Prick Up Your Ears: 13 Best Podcasts to Listen to Books Being Read

Listen to books

We all have quite busy lives, so busy there’s no time to sit down and leisurely read a book. A book is best enjoyed with a relaxing drink, a comfortable armchair, and a soothing atmosphere, but what can you do when you can’t even sit down to relax? Audiobooks are a good option if you’d like to choose what book you’d like to listen to, but there’s another option: those podcasts where you will be read books according to the host’s selection. Be adventurous and let these podcasts narrate books and short stories to you — some of them also include added commentary to enhance your enjoyment of the story!

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

#1 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

You have likely heard that title before as the popular Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is known not only by fans of science fiction but also by the public in general! Have you ever been interested in reading this long, long series? Thanks to this podcast by the BBC, you may be able to enjoy this awesome story.

The Host: How to define who is the host of the podcast? There’s an entire case of people lending their voices to shape the story. Perhaps it may be fitting to consider the voice of the book’s narration as the host of this podcast. In that case, Peter Jones and William Franklyn voice the book, depending on what episode you’re listening to.  

The Guests: Given for how long the original 1980 podcast ran, it’s only natural there’s a sizable cast to represent each one of the characters in the book – and if the book’s voice is the host, then the rest of the cast are the guests!

Why You Have to Listen: Finding the original podcast is tricky, as it’s property of the BBC and they have all the broadcasting rights. At the time this list is being written, there are four episodes available on the BBC’s official website, with limited availability: after a month the episode is taken down. The schedule on their official website also mentions when the next episode will be released.

That said, the BBC’s website is not your only option. In the link below you’ll find the episodes of this awesome podcast. While listening to the story in its entirety via iTunes isn’t an option, if you have access to your computer or mobile phone then you should be able to enjoy the recordings at the link below to your heart’s content. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a charming, quirky story, the kind of story you need to read or listen to at least once in your life!

Listen to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast

Must-Listen Episodes

Ep. 1

Ep. 2

Ep. 3

Rating: Teen+

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy POWETcast

#2 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy POWETcast

You may be looking for a way to listen to that great Adams tale, but with added value such as commentary by fans. Here’s the Hitchhiker’ Guide to the Galaxy POWETcast, bringing to you some fun content to spice up your enjoyment of this story. They created their version of H2G2, while also following the spirit and charm the original had. Their work is a worthy homage to the original tale.

The Host: Sean “The Orange” Corse is the host of this podcast. His easygoing attitude makes listening to this podcast fun, and you’ll hear his enthusiasm in every word he says.

The Guests: During this podcast’s run other cast members at POWET.tv were interviewed, as Not Them Productions was working on their version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Enjoy what they have to say about their homage to this awesome tale!

Why You Have to Listen: Given the difficulty of finding the original broadcast of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, those podcasts discussing the story may be a good option. This is one of them – and the fact the cast members from POWET.tv were working on their version says a lot about how much they care about this story. If you will listen to work as well-known as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, doing so through a podcast made by fans of that work can be quite a good idea.

The episodes narrate up to the Fit the Sixth, meaning the story is incomplete – but you probably will enjoy the content that does exist. Let POWET.tv entertain you with their homage to H2G2!

Listen to the Hitchhiker’ Guide to the Galaxy POWETcast

Must-Listen Episodes

H2G2 POWETcast Episode 01 – Fit the First

H2G2 POWETcast Episode 05 – Zaphod  

H2G2 POWETcast Episode 10 – Fit the First Prototype

Rating: Teen+

The Guardian Books Podcast

#3 The Guardian Books Podcast

Among the many podcasts the Guardian hosts you’ll find the Guardian Books Podcast – and its relative, The Guardian Children’s Books Podcasts. These two are a window to the world of contemporary literature and modern books, covering both fiction and non-fiction.

Keep in mind this podcast reads fragments of books, instead of the entire book.

The Host: There are three hosts: Claire Armitstead, Richard Lea, and Sian Cain. All of them are experienced hosts, delving deep into the finer details of every book they discuss. This informative podcast’s soul exists thanks to the hosts’ professionalism.

The Guests: Every episode has a different guest. Authors, experts in the topics the book discusses, journalists, even Pulitzer-winning guests have taken part in this podcast. The quality of these guests is a high point of this show.

Why You Have to Listen: Podcasts that talk in-depth about books, current events, and interviews guests competently can be considered akin to a diamond in the rough. Many podcasts try to do all that, with varying grades of success, but the Guardian Books Podcast excels at this daunting goal. You will think everything the hosts and guests say is backed up by solid, easy-to-understand proof, and you will sympathize with the opinions presented thanks to how well constructed they are.

The podcast broadcast its final episode not too long ago — less than a month ago, by the time this review is being written. All the episodes are still available on iTunes and the Guardian’s website, so feel free to listen to everything the Guardian Books Podcast discussed.

Listen to the Guardian Books Podcast 

Must-Listen Episodes

George Saunders’s Man Booker win and Valeria Luiselli – books podcast

‘The past is amongst us. Taking notes’: nature writing with Kathleen Jamie and Laurie Lee – books podcast

The history of the book, from Gilgamesh to now – books podcast

Rating: Teen+

New Yorker Fiction

#4 New Yorker Fiction Podcast

Just like the Guardian, the New Yorker has a literature podcast as well. The difference is that the New Yorker: Fiction has short tales instead of discussing entire books! These stories come from the archives of the magazine and are narrated by playwrights and fiction writers. If you like short stories, this podcast is perfect for you.

The Host: Deborah Treisman is the fiction editor at the New Yorker, in charge of curating the written works featuring in the magazine. Her expertise enables her to select the best stories to bring to this podcast, as well as discuss the meaning behind those stories with the guests reading those tales.

The Guests: Each story is narrated by a different writer. Some of these guests even had their short stories published in the New Yorker magazine in the past. Whether you recognize some of the narrators featured in the podcast or not, these guests are a delight to listen to.

Why You Have to Listen: There are so many stories to enjoy. The New Yorker Magazine has existed for decades, meaning they have gained a considerable amount of short tales in their archives. There’s content for many months of episodes!

The authors are known for their talent: Haruki Murakami, Shirley Jackson, Alice Munro, Jorge Luis Borges… those are a few of the writers that feature in this podcast. This podcast is a great opportunity to discover new writers you may be interested in – after all, what better way to discover them than to listen to some of their work?

Listen to the New Yorker Fiction Podcast 

Must-Listen Episodes

Mary Gaitskill Reads John Cheever

Ben Lerner Reads John Berger

Richard Powers Reads Steven Millhauser

Rating: Teen+

#5 Phoebe Reads a Mystery

This podcast is a great choice if you’re a fan of mysteries and are looking for someone to read them to you. Phoebe Reads a Mystery has existed for two months already, releasing an episode every day. It’d be a great addition to your daily life!

The Host: The hostess is called Phoebe Judge, and this isn’t her first podcast! Other podcasts include Criminal, a popular true-crime podcast, and This is Love, a podcast about love relationships. With so much experience, it’s natural she’d know how to make her narration engaging.

The Guests: There are no guests in this podcast! Unless you count the books themselves.

Why You Have to Listen: Just as we mentioned earlier, this is a relatively new podcast. So far there have been two books completed, and the third one is underway. You’re in time for enjoying the Moonstone.

The other books Phoebe chose are the Hound of the Baskervilles and the Mysterious Affair at Styles, proving her good judgment when it’s about picking what books to read. Your literary tastes when it’s about mystery books are safe in her hands.

Listen to Phoebe Reads a Mystery 

Must-Listen Episodes

The Mysterious Affair at Styles: Chapter 1

The Hound of the Baskervilles: Chapter 1

The Moonstone: Prologue

Rating: Teen+

The Worst Bestsellers

#6 The Worst Bestsellers

A lot of books have been published – so many that turning a book into a best seller is quite difficult, especially if you’re not a published author already. Being a best-seller is no indication of quality, and that’s what the Worst Bestsellers will prove.

Keep in mind that fragments of the books are read, instead of the entire book. The amount of detail they have in their discussions is outstanding, though.

The Host: Kait and Renata host this awesome podcast. Kait is a writer, while Renata is a librarian – professions that allow them to understand the murky depths of literary quality. They’re fair, but also unafraid of voicing their opinions, good qualities for a podcast like this one.

The Guests: There often are guests of all kinds to come and have a fun time reading some of these best-sellers! Fellow book enthusiasts come and give their opinions about these books.

Why You Have to Listen: What constitutes a good book can often be subjective, but certain characteristics can make a book be judged as bad. That’s what this podcast does: they identify those traits and present them with humor, whether it’s characterization, situations, or just unfortunate implications that flew under the radar.

It’s also noteworthy how the hostesses don’t get mean for the sake of being mean. When they criticize the book, they always have some consideration for the author. This podcast is not meant to be a bashing session. If you enjoy people saying what they think about books, then this podcast is one you will enjoy. 

Listen to the Worst Best Sellers 

Must-Listen Episodes

Episode 21 – City of Bones

Episode 82 – Breaking Dawn

Episode 100 – Ready Player One

Rating: Teen+

Prancing Pony Podcast

#7 Prancing Pony Podcast

Tolkien’s work is quite extensive. There’s plenty of material to read, so of course, there’s also plenty of discussions to be had. Tolkien’s unique writing style is perfect for discussing the many scenarios and situations described in his books. It’s a goldmine of literary fun, excellent for this kind of podcast, which reads excerpts instead of the entire book. Regardless, given the size of each book, every fragment is long.

The Host: Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese are at the helm of this podcast, ready to analyze and describe Tolkien’s intricate work. The pair are great fans of Tolkien’s work, having met in a Facebook group for fans of Tolkien – their interest in this author’s work is as clear as day!

The Guests: There are quarterly unscripted Q&A episodes where guest listeners come to partake in the discussions and ask questions about Tolkien’s work. These episodes made to get closer to other Tolkien fans are always a treat.

Why You Have to Listen: With how large these books are, analyzing and reading them can be almost overwhelming, but the hosts tackle such a task with gusto, selecting portions of the book to read aloud and explaining their interpretation of the content within. Regardless of whether you agree with their interpretation or not, their opinions and thoughts are quite solid!

What’s even more exceptional is that they have been doing this podcast for quite a while! At the time of writing this, there are 165 episodes, many of them being parts of a much smaller series about a concrete part of the books. The level of detail they have is amazing, and it shows in both the length of each episode and the number of episodes. You have many hours of enjoyment ahead of you! 

Listen to the Prancing the Pony Podcast 

Must-Listen Episodes

009 – The Odd Couple

014 – Trouble in Paradise

022 – Subdivisions

Rating: Teen+

Knifepoint Horror

#8 Knifepoint Horror

This podcast is a must-have for horror fans. The New Yorker broadcasts short stories of many kinds of genres; this one is exclusively about horror. Knifepoint Horror has tales of supernatural suspense, all of them written by author Soren Narnia. Enjoy these suspenseful stories!

The Host: The author of these stories is also the person lending his voice to the podcast: Soren Narnia, a writer who creates suspenseful tales for your enjoyment. The first few episodes were read by other people; their names are listed in the description of each episode.

The Guests: Usually there are no guests, but recently there have been a couple of episodes where some people have been invited to lend their voices to the characters. The cast is available for perusal in the podcast’s website by checking the page for the episode.

Why You Have to Listen: It could be said horror has different subgenres. This podcast, in particular, focuses on the supernatural kind of horror yet the hosts always keep an interesting down-to-earth tone, even though the topics they talk about are supernatural. Each episode has one story or several smaller ones that are all tied together by a theme.

The best part about these stories is that they’re all very well-crafted. The pace and themes are constructed with care; when listening to the author’s narration you can picture in your mind every part of the tale. This podcast is best enjoyed while in a quiet, cozy environment — the right kind of place for you to enjoy the suspense and paranormal events Soren Narnia has for you!

Listen to KnifePoint Horror

Must-Listen Episodes

House

Presence

Staircase

Rating: Teen+

Black Books Live

#9 Black Books Live

Black Books Live is a podcast that seeks to address the dearth of audio material available from black authors. That’s what the description of the podcast states – and what a great objective that was! While the podcast may have been short-lived, the content from the episodes available is worth listening to. Enjoy these books!

The Host: There are two hosts here! Jason Harris and Cher Jey find interesting books created by authors of color.

The Guests: There are no guests in this podcast, although the author of each book discussed is very interesting.

Why You Have to Listen: This is one of the podcasts you’d wish had continued for longer than what the archives show – its high quality was remarkable. The four available episodes will provide some pretty interesting tales written by people of color, proving how talented the authors are.

The first episode is notable because it contains some rather long excerpts of the book they’re talking about. The other episodes contain more discussion and shorter excerpts, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less interesting! By the time you finish listening to everything Black Books Live has to offer, you’ll feel like you read all those books yourself.

Listen to Black Books Live 

Must-Listen Episodes

Episode 1 – James Baldwin 

Episode 2 – Toni Cade Bambara

Episode 4 – J.California Cooper

Rating: Teen+

The Babysitters Club Club

#10 The Babysitters Club Club

Have you ever read the Babysitters Club books? It’s a very prolific book series about the adventures of a group of girls who founded a club to work as babysitters in their town. Every book follows a plot, talking about issues such as divorces, illnesses, and other relatable situations. The Babysitters Club Club podcast reads and analyzes these books!

This podcast reads excerpts, not the entire book. The number of excerpts and the detail of their discussions are truly remarkable!

The Host: Jack Shepherd and Tanner Greenring read these books many years ago. Now in the present time, they look back at them and check if they stand the test of time, and reveal how their thoughts have changed after all these years!

The Guests: No guests over here!

Why You Have to Listen: This is a book series directed at a young audience, using them to talk about situations people are likely to experience. That’s what makes the Babysitters Club so memorable – its relatability is the core of its soul. But are they worthwhile? Are they as good, believable, and relatable as they sound in concept? That’s what this podcast seeks to answer.

The discussions are fair, thoughtful, and always delivered with a dash of humor. Some of your opinions will probably align with the hosts’, but as usual, the best part of any podcast of this type is when you disagree. Will you change your mind thanks to their thoughts? Find out!

Listen to the Babysitters Club Club 

Must-Listen Episodes

BSCC 015 (KII 001) – Hello, Mallory

BSCC 021 – Kristy and the Walking Disaster

BSCC: Little Sister – Karen’s Witch

Rating: Teen+

#11 The War of the Worlds

The classic book The War of the Worlds by famous author H.G. Wells is now in podcast form. This collaboration between the Florida Department of Education and the University of South Florida College makes it possible!

Here’s a very short summary of the story: Martians come to invade Earth! They land in England, and half of the story is the narrator talking about the effects of the invasion and how much havoc it causes. In the second half, it’s all about the Earth under the Martians’ dominion and the narrator’s struggle for survival.

The Host: The unnamed host’s smooth voice will narrate the War of the Worlds to you. This is the perfect voice to deliver this interesting tale of invasion and science fiction to you.

The Guests: There are no guests in this podcast; the book’s narration is what provides the entertainment here!

Why You Have to Listen: The War of the Worlds is one of those books you just have to read if you’re a fan of science fiction. Its significance in the genre is so notable new adaptations are coming out every once in a while. Now here it is, in podcast form and ready to be listened to anytime.

Given the concerns of our times such as the COVID-19 and murder hornets, listeners almost have to be warned that the podcast is not real, just as they had to be in 1938 when a radio broad caused widespread panic.

Listen to the War of the Worlds 

Must-Listen Episodes

Book One: The Coming of the Martians–Chapter 1: The Eve of the War

Book One: The Coming of the Martians–Chapter 2: The Falling Star

Book Two: The Earth Under the Martians–Chapter 1: Under Foot

Rating: All Ages

Escape Pod

#12 Escape Pod

Speaking of science fiction! Escape Pod is all about science fiction short stories. Just like the New Yorker is about varied short fiction and Knifepoint Horror is about, well, horror, Escape Pod brings you the best of this genre.

The Host: Each episode has a different narrator! The podcast seems to have a small pool of narrators, rotating them to give each story the attention it deserves.

The Guests: This is another podcast where there are no guests – the story is what this podcast brings, after all!

Why You Have to Listen: Are you a fan of science fiction? If so, consider listening to Escape Pod! These short stories are carefully curated to bring the best entertainment science fiction is known for. This genre is so prolific there are thousands of short tales and books out there!

You’ll be listening to this podcast for quite some time: at the time of writing this review, there are 731 stories narrated so far! And that’s without including other episodes such as the Metacasts – short interludes where the podcast creators address the listeners.

Listen to Escape Pod

Must-Listen Episodes

Escape Pod 705: Rule of Three (Part 1 of 3)

Escape Pod 713: More Tomorrow 

Escape Pod 722: His Stainless-Steel Heart

Rating: All Ages

Obscure with Michael Ian Black

#13 Obscure with Michael Ian Black

Have you ever heard of the Thomas Hardy classic, Jude the Obscure? It’s a tale about a man who yearns to be a scholar and narrates his many tribulations. It began as a serialized work in a magazine, then was turned into a book, and now here it is being read and reviewed in Obscure with Michael Ian Black.

The Host: Comedian Michael Ian Black hosts this podcast just as the title says! You may have heard of him before – Mr. Black starred in several comedies on TV, as well as written books for children and adults. His resume is quite impressive!

The Guests: Mr. Black is not alone in his goal to read Jude the Obscure. Guests such as Jen Kirkman, Mike Birbiglia, Michael Showalter, and even his teenage daughter join him in tackling this book.

Why You Have to Listen: This book is considered a classic, Thomas Hardy’s last completed novel. Its many topics and the influence of society on an ordinary person’s life at the time the book was written create a piece of history, one that shows the ills of a judgmental society – some of them persisting even in the present day.

Mr. Black and guests read the book carefully, making witty commentary that complements the book’s story. No excerpt is treated banally; the commentary makes the story feel so much more approachable – the classics can be quite intimidating at times, but Mr. Black makes it easier for anyone to want to read it! All the excerpts read in this podcast are great for discussing the book and its messages!

Listen to Obscure

Must Listen Episodes

Introducing Obscure

Episode 1 – To Begin

Episode 2 – A Clapper to the Ass

Rating: Teen+

————

As you can see, there are many options for podcasts that read books and give commentary to enhance your experience. Usually reading entire books in a podcast can go against copyright and other intellectual property laws unless the book is under public domain, but podcasts like these, where the work isn’t for-profit and also is derivative, can be very interesting podcasts to enjoy during a quiet night as if you were reading the book yourself.

As a last note, remember you can get all sorts of audiobooks through Audible and iTunes itself! Books make the world of literature go round, so find a nice book, buy and download it, and enjoy what the author has in store for you!

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About the author

Summary

Podcasts, audio, writing, and reviews are what Nicolas' life revolves around. At day he searches interesting podcasts for listening and sharing, at night he searches ways to improve himself. Find out about some of the podcasts he has listened to!

Work History

Four years of writing experience have given Nicolas versatility -- and the podcasts he listened during that work made it all rather enjoyable! Now, as part of Vurbl's editorial team, he uses his skills to bring podcasts to the spotlight.

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