Book Fight

This week we're talking about the new George Saunders book, Lincoln in the Bardo, about a bunch of spooky ghosts who hang out in a graveyard with Abraham Lincoln's son. Also: Cheers fan fiction. Get excited, listeners!

Direct download: Ep172_LincolnBardo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:12am EDT

Hey, listeners! Due to a death in Tom's family, there's no new episode this week. But we're reposting this one from the archives (first released in April 2013) in which Tom's old college roommate joined us for a discussion of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. We hope you enjoy it! And we'll be back with a new joint next Monday.

As always, thanks for listening!

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

We welcome special guest Lauren Grodstein (author of, most recently, the novel Our Short History) to discuss a 1959 novel that's become something of a cult classic, one which never earned its author widespread acclaim but which is consistently mentioned as a favorite by other writers.

We also talk about Lauren's new book, her love of plot, and how she manages to get so much writing done while being a working mother.

For more, visit us online at

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: Ep171_EvanConnell_MrsBridge.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We travel back to 1866 to read "The Case of George Dedlow," a story about Civil War amputees (and a seance!) written by Silas Weir Mitchell, the physician who would later become famous for "the rest cure." 

Also this week: debates over reconstruction; the sex lives of mermaids; racist medical practices; conspiracies about Lincoln's assassination; and a man who was sued for $100k by the woman he failed to marry.

For more, including links to further reading, visit us at

Direct download: Ep170_Winter17_1866.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We talk to Lyz Lenz (writer and managing editor of The Rumpus) from inside a wind tunnel at AWP 2017 in Washington, D.C. Topics include: New York pizza vs. Chicago pizza, misandry, Little House on the Prairie, religious faith, and how to not be a creep at a literary conference. 

Direct download: Bonus_AWP17.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week: a good book for a change! Plus a new segment about impenetrable academic writing, and a brief installment of Fan Fiction Corner. What more could you want?


Direct download: Ep169_WideSargassoSea.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we've set the time machine for 1961, and we're reading a story by the author and activist Tillie Olsen. We talk about Olsen's career arc and continued reputation, as well as lots of other 1961 news: racist conspiracies, gigolos, and the J.D. Salinger backlash. Plus: what were poets up to in 1961?

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep168_Winter17_1961.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Spoiler alert: this book kinda blows.

Direct download: Ep167_Kubica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're traveling back in time to 1877 to read a popular, serialized dime-store novel about lots of people shooting guns in the Old West. We talk about the popularity of dime-store novels, and how they correlated to rising literacy rates in the late 19th century. Plus: a story about coal miners being crushed under the boot of Gilded Age capitalism. And all our usual jibber jabber. 

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep166_Winter17_1877.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This novel combines elements of familiar fairy tales and mythic narratives to create a world that feels pretty original. It's a dark world, and a pretty sad one, yet the book also has a sense of humor, and a strong sense of play. 

We also talk about raccoons, since that's a thing we do, and we mark the return of a long lost segment that has to do with Tom's pants.

Direct download: Ep165_BookOfLostThings.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT