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

Rupert Shortt: The Hardest Problem

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Rupert Shortt, whose stimulating new book The Hardest Problem addresses one of the oldest difficulties in theology: “the problem of evil”. Is this something the religious and the secular can even talk meaningfully about? What’s the great challenge Dostoevsky throws up? And what did Augustine get right that

Play 52 mins

The Book Club

James Heale and Sebastian Payne: Out of the Blue and The Fall of Boris Johnson

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m talking to two of the brave souls who turn recent political dramas into the sort of quickly written books we might call the second draft of history. I’m joined by the FT’s Sebastian Payne, author of The Fall of Boris Johnson, and our own James Heale, co-author of a Liz

Play 41 mins

The Book Club

Edward Mendelson: Complete Poems of W H Auden

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Edward Mendelson, who with the publication of the Complete Poems of W H Auden in two volumes now sets the crown on more than half a century of scholarship on the poet. There’s nobody on the planet who knows more about this towering figure in twentieth-century poetry. He

Play 41 mins

The Book Club

Christopher de Hamel: The Posthumous Papers of the Manuscripts Club

My guest in this week’s Book Club Podcast is Christopher de Hamel, author of the new The Posthumous Papers of the Manuscripts Club. He tells me about the enduring fascination of illuminated manuscripts, and the fraternity over more than a millennium of those who have loved, coveted, collected, sold, illustrated and – in one case –

Play 41 mins

The Book Club

Ian Rankin: A Heart Full of Headstones

This week’s Book Club podcast is a live special, recorded at this year’s inaugural Braemar Literary Festival. I’m talking to Sir Ian Rankin, in an exclusive pre-publication event, about his new Rebus novel A Heart Full of Headstones. You can see images from the event and more details of the festival at https://www.braemarliteraryfestival.co.uk

Play 39 mins

The Book Club

Andrey Kurkov: Diary of an Invasion

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is the Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov – who has this year become one of the most articulate ambassadors to the West for the situation in his homeland. As a book of his recent writings, Diary of an Invasion, is published in English, he tells me about the

Play 31 mins

The Book Club

Matt Lodder: Painted People

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the art historian Dr Matt Lodder, whose new book is Painted People: Humanity in 21 Tattoos. He tells me how much more there is to the history of painting on the body than we commonly suppose; and how over the years the history of tattooing (and

Play 60 mins

The Book Club

Al Murray: Command

My guest on this week’s podcast is best known as a stand-up comic, and co-host of the hit second world war podcast We Have Ways of Making You Talk. Now Al Murray has produced a book – Command: How The Allies Learned To Win the Second World War – in which he looks at the

Play 47 mins

The Book Club

Peter Stothard: Crassus

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Peter Stothard, whose new book Crassus: The First Tycoon tells the story of the third man in Rome’s great triumvirate: landlord, power-broker, Spartacus’s nemesis and leader of a hubristic expedition to the east that was to see his glorious career end in bitter failure. Image © Teri Pengilley

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

Lawrence Freedman: Command

In this week’s Book Club podcast my guest is the doyen of war studies, Lawrence Freedman. His new book Command: The Politics of Military Operations from Korea to Ukraine takes a fascinating look at the interplay between politics and conflict in the post-war era. He tells me why dictators make bad generals, how soldiers are always playing

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

Rediscovering Josephine Tey

On this week’s Book Club podcast we’re talking about the best crime writer you’ve (probably) never heard of. As Penguin reissues three of Josephine Tey’s classic Golden Age novels, I’m joined by Nicola Upson, whose own detective stories (most recently Dear Little Corpses) feature Tey as a central character. She tells me about the unique

Play 38 mins

The Book Club

A. M. Homes: The Unfolding

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is A. M. Homes. She talks about her new novel The Unfolding, which imagines a conspiracy of angry Republicans forming after John McCain’s 2008 election defeat in the hopes of taking their America back. She talks about her history of prescience, about the deep weirdness of the Washington

Play 30 mins

The Book Club

Ian McEwan: Lessons

Sam Leith’s guest in this week’s Book Club is Ian McEwan – whose latest novel Lessons draws on his own biography to imagine an ‘alternative life’ for himself. He tells Sam about what drew him, in his late career, to using autobiography; about why there’s no contradiction in combining realism with metafiction; about the importance of sex;

Play 47 mins

The Book Club

From the archives: Francis Fukuyama

This week we spotlight our most popular episode of the last year, Sam’s conversation with Francis Fukuyama about his book Liberalism and its Discontents. He tells Sam how a system that has built peace and prosperity since the Enlightenment has come under attack from the neoliberal right and the identitarian left; and how Vladimir Putin

Play 37 mins

The Book Club

Salman Rushdie: Quichotte

This week we revisit Sam’s conversation with Sir Salman Rushdie, recorded just before the pandemic. ‘Things that would have seemed utterly improbable now happen on a daily basis’, Sir Salman Rushdie said to Sam when they spoke in an interview for the Spectator’s 10,000th edition. They discuss everything from his latest book Quichotte, to his relationship with his father,

Play 61 mins

The Book Club

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones: A Question of Standing

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones – whose new book A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA looks at the real-life story behind one of the most mythologised agencies of American power. How does the world’s first democratically answerable spy agency actually work? Were all those dirty tricks, extra-legal shenanigans

Play 46 mins

The Book Club

Andrea Wulf: Magnificent Rebels

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by Andrea Wulf to talk about the birth of Romanticism at the end of the 18th century. Her new book Magnificent Rebels tells the story of the “Jena set” – a staggering assemblage of the superstars of German literature and philosophy who gathered in a small town

Play 48 mins

The Book Club

Chloë Ashby: Colours of Art

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the critic, novelist and art historian Chloë Ashby. In her new book Colours of Art: The Story of Art in 80 Palettes she takes a look at how the history of colour – how it was made, how much it cost, what it was understood to

Play 39 mins

The Book Club

Anne Weber: Epic Annette

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Anne Weber, author of Epic Annette: A Heroine’s Tale. She tells me how she came to uncover the remarkable story of Annette Beaumanoir, heroine of the French Resistance, partisan of the Algerian independence struggle, jailbird, exile and survivor – and why when she came to write

Play 37 mins

The Book Club

Allan Mallinson: The Shape of Battle

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the historian, novelist and former Army officer Allan Mallinson. He introduces his new book The Shape of Battle: Six Campaigns from Hastings to Helmand, and tells me why everyone should take an interest in warfare – as being the most complex of all human interactions; whether

Play 50 mins

The Book Club

Kavita Puri: Partition Voices

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Kavita Puri, whose book Partition Voices excavates the often traumatic memories of the last generation to remember first-hand the mass migration and bloody violence of the partition of India. She tells me why the story has been so shrouded in silence – there isn’t a memorial

Play 39 mins

The Book Club

Lindsey Fitzharris: The Facemaker

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is Lindsey Fitzharris – whose new book is The Facemaker: One Surgeon’s Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I. At its centre is the compelling figure of Harold Gillies – ace golfer, practical joker, and pioneer of the whole field of plastic surgery. Lindsey

Play 41 mins

The Book Club

Simon Jenkins: The Celts

My guest in this week’s Book Club is Simon Jenkins. His new book The Celts: A Sceptical History tells the story of a race of people who, contrary to what many of us were taught in school, never existed at all. He tells me how and why ‘Celts’ were invented, what it has meant and

Play 41 mins

The Book Club

Philip Mansel: King of the World

In this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is the historian Philip Mansel. We talk about his new biography King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV. He tells me what really drove the great megalomaniac, whether he was a feminist avant la lettre, how his depredations in the Rhineland anticipated Putin’s in Ukraine

Play 44 mins

The Book Club

Andrea Elliott: Invisible Child

In this week’s Book Club podcast I’m joined by the New York Times‘s Andrea Elliott, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in New York City. She tells me how she came to spend seven years reporting on a single, homeless family in Brooklyn, how she negotiated her

Play 40 mins

The Book Club

China Miéville: A Spectre, Haunting: On The Communist Manifesto

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by the writer China Miéville to talk about his new book A Spectre, Haunting: On The Communist Manifesto. China makes the case for why this 1848 document deserves our attention in the 21st century, why even its critics would benefit from reading it more closely and sympathetically,

Play 49 mins

The Book Club

Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony: Noise

My guests in this week’s Book Club podcast are Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony, co-authors (with Cass R Sunstein) of Noise: A Flaw In Human Judgment. Augmenting the work on psychological bias that won Prof Kahneman a Nobel Prize, this investigation exposes a more invisible and often more impactful way in which human judgments go

Play 39 mins

The Book Club

William Leith: Finding My Father

My guest in the Book Club podcast this week is my namesake (but no relation) William Leith – whose new book The Cut That Wouldn’t Heal: Finding My Father describes the death of his father and the way it caused him to revisit and re-evaluate his childhood. We talk about the perils and possibilities of

Play 55 mins

The Book Club

Wendy K. Pirsig: On Quality

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m talking to Wendy K Pirsig – widow of Robert M Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the bestselling book of philosophy of all time. Wendy tells me about her late husband’s big idea – the ‘Metaphysics of Quality’, as set out in a new

Play 30 mins

The Book Club

Caroline Frost: Carry On Regardless

In this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is Caroline Frost, author of the new Carry On Regardless: Getting to the Bottom of Britain’s Favourite Comedy Films. She tells me what those movies tell us about British social history, makes the case for their feminism, argues that their special magic belongs to a British sensibility

Play 43 mins