So we’ve started a podcast. It’s called Backlisted and the simple premise is that every fortnight we choose an old book we think everyone should read. Unbound are sponsoring it and it is hosted by me and Andy Miller, an old friend and former colleague from the early (glory) days of Waterstone’s now better known as the author of the wonderful memoir The Year of Reading Dangerously.
Each episode also features a special guest. The first three are Lissa Evans on J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country, Linda Grant on Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight and Jonathan Coe on David Nobb’s It Had To Be You. There’s also a ‘tenuous link’ cameo by Unbound’s Mathew Clayton. We intend for it to be warm, enthusiastic and cheerful – rather like the atmosphere of Waterstone’s staffroom in 1992, only with better drinks and (marginally) less swearing.
Backlisted is not about promoting new books, either by ourselves, Unbound or anyone else. The decision to do it sprung out of two related observations: one, that people keep asking us what they should read; and two, that almost all the existing book podcasts are driven by what is new rather than what is good. If nothing else, if you do acquire the books we recommend you’ll have a pretty interesting bookshelf to dust and share pictures of on Instagram.
Franz Kafka once wrote that a book was ‘an axe to break the frozen sea within us’ which perhaps goes a little too far (a Haynes car manual comes in useful when you’re trying to install a new alternator) but we do think, in Andy’s words, that books ‘represent the best that human beings are capable of’. We also think that the act of reading a whole book – in a world too often dominated by snap judgements and borrowed one-liners – actually makes us wiser, more tolerant human beings.
So, give it a listen and let us know what you think. It has its own Facebook page: Backlisted Podcast and you can download it from iTunes here (we’re currently no 15 in the Literature charts, so do give us a nudge).