All Episodes

Literary Disco
  • We’re over at Lit Hub!

    Hi folks- we have moved our operations over to Lit Hub. There are dozens more episodes for you to find over there. We’re also in the midst of redoing our format, which will be released in a few weeks. Come and see! – Julia, Tod, and Rider

  • Episode 138: Let The Games Begin!

    No better way to start the new month than with some of Literary Disco’s classic games. First, Rider presents “Judge a Book By Its Cover,” where he reads the first lines of a book and Julia and Tod must guess what the book is with no other context. Then, Tod presents a new game, Rock Paper Scissors, where Rider and Julia must decide what is a real poem, lyrics from a pop song, lines from a Rupi poem, or a poem written by our very own Tod Goldberg. Let the games begin!

    Some of the books discussed in this episode include:

    ben lerner 10:04

    Ben Lerner, 10:44

    A lot of it is about art and reflections on different forms of art, and writers versus. visual artist. It’s really good, and slightly pretentious.

    once and future king t.h. white

    T.H. White, The Once and Future King

    It becomes this great look at the value of experiential education as opposed to book learning.

    within the context of no context

    George W.S. Trow, Within the Context of No Context

    It is a crazy manifesto about the dangers of television and the dangers of what he saw—I guess he was writing this in the seventies—where this country was heading . . . I want to re-read it in the age of Trump because a lot of his predictions and his assessments have proved to be true.

  • Episode 137: There, There

    The debut novel from Tommy Orange has been on almost every Best Of 2018 list, but does the Literary Disco trio agree? In this week’s episode, Julia, Rider, and Tod discuss the complex and multifaceted approach to identity—and how Orange avoids the usual MFA clichés—as There, There follows a collection of Native American characters in the build-up to a powwow in Oakland, California.

    From the episode

    Rider Strong on gaining perspective on Native identity

    If you’re going to write a book that tackles Native American identity—and this goes for every Native American writer, I guess—are you going to make it a book about traditional stories, in the way I think Leslie Marlon Silko inserts those stories into her novels and into her writing, or are you going to avoid all that and just focus on contemporary Indian life and what it means to be an urban Indian in Oakland? I feel like Tommy Orange really manages to spread a wide net by focusing on… I mean, there are so many characters in this book—I guess there are twelve main characters—with their own point of views and every single one of them wrestles with the question of how native they are and what that means. I thought it was incredibly refreshing to have every character conscious and aware of that issue.

    For somebody like me who grew up white, in a very privileged situation, in white privileged society, being able to have an access point where it’s like, What does that mean to not feel native enough or to feel too native or to be embarrassed. There are so many angles. Then there are the characters who feel too white or not white enough.

    Each chapter has a person with their own history, their own life, and their own concept of nativeness and native identity. In every chapter you have to hit the reset button on what that means and what you think that means. By the end of the book, you’re exhausted and it’s taken a lot of work, but you do also feel there is something you walked away with that means something, the layering and the literal intersection of these characters meeting at this powwow, it’s beautiful and meaningful.


    Tod Goldberg on a big novel that “looks out”

    This is a novel that looks out. This is why it’s on the “Best Of” lists this year. This is why it goes beyond the rushed quality of the shooting at the end, and it is something larger because it is asking huge fundamental questions about society and where Native Americans belong in the world today and how they can disappear in an urban landscape like Oakland.

    I grew up in Northern California. I had absolutely no sense of a Native American population in that area whatsoever other than the missions and that Junipero Serra enslaved all of them. But I didn’t know anything about urban Indians living essentially 15 minutes away from me my entire life. Here in Palm Springs it’s part of the fabric of the city. Every street is named for a Native American. The bands and the tribes are a part of every day life here. Even today, I’m recording from my office at UC Riverside and down the hall we have the Native American college that rents space here. For There, There, I feel this book transcends all the sort of normal “staring at my belly button” MFA fiction because it is about something larger and Tommy Orange has something more important to say than how sad people are. There’s something bigger.

  • Episode 136: Tarzan King of the Apes

    Welcome to 2019, the perfect year to dive into the classic tale of… Tarzan! Ok, the first Tarzan was published in 1912, but this year marks the hundredth anniversary of The Jungles of Tarzan, in which a teenage Tarzan grapples with being a teenager. Seriously.

    We all know the story: after the death of his parents a boy is raised by apes, and encounters humans again years later when an expedition enters the jungle. How has this story aged over time? Will Tarzan be Rider’s next project? Join Julia, Rider, and Tod this week to find out!

    Rider Strong: It’s so important that [Tarzan] achieves literacy. He goes through so much work and teaches himself how to read, even though he doesn’t speak English, which actually doesn’t make any sense. If he doesn’t have words to begin with, why would he? He reads what he calls the bugs on the pages in the books that form themselves into letters that then tell the story. It’s so absurd, but then you realize literacy is what Edgar Rice Burroughs had to insert in order for his hero to be better than the savages. If he doesn’t have literacy, then he’s just like the tribal people of Africa that, of course, the book takes such pains to separate him from. ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

    It reminded me that in the 19th century there were a lot of books that revolved around this idea, like Frankenstein, right? He learns language (these noble savages that teach themselves how to read!)… a trope that had to get worked in here even though it makes no sense.

    Julia Pistell: But he’s not a noble savage, he’s a savage noble. He has to learn how to read.


    RS: Can you insert a white person into an African landscape without it being a colonialist fantasy? Or do you tell the story of Tarzan from the perspective of an African kid that was raised by gorillas, and what is that story about? Julia really nailed it when she said so much of this seems to be based on “nature vs. nurture,” and playing that out in story. And obviously the point of playing that out for Edgar Rice Burroughs was to assert the authority of Western white men, and I don’t even know if you can approach this story without it. That’s why I’m surprised that Disney still makes versions of it. How do you avoid that problem? In a way I think there is probably a lot of racist, colonial stuff in King Kong too, but there’s something so fantastical and otherworldly about that story that you can approach it in an interesting way, or a new way. But the very basis of Tarzan is steeped in something awful.

  • Episode 135: Sabrina, Men in Underpants, and Bruce Springsteen

    Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina is the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. It’s also a beautiful and heartbreaking rendering of the contemporary American psyche and a pointed commentary on how media has allowed conspiracy and paranoia to run absolutely rampant in the absence of answers.

    Join Literary Disco‘s Julia, Rider, and Tod as they discuss this very important work, along with the graphic novel’s realistic depiction of the male human body (mostly in underwear), feeling empathy for those with views unlike ours, and a brief tangent on the recent Springsteen on Broadway Netflix special.

    From the episode:

    Julia Pistell: I was so riveted by how many of these panels [in Sabrina] were about silence, especially the boyfriend [Teddy] sitting alone in a home that isn’t his and not knowing what to do with himself and deciding to listen to this conspiracy theory radio, and how little of this novel is spoken words or thoughts of the character, but just zoomed in on them, isolated.

    Tod Goldberg: It touches on the isolation, desperation, malaise, and fear that the American experience has become. And also the interconnectivity that media has allowed conspiracy and paranoia run absolutely rampant in the absence of answers for something that are definitive, chaos and conspiracy always going to be the thing that certain parts of fringe society holds onto.

    Rider Strong: An important part of the art is that it focuses on the body. This people are real, leading boring, banal lives, being naked and being unattractively naked and being depressed and sitting on couches … To be in the presence of another human being wearing a Snuggle is something you don’t plan on, especially something you don’t plan on reading in a comic book, right? That’s the antithesis of comic books. Comic books are supposed to make the visuals exciting, with violence if anything, sex maybe, and supposed to spice up real life and make it the most interesting read you can. This book does the exact opposite. It starts with blank faces, people getting coffee, people carrying their cats from room to room, people starting out of windows, people listening to a radio show. There are like 20 pages of a radio, just a close-up of a radio and a guy naked listening to it. That’s anti-comic book writing.

    It is so profound because so much of the message of this book is these people have bodies, these people have lives, they have lovers, they have thoughts, they have friends, they have childhood friends and shitty jobs, and if you take that away from them, if you remove their personhood and physical reality, it is so easy to say they are crisis actors or they are manipulating or lying. We all as a culture, we are so easy to dismiss other human beings. I know I do it on the level of Trump voters. It’s so easy for me to think the average Trump voter as someone I don’t understand, who I have a couple images in my head and it’s out there and I don’t really think about them. And these people lead real lives and everyday experiences and their shitty jobs, and this book is such a little empathy bomb. To say whichever side in any situation, whether it’s a murder that gets politicized in this case or something you’re hearing about on the radio, there’s a human being on the other side of that experience that’s having to live that. That message, I haven’t felt that more in years than I did with this book.

  • Episode 134: The Books We Loved in 2018

    This week, Julia, Rider, and Tod discuss the best books they read in 2018, including Tara Westover’s Educated, Arthur Krystal’s This Thing We Call Literature, and Jonathan Weisman’s (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump. 

  • Episode 133: Hark! The Herald Angels Scream

    It’s the holidays! A time to deck the halls, grab some eggnog, and curl up with the SCARIEST book you can find…

    That’s right. Christmas horror. It’s a real thing. And Blumhouse and editor Christopher Golden have put together a collection of short fiction just in time to fill you with holiday fear.

    Join us as Tod, Rider, and Julia have fun with this bonkers set of stories.

    Hark! The Herald Angels Scream

  • Episode 132: Vulture’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century

    A couple months ago, Vulture published this crazy, crazy list.

    It’s an admittedly premature attempt to create a literary canon for the last 18 years.

    In this episode of Literary Disco, we discuss the titles we were surprised by, the ones we were disappointed didn’t make it, and — mostly — how few of these books we’ve actually read.

    Get ready to feel like you have a lot of catching up to do…

  • Episode 131: Fall Revisit

    It’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing, time to curl up with a good book.

    It’s our Bookshelf Revisit for Fall 2018, an eclectic conversation that covers:

    1. Wild children and cults.
    2. WWII and China.
    3. Robertson Davies.

    It makes no sense, except that it’s Literary Disco!

  • Episode 130: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

    Hunter S. Thompson became a legend the moment he published this novel of a drug-fueled trip into the desert. Packed with mind-altering chemicals, extreme paranoia, and claiming to be a scathing journey to “the heart of the American Dream,” Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas established Thompson’s particular style, and purported to give voice to the disillusionment of a generation.

    But who was included in that generation?

    Has the book aged well?

    And what kind of effect did this story have on the city of Las Vegas itself?

    We explore these questions and more. Buckle up. This is bat country.

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

  • Episode 129: Lord of the Flies

    You read it in high school.

    You remember the conch, Piggy, and a boar head on a stick…

    But do you remember the Beast? That a child disappears the first day on the island? How about the fact that this novel is set during an atomic war?

    And did you know this book was written in direct response to a 19th Century children’s book that had the same character names?

    It’s time for us all to re-read William Golding’s classic, Lord of the Flies. Join us.

  • Episode 128: Gregory Pardlo’s Digest

    Today we dive deep into a single poetry collection: Digest, by Gregory Pardlo.

    Digest won the 2015 Pulitzer, and with good reason. This is one of the most universally loved books we’ve had on the show. It’s incredibly personal, and yet it has enough intertextuality and historical references to keep you re-reading for days.

    Between bouts of effusive praise, we manage to read and analyze a couple of these magnificent poems.

  • Episode 127: Killers of the Flower Moon

    In the 1920s, a disproportionate amount of people within the Osage nation were dying.

    The US government had forcibly relocated the Osage to a section of Oklahoma with some of the largest deposits of oil in North America. This quickly made the Osage the wealthiest people, per capita, in the world.

    And now they were being murdered. Corrupt local “lawmen” were incapable of producing any suspects, and any time a person claimed to have information, they wound up dead.

    It was up to the Federal government, with its newly formed Bureau of Investigation, to step in and try to solve the mystery.

    Journalist David Grann has produced the definitive account of this remarkable true story in Killers of The Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

    As we quickly discovered here at the Disco, there’s something in this book for everyone. If you love history, crime stories, Westerns, family sagas, stories of social justice, courtroom dramas, or just downright good writing: this book is for you.

    So, uh, you should read it.

  • Episode 123: Cat Person

    (Are we time traveling? Yes, a technical glitch set this episode back a few months…)

    Kristen Roupenian’s short story “Cat Person” appeared in December 2017 issue of The New Yorker, and promptly became an internet sensation.

    Some critics pounced, some critics praised, some men were offended, some women were offended that men were offended…and on and on it went, as these things do in this day and age.

    It seems there is something about this story — something about its point of view and its depiction of gender relations —  that struck a nerve in the midst of #MeToo.

    We decided to read and discuss the story in addition to some older, and truly great, short story comps that work with similar themes. So if you read and loved (or hey, even if you read and hated) Cat Story, these are for you.

    “Stitches” by Antonya Nelson.

    And “A Real Doll” by AM Homes.

  • Episode 126: Columbine, Part 2

    We didn’t mean for these episodes to be “timely,” but these days in America, that seems unavoidable.

    Between posting our two-parter about Dave Cullen’s Columbine, there has been another school shooting at Sante Fe High School in Texas. Our hearts are breaking, again.

    We can only hope to contribute to the conversation and help move our country away from this insanity.

    Join us for Part Two of our discussion on Columbine. We talk with Rob Bowman, the incredible English teacher who brought us the students from Part One.

  • Episode 125: Columbine, Part 1

    Dave Cullen’s book Columbine is an exhaustive and brilliant examination of the infamous school shooting that stunned the country in 1999.

    It is also one of the first books that Tod, Julia, and Rider discussed as friends. Bonding over our love for Cullen’s work is one of the reasons Literary Disco exists.

    In light of the fact that school shootings have only become more common, we decided to do something different with the next two episodes of the podcast.

    Tod reached out to his friend Rob Bowman, a high school English teacher, and asked if he had any students who might want to read Columbine.

    This episode, Part 1, is our discussion with the the three remarkable teenagers Rob assembled. Aiden, Renaissance, and Jada were kind enough to read Cullen’s book and come on our show to share their thoughts.

    Part 2 will be the follow up conversation that we had with Bowman.

    Guns. High School. Books. Get ready…

  • Episode 124: Bookshelf Revisit Summer 2018

    I know, it’s a bit confusing, but some tech issues with Episode 123 means we’re skipping it for now.

    Instead, we zoom to the future! It’s a Bookshelf Revisit episode with a game — a new game Tod is insisting we call “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” As if there isn’t already a game called that.

    But first, we get to hear all about Julia and Tod getting catfished, what children’s book Julia has rediscovered, Rider’s descent into the Empire of Illusion, and Tod’s recent interview with a very successful novelist who also happens to be his brother.


  • Episode 122: The Idiot

    Elif Batuman’s novel was a critical darling of 2017.

    We try to figure out why.

  • Episode 121: A Spell for Chameleon

    Our fantasy and sci-fi correspondent Will Friedle returns! And he’s picked a doozy for us to read.

    Piers Anthony has written dozens of hugely popular fantasy novels, and many of them are set in the magical, pun-filled land of Xanth. Will asked us to read A Spell for Chameleon, the novel that began it all.

    And boy, has it not aged well…

    We thought Sweet Valley High was rapey. There’s literally a rape trial in the first 30 pages of this book, which seems aimed squarely at 12 year old boys.

    Join us for this hilarious and disturbing episode, as we marvel at what was acceptable for kids to read 30 years ago.

  • Episode 120: Manhattan Beach

    Jennifer Egan’s a favorite author here on the Disco.

    But does her latest novel, the New York period piece Manhattan Beach, keep up the winning streak?

    It made a lot of Best Of 2017 lists, but the Disco trio is a bit divided. Are these characters realistic? Is the dialogue cliched?

    Even as he rambles on and on about how much he likes it, Rider admits he might be crazy…

  • Episode 119: Lincoln in the Bardo


    We did it.

    We read the George Saunders book that blew everyone’s mind in 2017.

    And then we talked about it.


  • Episode 118: Children’s Books

    Too often, all we say about children’s books is “awwww.” Not today. Tod, Julia, and Rider dig deep into classics and new books for kids.

  • Episode 117: Holiday Reading


    Happy Holidays!

    In honor of the season, the Disco team does a holiday-themed Bookshelf Revisit.

    See you in the New Year!


  • Episode 116: The Fact of a Body

    Time for some non-fiction!

    One of the most popular books of 2017, The Fact of A Body is part true crime, part memoir. After a summer spent interning for a law firm in Louisiana, Alexandra Marzona-Lesnevich examines a murder case and how it resonates within her own life.

    It’s a dark and twisting tale involving the death penalty, family secrets, mental health, and yes, getting pregnant while in a body-cast.

    The Disco trio reads and discusses.

    The Fact of a Body

  • Episode 115: My Brilliant Friend

    It’s been all the rage at book clubs everywhere.

    We read the smash hit Italian novel from Elena Ferrante.

    Julia is effusive. Tod is stoked. Rider is…argumentative.

    Typical times at the Disco.

  • Episode 114: A Fall Bookshelf Revisit

    Tod discovers a mysterious set of diaries.

    Julia reads about the tech world.

    Rider finds out where the sidewalk ends.

    It’s time for a Bookshelf Revisit.

  • Episode 113: Poetry from Listeners Part Two, Spoken Word

    We continue discussing listener recommended poetry.

    This time, all three poems are performed live, links below.

    That’s right, we’re talking spoken word! (Don’t worry, Tod refrains from poet voice.)

    Get ready to snap your fingers and bang your bongos. Or not. Because, you know, it’s not the 1960s…


    Kate Tempest, Tunnel Vision, recommended by listener Jenny Colvin.

    Safia Elhillo, Alien Suite, also from Jenny Colvin.

    Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Dig Those Sunsets, Pony, recommended by Deej Siminoff.

  • Episode 112: Poetry from Listeners Part One

    What’s up with contemporary poetry?

    We asked you for some good recommendations, and the comments poured in to our Facebook page.

    On this episode, we discuss three of your poets (our next episode will focus on spoken word performances). They vary in style and substance, and will only take a few minutes to read, links below.

    Poetry is always an intriguing subject, and even though this is a short reading, we managed to have a wide ranging discussion. Let us know your thoughts!

    Gary Jackson, Magneto Eyes Strange Fruit recommended by listener Jackie Smith.

    Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness recommended by listener Emily Fine.

    Rupi Kaur was recommended by listener Daniel Sevitt, because she is the top selling poet in the US. Here are ten of her poems.

  • Episode 111: Buried Child

    In the wake of his death, we read the Pulitzer Prize winning play Buried Child from playwright, actor, and all around cool cowboy Sam Shepard.

  • Episode 110: Summer Reading 2017

    Tod, Julia and Rider discuss what they’re reading this summer.

    Just in time for the…end of the season.

    (We recorded this a few weeks back, but had some technical issues.)



  • Episode 109: Street Gang



    Can you tell me how to get

    How to get to

    Sesame Street.

    On this episode of the Disco, we discuss the Michael Davis book, Street Gang, a detailed history of the creation and evolution of the world’s most successful children’s TV show.

  • Episode 108: Tower Dogs

    Like most people, you probably thought the deadliest job in America had something to do with catching fish.

    Well, Douglas Scott Delaney’s here to tell you all about the actual deadliest job in the country, and the saddest part is, these workers die regularly for the oh-so-noble cause of better cell service.

    In Tower Dogs, Delaney recounts his career climbing impossibly tall towers to fix parts, install upgrades, and narrowly escape death. It’s a workplace of rough and tumble characters, men and women who live on-the-edge, quite literally.


  • Episode 107: Three Day Road

    Three Day Road is an award-winning Canadian novel centered on First Nation characters. It’s been heralded for celebrating forgotten heroes: natives who fought for Canada during World War I.

    But recently, it’s author Joseph Boyden, has come under scrutiny regarding his claims of aboriginal heritage.

    And so, on this episode of the Disco, we tackle some of the thorny issues surrounding cultural appropriation…

    Who has “the right” to pen books of marginalized peoples? Does the ethnicity of an author matter? When? Who decides?

    We’d love to hear your thoughts, so jump onto our Facebook page.




  • Episode 106: Norse Mythology

    Forget what you think you know about Thor and Loki, and join the Disco trio to talk about Neil Gaiman’s latest: a retelling of Norse Mythology.

    Tod is bored, Rider rants, and Julia keeps her cool as the content of the Gaiman’s book is quickly abandoned in favor of discussing myths in general.

    Tod: “Why read about a bunch of fake gods?”

    Rider: “As opposed to the ‘real’ ones?”

    And, it’s on…

  • Episode 105: Brat Pack America

    After some technical difficulties (uh, Tod) we now have another Lost Episode. Goodbye, 104, we barely knew ya.

    So we’re jumping right to 105, in which, for the first time besides our live shows, the Literary Disco gang recorded in the same room!

    We discuss Kevin Smokler’s insightful survey of 1980s teen films, Brat Pack America.

    This great book explores the history, meaning and legacy of a series of films that had a huge impact on more than one generation of Americans. Even Julia, who was way too young to see any of them in the theater, has a lot to say.

  • Episode 103: 1984

    You read it in high school. Or college. It was that “important” book about the dangers of authoritarianism.

    An interesting, alternative future. A distant possibility.

    Maybe not anymore?

    The Disco trio discuss…

  • Episode 102: Kindred (The Graphic Novel)

    Just like you, we’re on an Octavia Butler kick since reading Dawn. This episode, we check out the brand-new graphic novel adaptation of Butler’s masterpiece Kindred.

  • Episode 101: Q&A

    Tod, Julia and Rider answer questions from listeners.

  • Episode 100!

    Back from a long absence, we explain where we were, what we were doing, and what you should have been reading all along.

  • Episode 99: Summer Reading 2016

    It’s that time again.

    Tod and Julia discuss summer reading…and introduce a contest for Episode 100.

  • Episode 98: Games Games Games

    Back by popular demand — games!

    As we near the big 100, we take some time to play a few Literary Disco classics.

  • Episode 97: Dawn

    This episode, we enter the compelling world of Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn, the first in her Xenogenesis series.

    That’s right, we’re going full sci-fi. Post-apocalypse, aliens, tentacles and even…interspecies orgies?

    This little novel sends us down a rabbit hole of slavery, feminism, and the ethics of alien meddling.


  • Episode 96: Why We Write About Ourselves

    For the first time on the Disco, we discuss a book on the craft of writing. We delve into a new collection of essays by some of the world’s great memoirists.

    Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature is edited by Meredith Maran and includes pieces by Darin Strauss, Cheryl Strayed, Anne Lamott and more.

    These essays are brief, interesting glimpses behind the curtain; a chance to see how some writers approach their material. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the process and philosophy varies greatly from writer to writer.

    [No, it’s not your speakers, please excuse the horrible sound quality from Rider’s microphone]


  • Episode 95: Pictures from a Revolution

    This month we read a nonfiction classic about the movies that changed Hollywood– hear us battle it out between Dr. Dolittle and Bonnie & Clyde. Oscar season is over but we’re not done talking about it!

  • Episode 94: The Real Muslims of Irving, Texas

    This episode we discuss an essay by Colby Buzzell appearing in the March Issue of Esquire, available here.

    Buzzell offers a look at the life of American Muslims and the armed protestors who regularly appear outside of their mosques.

    While he aims for objectivity, Buzzell’s personal history becomes unavoidable: he served in the military, where he actually shot at mosques…

    An interesting look at a tense subject. We dive in headfirst.

  • Episode 93: Best of 2015

    Just in time for the end of the year

    Oh, wait.

    Super late, we have our annual “best of” conversation for 2015!

    We cover our favorite books, and then, as is Literary Disco tradition, we digress into countless other favorites…

  • Episode 92: A Christmas Romance (Novel)

    Happy holidays! For this winter season, we got you an extra episode (to make up for our many delays this year– we blame Rider’s cute baby and Julia’s incredible myriad of technical issues). We got you what you like best: a book we were shocked by. Join us for a Christmas-themed romance novel around the fire!

  • Episode 91: George & Lumberjanes

    We continue our discussion with New York Public librarian Gwen, who recommended two books for us to read and discuss.

    Both are aimed at a younger audience but with an eye to gender and identity.

    George, by Alex Gino, is a coming of age story set in your typical American school and family. It just so happens our protagonist is a girl that everyone keeps assuming is a boy. Gino tackles a difficult subject in a direct and personal way, and we discuss the hurdles that may face a transgender novel written for middle-grade readers.

    The graphic novel Lumberjanes is similar only in that it defies gender expectations. Without ever being “issue” driven, this fun, adventurous, and beautifully drawn series of comics completely won us over.



  • Episode 90: New York Public Library

    In this first half of two-part special (we’re crazy like that), we meet someone with the coolest job in the world: a recommendations editor at the New York Public Library.

  • Episode 88: Justine

    Justine, the first book of the legendary Alexandria Quartet, gets the disco treatment.

    This novel was published in 1957 and has attracted devotees ever since. Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, it’s a non-linear, intense examination of the city of Alexandria, Egypt, and a particular woman who lives there.

    Tod, Julia and Rider all agree it is dense, overwritten, and largely plot-less.

    Are these strengths or weaknesses?


  • Episode 87: Revisitish

    We catch up from a long break. Some books, some travel, some major humiliation.

  • Episode 86: A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

    This posthumous collection is getting so much praise lately– does it live up to the hype?

  • Episode 84: Judge a Book By Its Cover

    A long-lost episode finally appears! Rider tries to trick Tod & Julia with a classic game of ours. You should be able to guess at least one of these: play along!

  • Episode 85: Live from the Last Bookstore

    After a brief hiatus, we’re back and we’re live! This episode has it all: nudity, cursing, Ayn Rand. Have fun and laugh along like you were there. (Episode 84 will come out next– we’re nonconformists like that.)

  • Episode 83: Animorphs: The Invasion

    You asked for it. We don’t know why, but you did.

  • Episode 82: Summer Reading

    Vacation is upon us and our book lists are piling up! As Rider enjoys his vacation, what will Julia & Tod be reading next?

  • Episode 81: Tigerman

    It’s officially summer, which means we too are officially given over to Marvel and DC madness. Now that our lives are all superheroes all the time (or so it seems in the movie theaters), we discuss our favorite superheros and Nick Harkaway’s fascinating novel, “Tigerman.”

  • Force Us to Read from a Free Library

    Taking a walk last week, I stumbled upon a free library in my neighborhood.

    I’ve noticed these popping up all over the place, and I think they’re really fun, even if they court some controversy.

    But I’ve never used a free library.

    And…I realized I hadn’t read 95% of the books on the shelves of this one. I hadn’t even HEARD of most of them. And these are readers in my very own neighborhood.

    Which begs the question, what kind of books end up in a free library? Do they reflect popular taste? Local taste? The owner’s taste? Are the books there because no one wants to keep them? Or are these the books people want to share the most?

    I was going to pick one at random to read, but then I had a better idea. I took a photo of the shelves. I brought it up to Julia and Tod, and we’ve decided to open it up to you, our listeners, and make an episode out of it.

    You decide: what do we read from this free library?

    We’ve set up this survey with the photo I took, with a list of all the titles and authors I could decipher. There’s a lot of spy novels and romance. There’s an Algebra textbook and a guide to owning Pugs. There’s Jane Austen, and no poetry, and surprisingly, very little nonfiction.

    The survey list starts in the upper left hand corner and moves clockwise through the shelves. Where the text wasn’t legible to me, I put a “?” Feel free to pick a book based on its cover, its color, its worn spine…be as mean or as kind or as random as you want.

    We will read whatever book gets the most votes.



  • Episode 80: The Empathy Exams

    After a long and beautiful vacation, we’re back! And we’re busy discussing one of the year’s breakout nonfiction books, The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. But not before we do a bookshelf roulette that brings us to favorites old and new. That’s right, we’ve got a book so new you can’t read it yet– but you’ll want to.


  • Episode 79: Shackleton’s Journey

    This week we read William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey, an illustrated book for children that covers a famous expedition to Antarctica that began in 1914.

    It’s an interesting intersection of cold facts and beautiful drawings. And it left us feeling hopeful, despite the fact that the journey itself was a failure.

    Up first, a Children’s Book themed Bookshelf Revisit, in which we each pull down a favorite — and weird, they’re all weird — kid’s book.

    But most importantly, this is the episode where Tod reveals his secret passion project involving food.

    That’s right, we actually get him to talk publicly about…Goldburgers.


  • Episode 78: Nancy Drew

    We finally take on the young detective Nancy Drew with her first adventure, The Secret of the Old Clock

    Much like our Hardy Boys episode, there is some confusion about the setting (less wig shops this time), the criminals, and the overall feeling that the “mystery” ain’t that mysterious.

    (Hint: there’s a secret in the old clock.)

    And who knew that this much discussion of probate law would launch one of the most beloved and imitated characters of all time?

    But up first: should you ever be ashamed of what you read? We read and discuss the side-by-side essays that asked this question in The New York Times Book Review.


  • Episode 77: Jill Alexander Essbaum & Interrobang

    We are joined this week by rising superstar Jill Alexander Essbaum (author of New York Times bestseller “Hausfrau”). Just in time for Easter, we discuss sexy religious poetry, her book, and a poetry collection you’ve never heard of: “Interrobang” by Jessica Piazza.

  • Episode 76: Story Songs 2 (The Reckoning)

    Here we go again. No genre, subject, or style is as hotly debated as Story Songs. At least there’s no baseball this time.

  • Episode 75: Wolf in White Van

    An incident with a gun. A disfigured game designer. His play-by-mail roleplaying game. A death. A lawsuit.

    That’s all we’ll give away in an attempt not to spoil the strange and beautiful new novel that is Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle.

    Yes, we mispronounce his name for the first half of the show. And yes, none of us really know his music (he’s the lead singer and songwriter for the band, The Mountain Goats) but by the end of this episode, we certainly give props to John Darnielle for this incredible debut novel.

    We only picked up this book thanks to YOUR recommendations over at the Literary Disco Goodreads Group, and man, are we glad we listened to you guys (thank you Anastasia, Terry, Bree, and Sonnet).

    Keep ’em coming!


    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 74: My Dad, the Pornographer

    We couldn’t resist discussing an incredible essay by Chris Offutt that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. It’s entitled My Dad, The Pornographer. You can guess what it’s about.

    To give us some context, we reached back into the archives and pulled out two of Offutt’s short stories from his first collection Kentucky Straight.

    Fathers, sons, the American south, writing, sex, and death. All the ingredients of a classic Literary Disco episode.

  • Episode 73: Galapagos

    Today we examine whether or not every work by a master is a masterpiece. There may be some yelling.

  • Episode 72: Reeling Through Life

    How do movies affect us? How can we best write about them? Do we think in movie narratives now? What are the best books about movies? The gang tackles these pertinent questions while zipping through Tara Ison’s fun and creative essay collection.

  • Episode 71: Dept. Of Speculation

    We start off the year with a book that was hailed as one of the best of 2014: Jenny Offill’s The Department of Speculation. What’s the line between beautiful and pretentious, we ask? Plus, a revisit that jumps from comedy memoir to philosophy you’ll never read.

  • Best of 2014

    2014 is coming to a close, and we take a moment to answer life’s big questions: what was the best thing we read for the podcast this year? What was the best thing we read outside of it? Have Julia & Rider read Tod’s book? What is Rider’s big announcement? And who exactly is our man of mystery, producer Tucker Ives?

  • Episode 69: Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose Your Own Autobiography

    You will probably be given this book for Christmas, so let us pre-judge it for you!

  • Episode 68: Truman Capote’s Holiday Stories

    Can the man who wrote “In Cold Blood” deliver a warm-blooded holiday tale? What are Julia, Tod, and Rider thankful for this year? Is it possible to cheat at “Judging a Book By Its Cover”? These questions may or may not be answered in this holiday episode.

  • Episode 67: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    This week, at your request, dear listeners, we take on one of the silliest, most lovable books in the known universe. We discuss the difference between satire and parody, South Park, and a rare unanimous agreement on the best satirical living writer in America. And finally we get around to discussing “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a favorite of yours when you were eleven.

  • Episode 66: Gabriel

    Get out the tissues.

    This episode, we head straight for emotional jugular, as we read Edward Hirsch’s devastating poem about the life and death of his son, Gabriel.

    Hirsch may make us cry (and yes, that means each of us, many times) but we are also awed by his craft and uplifted by this ambitious poem.

    Up first, we each talk about our favorite father-son work of literature. Rider goes Searching for Bobby Fischer, Julia embraces a Long Day’s Journey and Tod heads to Empire Falls.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 65: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum & Special Guest Stephen Graham Jones!

    What’s really scary? Zombies, ghosts, vampires– or bizarre novels about torture based on true events?

    For this year’s Halloween episode, we welcome our expert in horror, Stephen Graham Jones. We begin with some fun stuff, like why it took zombies so long to catch on, and what the next zeitgesity beast might be.

    Then we asked Stephen to select a horror book for us to read. He picked a doozy.

    Hitherto unknown to all three of your Disco hosts, The Girl Next Door is without a doubt the most disturbing, controversial novel we’ve read. It’s well written, beautifully structured, and yet, will make you wish you never started it.

    Join us, and please share your thoughts on our Facebook Page.


  • Episode 64: Excavation

    When she was 13, Wendy C. Ortiz started “dating” her 28 year-old English teacher. In her new memoir, Excavation, she returns to the years she spent maintaining this secret relationship.

    It’s a disarming look at a tough adolescence. Ortiz manages to capture not only her own disorienting emotions, but also — as Tod and Rider will attest — an incredibly accurate portrait of life in the San Fernando Valley in the ’80s.

    But first, it’s a Bookshelf Roulette. And Julia regales us with stories of sleepwalking…

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 63: Tinkers

    A Pulitzer Prize winner none of us had read, Tinkers is a short, innovative, and compelling novel, first released in 2009.

    Join us as we discuss death vigils, hermits, epilepsy, and depressed mothers. Not to be missed: Tod cries. Really, he cries.

    Up first, the return of the Bookshelf Revisit. Rider delves into Celine Dion. Tod talks about going Against Football. And Julia buys the new David Mitchell.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 62: Summer Special Aboard the Charles W. Morgan


    For this very special episode, Tod & Julia talk about her trip aboard the Charles W. Morgan, Moby-Dick, and the difference between boats and ships. Followed by a piece Julia wrote aboard the Morgan. Enjoy this unique back-to-school special!

  • Episode 61: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Summer’s over and it’s time to get serious– grab a raft and float down a river while listening to us take on the Mark Twain classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

  • Episode 60: Twice Upon a Time

    This week the Disco Trio heads to their tablets and phones.

    The Atavist publishes digital essays, articles and books. One of their latest, most experimental pieces was written by Hari Kunzru. Twice Upon a Time is equal parts poem, musical experience, essay, and memoir.

    The discussion begins with the piece itself, then moves to the broader question of form. Should we be swiping and listening while we read?

    Up first, Julia gives a short recap of her time on the open seas. Then it’s a traditional Bookshelf Revisit: Rider talks about his time as a werewolf, Julia gets poetic, and Tod loves the 4th of July.


  • Episode 59: Pancakes!

    Breece D’J Pancake died in 1979 at the age of 26, but not before writing some legendary short stories. In this episode, we read his collected work and discuss the rural landscape he explored.

    But first: it’s the return of Klassics Korner with Two K’s. Tod tries to fool Julia and Rider with some Leo Tolstoy by creating a fake paragraph from The Death of Ivan Ilych.

    Will it work?

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 58: Submergence

    This week we take on a smart book. Maybe too smart.

    Rider first stumbled upon Submergence by JM Ledgard when it was given as an example of complex grown up literature within an article about the popularity of Young Adult work. The trio decided to give it a try, and are pretty unanimous in its brilliance.

    But does brilliance make a book meaningful? Or…fun?

    Specifically, the group discusses how the worldliness and scientific complexity of Submergence might not be enough to make up for its minimal plot.

    Up first, the triumphant return of Judging a Book by Its Cover. Will the trio be able to tell things about a book from the first paragraph? Will they maybe know exactly which book it is?

    Tune in to find out.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 57: Cathedral of Nervous Horses

    It’s time for more poetry.

    And much to Tod’s chagrin, the words “Mother” and “Father” appear a lot in this collection.

    Undeniably, however, the poems of W.E. Butts collected in The Cathedral of Nervous Horses are thoughtful, touching, and all around damn good. The Disco trio discusses his work, and then more generally, the mysterious life of working-class poets — those who dedicate their days writing in a form that barely gets any recognition.

    But first up, a Bookshelf Roulette. Rider catches a Paris Trout, Tod gets hip-hoppy, and Julia stumbles on Didion once again.

    UnknownClick here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 56: Shirley Jackson

    Before there was the Hunger Games, there was the Lottery. And not the fun kind.

    This week, we take on a newly published Shirley Jackson story and mix in a revisit to her classic short story “The Lottery”– which, incredibly, Rider has never read. Read along with these short stories and enjoy our descent into our usual madness (now, with more stoning!).

  • Episode 55: The Stranger

    It’s back to school for the Disco, when writer and real life high school English teacher Heather Partington joins us.

    We asked Heather to treat us like a class: reading assignment, quiz, discussion. She selected Albert Camus’ classic novel, The Stranger. Then she gave us an online reading quiz. The results may surprise you.

    But more importantly, there’s lots of talk about the state of literature in high schools: what kids are reading, how they’re reading, how their parents are reacting…

    Heather’s on the front lines of the next generation of readers, and the Disco quickly learns that her students are very, very lucky to have her.

    And then we dive into The Stranger in all its sparse, detached — et très French — glory. If you thought this book was weird when you were in high school, guess what? Still weird.

    But kind of great.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 54: The Free

    This week we discuss the novel “The Free” by Willy Vlautin. Plus, we do a good old-fashioned “what are you reading right now” revisit. A classic night at the Disco!

  • Episode 53: Choose Your Own Adventure!

    You are on the web, trying find something to listen to.
    You see a link to the latest Literary Disco episode, a podcast you love. You click on it.
    Now you are on the Literary Disco site, and there’s a brand new episode about Choose Your Own Adventure books!

    If you remember Choose Your Own Adventure books, scroll down.

    If you are too young to know what the hell a CYOA is, good for you youngin, click here.

    You begin to listen to the episode, which is about a spy-themeed Choose Your Own Adventure. Specifically, #6: Your Code Name is Jonah. The episode starts with Tod, Julia, and Rider doing a Bookshelf Revisit about their favorite spy-related literature.

    And pretty soon, the three friends are discussing the convoluted plot, stale prose, and strangely dissatisfying sensation of wading through a book with 40 different endings.

    But nostalgia for the 80s, weirdly inserted whale activism (yes, really), and the camaraderie of the Disco trio all draw you in. It makes you laugh and think in equal measure.

    Congratulations, you are a Literary Disco listener.

    The End.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 52: Black Hole

    Beautiful women with tails, peeling out of your own skin, bad acid trips, cat-faced kids…we must be discussing the graphic novel Black Hole by Charles Burns.

    This chilling book set in the Seattle area in the 1970s is the story of high schoolers who are sexually transmitting a mysterious “bug” that mutates their bodies. But despite all appearances, this isn’t sci-fi horror; instead, the book speaks more to the general longing and misery that is American adolescence.

    And so, for the Bookshelf Revisit, the Disco trio pulls down their favorite teen-themed work of literature. A play set on Lover’s Leap, a book about a “maniac” runner, Richard Ford’s classic Rock Springs, and of course, Bruce Springsteen.

    It’s all angst all the time. Your parents just don’t get you. But we do.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 51: Five Days at Memorial

    For this episode, the Disco goes back in time to 2005 for a harrowing glimpse at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial. Incredibly well researched and nuanced, Fink’s book covers disaster, death, corporate irresponsibility, legal maneuvering, and personal anxiety in the face of emergency.

    But first: the return of Bookshelf Roulette! Tod lands on a book close to home, Julia examines the simple act of “looking,” and Rider finds laughter that is contagious and dangerous.

    Why is Tod talking about huffing model glue and the Anarchist’s Cookbook?

    Only one way to find out…

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 50: Q&A

    After some scheduling and vomiting drama (we’ll explain), we offer up this special 50th episode of wall to wall listener questions.

    In two weeks, we’ll return with — finally — a discussion of 5 Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.


  • Episode 49: Olympic Fever!

    Place your hand over your heart and jump onto a podium because we’ve got Olympic fever over here. We take on the two most important sports in American history: bowling and football.

    This month, first we talk about our favorite sports in fiction and nonfiction. (Horses may or may not come up again.) Then we get on to the main event: discussing two fascinating pieces of sports journalism, “Why Don’t More Athletes Take a Stand” by Gary Smith, and “The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever” by Michael J. Mooney.

    We’re pretty sure we’re going to get the bronze for this one… we lost some points due to Rider’s lack of knowledge of most sports.

  • Episode 48: Anything That Moves

    Food, glorious food!

    This episode takes on Dana Goodyear’s examination of the wild and crazy world of foodies and the things they eat, cook, buy, and sell: Anything That Moves. Which begs valuable questions like, could you eat a tarantula? What about a horse?

    The episode opens with a food-themed bookshelf revisit, which (in typical Literary Disco fashion), manages to cram Nick Cage, corn dogs, the movie Quiz Show and the country of Ghana all into one discussion.

    It’s a food extravaganza. Don’t listen if you’re hungry…

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 47: Mistborn

    Today we welcome the first appearance of the disco’s official Fantasy Correspondent, Will Friedle.

    As a voracious reader of the genre, the trio asked Will to pick one of his favorite fantasy novels, and he chose Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. Which, at 672 pages, turns out to be one of the shortest books Will could have selected from this author.

    The discussion lands only on the book briefly, though, as the gang delves into the nature of fantasy itself. What makes for good fantasy, and how is that different from other genres? Is suspense as important as “world building,” or less so? What about moral complexity?

    And, does anybody like singing Hobbits?

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 46: Best American Short Stories 2013

    In this episode, Tod selects three short stories from the latest Best American collection.

    First up is Alice Munro’s “Trains,” a poignant and surprisingly epic story of a soldier post-WWII. Then Suzanne Rivecca’s story about a meeting between an employee of a shelter and a rich author, “Philanthropy.” And finally, cats gets killed in Callan Wink’s “Breatharians.”

    Opinions vary, but on the whole, the Disco trio is in agreement that these are some mighty fine stories.

    In the opening revisit, Tod brings up an essay and a boxing book, Julia talks urban renewal, and Rider talks dialect. FYI: after this episode, we expect you all to pronounce Julia’s name “Jul-ya” and to never, ever, do a “cleanse” of any sort.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 45: Best of 2013

    In this delightful, coffee-fueled episode, we each choose a book for the hall of fame and name our favorite books we read this year. Plus, Klassics Korner makes a thrilling return with the addition of a certain boy wizard, Tod’s poet voice does not include James Franco this time, and Rider tells us his nerdiest moment of the year. Happy New Year from the Disco!

  • Episode 44: Robert Frost’s New Hampshire

    For the first time ever, the Disco takes on a dead poet. And not just any one, but perhaps the most celebrated and popular of American poets, Robert Frost. Julia selected his fourth book, New Hampshire, which includes famous Frost poems such as “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Fire and Ice.” But also plenty of lesser known works.

    What follows includes some strong (but relatively peaceful) disagreements about Frost and his legacy.

    Up first, in a themed Bookshelf Revisit, your hosts each present a favorite place-based piece of writing. Which includes fiction, non-fiction, and something called a “deep map.”

    But don’t worry, Tod manages to work his time as a strip club DJ into the discussion.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 43: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

    Football and the Iraq war come together in Ben Fountain’s novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a portrait of fictional war heroes during a “victory tour” in 2004. The disco trio discusses the books insights on war, class, and politics. Not to mention Fountain’s mastery of his craft.

    But first, it’s Bookshelf Roulette, which brings up important questions such as, why do all fantasy novels take place in England? Who in the world still has personalized license plates? And, what WAS the plot of Marilynne Robinsons’ novel Housekeeping? (Seriously, does anybody remember? Please email us.)

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 42: When Animals Attack

    On this “animal rage” episode, the trio reads articles about animal attacks.

    From Slate, A Death in Yellowstone by Jessica Grose

    From Outside Magazine, The Killer in the Pool by Tim Zimmerman

    And from Esquire, The Worst Story I Ever Heard by Rich Schapiro

    Discussions of zoos, pets, national parks, and the nature of animals ensues…culminating in the very important question, what’s scarier: a chimp, a bear, or a killer whale?

    Up first in the revisit, Rider heads to Pilgrim Creek, Tod analyzes Jack London’s dog narrators, and Julia admits she was a horse obsessed pre-teen.

  • Episode 41: Dr. Sleep

    In this Halloween spooktacular, we talk about Stephen King’s latest novel, Dr. Sleep. It’s a sequel to his genre-defining classic, The Shining.

    Does Dr. Sleep hold up to its predecessor? Or is it something different entirely?

    But first, we bring to the Bookshelf Revisit the books and stories that scared us the most, either as a child or an adult.

    And then Tod and Julie both tell some “real life” ghost stories. Which sends Rider into a tailspin of skepticism (i.e., condescension) and Tod into a defense of the paranormal (i.e., egging Rider on). It’s one of the most combative episodes yet, and this fight has nothing to do with literature.

    Tis the season! Happy Halloween everyone.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 40: Things Fall Apart

    Chinua Achebe’s classic novel of a Nigerian colonial encounter gets the Disco treatment. An in-depth look at Things Fall Apart leads to discussion of Achebe’s legacy and African literature in general.

    But first, songs. Lots of songs, as Rider introduces his latest lyrical discovery, Tod talks rock-drug-memoirs, and Julia discusses a book titled, Born to Run…which, perhaps predictably, inspires some Springsteen singing.

    There’s no outro to this episode, since Rider is on the road to his wedding and without a microphone. But up in two weeks: just in time for Halloween, the Disco will take on Stephen King’s new novel, Dr. Sleep.

    Happy listening!

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 39: The Penis Play

    This week the trio takes on a dirtily-titled play that’s…actually not that dirty. “Cock” by Mike Bartlett is a strange combination of minimalist writing, incredibly specific characters, and Big Important Issues. For the second play the disco has tackled, it’s a good example of one that might read better than it will perform. But we’ll only know if any of our listeners have seen it…

    The discussion dives headfirst into the nature of sexual identity, and eventually, Tod will ask pressing (ridiculous) questions about the craft of stage acting (i.e., How do actors stand in front of people so long? How do they not pee?).

    But first, in the Bookshelf Revisit: books on Giants and Santa Clause, rip-your-heart-out lyrics about cancer, and the fascinating history of Legos.

    What kind of Lego kid were you?

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 38: Summer Vacation Essays

    This week, the Disco trio reflects on the end of summer with two classic essays Julia selected.

    First up, E.B. White’s short and moving trip back to his childhood vacation spot, Once More to the Lake (which can be found in its entirety, here).

    And then, David Foster Wallace gets a well deserved lengthy discussion regarding his hysterical, career-making article about the miserable week he spent on a cruise ship: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Which, perhaps inevitably, leads Julia, Rider and Tod to share their personal cruise ship horror stories.

    What is America’s obsession with vacation? Why is summer so meaningful in our lives? Why is Tod singing Toni Braxton?

    These questions and more…

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 37: Hot for Teacher, LIVE!

    Our first live episode, recorded in front of an amazing audience on August 22nd at the Barnes & Noble at the Grove in Los Angeles, California.

    We’re joined by guest author Ivy Pochoda, who just that day was wrapping up the book tour for her latest novel, Visitation Street.

    For the Disco trio to read, Ivy selected the novel Tampa by Alissa Nutting, the first book to make Tod’s jokes and innuendos seem tame by comparison.

    But first, we each do a Bookshelf Revisit, two of which harken back to the “origin stories” we told in our very first episode. Then Tod brings the Poet Voice to the masses. We let the audience vote on which of his dramatically intoned selections is actually a poem.

    It’s long, it’s unruly, and thanks to many technical issues, it doesn’t sound all that great…but it’s Literary Disco live!

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 36: The Woman Chaser

    Guest author Jim Gavin joins us for the strange journey that is Charles Willeford’s novel, The Woman Chaser, a book that confounds as much as it entertains. LA noir, postmodern pulp, and somehow, existential ennui are all squeezed into one little, psychotic book.

    But first, a Bookshelf Revisit that includes two nature poets, one of whom you probably know, the other you probably don’t.

    And in a special bonus interview, Rider talks Finnegans Wake with Joyce scholar Michael Seidel. Given his years of studying and teaching Joyce, can he make the book more accessible for those of us engaged in Finnegans Wake-Up? And for those of you who would never want to read it (like um, Tod), you may still be surprised by the nature of Joyce’s project.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 35: A River Runs Through It

    This week, we catch a big fish: the classic novella “A River Runs Through It,” and — movie bonus — we rant and rave about how it translated. Also discussed: a roulette brings us to Wuthering Heights, Dickensian England, and the literary magazine Barrelhouse.

    Click here to purchase from an independent bookseller

  • Finnegans Wake Up

    What began as joke on Episode 32 (“Finnegans Wake and Bake”) has now become a communal reading effort.

    Thanks to a couple hardcore listeners, we’ve decided to actually read five pages a day of James Joyce’s experimental book, Finnegans Wake. Today, August 1st, marks day one.

    If you fall a few days behind, no worries. Pick up where you were, and join us when you can.

    Right now, the discussion has begun in earnest in our Goodreads Group.

    The general gist is that none of us know what’s going on. But this book is so damn crazy…it’s kind of liberating.


  • Episode 34: Thunderbird

    This week, we return to contemporary poetry– but not before revisiting JK Rowling’s pen-name revelation, Middlesex, and the profound number of songs in the Hobbit. AND we announce the details of our live show, and throw down the Finnegan’s Wake-Up challenge!

    Click here to purchase Thunderbird from an independent bookseller

  • Episode 33: Graphic Novels

    In this episode, the disco trio finally takes on graphic novels. Goliath by Tom Gauld and My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, both empathetic takes on infamous villains. But should they be empathetic? Opinions clash as these two very different books come under the microscope. Not surprisingly, the addition of visual art changes the entire reading experience and the discussion.

    But first, in the Bookshelf Revisit, Rider will say the name Guybrush Threepwood, Tod will narrate the inner voice of a fish, and Julia heads to Shawshank.

    Also, Baby Hitler makes an appearance. We’re not kidding.


  • Episode 32: Seating Arrangements

    This week, it’s wedding time. The gang reads Maggie Shipstead’s novel Seating Arrangements, which takes place over three days of nuptials on an exclusive, East Coast island. Everyone’s rich, everyone went to Harvard, everyone has “first-world problems,” but does it make for a good read? The answer is more complicated than Julia, Tod, and Rider expected…

    But first, on our Bookshelf Revisit, Tod talks author correspondence, and trying to give an inspiring speech to his students. Julia binges on Stephen King. And Rider tries to read from Finnegan’s Wake, which inspires the Disco trio to come up with a great idea for a blog. An idea that actually might kill them — or at least render the three of them serious substance abusers — but all in the name of literature. Should they do it?


  • Episode 31: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

    Today we go to the one genre where our tastes truly collide: the crime novel. Rider, Tod, & Julia discuss Edgar-Award-Winning Tom Franklin’s latest work of southern intrigue.
    Crooked Letter Crooked Letter

  • Episode 30: Flowers in the Attic

    It’s time to take on the book that you all read, under your covers, late at night, freaking out about the nature of puberty, poisoned donuts, and inheritances. This is the book that we almost murder Rider for even suggesting it might be a classic of any sort. This is the book that is way too dramatic. This… is…. Flowers in the Attic.

    Also discussed: will books on writing stand the test of time? Would you rather be the Assassin, or Happy to be Alive? Is F. Scott Fitzgerald a hack? And what’s a spontaneous Friday night with Julia like?

  • Episode 29: The Fault in Our Stars

    What is the difference between drama and melodrama? Should books be written differently with teenage readers in mind? What is Romeo and Juliet actually about? And, if Rider rants in a forest, does anyone care?

    This week we engage in one of the most heated debates in Disco history, centered around John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in particular, and Young Adult literature in general.

    But first, we play Bookshelf Roulette. Tod will introduce you to memoirist Dinah Lenney, Rider stumbles upon his own signature, and Julia reads from one of her favorite literary journals.

    Lots of big questions and no easy solutions in this episode, so we’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  • Episode 28: Two Essays about Iowa

    Today is all about duality. Is a tragic event better written about as a personal essay, or as straight reportage? Should visitors to LA check out the Book Festival or the Grilled Cheese Festival? Tough decisions abound. At the heart of the episode is our comparative study on two essays: Jo Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter,” and Jim Mann’s “The Physics of Revenge.” Each one unpacks the same cultural event using wildly different techniques. Which form of nonfiction will prevail?

  • Episode 27: Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles

    In this episode, Tod, Rider, and Julia take on Ron Currie Jr.’s new novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles.

    One of the podcast’s most intense discussion ensues, primarily regarding the book’s masculinity.

    What makes a book manly, anyway? And why is Rider quoting Legends of the Fall? The words “trope” and “deconstruction” figure prominently.

    But first up, in this week’s Bookshelf Roulette, Julia lands on a Lonely Planet, Tod talks about boogers (amazingly, this is totally on-topic) and Rider complains about drunk LA writers. Rider complains about drunk dude writers a lot in this episode.

    Enjoy, and let us know what YOU think!

    Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles Cover Hi res

  • Episode 26: The Birthday Episode

    Happy birthday to us!

    For our birthday, we happen to all touch on stories about us sobbing uncontrollably. What says “birthday” like dredging up childhood memories of being the fat kid? If that’s not enticing enough for you, we create a Bookshelf of Fame and each add a book to it. Then we introduce a new game called “Wordz to Your Mother,” and go back to all of our old favorites. There’s no pin the tale on the donkey, but there are victory, screaming, and nostalgia! Happy birthday, listeners!

  • Episode 25: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

    This week on Literary Disco, full of sound and fury, we debate the meaning of the mysterious tetractus. Bookshelf roulette also leads us to a castle we can capture– but eventually, we get to discuss Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” Plus a super-special bonus discussion of the oddities and delights of the annual AWP conference.

  • Episode 24: When My Brother Was an Aztec & Smith Blue (The Poetry Episode)

    Tonight we take on a huge subject: how we should read poetry. The discussion centers on Natalie Diaz’s collection “When My Brother Was an Aztec” and Camille Dungy’s “Smith Blue.” What do we make of these wonders? What do we think about eviscerated dogs, smashed fruit, and meth? And what do teenagers have to do with it all? Plus, we revisit the bookshelf revisit and talk Lincoln, oral histories, and the literary reviewer’s conundrum.

  • Episode 23: Pulphead

    What do Michael Jackson, Christian Rock, and nearly-electrocuted high schoolers have in common? They’ve been written about by John Jeremiah Sullivan, and argued about by Tod, Rider, and Julia in today’s latest episode. Join us as we rhapsodize over some excellent essays. Also join us as we pull random books off our shelves (thanks to your help) and chat about them at random. Discussed: Julia tells you about Mark Twain’s OTHER pen names, Tod makes a very mysterious phone call, and Rider adores a classic.

  • Episode 22: The Hardy Boys

    On today’s episode, we head to Bayport to take on the brothers Hardy, those teen sleuths you thought you knew…

    We discuss Books One and Two of The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure, and The House on the Cliff. This episode offers an interesting counterpoint to our look at the first Sweet Valley High Book from Episode 3.

    But first, we abandon our usual Bookshelf Revisit in favor of Bookshelf Roulette. Based on random number suggestions from our Twitter followers, we each find a book on our shelf to discuss. What strange volume will we land on? And perhaps more importantly, will Tod can stay on topic? (Hint: barely.)

    Find out what adventures await us as we confront hobos, starvation, bad book signings, reckless jalopies, cookie-obsessed chums and the true villainy of red-heads.
    Hardy Boys Book One

  • Episode 21: We The Animals (with guest Elizabeth Crane)

    We’ve tackled tigers and rubber ducks on the show before, but have we ever turned our eyes to the animal spirits of three young brothers? Justin Torees’ novel is brought to our attention by the witty and wonderful Elizabeth Crane, who joins us on the show for a quick disco dance. Plus: cosmically bad reviews, having the willpower to creatively open a cupcake, and what the hell Patty Hearst was fighting for.

