Whether you listen to them or not (and we hope you do!), podcasts are everywhere nowadays—if there’s a topic you’re interested in, there’s probably an episode somewhere dedicated to it. The best part? If there’s a podcast you love, there’s probably a book you’ll love just as much. Here are some more nonfiction titles to pick up, based on what you love to listen to.
Murder, mayhem, and massive success. Those are only three things that the popular podcast S-Town and John Berendt’s classic have in common. If the narrative twists and turns, visceral descriptions of local people and their lives, or unforgettable, mysterious characters at the center of the drama caught your ear when listening to Brian Reed’s investigation, look no further than MIDNIGHT for your next nonfiction read, which follows the author’s multiyear investigation of a shooting in Savannah, Georgia.
Shots rang out in Savannah’s grandest mansion in the early morning hours of May 2, 1981. For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this beautiful and isolated remnant of the Old South. John Berendt’s sharply observed and suspenseful account of this landmark murder case is a sublime and seductive reading experience.
Part of PSA’s appeal (aside from its equally humorous and harsh look at current events) is the fact that its hosts have firsthand experience in Washington politics and aren’t afraid to speak their minds. One thing they can agree on? Our capitol is a circus. In his true-life satire, Mark Leibovich highlights the comparison by exposing the media-obsessed, gilded culture of D.C., and how the people elected to serve are often only serving themselves.
Freakonomics Radio aims to explore “the hidden side of everything,” and Malcolm Gladwell’s book delivers on the same promise. A collection of observations about what makes people and things extraordinary, it covers topics from Silicon Valley to Cesar Millan, high school football teams to rotisserie chicken ovens. Both book and podcast offer interesting and thought-provoking insights about how things interact with each other, and how they shape us—sometimes without us even realizing it.
If you can’t get enough of Karina Longworth’s deep dives into the Golden Age of Hollywood, check out Anne Helen Petersen’s collection of notorious cinematic controversies and calamities which highlights both infamous and lesser-known stories. From Mae West’s “indecency charges” to Montgomery Clift’s heartbreaking fall from grace, Bogie and Bacall to Gable and Lombard, there’s plenty of drama and deviance for any film or gossip fan.
This award-winning memoir is perfect for listeners of Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris’s podcast, which focuses on cultural developments and implications, often through an African-American lens. Their nuanced and honest approach to privilege and “post-racial” America is exactly what you’ll find in Margo Jefferson’s book, which explores her childhood and coming-of-age in upper-crust black Chicago. (And, once you’re done, listen to Jenna and Wesley’s conversation with Ms. Jefferson here.)
Call Your Girlfriend is “a podcast for long-distance besties,” and Rebecca Traister’s landmark book about the rise of unmarried women is exactly what you would talk to your friends about over a meal or a drink. A stirring investigation into the sexual, economic, and emotional lives of women in the twenty-first century (and throughout American history), this book is firmly in the CYG wheelhouse and a real conversation starter. An added bonus? Cohost Aminatou Sow appears in Traister’s book as a case study.
For your feminist friends
Rebecca Traister offers a comprehensive study of the power of independent women in America through the fascinating history of unmarried women and their lasting, radical effect on the nation.
Before she became a bestselling author, Cheryl Strayed was an advice columnist named Sugar, answering letters for The Rumpus and offering advice about life, love, loss, and the difficult hands we’re dealt. Anna Sale takes on a similar role with DSM, digging deep and introducing topics that were once taboo with her many guests, celebrity and ordinary alike. If you love the human element of this show, and the gentleness with which Anna handles the stories she shares, Strayed’s collection of Sugar advice is for you.
Cheryl Strayed, author of WILD, is as candid and compassionate as ever as “Sugar,” the formerly anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus. TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS is a striking collection of “Dear Sugar” columns, the gentlest tough-love advice you’ll ever need to hear.
For years, Marc Maron has been the king of compelling conversations, hosting his podcast out of his now-infamous garage, and getting some of our most beloved celebrities, from Robin Williams to President Barack Obama, to open up in ways they never have before. Judd Apatow has a similar approach in SICK IN THE HEAD, a collection of candid chats with people like Lena Dunham, Jay Leno, Eddie Vedder, Mike Nichols, Spike Jonze, and Sarah Silverman. (And psssst! Maron has his own book coming out this year—keep an eye out!)
Before becoming one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Judd Apatow was the original comedy nerd. Thirty years later, he’s collected interviews from his funniest friends in this collection that explores creativity, ambition, neediness, generosity, and, of course, the back-of-the-club gossip that comics tell one another when no one else is listening.
Imagine talking about your nerdiest obsession with your friends, and you’ve got the Nerdist Podcast. Now, imagine writing and reading about your nerdiest obsession, and you’ve got Glen Weldon’s deep dive into the history of Batman and the rise of the fans who love him. A fascinating, funny, and insightful examination of the ways Bruce Wayne has changed over the decades, and how we have changed with him, it’s a must-read for comic and culture fans alike.
For every historical figure we learn about in school, there are thousands we never hear of, even though they may have contributed to our world in major ways. With rarely seen photos and even rarer interviews, Molly Schiot’s illustrated history of unsung heroines in sports history features over a hundred women who were breaking barriers before Title IX was the law of the land, changing the face (sometimes literally) of tennis, track, swimming, baseball, football, and even jujitsu.
For the fan who was glued to the TV during the Women’s World Cup
Based on the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, GAME CHANGERS is a celebration of the pioneering, forgotten female athletes of the twentieth century. This beautiful book is full of rarely seen photos and new interviews with past and present game changers like Abby Wambach and Cari Champion.
There’s absolutely no question that Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams are two of the funniest women to ever grace a set of headphones. Their unique and unapologetically female perspective on sex, romance, race, and everyday issues is the latest in a long line of superstars who changed the role of women in comedy, and Yael Kohen’s group biography of the greatest generation, from Joan Rivers and Lily Tomlin to Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler, is a perfect supplement.
Radiolab has been a must-listen since its debut in the early 2000s with its masterful and accessible blend of storytelling and science. Oliver Sacks was known for his similar skill, introducing cases and neurological phenomena not through the pathology but through the patients. AN ANTHROPOLOGIST ON MARS is one of his best collections, focused on seven individuals with fascinating personalities, perfect for people who love the episodic structure of podcasts.
One of the newest podcasts from WNYC, Nancy is hosted by Kathy Tu and Tobin Low and is all about the LGBTQ experience in today’s world, covering culture, politics, relationships, and more. If you love their candid blend of serious and comedic topics, check out the latest from Alison Bechdel (yes, of the test!), a graphic memoir of the artist’s relationship with her craft and her mother as she grew up.
From the bestselling author of FUN HOME, Alison Bechdel tells the story of her mother, a voracious reader, music lover, and passionate amateur actor who was unhappily married to a closeted gay man. This brilliantly told graphic memoir is a thrilling tale of seeking answers to why there was an abrupt divide between this mother and daughter.
When he published this book a decade ago, Chef Anthony Bourdain brought the restaurant scene into the mainstream with stories of sex, drugs, and haute cuisine gathered from his near quarter-century of experience in kitchens around the world. The Bon Appétit Foodcast has a similar impact, bringing delicious interviews with culinary tastemakers, writers, and influencers to listeners everywhere.
There are food memoirs, and then there is KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL. Anthony Bourdain arguably kicked off the celebrity chef phenomenon with this wickedly funny memoir/expose that revealed the “sex, drugs, and bad behavior of haute cuisine.”