Book Box: Five must-hear podcasts that will transform your reading
Dive into these five podcasts to supercharge your reading. And meet Tara Khandelwal of Books and Beyond with Bound
I first met Tara six years ago. It was at my Career Rules book launch event. Tara and I took the stage together. She led me through my book gently and deftly – nodding, smiling, and hanging on to every word. I basked in her attention, and forgot to be nervous. I found myself opening up, on a hilariously failed interview with a Bollywood superstar, and all sorts of other writing mishaps. Gone were the jitters of speaking in front of a crowd.
A few years later, Tara launched her own books podcast. There again, was her warm and encouraging way of interviewing, one I had experienced first hand.
I started tuning in to Books and Beyond with Bound among others. Book podcasts propelled my reading life to a whole new level. Plus, my daily step count skyrocketed.
Most days, I wake up by 5.25 am, sleepily pull on my tee shirt, tracks and shoes, and make my way down the deserted Juhu streets to the beach. I walk by the sea, listening to Tara and her co-host Michelle, chat to authors.
By the time I reach the end of the beach, the day is dawning brighter, the laughing club and the dancing groups have begun their exertions, and my podcast episode is done.
Turning home, I begin another episode – this time from the Penguin podcast, where I might hear Gabrielle Zevin, author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, discuss her writing routine. Another day it’s The Book Review Podcast, where I have discovered writers like Patrick Radden Keefe. When I need a ‘comfort listen’, I dive straight into What Should I Read Next by Anne Bogel. It's a fun bookish chat, with off-beat book recommendations. Oh, and stay tuned on this – Anne and I have a surprise coming up in a few weeks!
But back to Books and Beyond With Bound. I talk to Tara Khandelwal, who recommends readers listen to book podcasts, because they are a great way to discover new books and to learn about the people behind the books. Here are edited excerpts of our conversation.
How did you get into the books space?
My journey with books started when I got selected for an internship at a small literary agency in New York. At the time I was studying economic history and management at Barnard College, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I also interned at a big publisher and did the Columbia Publishing Course.
Since then, my job has involved talking to authors. My first job out of college was at the Times of India Literature festival. I was in charge of booking the authors' flights and coordinating with them for bios and their panel times. My mentor Namita Devidayal helped me enter the industry. The first time I interviewed an author was probably around then. I was extremely nervous. Shaili Chopra of SheThePeople pushed me to blossom as a speaker and interviewer. It was under her guidance that I became just a little bit good at what I do - and then I wanted to take it further and start my author interview podcast Books and Beyond.
What is the best part of podcasting?
The people I meet. The best minds in the country are writing books, and I would never have gotten access to them had I not been doing what I do. Some interviews that I have loved are with Manu Pillai, Ira Mukhoty, and Chitra Banerjee. I've really had some amazing conversations and learned a lot.
What is the most challenging part of podcasting?
The hardest part is being consistent. It takes a lot of effort. Most podcasts fizzle out within the first three months of launch. Mine has been around for 6 seasons, 3 million listens, and 97 countries!
Have there been any surprises in terms of audience tastes?
It seems our audience loves women's stories and history! The most downloaded episode is Amrita Mahale's one on her book Milk Teeth. Michelle and I didn't really do well in the first one, and we asked her if we could record again. Amrita was really kind and came to record again in person!
Can you take us through a typical week in a book podcaster's life?
Michelle and I read the book, we research the author, prepare our questions and get on a call to discuss how to structure the script. We also have monthly check-ins to see which episodes do well, and what didn’t work - do we need to rebrand, add in some segments, or change – are the kind of questions we are asking ourselves.
Why should readers listen to book podcasts?
It’s a great way to discover new books and to learn about the people behind the books
What has been your favourite book this year?
Abraham Verghese's The Covenant of Water
Do you enjoy audiobooks?
As an audio producer, I find the medium very fascinating. I like reading self-help and fitness books on audio. Outlive is a great book to listen to.
Besides your own, which book podcasts do you enjoy?
I love The Lit Pickers by Deepanjana Pal and Supriya Nair. Their camaraderie makes the podcast really fun. There's something special about reading books and talking about them with your friends!
Next week, I move from podcasting to poetry, on why we need poetry in our lives and where we can find it.
Until then, Happy Reading.
Sonya Dutta Choudhury is a Mumbai-based journalist and the founder of Sonya’s Book Box, a bespoke book service. Each week, she brings you specially curated books to give you an immersive understanding of people and places. If you have any reading recommendations or suggestions, write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed are personal
Podcasts referred to in this edition of Book Box:
Books and Beyond with Bound
The Penguin Podcast
The Book Review Podcast
What Should I Read Next
The Lit Pickers
Head to HT Smartcast to hear Manjula Narayan speak about her favourite authors and books.