Book Fight

Kind of a tease this week: a free preview of a special episode you can get by being a donor to our show's annual fund drive. If you'd like to get the full episode, just visit us at and click on the piggy bank. We'll be back next week with a regular episode to kick off the new year.

Direct download: BonusEpisodePreview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:22pm EDT

What's that under the tree? Is it a very special episode of your favorite literature-adjacent podcast? (Spoiler: it is.) Since last year's Christmas episode was such a fan favorite, this year we're back with another supersized, end-of-the-year holiday blowout. We've read two books--one a steamy, Christmas-themed romance, the other ... some dumb thing by James Patterson. Both of which we'll dissect for your entertainment. So throw another yule log on the fire, add an extra shot of brandy to your eggnog, and tune out your loved ones by listening to the dulcet tones of your two favorite podcasters as they get increasingly angry about crimes against both Christmas and literature.

Direct download: Ep50-2013ChristmasSpectacular.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We welcome back special guest Jaime Fountaine for this week's Writers Ask episode, during which we pepper her with questions about how to run a successful reading series. We also talk about using real names in nonfiction, and subject Jaime to the patented Book Fight Lightning Round. 

You've got until the end of the month to donate to our fund drive, if you want your donation to count toward our goal (and toward us reading whatever ridiculous book our listeners force on us). Visit us online at to make your tax-deductible donation today. Thanks!

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

We welcome special guest Jaime Fountaine to discuss the 1976 novel The Easter Parade, a beautifully sad story about two sisters whose lives are ... well, pretty sad. Talking points include: sweatpant jeans, New Yorker fiction, South Philly style, art school, and erectile dysfunction. Plus we debut a new segment: What's In The Bag? 

Direct download: Ep49-RichardYates_EasterParade.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Another super-sized Writers Ask this week, not so much because we're answering lots of questions but because we've got lots of opinions. Do you want to know what Tom thinks about the television show The View? Do you want to hear about the time in college when Mike was on a Dating Game-style game show in his dorm? Would you like some literary blind items about bad readings? If so, this is the episode for you. Also, we (nominally) answer some listener questions about, like, writing and junk.

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

Tom introduces Mike to the Sherlock Holmes universe, which up till now he's known only through various parodies. And Mike wants to know: Is Sherlock Holmes supposed to be a giant dick? We also workshop some new segment ideas for the show, including Q-Tips and Speaking Truth to Power. And Tom mansplains his opinion on mansplaining. 

Direct download: Ep48-ArthurConanDoyle_HoundofBaskervilles.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

A super-sized episode this week. We answer a couple questions about MFA programs, then we dive headfirst into National Novel Writing Month. Mike reads an excerpt of his novel-in-progress, and we field questions from the official NaNoWriMo message boards: how to name characters, how to manhandle a dinosaur, what to do with time-travel skills, and many many more. 

We're knee-deep in our annual fundraising efforts, and with your help we can become head-deep. Head-deep? Is that how that metaphor works? Either way, please give us some money! You can do so online, at Thanks!

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

A jam-packed episode this week. We talk about the first of Updike's Rabbit books, Mike gives an update on his NaNoWriMo adventure, we consider whether quality television dramas are putting the heat on novelists, and we've also got our first-ever Rating Reconsidered. Buckle up!

For more, and to donate to our fund drive, visit us online at 

Direct download: Ep47-JohnUpdike_RabbitRun.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EDT

Last year we made fun of National Novel Writing Month, but this year Mike is actually thinking about participating, and he's got until the end of the episode to make a decision. Will trying to write a "novel" in 30 days get him out of his funk, or drive him deeper into despair? We also answer--okay, mostly make fun of--actual questions being asked by Nanowrimo participants. Strap yourselves in, listeners, this one gets a little nuts. For more, check us out online at

Direct download: WritersAsk-Your19thNervousBreakdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Well, it finally happened: we had to re-record an episode because the usually trusty Book Fight laptop ate our first effort. Technological woes aside, this week we're talking about Cat's Cradle, a book we both read as teenagers and are revisiting now as adults. We also discuss the behavioral proclivities of haters, beer can design, and why you should give us some of your hard-earned money. 

Direct download: Ep_46-Kurt_Vonnegut_Cats_Cradle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're answering questions this week about building an author platform, what to do (and not do) at author events, and whether editors care about all those fantastic writing contests you've won. Also, fair warning, we're kicking off our annual fund drive, so you'll have to hear about that for the next few weeks, but we promise to not be super-annoying about it.

