The Book Review podcast

The Book Review

The world's top authors and critics join host Gilbert Cruz and editors at The New York Times Book Review to talk about the week's top books, what we're reading and what's going on in the literary world. Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at nytimes.com/audioapp

The world's top authors and critics join host Gilbert Cruz and editors at The New York Times Book Review to talk about the week's top books, what we're reading and what's going on in the literary world. Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at nytimes.com/audioapp

 

#477

The Rise and Fall of The Village Voice

Tricia Romano’s new book, “The Freaks Came Out to Write,” is an oral history of New York’s late, great alternative weekly newspaper The Village Voice, where she worked for eight years as the nightlife columnist. Our critic Dwight Garner [reviewed the book] (https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/12/books/review/village-voice-oral-history.html) recently — he loved it — and he visits the podcast this week to chat with Gilbert Cruz about oral histories in general and the gritty glamour of The Village Voice in particular. “You would pick it up and it was so prickly,” Garner says. “The whole thing just felt like this production that someone had really thought through, from the great cartoons to the great photographs to the crazy hard news in the front to the different voices in back. It all came together into a package. And there are still great writers out there, but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. No one has really taken over, to my point of view. ... There’s no one-stop shopping to find the great listings at every club and every major theater, just a great rundown of what one might be interested in doing.” We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [books@nytimes.com] (mailto:books@nytimes.com) . ... Read more

23 Feb 2024

36 MINS

36:16

23 Feb 2024


#476

Let's Talk About 'Demon Copperhead'

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “ [Demon Copperhead] (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/16/books/review/barbara-kingsolver-demon-copperhead.html) ,” a riff on “David Copperfield” that moves Charles Dickens’s story to contemporary Appalachia and grapples engagingly with topics from poverty to ambition to opioid addiction, was one of the Book Review’s [10 Best Books of 2022] (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/29/books/best-books-2022.html) . And — unlike an actual copperhead — “Demon Copperhead” has legs: Many readers have told us it was their favorite book in 2023 as well. In this week’s spoiler-filled episode, MJ Franklin talks with Elisabeth Egan (an editor at the Book Review) and Anna Dubenko, the Times’s newsroom audience director, about their reactions to Kingsolver’s novel and why it has exerted such a lasting appeal. ... Read more

16 Feb 2024

42 MINS

42:22

16 Feb 2024


#475

4 Early-Year Book Recommendations

The early part of a year can mean new books to read, or it can mean catching up on older ones we haven’t gotten to yet. This week, Gilbert Cruz chats with the Book Review’s Sarah Lyall and Sadie Stein about titles from both categories that have held their interest lately, including a 2022 biography of John Donne, a book about female artists who nurtured an interest in the supernatural, and the history of a Jim Crow-era mental asylum, along with a gripping new novel by Janice Hallett. “It’s just so deft,” Stein says of Hallett’s new thriller, “The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels.” “It’s so funny. It seems like she’s having a lot of fun. One thing I would say, and I don’t think this is spoiling it, is, if there comes a moment when you think you might want to stop, keep going and trust her. I think it’s rare to be able to say that with that level of confidence.” Here are the books discussed in this week’s episode: “Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne,” by Katherine Rundell “The Other Side: A Story of Women in Art and the Spirit World,” by Jennifer Higgie “The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels,” by Janice Hallett “Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum,” by Antonia Hylton (Briefly mentioned: "You Dreamed of Empires," by Álvaro Enrigue, "Beautyland," by Marie-Helene Bertino, and "Martyr!" by Kaveh Akbar.) ... Read more

09 Feb 2024

34 MINS

34:29

09 Feb 2024


#474

'Killers of the Flower Moon': Book and Movie Discussion

Former New York Times film critic A.O. Scott joins to talk both David Grann's "Killers of the Flower Moon," which continues to sit near the top of the bestseller list, and Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated film adaptation.  Spoilers abound for both versions. (Also, for history.) ... Read more

