We all know the film industry would be nothing without books or short stories to adapt. On occasion, a film will be turned into a book ... though l doubt any of those books will win any Pulitzers. But what of the relationship of books to other forms of media? Lately, I've become interested in a new symbiosis that seems to be emerging between books and podcasts.
In the last few years, podcasting has exploded, leading some to declare the phenomenon "audio's second golden age." According to Forbes magazine, 67 million Americans listen to a podcast each month. Weird in this age of highly visual media, right? But the podcast is now considered THE way to communicate, and everybody who's anybody has one.
The literary world has embraced the podcast to the benefit of readers and writers. And the podcast boom is a boon to the self-publishing gurus out there. Of course, a lot of these podcasters are trying to sell you something, which is why I don't bother with most of them. Rather, I am interested in podcasts that transport me and expand my world view, and so I'm intrigued when a "podcast with spine" becomes a "book with spine."
If in the past, like me, you've been more likely to pick up a book than put in your earbuds, perhaps the following book suggestions might be your entry points into the wonderful world of podcasting.
1. All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown
This book is edited by Catherine Burns with a foreword by fantasy writer Neil Gaiman (an odd choice for nonfiction, but a smart choice for appealing to a broader audience). This book came out of the The Moth podcast, which gives everyday people an opportunity to tell a 10-minute true story live on air. A new story is put out every Tuesday. As a podcast, The Moth aims to connect human beings through storytelling (that gets my vote), and they tell you that when you support Moth with a donation, you "create a better world."
2. Adnan's Story: Murder, Justice, and the Case That Captivated a Nation
By Rabia Chaudry. This book followed the enormously popular podcast "Serial" that was produced by This American Life for PBS, and it explores in more detail the story of Adnan Syed, who was accused of and imprisoned for murder. Why is this a podcast/book with spine? Because it's a passion project of Chaudry who is convinced of Syed's innocence and sees his case as part of a bigger struggle for a fairer justice system in the US. A noble cause indeed.
3. Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast
By Marc Maron & Brendan McDonald. Marc Maron is a stand-up comedian, and his podcast is a series of interviews with great people and great artists. But why is this a podcast with spine? Well, this is where my bias comes in. In my not-so-humble opinion, stand-ups are some of our most important social commentators, and their unapologetic evisceration of politicians and other people of power is vital to democracy. This WTF book isn't a work of satire. However, it is described as, "A collection of intimate, hilarious and life-changing conversations," so count me in.
I'm excited about this emerging synergy between the spoken and written word. Podcasting isn't a threat to reading; it's most definitely an opportunity. Through podcasts, listeners are being introduced to new writers and new books, but more interestingly, the podcast can create meaningful literature that has a physical presence in the world that has a longer shelf-life (pun intended) than a digital audio file.
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith