Podcast review: Book Off! Lionel Shriver and Tracy Chevalier

I came across this podcast on Twitter and it has already become my favourite!

There seem to be only three episodes so far. On the one hand, it’s great as there isn’t an overwhelmingly large archive to navigate. On the other hand, it’s not great at all as… there isn’t an overwhelmingly large archive to navigate!

The first episode I chose to listen to is the second in the series. The combination of Lionel Shriver and Tracy Chevalier was too good to resist and it was indeed phenomenal! It was so good that I’ve already listened to it twice!


For the main part of the episode, the two writers chatted with host Joe Haddow about all sorts of literary and non-literary delights.

Appearing in the former category: the authors’ publishing journeys and their relationship with editors, the difference (or lack thereof) between researching for a historical novel or a contemporary novel, autobiographical elements in novels, reading fiction and non-fiction books, Shakespeare.
Appearing in the latter category: cyclists, snooker, jazz.

Note that these lists are non-exhaustive and purely reflect what caught my attention.

I also particularly enjoyed…

… Lionel Shriver mentioning that parties should have a ‘book corner’. I would love that! I do like socialising but there normally comes a point at a party when I need a little break!

… both authors talking about the sense of belonging to a place as expats. Tracy Chevalier likes to think of herself as a Londoner, while Lionel Shriver describes herself as an American who has lived for about 30 years in the UK. I found that very interesting as I have often struggled to define myself. I am not British but I live in the UK. I was born and raised in Italy but I don’t necessarily feel Italian. I have lived in three different countries and six different cities. I have now found a way to define myself: I am a European woman who has lived for over 10 years in the UK.

… Lionel Shriver talking about the way her husband gives her advice on what kind of cars she should use in her books. I do understand the importance of being accurate and credible… it just makes me laugh because – as I am total ignorant when it comes to cars – this doesn’t make any difference to me. I recognise cars by colour, not brand or model!

In general, I loved hearing more about books I’ve read (Big Brother, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Virgin Blue) and books I would like to read (The Mandibles and New Boy among many others).

The last ten minutes or so of the episode were dedicated to the actual Book Off! Both writers pitched a book that they recommend and Joe Haddow chose the one that intrigued him the most between Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne and Preparations for the Next Life by Atticus Lish.

I won’t tell you which book won but I can tell you that my personal preference was Beautiful Animals, which has been duly added to my wish list! Both books seem to be worth a read but Beautiful Animals reminds me of the hard-to-forget The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby, which is also mentioned in the episode.


Now, please don’t let me keep you any longer. Go, listen and enjoy!

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