02 Feb 2024

38 MINS

38:33

02 Feb 2024


#473

Talking the Joys and Rules of Open Marriage

Molly Roden Winter and her husband, Stewart, have been married for 24 years. But since 2008, by mutual agreement, they have [also dated other people] (https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/13/books/molly-roden-winter-more-book-open-marriage.html) — an arrangement that Winter details in her new memoir, “More: A Memoir of Open Marriage.” In this week’s episode, The Times’s Sarah Lyall chats with Winter about her book, her marriage and why she decided to go public. “I didn’t see any representations of either people who were still successfully married after having opened it up or people who were honest about how hard it was,” Winter says. “The stories that were coming out were either, ‘Oh, we tried it. It didn’t work,’ or ‘We’re born polyamorous and it’s just the best and I just feel love pouring out of me 24/7.’ Neither of those things was true for me. I felt like I had learned something really profound through this journey of opening my marriage, and I wanted to share it." ... Read more

26 Jan 2024

38 MINS

38:38

26 Jan 2024


#472

Our Early 2024 Book Preview

It's gonna be a busy spring! On this week’s episode, Gilbert Cruz talks with Tina Jordan and Joumana Khatib about some of the upcoming books they’re anticipating most keenly over the next several months. Books discussed in this week’s episode: “Knife,” by Salman Rushdie “James,” by Percival Everett “The Book of Love,” by Kelly Link “Martyr,” by Kaveh Akbar “The Demon of Unrest,” by Erik Larson “The Hunter,” by Tana French “Wandering Stars,” by Tommy Orange “Anita de Monte Laughs Last,” by Xochitl Gonzalez “Splinters,” by Leslie Jamison “Neighbors and Other Stories,” by Diane Oliver “Funny Story,” by Emily Henry “Table for Two,” by Amor Towles “Grief Is for People,” by Sloane Crosley “One Way Back: A Memoir,” by Christine Blasey Ford “The House of Hidden Meanings: A Memoir,” by RuPaul ... Read more

19 Jan 2024

25 MINS

25:20

19 Jan 2024


#471

Steven Soderbergh on His Year in Reading

Every January on his website [Extension765.com] (https://extension765.com/blogs/soderblog/seen-read-2023) , the prolific director Steven Soderbergh looks back at the previous year and posts a day-by-day account of every movie and TV series watched, every play attended and every book read. In 2023, Soderbergh tackled more than 80 (!) books, and on this week's episode, he and the host Gilbert Cruz talk about some of his highlights.  Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode: "How to Live: A Life of Montaigne," by Sarah Bakewell "Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining,'" by Lee Unkrich and J.W. Rinzler "Cocktails with George and Martha," by Philip Gefter The work of Donald E. Westlake "Americanah," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie "Pictures From an Institution," by Randall Jarrell "Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will," by Robert M. Sapolsky ... Read more

12 Jan 2024

42 MINS

42:59

12 Jan 2024


#470

Book Club: 'The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store'

James McBride’s novel “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” was one of the most celebrated books of 2023 — a critical darling and a New York Times best seller. In their piece for the Book Review, Danez Smith called it “a murder mystery locked inside a Great American Novel” and praised its “precision, magnitude and necessary messiness.” On this week’s episode, the Book Review editors MJ Franklin, Joumana Khatib and Elisabeth Egan convene for a discussion about the book, McBride, and what you might want to read next. ... Read more

22 Dec 2023

38 MINS

38:53

22 Dec 2023


#469

How to Tell the Story of a Giant Wildfire

John Vaillant’s book “Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World” takes readers to the petroleum boomtown of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, in May 2016, when a wildfire that started in the surrounding boreal forest grew faster than expected and tore through the city, destroying entire neighborhoods in a rampage that lasted for days. On this week’s episode, Vaillant (whose book was one of our 10 Best for 2023) calls it a “bellwether,” and tells the host Gilbert Cruz how he decided to put the fire itself at the center of his story rather than choosing a human character to lead his audience through the narrative. “It was a bit of a leap," he says. "It was a risk. But it also felt like, given the role that fire is increasingly playing in our world now, it really deserved to be focused on, on its own merit, from its own point of view, if you will.” ... Read more