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

Our friend Katherine Hill is back, and making us read this seminal 1962 Doris Lessing novel ("seminal" means super-long, right?). We talk about communism, novels of ideas, novels about writing novels, cancer awareness, and milkshakes. For more--including a link to buy Katherine's novel, The Violet Hour--check out

Direct download: Ep_45-Doris_Lessing_The_Golden_Notebook.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Katherine Hill, author of The Violet Hour, joins us this week to answer questions about low-residency MFA programs (she went to Bennington) and working a writing-related job while trying to write a novel. Also: lightning strikes on trains, offensive mascots, and why won't more ladies come to Tom's basement? For more, visit us at

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

We welcome back guest Justin St. Germain, author of the memoir Son of a Gun and picker of this week's book, a novel largely about the process of writing a novel. We talk about metafiction, audience, writerly paralysis, and Tom's love of shoplifting. For more, including a link to buy Justin's book, check out

Direct download: Ep_44-Salvador_Plascencia_People_of_Paper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Justin St. Germain, author of the memoir Son of a Gun, joins us to answer questions from listeners, plus a special Book Fight lightning round. Topics include: college admissions essays, reading for literary journals, scorpions vs spiders, whipahol, and Tobias Wolff's mustache.

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

Lots of people on the internet had opinions about this 2010 essay collection by former Gawker editor Emily Gould. The book is essentially a memoir of her early 20s in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Mike kinda liked it, but Tom seemed irritated that he had to read it. Talking points include: expectations for insight in nonfiction, white privilege, haters, the phrase "slice of life," underage sex, and working in shitty bars. For more, visit us online at 

Direct download: Ep_43-Emily_Gould_And_the_Heart_Says_Whatever.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EDT

Summer's over, listeners, and this week shit's getting real. We talk about writers in academia, specifically adjunct instructors. How long should you do it? Do the benefits of teaching outweigh the costs, financial and otherwise? Also, we answer a question about the distinctions between fiction and nonfiction, and defend our ratings system against a past guest who thinks we're lousy at math. For more, visit us online at 

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

Tom picked this one because he was interested in reading some sci fi, and Atwood's novel, the first in her MaddAddam trilogy, came highly recommended. We talk about novels rooted in character versus novels rooted in premise, and whether science fiction can ever be capital-L Literature. Plus: children behaving badly, and the inevitable day when the robots rise up and rule us all. For more, visit our site at 

Direct download: Ep_42-Margaret_Atwood_Oryx_and_Crake.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

A question from a teenager about her novel project, and one about the difference between comedy and humor. Plus we dip into the ol' mailbag to talk about a brand-new service being offered to writers who hate to type. For more, visit us at 

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

Just a little light summer reading: Joan Didion's 2005 memoir about grief and illness and loss. We talk about what distinguishes good nonfiction from bad, whether rich people are allowed to have problems, and gendered expectations for memoirs. For more, visit us at

Direct download: Ep_41-Joan_Didion_The_Year_of_Magical_Thinking.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're back from vacation to answer questions about agents (how to get one, and whether you need one). We also respond to a listener who accused us of not paying enough attention to YA literature. For more, check us out online at

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

We're finally tackling our first graphic novel, a book lots of our friends have recommended to us. Talking points include: duality, form and function, Ziggy, harsh workshop criticism, novels of ideas, Buzz Bissinger, and vacations. For more, visit us online at

Direct download: Ep_40-David_Mazzucchelli_Asterios_Polyp.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

On this week's episode we're answering questions about personal statements for MFA applications, books about religious characters, and why it annoys Tom (but not Mike) when writers retweet people's praise and positive reviews.

Talking points include: Book Fight fan fiction, Bobby Bowden, Tom the Grouch, Texas, dogs eating chocolate, and pork bullets.

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

A book that's less a conventional novel than a working-through of a delightfully absurd premise, plus some satire of American offices and their human resources departments. We're even more full of digressions this week than usual, so, you know, forewarned is forearmed and all. Talking points include: Soup viscosity, proper workshop behavior, sexual politics, glory holes, the ideal material for toilet seats, and sticks. Lots and lots of sticks. For more, check out

Direct download: Ep_39-Helen_DeWitt_Lightning_Rods.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We talk with author Matthew Salesses about flash fiction, in response to complaints we lodged a while back about that genre. Also we answer listener questions about books we hate, and writing advice we dole out but don't follow. Plus, Mike's still mad about losing the 6th-grade science fair, and Tom still carries a grudge against The Decameron, because of a teacher who gave him the finger. For more, visit us at

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

Our first listener-recommended book, this 1989 novel about a family of traveling carnival freaks was a finalist for the National Book Award. But will it withstand the scrutiny of your persnickity Book Fight hosts? Talking points include: the importance of clarity, Mike's lack of Star Trek knowledge, italics, and Itchy v. Scratchy. For more, visit our site at

Direct download: Ep_38-Katherine_Dunn_Geek_Love.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

What role does academic criticism play for a writer of fiction? Should you outline a novel before starting to write? And how and when should you ask for book blurbs? Bonus knowledge: Mike tells you how to invite the writerly muse into your soul, and Tom finally learns what the word "potluck" means. To ask a question, or for more episodes, visit

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

Mike revisits a book he loved as a 17-year-old, and makes Tom come along for the ride. How could that go wrong? Talking points include: hippies, the band Phish, rubber meatballs, creepy uncles, and gigantic thumbs. For more, including links to stuff discussed in the episode, visit

Direct download: Ep_37-Tom_Robbins_Even_Cowgirls_Get_The_Blues.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Should you write while you're angry? Is historical fiction on the rise? And should someone's reading habits be a dating dealbreaker? This week we explore Tom's emotional landscape, and the musical preferences of Mike's ex-girlfriends. Also: Tom may have finally pushed Mike to the brink with his toe talk. Will this be the end of the podcast? For more, visit

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

Historical magical realism and a mythical origin story for America, this week's book makes us second-guess how we're meant to rate the novels we read. Are we aiming for objectivity, or something more personal and idiosyncratic? Plus we judge a couple books by their covers, recommend a couple Netflix streaming documentaries, and possibly alienate any number of our listeners, as per usual. For more, visit

Direct download: Ep_36-Alligators_of_Abraham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Last week's guest, Dave Thomas, stuck around to help us answer questions about self-publishing, giving away your work for free, the differences between undergrad and graduate workshops, and the joys and aggravations of academia. Talking points include: free e-books, shrimp on the barbie, Tom getting punched in the face, bloomin' onions, Kiwis, the Rocka-Fire Explosion, and belletriciousness. For more, visit

Direct download: WritersAsk-DownUnder.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00pm EDT

We welcome special guest Dave Thomas to talk about Salter's new novel, Tom as a mentor, horse ejaculate and the sexiness of bakeries.

Direct download: Ep_35-James_Salter_All_That_Is.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We talk writers' desks, literary agents, and grad-school recommendations. Plus Garfield, sexual roleplay, eggs (which are delicious!) and Tom's ill-fated turn on reality television. Get more at

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

Would you like to hear us talk about Disney World for half an hour? If so, then this is the episode for you! Also we dig into Doctorow's first novel, in our continuing efforts to explore some work outside our usual genre comfort zones. Talking points include: the defeat of death, Facebook likes as currency, problematic premises, the Haunted Mansion, Mike's childhood propensity for tears, carnival food, the Gravitron, and Battlestar Galactica. Get more at

Direct download: Ep_34-Cory_Doctorow_Down_and_Out_in_the_Magic_Kingdom.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We offer tips for organizing your files, dealing with your MFA classmates, and Highlandering your enemies. Got questions for us? Email them to, or tweet them to us at @Book_Fight.

Direct download: WritersAsk-Off_With_Their_Heads.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am EDT

We foist a book upon Tom's college roommate, an avowed non-reader. Will he like it? Will he spit it out, like a child being forced to eat spinach? Talking points include: 80s trivia, Sarah Palin, TV Guide Recommends, info-dumps, dystopian futures, The Princess Bride, and videogames.

Direct download: Ep_33-Ernest_Cline_Ready_Player_One.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Heartbreaking church lock-ins, awkward rest stop encounters, and also we answer some questions about writing. How does one find a mentor? Once you get some work accepted, do the rejections lose their sting? And what's the deal with book trailers?

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

Book Fight road trip! We recorded this episode in a car (Tom's) while driving to the annual Conversations and Connections conference in Washington, D.C. The book this week is Tom's pick, and boy is it a bummer. Though a very well-written, culturally important bummer. We still found stuff to joke about, including bears, Tom's driving skills, tunnels, sharks, and Jay Leno's quest for love and approval. We also talked about the upsides and downsides of allegory, and whether Coetzee's narrator is a creep.

This week's closing music is from Phosphorescent's 2005 album "To Willie," which you can find in the iTunes store.

Direct download: Ep_32_Coetzee_WaitingForTheBarbarians.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

To MFA or not to MFA: that is the question. Also, what's our beef with flash fiction? And how should writers use Twitter and Facebook? Plus Tom burns a bridge, and Mike tries to glean some lessons from past failures.

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

One of Mike's favorite books, which means if Tom doesn't properly love it Mike might have to punch him. Also: Britishisms, the Middle Ages, academic ambivalence, Jenga, and ballet.

Direct download: Ep_31_Amis_Lucky_Jim.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Rejecting your friends. Dealing with overzealous editors. Plus: Tom's bloody nipples, which magazines we dislike, and what editors do with their urine. For more, visit us at

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

This book won the 2011 Best Translated Book Award, for which our guest, Matt Jakubowski, was one of the judges. We talk translations, Nordicness, strong female characters, and rabbits. Also, we recommend some music and argue about snacks.

Direct download: Ep_30-Tove_Jansson_The_True_Deceiver.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

How long is too long for a journal or press to read your submission? How much can you get paid for a short story? What are the worst writerly affectations? Talking points include: therapy dogs, AWP, porn scripts, jaunty hats, and writing in coffee shops. Got a question for us? Want to tell us we're wrong? Email us at, or visit Thanks for listening!

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

We're joined by Tod Goldberg and Julia Pistell, of Literary Disco, to talk bedouin poetry tents, writer costumes, Val Kilmer as Mark Twain, and which small presses sound most like metal bands.

Direct download: AWP_Update5.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:54am EDT

The results of our panel dare: Tom goes to a 75-minute session on therapy, while Mike explores the connections between history and poetry. 

Direct download: AWP_Update4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:24pm EDT

Hello, morning! We're a little groggy, but there's important conferencing to be done. Talking points: popping and locking, the guy in the newspaper hat, rejection notes.

Direct download: AWP_Update3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:41am EDT

More jibber jabber from the AWP conference in Boston. This time we're on the conference floor, recapping Day One in the belly of the beast.

Direct download: AWP_Update2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:51pm EDT

We're at the annual AWP conference in Boston, i.e. ground zero of the American Writing-Industrial Complex. We'll be filing regular brief dispatches from the conference each day. Here's the first one! Talking points include: train travel, poets in newspaper hats, and rolling VIP style.

Direct download: AWP_Update1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:25pm EDT

A novel-in-emails whose main character is annoyed to discover that a former friend has fictionalized his life in a book. Talking points include: Canadian rock, SARS, aggrieved exes, epistolary novels, and grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Direct download: Ep_29-Lynn_Coady_The_Antagonist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:47pm EDT

On this Very Special Episode we field questions from students at Tom's high school alma mater. Changing lives!

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

An intensely dark, often comic novel about the British landed gentry and child abuse. Talking points include: the decision to write a memoir or a novel, mean-spiritedness versus generosity, inspirational dog films, and which one of us Frazier and which is Roz. Also, another installment of MATR, and whether Tom's recommendations are to be trusted.

Direct download: Ep_28-Edward_St_Aubyn_Some_Hope.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Special bonus episode! Our gift to you, listeners. We read a Harlequin Romance novel about Viking love. 

Direct download: Valentines_Special.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:51am EDT

Low-residency MFA programs. Revisiting your old work. And should writers go to AWP? We also debate some new catch phrases, Mike alienates everybody, and we create a new iteration of MTV's Real World franchise.

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

A novel that prompts a discussion of how we pick books, and why certain books stress us out. Talking points include: story structure, penis length versus penis girth, athletes versus writers, Mexican vacations, and Mike's junior tennis career. We also debut a new feature at the end of the show, tentatively titled Mike and Tom Recommend, in which we ... well, recommend stuff (and bicker about said recommendations, as it turns out).

Direct download: Ep_27-Jami_Attenberg_The_Melting_Season.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We answer questions about writers who don't read, the best jobs for writers, and why literature isn't a commodity. Also: naps! And why Tom lives like an old person.

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

We talk about Portis's picaresque road novel (his first), why we appreciate humor in books, and why it's so hard to do comedy well. Also: another installment of Judge a Book By Its Cover.

Direct download: Ep_26-Charles_Portis_Norwood.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

How to stand out from the crowd when applying for MFA programs, what's wrong with citing Pushcart Prize nominations in your cover letter, and how to find decent books at a Barnes and Noble.

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

A Dalkey translation of Serbian writer Svetislav Basara's novel basically landed in Tom's lap, so we figured we might as well read it. And it's crazy in all the best ways. Talking points include: white slave merchants, surrealism, literature as a black box, comedy as rapid-fire truth telling, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Direct download: Ep_25-Svetislav_Basara_Chinese_Letter.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT