Hajar J Woodland, co-host of The Dabbler’s Book Club, has long known that reading is a lifeline. But it isn’t always easy to keep up the habit, especially in trying times. Ahead of World Book Night, she writes about how her joy of novels isn’t just in the reading; it’s in podcasting about books too. Plus, find out her recommendations for some good book podcasts for non-bookish people.
The theme for this year’s World Book Night on April 23rd is Books That Make You Smile, and with the joy-giver (and podcaster) that is Sandi Toksvig as Lead Ambassador, it’s clear they’re on a mission to keep our spirits up.
In a pretty rubbish year, novels have been a lifeline for those of us not only stuck inside our homes but our heads too. For World Book Night, alongside online events and readings, The Reading Agency are giving away 100,000 books to organisations across the UK as a celebration of reading, and to highlight its power and benefits to wellbeing.
Reading for mental health
It was a teacher who first recommended that I plunge myself into a novel when I was struggling with a bout of depression in my teens. Make no mistake, I definitely needed some form of professional care but, in the circumstances, a novel was the next best thing. But for those of us who struggle with mental health issues or low mood, starting a book can sometimes feel like another way of setting ourselves up for failure.
I started The Dabbler’s Book Club in 2019 to force myself to read one book every fortnight (or so!) and then to talk about it (when all I usually want to do is stay on the sofa watching Friends for the millionth time). Since March 2020 this simple habit has been so valuable,- and it’s about so much more than the books. The conversation that the podcast allows is just as important and not only gives a sense of completion after turning the final page, it’s left me feeling closer to my partner and our listeners.
In our first episode, my co-host and partner Curtis Nice joked that “our counsellor said it would be good for us”. Three series later, it’s actually very clear to see how it has been.
5 book podcasts for non-bookish people
To get you in a bookish mood without taking you back to the dread of English class and feeling like the poorly-read idiot, here are my top five book podcasts if you don’t think you’re particularly bookish.
These are book podcasts that aim to include everyone. They keep conversation light and inclusive, away from the academic styles we might have been used to at school or university, and they’re a great reminder that books really are for everyone.
Books are gifts authors share with the world; podcasting about books is the gift we can give ourselves and our listeners. There’s really nothing better.
Women’s Prize for Fiction Podcast
Presented by journalist and author Yomi Agedoke, guests including Elizabeth Day, Sara Pascoe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie celebrate the best books written by women. They discuss the year’s shortlisted titles and talk about what the future holds for women writing today. This might seem like a very bookish podcast, but the Women’s Prize for Fiction aims for inclusivity and accessibility. The conversations are celebratory and heartfelt, and will inspire you to read more women authors. Listen now on Acast >>
You Heard It Here First
A recommendation show to help you discover your next podcast, audiobook or drama listen. Host Imriel Morgan cherry-picks highlights from Audible’s extensive audio catalogue, with the help of listeners, authors and Audible editors. Expect honest recommendations, laughs and listens you never knew existed – and to be welcomed in with open arms to our family of podcast, audiobook and audio drama lovers. A pocket-sized podcast of 30-minute episodes, it features a diverse list of books and guests, giving you a great overview of the book world outside the traditional bestseller lists. Listen on Audible or elsewhere.
Book Shambles is an easy-going podcast that’s been running in one form or other since 2015. Using books as a jumping off point, hosts Josie Long and Robin Ince invite a different special guest each week to dive into interesting, passionate and shambolic discussions. Recent interviews include Marian Keyes, Nell Frizzell and Katy Wix. [It’s also one of Eddie Izzard’s favourite podcasts! – ED] Listen now on Acast >>
Book Cheat Podcast
Admittedly, Book Cheat isn’t quite in the World Book Night spirit of encouraging everyone to read… but it does tap into the sense that we’re all playing catch up when it comes to books – especially the classics. This is a fun podcast where host Dave Warneke reads the book so you don’t have to. Each episode Dave tells two special guests all about a classic novel or play, and by the end of the show, both you and they can pretend you’ve read it. From Austen to Tolstoy, Shakespeare to Hemingway… Dave lets you devour a classic in a single sitting. Listen now on Acast >>
The Dabblers’ Book Club
And of course, I’m including mine at the end because not only is it pretty good, but it also embodies so many things I’m passionate about. Working-class and state-school voices in literary criticism, and authentic, un-sanitised conversation that gives space for different perspectives and experiences. Non-stuffy book chat and funny one-star reviews. We’re a book podcast for people who like reading but don’t always feel qualified to talk about it. Maybe you went to state school or haven’t read any of the greats but still want to talk about books in a normal way. Just about every fortnight, my co-host Curtis and I read and have a fairly sweary chat about a novel, while incorporating our own anecdotes and life experiences. Guest special episodes feature interviews with the likes of Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart and barrister and author Hashi Mohamed. Listen on Acast now >>
Hajar J. Woodland is a content producer, podcaster and performer, and a judge at this year’s British Podcast Awards. She set up Noisy Badger, a content and production services company to amplify working-class voices and unconventional stories through podcasts and events. She has an MA in creative writing, and uses her book podcast The Dabblers’ Book Club as an excuse to keep reading, while putting off working on her own novel.