Podcasts for Deep-Diving the Work of Famous Authors

Dustin Koski
9 min readJun 27, 2021

People have been declaring the end of novels due to one newly emergent form of communication or another since at least 1902 when Jules Verne declared newspapers the cause of death. In truth technology does much to prop up or even keep alive appreciation for classic literary works. One of the newly emergent examples of this is podcasts devoted to a particular author’s body of work. Usually the hosts go through the pieces in chronological order, and in many instances take time to compare and contrast their stories with film adaptations. The desired tone tends to favor amiability over pure academic analysis, yet you’ll still find substantial amounts of solid information from primary sources throughout these shows.

10. The Tolkien Road

From The Hobbit through The Silmarillion, Tolkien devoted 700,000 words to the Middle Earth Saga. Since 2015, Greta and John Carswell have apparently decided to analyze each and every one for their listeners. As of May 2021, they have devoted 240 episodes, many about an hour in length, to the landmark fantasy series and the man who imagined it.

Topics go beyond analysis of themes and chapters. Earlier drafts of the novels have multiple episodes devoted to them. Deleted or changed elements are gone over in depth, such as the fact LotR character Samwise Gangee was nearly named “Sam Goodchild.” Four episodes are devoted to a biographical study of Tolkien with neat delineations by years (1892–1917, 1917–1936, etc.) It’s fair to say the Carswells cover everything from there to back again. Then there and back again. Then there and back again a few more times to be sure.

9. Hunting Hunter: A Gonzo Podcast

Today Hunter S. Thompson is more commonly viewed as practically a drug-addled cartoon character than as a writer. Admittedly that’s understandable since many people’s first impression of him was accompanied by Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Laura Heuston and Eamon Moses are two Australians that began working to change that in July 2020.

Subjects have included Thompson’s essay on Joe Biden’s farcical 1988 presidential campaign, his obituary for Richard Nixon, and the time a mountain lion leapt into Thompson’s car while he was driving on a highway. The episodes tend to run between thirty and forty minutes, and since there are currently only fifteen episodes it is a relatively quick show to binge. There are also plenty of citations and links for the listener who’d like to learn more or fact check them. Unfortunately, at present the hosts haven’t recorded any new episodes since January 2021, so it’s quite possible that the show has proved too weird to live even if it’s too rare to die.

8. Celebrate Poe

When George Bartleby started this audio analysis of the author that some call “America’s Shakespeare” in October 2020, he had an unusual hook in mind. In the second episode of the show, an enigmatic figure arrives, claiming to be Poe himself and wanting to be part of a podcast. The character is played by Bartleby, who for years did a touring school piece as part of Richmond, VA’s Poe Museum where he would act out the part of the author. It adds an amusing wrinkle to what’s otherwise one of the drier programs on the list.

At times Bartleby exerts considerable effort to attempt to imbue Poe’s life and work with timeliness. For example, an episode devoted to Poe’s stage acting parents compares them to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s characters in the 2019 remake of A Star is Born. He also makes no secret of his liberal perspective, comparing Prince Prospero from the Masque of the Red Death to a certain president. Still the 50+ episodes are well-researched and very concise by podcast standards, so even those familiar with Poe should find much to learn from them.

7. Kurt Vonneguys

Former Cracked.com columnists Alex Schmidt and Michael Swain started this podcast in 2016, going through every Kurt Vonnegut novel and short story collection in chronological order. Their episodes tended to be on the longer side relatively speaking, consistently coming in over an hour and sometimes reaching two. However in keeping with Cracked.com’s strict formatting standards the show was broken into well-defined segments, including “Kurt Blurt” which highlighted outstanding passages and “Konne-WHAT” for portions of the books which had aged badly.

Although the hosts’ claims about the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr. have included that he supposedly had one of the most brilliant minds in American history, it’s hardly all worshipful. For example, Swaim flatly recommends skipping Vonnegut’s 1987 novel Bluebeard. Still there is a wealth of information and the long running time allows them to dig deep into their interpretations of what one of America’s saddest writers had to say. The podcast came to an end in 2018 with their review of Vonnegut’s final collection of essays, 2005’s A Man Without a Country. So it goes.

6. The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast

Begun by Chris Lackey and Chad Fiefer in 2009, this show is undoubtedly the longest running on the list. With its relatively compact running time of half an hour per episode, the hosts consistently find time to include dramatic readings of key excerpts by narrators such as Andrew Leiman, Greig Johnson, Heather Klinke, and Patton Oswalt. Since Howard Lovecraft was a prolific correspondent in addition to body of work, they had much to draw upon from his personal life. And yes the much discussed issue of Lovecraft’s xenophobia is given ample airtime, though since they cover such lesser known stories as Arthur Jermyn, they at least offer relatively fresh insights on the matter.

A bit of an issue for the podcast is that for all his influence, Lovecraft was not a particularly long-lived or prolific author, so they completely ran out of stories of his to cover by the 115th episode in 2012. Their solution was to move on to stories by his contemporaries and fiction mentioned in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature which has provided excuse enough for expanding the scope of the podcast to include such authors as William Hope Hodgson and Oscar Wilde. The formula has allowed a run of over 500 episodes with no signs it will stop anytime soon.

