Book Fight

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 EST

This week we've got a special Fall of Food episode with guest Sarah Sweeney, who chose an essay for us to read: an Esquire profile of acclaimed chef Ferran Adria, written by Michael Paterniti. We talk about the line between interestingly descriptive food writing and absurd, overblown food writing. We also talk about the culture of the celebrity chef, and whether it's gone too far. 

In the second half of the show, we eat a traditional Mexican snack prepared by Sarah, who just got back from an extended stay in Oaxaca. She also makes us a hibiscus drink, and then forces some booze on us. Good times! Plus we get her take on North Carolina barbecue, and probe why her mother wouldn't let there be any white, creamy foods in the house.

You can order a copy of Sarah's book from the Barrelhouse store--use code POPTART for a 10% discount for Book Fight listeners.


Direct download: Ep150_SarahSweeney.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:21am EST

This week we're discussing an Anthony Bourdain essay that became part of his breakout book, Kitchen Confidential, plus we talk about our very different experiences working in food service, and we eat a couple of weird, unconventionally flavored snacks. 

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep149_Fall16_Bourdain.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we welcome special guest Jim Miller to talk about one of his favorite books, Michael Crichton's 1990 bestseller Jurassic Park. We discuss dinosaur knowledge, books we loved as children, and Crichton's supposed dickishness. 

We also talk to Jim about his work as a cartographer, his appearance in Sports Illustrated, and his development of various apps, including one that teaches kids how to draw dinosaurs.

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep148_JurrasicPark.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Do you like food? Do you eat it several times a day in order to survive? Then you will love our new seasonal theme! This fall we'll be reading stories and essays in which food plays a major role. We'll also be talking about a variety of food-related things. This week: What foods are we nostalgic for? What foods make us think of our childhoods? Each of us also brought in a nostalgic snack for a quick taste test.

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep147_Fall16_Dybek.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Have you heard of this Cormac McCarthy fellow? Pretty good writer! Somehow, neither of us had ever read The Road, and we thought it was time to rectify that. Especially since America seems to be getting closer and closer to making its post-apocalyptic hellscape a reality. 


Direct download: Ep146_TheRoad.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

In the first half of this week's show we discuss this 2007 Matthew Quick story, originally published in Agni. Long-time listeners will recall that Tom has occasionally taken issue with Mr. Quick's work, as well as his life and just his all-around "thing." So reading one of his early publications, from a reputable lit journal, seemed like a great opportunity for Tom to open up his heart and give "Q" a second chance.

In the second half of the show we eat a bunch of Pop Tarts and try to figure out which flavor is best. Look, we never promised the podcast would be ONLY about books and writing. 

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep145_Summer16_Quick.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

This week we're reading the critically celebrated 1992 novel by Javier Marias, a writer we've both been meaning to check out for a while now. We talk about what people expect from novels, unusual/innovative narrative structures, and reading while stoned. In the second half of the show we've got a new installment of Fan Fiction Corner, featuring Alvin & the Chipmunks.

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep144_Marias_HeartSoWhite.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Back in Episode 15, we talked about Sheila Heti's novel How Should a Person Be, which neither of us loved. This week we're giving Heti a second chance, reading a recent story of hers from The New Yorker. 

We talk about whether we were too quick to judge her book based on its marketing materials, and what it is we want from fiction. If certain types of novels feel stale, for instance, is the problem with the form itself, or just books that aren't doing enough within that form? Also: Mike shares some lessons learned from spending his summer reading novel manuscripts, and Tom shares some thoughts on snacks.

You can read the Heti story here, via the New Yorker. And for more, you can always visit us online at

Direct download: Ep143_Summer16_Heti.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Tom picked this novel, the author's first (though he'd already published two story collections, the first of which made him the youngest-ever winner of a Whiting Award). Reading the book made Mike question why he's making this podcast in the first place. So: good times!

In the second half of the show, Mike puts Tom on the metaphorical couch to help him figure out why he keeps feeling pulled away from the book project he's supposed to be working on. 

It's a real angsty week in Book Fight World, listeners. Enjoy!

Direct download: Ep142_McManus_BitterMilk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST