyse how and why comedy works. He tells me why there are only

Play 50 mins

The Book Club

Lauren Oyler: No Judgement

This week’s Book Club podcast sees me speaking to the critic and novelist Lauren Oyler about her first collection of essays, No Judgment: On Being Critical. Lauren and I talked about the freedoms and affordances of the essay form; about how making and criticising art has been changed – and hasn’t – by the advent of

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

Peter Pomerantsev: How To Win An Information War

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Peter Pomerantsev. Peter’s new book How To Win An Information War: The Propagandist Who Outwitted Hitler tells the story of Sefton Delmer, the great genius of twentieth-century propaganda. Peter tells me about Delmer’s remarkable life, compromised ethics, and the lessons he still has to offer us.  

Play 44 mins

The Book Club

Colum McCann: American Mother

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is the award-winning novelist Colum McCann, whose new book takes him out of the territory of fiction and into something slightly different. American Mother is written in collaboration with Diane Foley, mother of Jim Foley, the journalist killed by ISIS in Syria in 2014. He tells me how he

Play 35 mins

The Book Club

Tom Chatfield: Wise Animals

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Tom Chatfield, whose new book is Wise Animals: How Technology Has Made Us What We Are. He tells me what we get wrong about technology, what Douglas Adams got right, and why we can’t rely on Elon Musk and people like him to save the world.  

Play 47 mins

The Book Club

Chris Bryant: A True Story of Prejudice and Murder

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Chris Bryant, who tells me about his new book James and John: A True Story of Prejudice and Murder. In it, he seeks to tell what can be known of the lives, world and fatal luck of the last two men executed for homosexuality in Britain. 

Play 33 mins

The Book Club

Paula Byrne: Hardy Women

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Paula Byrne. In her new book Hardy Women: Mothers, Sisters, Wives, Muses, she investigates the women in the life and work of the great poet and novelist Thomas Hardy. She talks to me about Hardy’s romantic life, the torture he inflicted on the women he fell for,

Play 43 mins

The Book Club

Sathnam Sanghera: Empireworld

In this week’s Book Club podcast my guest is Sathnam Sanghera, author of the new book Empireworld about the effect of British imperialism around the globe. He tells me why he’s trying to get beyond the ‘balance-sheet’ view of imperial history, why we should all read W E B Dubois, and why he’s not good at going

Play 44 mins

The Book Club

Adam Phillips: On Giving Up

On this week’s Book Club my guest is the writer and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, whose new book is On Giving Up. He tells me how literature relates to psychoanalysis, why censorship makes life possible, and what Freud got wrong. 

Play 37 mins

The Book Club

Rebecca Boyle: Our Moon

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by Rebecca Boyle to talk about her new book Our Moon: A Human History. She tells me how we know that the moon is more than just an inert lump of rock in the sky and how the whole of human life  – and civilisation – may depend

Play 35 mins

The Book Club

From The Archives: Hadley Freeman

The Book Club will return next week! In the meantime we are revisiting Sam’s conversation from 2020 with Hadley Freeman whose book House of Glass tells the story of 20th century jewry through the hidden history of her own family. The four Glahs siblings — one of them the writer’s grandmother — grew up in a Polish shtetl just

Play 34 mins

The Book Club

From The Archives: Anne Applebaum

The Book Club is taking a brief Christmas break, so we have gone back through the archives to spotlight some of our favourite episodes. This week we are revisiting Sam’s conversation from 2017 with the Pulitzer Prize winning historian (and former Spectator deputy editor) Anne Applebaum about her devastating new book Red Famine. The early 1930s in Ukraine

Play 25 mins

The Book Club

From The Archives: Robert Webb

The Book Club is taking a brief Christmas break, so we have gone back through the archives to spotlight some of our favourite episodes. This week we are revisiting Sam’s conversation from 2017 with Robert Webb. His moving and funny book How Not To Be A Boy turns the material of a memoir into a heartfelt polemic about

Play 26 mins