5. Master the 40

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby still sells hundreds of thousands of copies a year, but there’s so much more to his output. Master the 40 which was begun by Kirk Curnutt and Robert Trogdon in August 2020 to give Fitzgerald’s 177 other published stories their due. Not only is the text analyzed and the context for where and when the stories were published provided. The pages of the original magazines in which the stories first appeared are featured as previews for each episode. So far it’s only eight episodes, but that’s been time to cover some of Fitzgerald’s most obscure stories and fascinating portraits of the period, such as his writeup for the production of Citizen Kane.

The title of the podcast refers to a 1929 letter by Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway regarding his experience with writing. He self-deprecatingly called himself “an old whore” of literature who had mastered the “40 positions,” meaning that he’d written so much he could craft a piece in any genre. Hopefully the show lasts to forty episodes so that major milestone can be accompanied by a party worthy of the Lost Generation.

4. Bradbury 100

On the subject of literary podcasts with a number in the title, in this case creator Phil Nichols meant for the title to celebrate the 100th year since Ray Bradbury’s 1920 birth. To celebrate the life and work of one the most influential fantasy/sf writers, Nichols eschewed the most common practice of assembling a group of hosts to chat over the works. His podcast is largely interviews with people whose work was to a significant degree devoted to Bradbury’s stories, such as Charles Ardai who edited a compendium of Bradbury’s crime fiction or Jerry Robins who adapted Bradbury for radio. Phil Nichols is a much more soft-spoken host than some of the more boisterous personalities featured on this list, which feels in many ways appropriate for a guide through Bradbury’s oeuvre.

3. Reading Jane Austen

According to Ruth Wilson’s thesis for the University of Sydney, the most authentic way to appreciate Austen’s writing is to read and discuss it aloud with friends and family, as that was the practice of the author herself. Two fans who are certainly following that spirit are Ellen and Harriet, a retired sociology lecturer and educational publishing company employee. They are mother and daughter, which means it’s unlikely that Harriet is told that she should talk to her mother more often.

Since they began the show in February 2020, the hosts have completed Pride and Prejudice and are a good way into Sense and Sensibility. It will be especially interesting if the podcast runs long enough for them to get to Mansfield Park, as that used to be Ellen’s favorite of Austen’s novels and was Harriet’s first, but for a time convinced her that Austen wasn’t for her. Such is the constantly evolving relationship people have with literature.

2. The Losers Club


Produced in conjunction with the pop culture website Consequence of Sound, this podcast devoted to Stephen King’s work started in January 2017. Since then it has found time not only to cover hundreds of King’s books and short story collections, often devoting multiple episodes to the denser novels (It has five episodes devoted to the original novel alone). They find time for ephemera such as the “Dollar Babies” which are basically home movies adaptations of his short stories made with the author’s permission for $1. There’s even a full episode devoted to King’s connection to the 1994 animated feature The Pagemaster.

If anything the hosts Jenn Adams, McKenzie Gerber, Mel Kassel, Randall Coburn, Dan Caffrey, and Michael Roffman err on the side of being too thorough. There are several episodes which run over three hours long, which threatens to be as long-winded as King himself is sometimes accused of being. It’s not all gushing praise either. The 1974 short “Sometimes They Come Back” gets dismissed as a “garbage story” despite being sufficiently beloved by fans that it got a film adaptation and a sequel. Still the depth of information and the quality of the production leave this a highly rewarding show for anyone who has the time to invest in it.

1. The Dickheads Podcast

David Agranoff, Anthony Trevino, and Langhorne Tweed’s podcast on the work and influence of Phillip K. Dick isn’t the most popular or technically accomplished podcast. But the dynamic they’ve developed as hosts since they began in 2019 (Agranoff as the enthusiastic nerd, Trevino as the angry nerd, and Tweed as the cool older guy) keeps their perspectives distinctive and their interplay interesting. There’s a very an amiable atmosphere as they get into the meat of Dick’s whacked out but insightful stories.

Like The Losers Club and Vonneguys, they’re hardly uncritically worshipful at all times. Dick’s 1957 novel The Cosmic Puppets is universally panned for its odious protagonist, sexualization of an underaged character, and comically misguided ending. Even the celebrated 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle only gets a mildly positive assessment from two of the three hosts. Still moments such as how Tweed describes profoundly relating to a scene in Martian Time Slip where a character feels a pleasant, relaxed need to kill themselves or the unanimous praise for The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch show how deeply they’ve connected to Dick’s literary perspective overall. They understand Dick enough to cite many of his own words about his work while admitting that he was an unreliable source. If there’s any form of literary analysis that’s appropriate for Dick it’s that one.

Dustin Koski cowrote the post-apocalyptic supernatural mystery Return of the Living. Make sure to buy enough copies that he can write a body of work towards which someone will devote a podcast.



Dustin Koski

Dustin Koski is a stagehand with IATSE Local 13 and a librarian who has written numerous articles and scripts with millions of views.