15 Dec 2023

41 MINS

41:27

15 Dec 2023


#468

Our Critics' Year in Reading

The Times’s staff book critics — Dwight Garner, Jennifer Szalai and Alexandra Jacobs — do a lot of reading over the course of any given year, but not everything they read stays with them equally. On this week’s podcast, Gilbert Cruz chats with the critics about the books that did: the novels and story collections and works of nonfiction that made an impression in 2023 and defined their year in reading, including one that Garner says caught him by surprise. “Eleanor Catton’s ‘Birnam Wood’ is in some ways my novel of the year,” Garner says. “And it’s not really my kind of book. This is going to sound stupid or snobby, but I’m not the biggest plot reader. I’m just not. I like sort of thorny, funny, earthy fiction, and if there’s no plot I’m fine with that. But this has a plot like a dream. It just takes right off. And she’s such a funny, generous writer that I was just happy from the first time I picked it up.” Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode: “Be Mine,” by Richard Ford “Onlookers,” by Ann Beattie “I Am Homeless if This Ia Not My Home,” by Lorrie Moore “People Collide,” by Isle McElroy “Birnam Wood,” by Eleanor Catton “Biography of X,” by Catherine Lacey “Madonna: A Rebel Life,” by Mary Gabriel “The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy, and the Wild Life of an American Commune,” by Alexander Stille “The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions,” by Jonathan Rosen “Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State,” by Kerry Howley “The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight,” by Andrew Leland “Fatherland: A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets,” by Burkhard Bilger “King: A Life,” Jonathan Eig “Larry McMurtry: A Life,” Tracy Daugherty “Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey,” by Robert “Mack” McCormick “Roald Dahl, Teller of the Unexpected: A Biography,” by Matthew Dennison “The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality,” by William Egginton “Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World,” by Naomi Klein “The Notebooks and Diaries of Edmund Wilson” “Zero at the Bone: Fifty Entries Against Despair,” by Christian Wiman “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals,” by Oliver Burkeman We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [books@nytimes.com] (mailto:books@nytimes.com) . ... Read more

08 Dec 2023

37 MINS

37:12

08 Dec 2023


#467

10 Best Books of 2023

It’s that time of year: After months of reading, arguing and (sometimes) happily agreeing, the Book Review’s editors have come up with their picks for [the 10 Best Books of 2023] (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/28/books/review/best-books-2023.html) . On this week’s podcast, Gilbert Cruz reveals the chosen titles — five fiction, five nonfiction — and talks with some of the editors who participated in the process. Here are the books discussed on this week’s episode: “The Bee Sting,” by Paul Murray “Chain-Gang All-Stars,” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah “Eastbound,” by Maylis de Kerangal “The Fraud,” by Zadie Smith “North Woods,” by Daniel Mason “The Best Minds,” by Jonathan Rosen “Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs,” by Kerry Howley “Fire Weather,” by John Vaillant “Master Slave Husband Wife,” by Ilyon Woo “Some People Need Killing,” by Patricia Evangelista We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [books@nytimes.com] (mailto:books@nytimes.com) . ... Read more

28 Nov 2023

1 HR 12 MINS

1:12:22

28 Nov 2023


#466

Talking Barbra Streisand and Rebecca Yarros

Book Review reporter Alexandra Alter discusses two of her recent pieces. The first is about Georgette Heyer, the "queen of Regency romance," and recent attempts to posthumously revise one of her most famous works in order to remove stereotypical language. The second looks at Rebecca Yarros, author of one of this year's most surprising and persistent bestsellers: the "romantasy" novel "Fourth Wing."   Then, staff critic Alexandra Jacobs joins Book Review editor Gilbert Cruz to discuss her review of Barbra Streisand's epic memoir, "My Name is Barbra." ... Read more

10 Nov 2023

33 MINS

33:11

10 Nov 2023


#465

Why is Shakespeare's First Folio So Important?

In 1623, seven years after William Shakespeare died, two of his friends and fellow actors led an effort to publish a single volume containing 36 of the plays he had written, half of which had never been officially published before. Now known as the First Folio, that volume has become a lodestone of Shakespeare scholarship over the centuries, offering the most definitive versions of his work along with clues to his process and plenty of disputes about authorship and intention. In honor of its 400th anniversary, the British Library recently released a facsimile version of the First Folio. On this week’s episode, The Times’s critic at large Sarah Lyall talks with Adrian Edwards, head of the library’s Printed Heritage Collections, about Shakespeare’s work, the library’s holdings and the cultural significance of that original volume. ... Read more

03 Nov 2023

28 MINS

28:14

03 Nov 2023


#464

Happy Halloween: Scary Book Recommendations

You don’t need Halloween to justify reading scary books, any more than you need sand to justify reading a beach novel. But the holiday does give editors here a handy excuse to talk about some of their favorite spooky reads. On this week’s episode, the host Gilbert Cruz talks with his colleagues Tina Jordan and Sadie Stein about the enduring appeal of ghost stories, Gothic novels and other scary books. Titles discussed: “Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death,” by Deborah Blum “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury “Rebecca,” by Daphne du Maurier “Don’t Look Now: And Other Stories,” by Daphne du Maurier “The Exorcist,” by William Peter Blatty “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” by Alvin Schwartz “Ghosts,” by Edith Wharton “Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of Ghost Stories,” by various “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” by M.R. James “The Hunger,” by Alma Katsu “The Terror,” by Dan Simmons “The Little Stranger,” by Sarah Waters “Affinity,” by Sarah Waters “The Paying Guests,” by Sarah Waters “The Haunting of Hill House,” by Shirley Jackson “Hell House,” by Richard Matheson “House of Leaves,” by Mark Z. Danielewski “A Haunting on the Hill,” by Elizabeth Hand “The Virago Book of Ghost Stories,” edited by Richard Dalby “The Turn of the Screw,” by Henry James ... Read more

27 Oct 2023

33 MINS

33:39

27 Oct 2023


#463

How Did Marvel Become the Biggest Name in Movies?

In 2008 — the same year that Robert Downey Jr. appeared in the action comedy “Tropic Thunder,” for which he would earn his second Oscar nomination — he also appeared as the billionaire inventor and unlikely superhero Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” the debut feature from the upstart Marvel Studios. Downey lost the Oscar (to Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”), but Marvel won the day. In the 15 years since “Iron Man” came out, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded to 32 films that have earned a staggering $26 billion and changed the world of moviemaking for a generation.  In a new book, “MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios,” the writers Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales and Gavin Edwards explore the company’s scrappy beginnings, phenomenal success and uncertain hold on the future, with lots of dish along the way. On this week’s episode, Gonzales and Robinson join the host Gilbert Cruz to talk all things Marvel. ... Read more

20 Oct 2023

33 MINS

33:56

20 Oct 2023


#462

What Big Books Have Yet to Come Out in 2023?

On this week’s episode, a look at the rest of the year in books — new fiction from Alice McDermott and this year’s Nobel laureate, Jon Fosse, a journalist’s investigation of state-sanctioned killings in the Philippines, and a trio of celebrity memoirs.  Discussed in this week’s episode: “The Vulnerables,” by Sigrid Nunez “Day,” by Michael Cunningham “Absolution,” by Alice McDermott “A Shining,” by Jon Fosse “Romney: A Reckoniung,” by McKay Coppins “Class,” by Stephanie Land “Some People Need Killing,” by Patricia Evangelista “The Kingdom, the Power and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism,” by Tim Alberta “My Name is Barbra,” by Barbra Streisand “The Woman in Me,” by Britney Spears “Worthy,” by Jada Pinkett Smith ... Read more

13 Oct 2023

24 MINS

24:41

13 Oct 2023


#461

What It's Like to Write a Madonna Biography

Madonna released her first single in 1982, and in one guise or another she has been with us ever since — ubiquitous but also astonishing, when you consider the usual fleeting arc of pop stardom. How has she done it, and how have her various personae shaped or reflected the culture she inhabits? These are among the questions the renowned biographer Mary Gabriel takes up in her latest book, “Madonna: A Rebel Life,” which casts new light on its subject’s life and career. On this week’s episode, the host Gilbert Cruz chats with Gabriel about all things Madonna, and revisits the context of the 1980s’ music industry that she conquered. ... Read more

06 Oct 2023

36 MINS

36:29

06 Oct 2023