Book Fight

As is our holiday tradition, we've got two Christmas books this week in a jam-packed, super-sized episode of Book Fight. First we talk about a novel ostensibly about Christmas but really more about punching and shooting and also racism towards Native Americans. In the second half of the show we talk about a sexy Christmas romance novella in which an undercover cop and a fake stripper fall in love (and have SO much sex it's a wonder their privates didn't fall right off). We've also got a very special guest joining us for the second half of the show. We can't tell you who it is, but longtime listeners will be VERY excited.

Direct download: Ep159_Christmas_2016.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week, prompted by a book that's been named to a bunch of Best of 2016 lists, we talk about how those lists are constructed, and whether they're a good representation of a given year's literature. We also talk about empathizing with murderous characters, and novels that portray contemporary political events. In the second half of the show, we try out some snacks that were sent to us by a listener in Japan, including some boozy Kit Kats, a drink that looks like watery milk, and some dried and salted fish.

Thanks to this week's sponsor, M.B. Manthe, whose poetry and publishing projects you can learn more about at her site.

Direct download: Ep158_Mahajan_SmallBombs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week's story is about an aging boxer who just wants one last payday (and a big juicy steak). But first he'll have to use all his wiles to defeat a younger, fitter opponent. We also enjoy a grab bag of snacks that are new to us, including Faygo Red Pop, Chocodiles, and some weird and, frankly, unsettling 7-11 chips.


Direct download: Ep157_Fall16_JackLondon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We welcome guest Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib (author of, most recently, The Crown Ain't Worth Much) to talk about the collected writings of music critic Lester Bangs, assembled as a book after Bangs's death. We talk about good music writing versus bad music writing, how to make an argument about things you love and things you hate, how to keep nostalgia in its proper place, and why the NBA is a better ethical choice for sports fans than the NFL. 

For more, visit us online at 

Direct download: Ep156_LesterBangs_PsychoticReactions.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

I know you probably think we forgot, but we did not forget. Here at the close of November, we're bringing you a special bonus episode for National Novel Writing Month 2016. We take our usual dive into the NaNoWriMo forums to see what the Wrimers are struggling with this year. What kinds of food should the characters eat in your fantasy world? Where do robots go on dates? And much, much more. 

Direct download: BonusEp_NaNoWriMo_2016.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:37am EDT

This week we read an essay from The Oxford American co-written by John T. Edge and Tunde Wey, "Who Owns Southern Food?" The piece was inspired, in part, by an article in Eater called "How Gullah Cuisine Transformed Charleston Food," which created a bit of a firestorm in Charleston, sparking debate about the economics of cultural appropriation. 

All of which is a bit afield of what we normally discuss on the show, though it sparked a lot of conversation, and dovetailed with a number of issues we've both been thinking about, as of late, about race and politics.

Oh, and we eat some snacks, since that's our deal lately. Our first-ever homemade snack (cheese grits!), plus Tastykakes, and some Middleswarth chips (the secret ingredient is MSG).

Direct download: Ep155_Fall16_Gullah.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we welcome guest Sam Allingham (author of The Great American Songbook) to discuss the South Korean novel The Vegetarian, which won the Man Booker International Prize. We also talk about Sam's story collection, which recently came out from A Strange Object, and we subject him to our usual tomfoolery. 

As will be obvious within the first few seconds of this episode, we recorded it before the recent presidential election. If you don't want to hear our dumb election jokes, just skip the first minute or so, and then enjoy an election-free discussion with Sam.

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep154_Kang_TheVegetarian.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

A listener sent us a big box of Canadian snacks, so we're devoting this episode to our friendly neighbor to the north. We're talking about an Alice Munro story, "Family Furnishings," and specifically how Munro uses food and eating to characterize family members and the relationships between them. 

In the second half of the show, we dig into those snacks! Ketchup-flavored potato chips. Smarties (of the chocolate variety). Hickory sticks. And some thing called a King Turk that may have scarred us for life.

For more, visit us online at 

Direct download: Ep153_Fall16_CanadaSpecial.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

You may know the name Kinsella from the Kevin Costner character Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams. But it's also the name of the author who wrote the novel, Shoeless Joe, on which that movie was based. Kinsella was born in Canada, and lived most of his life there, though he did a stint at the Iowa Writers Workshop, near where the book is set. He wrote several other novels, and a bunch of short story collections, most of which dealt with either baseball or First Nations people, another passion of his. Kinsella recently passed away, and so it seemed like an appropriate time for us to finally read his most famous book.

For more, you can visit us online at

Direct download: Ep152_ShoelessJoe.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're talking about two super-spooky short stories for Halloween this year: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Joe Hill's "Abraham's Boys." We talk about what scares us, and the qualities that make for a good horror story.

It also continues to be the Fall of Food, so this week we're talking Halloween candy. Best treats? Worst treats? And what's up with those candies that seem to exist only on Halloween? Plus: we each rank our top five candy bars, which will no doubt be contentious. 

Further reading:

Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery"

Joe Hill, "Abraham's Boys"

Direct download: Ep151_2016_Halloween_Spooktacular.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT