3 Podcasts for a Lover of Books and Words

By Yoorim Choi

Photo of a smartphone with a podcast playing, with a set of headphones on the left and a mug of coffee on the right.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

As a podcast enthusiast, I find that the beauty in these auditory delights lies in their ability to provide information on near any topic, with the only charge to listeners being an open and attentive ear. With the world at its peak of turmoil and uncertainty, it can be overwhelming to stay connected with the happenings of society. It may be particularly daunting to those in the editorial field, where our connection with the industry is highly dependent on in-person events such as conferences, workshops, or literary festivals. That leaves us with the question of today: how do we keep in touch with the community when the pandemic prevents us from leaving our own houses? 

This is where podcasts have their moment to shine. They carry the power to connect people with similar interests; writers, editors, and publishers have taken to this platform to discuss matters related to their craft. Podcasts have given our community a voice, a space to share opinions and news in a situation that makes it challenging to meet in person. That being said, here are three illuminating podcasts to keep you connected with the world of words: 

Word Bomb

Words are the roots and leaves that give form to our books, yet how often do we take the time to examine these linguistic nuggets? In their TVO-produced podcast Word Bomb, co-hosts Pippa Johnstone and Karina Palmitesta take you on a journey to unravel the enigma that is the English language.

The show’s concept is that “language moves fast”—as the TVO website proclaims—so to explore its evolution, the co-hosts devote each episode to “unpacking one explosive word,” looking at the different meanings it embodies. As Pippa notes in the first episode, “This show is a really good opportunity…to dig into some of the words that are the most heated and the most contentious today, because we’re really interested in finding words that are right at a moment of social change.”

These words vary across topics, ranging from politics (e.g., Republican) to climate change (e.g., Anthropocene) to self-identification (e.g., BIPOC). The hosts also examine everyday slang or focus on a given word’s function. (My favourite is the word like, featured in the third episode of season one. Listening to this episode made me realize, with both fascination and horror, how prevalent this verbal tick is within my own speech patterns.)

Although that’s not to say that this series is a linguistics course—far from it. The two hosts create a lively discussion by sharing their personal anecdotes and thoughts. They also speak to experts or people who carry special experiences with the word in question. In season one, episode eight, for instance, Vancouver resident Heather Pawsey describes how she coined the term renoviction after facing a rent increase disguised as a building renovation charge.

The topics are relatable: if you find the word moist distasteful and want to know why, head on over to season one, episode five; if you’ve ever been curious about the origin behind Toronto, Pippa and Karina discuss the etymology of our city’s name in a live show recording at the Hot Docs Podcast Festival (season two, episode nine). The podcast is entertaining and opens your eyes to the ways we use language in day-to-day conversations—like, how great is that!

Words with Writers

Words with Writers began when co-host and author Chris Gorman first had the idea to help promote new authors in the Toronto literary community. Releasing your first book can be an arduous journey, but that doesn’t mean you have to walk the road alone. Words with Writers was launched by the Canadian Authors Association’s Toronto branch, with a mission to provide a platform for members to introduce their literary works to the community.

Co-hosted by Chris Gorman and Brandi Tanner, this series isn’t just limited to readings; it also features publication news, author interviews, and upcoming industry events such as webinars and contests. Each episode spotlights an author (or several), with a reading of their latest work and discussion of their creative thought process. A number of episodes revolve around a theme, with my favourite being episode six, “Halloween Spooktacular” (hey, who says we can’t share spooky stories outside of October?).

Both Chris and Brandi agree that their podcast’s distinguishing feature is its focus on new and emerging authors, particularly those who inhabit the Toronto scene. Much of the literary community’s news is headlined by already established writers, so this series offers a refreshing change. If you’re looking to support or connect with Canadian authors and stay on top of the city’s literary events, then Words with Writers is a fantastic podcast to listen to.

Pub Hub

As widespread as books are, it’s surprising to know that knowledge of the publishing industry isn’t as common. Many of those outside of this field don’t realize that the industry exists as a huge network, with professionals working to fulfill their own goals while connecting with like-minded individuals. Publishing isn’t exclusive to writers; it requires the dedication of editors, marketers, literary agents, designers, and many others. Pub Hub takes all of these roles and introduces them in a single channel packed with enriching information.

Co-hosts Jessica de Bruyn (Editors Toronto’s very own programs chair) and Yasmine Lee provide an overarching, behind-the-scenes view of the publishing landscape. The two hosts aim to bring in a variety of people who work on books to speak about their careers, such as those involving book publicity, book blogging, and even marketing and publicity interning. Jessica and Yasmine engage in a highly informative discussion with their guest speakers while offering stories about their own experiences in the field.

Pub Hub also branches out beyond the traditional podcast form—it creates a space for the publishing community on its website, where it encourages members to share content and news in a welcoming space. Whether you’re interested in editing, self-publishing, book marketing, or good ol’ fashioned writing, Pub Hub has a bit of everything for everyone.

While these three podcasts vary in intent, they share a genuine passion for the English language—and the best part is, you can follow all three from the comfort of your home.

Yoorim Choi is an editor and writer based in Toronto.

This article was copy edited by Hitesh Thukral.

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