12 books that read like podcasts

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My podcast addiction goes back many years. Once I started listening to podcasts, I couldn’t stop. With many different topics and topics explored, pop culture, psychology, and especially politics and current affairs podcasts fill my ears as I walk, cook, and drive. Over the years, I’ve come to see podcasts as a pathway to more diverse perspectives and voices. Thanks to podcasts, my world expands, as I listen to new ideas, new conversations and enlightening interviews. But podcasts pick up where the books leave off, and the two can work in harmony to deliver similar experiences. Naturally, then, books that read like podcasts are fine with me.

It’s no surprise that books can mimic what it’s like to listen to a podcast, and that’s what this list of twelve podcast-like books is about. These books for podcast listeners translate each of the podcast styles, formats, and themes into captivating stories. Both non-fiction and fiction, the books on this list are engaging stories that read like podcasts. Across six categories, these books represent a variety of podcast formats and styles, from twisty thrillers and oral histories to true crime and everything in between. If you love podcasts, chances are you enjoy these books as well.

If you like historical 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 during World War II. Gladwell deftly weaves the threads of many historical figures into one breathtaking 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 The Bomber Mafia here.

Book cover You never forget your first book

You never forget your first time by Alexis Coe

This animated biography of George Washington dissects the mythical man he became in American history. Rather than dragging on for hundreds or even thousands of pages, Alexis Coe’s article You never forget your first time is a manageable read that’s so absorbing that you’ll find yourself ending soon enough. Coe’s wit and cheeky voice make this biography an entertaining pick that reads like a concise podcast miniseries reimagining a major historical figure.

If you like True Crime podcasts…

Notes on an execution book cover

Notes on an execution by Danya Kukafka

by Danya Kufaka Note on an execution is an innovative thriller that true crime podcast fans will appreciate. Kufaka’s novel centers on 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 and troubled life. Note on an execution is a biting look at the glamorization and fetishism of true crime while considering the murky ethics and morals of the criminal justice system.

cover of We Keep the Dead Close

We keep the dead close by Becky Cooper

A scary work of true crime, Becky Cooper We keep the dead close is a book you’ll want to free up your schedule to read. We keep the dead close focuses on the unsolved 1969 murder of a Harvard graduate student and Harvard graduate author Becky Cooper’s epic search for a solution. Cooper’s story is haunting as she travels back and forth between past and present, exposing the systematic cover-up of the murder by Harvard authorities and local police in this riveting book.

If you like paranormal and supernatural podcasts…

Cover of The Haunting of Alma Fielding

The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale

In 1938, England was on the brink of war. It is also a period of great interest in the supernatural. London housewife Alma Fielding emerges as a promising psychic after her home is plagued by unexplainable phenomena that headlines say is a poltergeist. But what is really going on? Ghost hunter Nandor Fodor investigates, trying to uncover the truth. The deeper Fodor sinks, the murkier his mission becomes. This fascinating page-turner is a must-read for anyone who loves podcasts that investigate the paranormal.

Spook book cover Mary Roach

frighten by Mary Roach

What happens when science meets the supernatural? This fascinating intersection is what Mary Roach explores in frighten. Roach focuses his 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. Fans of paranormal podcasts will appreciate Roach’s sense of humor and curiosity in this book which may contain more questions than answers…

If you like psychology and sociology podcasts…

The cover of the address book

The address book by Deirdre Mask

Some of the best podcasts are miniseries that dive deep into a subject or theme and explore its meaning over several self-contained yet still cohesive episodes. In The address book, historian Deirdre Mask does so by looking at a little-known subject: postal addresses. Mask uses addresses as a lens into major sociological questions, like what your street address says about your identity or your wealth. This revealing book is ideal for fans of history and sociology podcasts.

psychopath test by jon ronson cover

The psychopath test by Jon Ronson

One of my favorite non-fiction writers, Jon Ronson, writes about life on the fringes… extremists, internet trolls, the porn industry and, in The psychopath test, commerce, industry and the psychology of psychopaths. In captivating chapters so intriguing you’ll make up excuses to read it, the psychopath test will get you addicted to Ronson’s expedition into the world of psychopaths. You’ll encounter industry profiteers, cold-blooded killers, and larger-than-life characters in Ronson’s journey through the underbelly of psychopathology.

If you like podcasts about politics and current affairs…

cover of Good Talk

good conversation by Mira Jacob

My go-to capsules are all political conversations and interview podcasts like Hacks on tap, five thirty eightand Pod Save America. (I have a list of books for Message of public interest fans here on Book Riot.) Read Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir good conversation fits perfectly. Only in this book the conversations are not between politicians but rather between Jacob and his son growing up in the complex dynamics of contemporary America. A flawless but tender story, good conversation opens the dialogue between the adults who deal with today’s young people.

Cover of the book While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams

while justice sleeps by Stacey Abrams

Anyone deeply into politics and current affairs podcasts knows the sticky, hyper-partisan dynamic of the Supreme Court, both who sits in the chair and those who are caught in the world of the glorified nine. If you like topical podcasts, you’ll find plenty to like while justice sleeps the gripping thriller from politician and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams. Twisty and addictive, this book about the drama on the Supreme Court when a judge falls into a coma to be a serious, real look at power – who has it and who would nothing To see her.

If you like arts and pop culture podcasts…

the final revival of opal and nev book cover

The final revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Some of the best podcasts are oral histories of a specific era, piece of art, or an interesting cultural movement. If you are a fan of this kind of podcast, take the novel The final revival of Opal & Nev. Dawnie Walton’s debut follows the spinoffs of a famous (fictional) 1970s rock duo, years later they parted ways through the prism of an oral history. Themes of race, gender and feminism run through this gripping story.

I like to look at the book cover

I like to watch by Emily Nussbaum

Are you an arts and culture podcast addict? You’ll definitely want to check out Emily Nussbaum I like to watch. A Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, Nussbaum brings together his varied writings on the ups and downs of television in the new millennium. With topics as varied as buffy the vampire slayer, The Sopranosand reality TV, I like to watch is essential reading for podcast listeners who never tire of TV.

For more podcasts, check out the podcast coverage on Book Riot:

And be sure to listen to the Book Riot podcasts.

Colin L. Johnson