My podcast addiction goes back several years. Once I started listening to podcasts, I couldn’t stop. With many different topics and subjects explored, pop culture, psychology, and, especially, politics and current events podcasts fill my ears while I walk, cook, and drive. Over the years, I’ve come to look at podcasts as a pathway towards more diverse perspectives and voices. Through podcasts, my world is expanded, as I listen to new ideas, fresh conversations, and illuminating interviews. But podcasts pick up where books leave off, and the two can work in harmony to deliver similar experiences. Naturally, then, books that read like podcasts are a great fit for me.
It’s no surprise that books can mimic what it’s like to listen to a podcast, and that’s the focus of this list of twelve books that are similar to podcasts. These books for podcast listeners each translate podcast styles, formats, and focuses into engrossing stories. Both nonfiction and fiction alike, the books in this list are engaging narratives that read like podcasts. Across six categories, these books represent a variety of podcast formats and styles, from twisty thrillers to oral histories to true crime and everything in between. If you love podcasts, chances are you’ll enjoy these books, too.
If You Like History Podcasts…
The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell’s book is truly a history podcast fan’s dream. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell sets his sights on the microhistory of precision bombing combat developed in the Second World War. Gladwell nimbly weaves the threads of many historic figures into one knockout story. Audiobook listeners will definitely want to check this one out on audio, as the audiobook includes archival material and special content. Find more information on how to listen to The Bomber Mafia here.
You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe
This lively biography of George Washington dissects the man from the myth he’s become in American history. Rather than drag on for hundreds if not thousands of pages, Alexis Coe’s You Never Forget Your First is a manageable read that is so absorbing you’ll find yourself at the end soon enough. Coe’s wit and cheeky voice make this biography an entertaining choice that reads like a concise podcast miniseries reimagining of a major historical figure.
If You Like True Crime Podcasts…
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
Danya Kufaka’s Note on an Execution is an innovative thriller that true crime podcast lovers will enjoy. Kufaka’s novel centers around the execution of a serial killer, Ansel Packer. In his final hours, a group of people whose paths have intertwined with Ansel’s reflect on his chaotic, troubled life. Note on an Execution is a biting look at the glamorization and fetishism of true crime while also considering the murky ethics and morals of the criminal justice system.
We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper
A chilling work of true crime, Becky Cooper’s We Keep the Dead Close is a book you’ll want to clear your schedule to read. We Keep the Dead Close focuses on the unsolved murder of a female Harvard graduate student in 1969 and the epic search for a solution by author Becky Cooper, a Harvard grad. Cooper’s account is spellbinding as she works back and forth between past and present, exposing the systematic cover up of the murder by Harvard authorities and the local police in this fascinating book.
If You Like Paranormal and Supernatural Podcasts…
The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale
In 1938, England is on the brink of war. It is also a time of great interest in the supernatural. London housewife Alma Fielding emerges as a promising medium after her house becomes plagued by inexplicable phenomena that the headlines say is a poltergeist. But what’s really happening? Ghost hunter Nandor Fodor investigates, trying to get to the truth. The deeper Fodor gets, the murkier his mission becomes. This fascinating page turner is a must read for anyone who loves podcasts that investigate the paranormal.
Spook by Mary Roach
What happens when science meets the supernatural? That fascinating intersection is what Mary Roach explores in Spook. Roach focuses her attention specifically on the afterlife…what we know about the afterlife, what we don’t know about the afterlife, and what we believe about the afterlife. Lovers of paranormal podcasts will enjoy Roach’s sense of humor and curiosity in this book that might hold more questions than answers…
If You Like Psychology and Sociology Podcasts…
The Address Book by Deirdre Mask
Some of the best podcasts are miniseries that take a deep dive into a topic or theme and explore its significance over several self-contained yet still cohesive episodes. In The Address Book, historian Deirdre Mask does this by looking at a topic most know little about: street addresses. Mask uses addresses as a lens into major sociological questions, like what your street address says about your identity or wealth. This revealing book is ideal for fans of history and sociology podcasts.
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
One of my favorite nonfiction writers, Jon Ronson writes about life at the fringe…extremists, internet trolls, the pornography industry, and, in The Psychopath Test, the business, industry, and psychology of psychopaths. In riveting chapters so intriguing you’ll be inventing excuses to read it, The Psychopath Test will have you hooked on Ronson’s expedition into the world of psychopaths. You’ll meet industry profiteers, stone-cold killers, and larger-than-life characters in Ronson’s trip through the underbelly of psychopathology.
If You Like Politics and Current Events Podcasts…
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
My must-listen pods are all political conversation and interview podcasts like Hacks on Tap, Five Thirty Eight, and Pod Save America. (I have a list of books for PSA fans here on Book Riot.) Reading Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir Good Talk fits right in. Only in this book, the conversations aren’t among politicos but instead between Jacob and her son growing up in the complex dynamics of contemporary America. An unflinching yet tender story, Good Talk helps open the dialogue between adults caring for today’s youth.
While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
Anyone who is deeply plugged into politics and news podcasts know the sticky, hyper-partisan dynamics of the Supreme Court, both who sits on on the chair and those caught up in the world of the glorified nine. If you love current events podcasts, you’ll find much to like about While Justice Sleeps the gripping thriller from politico and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams. Twisty and addictive, this book about drama on the Supreme Court when a Justice falls into a coma to be a gritty, real look at power—who has it, and who would do anything to have it.
If You Like Arts and Pop Culture Podcasts…
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
Some of the best podcasts are oral histories of a specific era, work of art, or interesting cultural movement. If you’re a fan of this kind of podcast, pick up the novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. Dawnie Walton’s debut follows the fallout of a (fictional) famed 1970s rock duo years later they split up through the lens of an oral history. Themes of race, gender, and feminism course through this captivating story.
I Like to Watch by Emily Nussbaum
Are you an arts and culture podcast junkie? You’ll definitely want to check out Emily Nussbaum’s I Like to Watch. A Pulitzer Prize–winning critic, Nussbaum collects her assorted writing on the highs and lows of television in the new millennium. With wide-ranging subjects like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, and reality TV, I Like to Watch is essential reading for podcast listeners who can’t get enough of television.
For more podcasts, check out podcast coverage on Book Riot:
And be sure to listen to Book Riot’s own podcasts.