  • Episode 20: The Best of 2012

    Well, OUR best of 2012.

    Join us as Tod, Julia, and Rider go through the Top 5 books they read this year. Which of the books from previous episodes did they select? Did Pillars of the Earth make the grade? How about Sweet Valley High?

    Classics, new favorites, graphic novels, children’s books, and even audiobooks all make an appearance in this in-depth New Year’s discussion.

    And then Tod decides it’s time for a lightning round “Best Of” in all sorts of other categories, including, but not limited to, Best Cheese of 2012.

    And yes, dear listeners, Julia sings again.

  • Episode 19: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

    Ho ho ho! For the holiday season, the Literary Disco team reads a book Julia got for Christmas several years ago but hadn’t yet read. “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” brings us back to discussion nonfiction and the importance of setting. Also discussed: Goodreads, a bookshelf revisit, and the special Twitter challenge!

  • Episode 18: The Paris Review’s “Object Lessons”

    The short story: what is it for? Who does it best? What’s a “Paris Review” short story, vs. just a regular short story?

    Listen to us duke it out and draw your own conclusions– or, better yet, get the book and read along.

  • Bonus Episode! Life of Pi: The Movie

    You knew we’d have an opinion.

    Tod, Rider, and Julia discuss whether or not the film adaptation of “Life of Pi” lives up to the book– and whether or not you should see it. And it might not be the same answer.


  • Episode 17: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    You, a lifeboat, a tiger. Would you make it? Would Tod? Would Julia? Would Rider? (We have our bets.) Join our hosts as they discuss this bestselling novel and their hopes for the upcoming movie. Watch out for spoilers (though we’ll warn you).

  • Episode 16: Pillars of the Earth

    Long ago, in a land far away, three friends decided to take on an inconceivable project. One would read a book. One would listen to the audiobook of that book. One would watch a miniseries of the audiobook of that book. And lo, how did they feel about this book– which happens to be very popular– and this audiobook, and this miniseries? Did they build a great cathedral of praise, or raise a church of complaint? (Please note: The Pillars of the Earth contains many violent descriptions of sexual assault, which we discuss.)

  • Next Book: Pillars of the Earth

    Will Tod, Rider, and Julia adore this bestseller as much as the average reader? And will the fact that Tod watched the miniseries, Julia listened to the audiobook, and Rider read the hard copy affect their responses?

    Breeze through this epic and find out.

  • Episode 15: The Libertine

    In this episode, we discuss autographs, first editions, mermaids, and more. Then, we read the Libertine by Stephen Jeffreys– a play! Do we make it through? Do we discuss the nature of excess, or does Tod complain the whole time? Only one way to find out…

  • Episode 14: Mixtape

    Playlist, schmaylist. We’re calling this a mixtape: one poem, one short story, and one essay get dissected in this episode. Mary Karr’s “Suicide’s Note,” Eric Puchner’s “The Cooler Me,” and Joe Meno’s “Happiness Will Be Yours.”

    And of course, a knock-down drag-out argument over comic strips, more discussion of what makes a great audiobook, and frauds. Check it!

  • Episode 13: Moby Duck

    Rubber Ducky, you’re the one– you make bathtime lots of fun– until you disintegrate into the ocean and kill the very nature you purport to stand for. Tod, Rider, and Julia discuss Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn.

    The crew also debates reading while feverish, video games as literary experiences, and aging audio book voice actors. Finally, Julia introduces Tod and Rider to the incredible prose of George Eliot– or is it Julia herself?– in a brand-new installment of Klassics Korner with Two K’s.

  • Episode 12: Story Songs!

    It’s time to get back to school and, because we’re grown-ups now, we assigned ourselves some easy homework. Tod attempts to convince Julia & Rider that “Story Songs” are a legitimate literary genre, only to offer up sappy songs about serendipitous taxis. Julia and Rider try somewhat harder, but not much. The only thing that saves them from this silly episode is a bookshelf revisit in which they each read something great.

  • Episode 11: Winnie the Pooh & The House on Pooh Corner

    Deep in the hundred acre woods, three writers argue over the particular pathetic nature of Eeyore. Join us this week as we welcome friend and Barnes & Noble “Discover New Writers” pick Stephen Dau, whose novel “The Book of Jonas” turns out to not be about Jonas brothers at all. We read his book and also the Winnie-the-Pooh books, which Steve reads to his daughter every afternoon. Also, Tod points us to an article about music then and now, Rider gets comical, and Julia waxes on about olde timey NYC and the pretentious things Rider used to read there.

  • Next Week: Pooh!

    For our next episode, out Monday, we head to Hundred Acre Wood to hang with Pooh, Rabbit, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of the gang.

    Our guest author Stephen Dau selected both Winnie the Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner for us to read. So dust off those old copies and read along as we go hunting for Woozles and honey, and try to get to the bottom of these incredibly popular (and if you ask Tod and Rider, pretty strange) children’s classics.

  • Episode 10: When You Reach Me

    This week we are joined by Youth Services Librarian, Erika Jelinek. Erika’s here to address Rider’s concerns (expressed oh-so-mildly in Episode 5) about the quality of today’s Young Adult Literature.

    In defense, she offers Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. A coming-of-age novel with a time travel twist. The disco-teers discuss this fantastic book and the state of children’s literature in general.

    But first, our Book Club Revisit includes Tod talking Olympics (and, surprise surprise, avoiding books all together), Julia drinking whiskey, and Rider heading to the Russian snow for summer reading.

    And yes, The Cutting Edge is mentioned yet again.

  • Episode 9: Tiny Beautiful Things

    So you think you don’t cry. Well, we challenge you to listen to our discussion of the Beat Generation, how the media reports school shootings, how accurately we remember our cousins, and, of course, Cheryl Strayed’s “Tiny Beautiful Things” and then read the books we’ve discussed. Who knows what will happen? Your heart might grow two sizes.

  • Episode 8: Train Dreams

    Episode 8: We begin with a Bookshelf Revisit, in which Tod discovers a pulp gem, Julia goes Sherlock crazy, and Rider is hyperbolic as usual. Then we discuss the novella Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. We end with Judging a Book By Its Cover, wherein Tod is a genius and yet still doesn’t know where (or what) Thailand is.

  • Episode 7: A Separate Peace

    Somehow, Rider has never read this classic. We correct that. We also discuss the various terrors of boarding school, books from our shelves, and which parts of Crime and Punishment Tod completely made up.

  • Next Book: A Separate Peace

    For our next episode (out Monday, June 18th) we will discuss the high school novel, A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

    This book about two friends at an all boys school during World War II is a classic. It’s often assigned in high schools across the country. And while Julia and Tod both read it in their teens, Rider somehow missed it…

    So grab a copy, or dust off your old one (or find the Cliff Notes you read back in the day, you cheater), and get ready to head back to The Devon School.

  • Episode 6: Treasure Island!!! and Poet Voice

    Hello all,

    Hey, it’s new episode day! This week we welcome Mark Haskell-Smith, author of the hilarious Heart of Dankness, who shares Sarah Levine’s brilliant picaresque novel Treasure Island. We loved it. We also share some really good stuff from our bookshelves about being a starving, boxing circus freak who lives under a bridge. (Or at least, if we combined all of our recommendations into one book, that’s what it would be about. Someone write this!) And finally, Tod once again tries to stump Rider and Julia on what’s a real poem and what’s just Tod reading stuff in a ridiculous poet-y voice.

  • Episode 5: Above the Factory

    Evening, readers!

    Here we have Episode 5: Above the Factory. Read, listen, mull it over, throw your listening device across the room in frustration… whatever floats your boat.

    We also introduce a new bookish game: Judging a Book by Its Cover. We read first sentences from famous (or semi-famous) works, and then make educated guesses about the contents of the novels. Are you ready to play?

  • Next Book– Wait, No, Story– is “Above the Factory”

    Hi, friends.

    As writers ourselves, we love a good short story. We also know there’s a lot of great stuff out there on the internet to read. And we ALSO know that sometimes you just don’t have time to read a whole book for this podcast, so we’re making it easy on you.

    For Monday, we’ll be discussing “Above the Factory,” published in the online journal “Five Chapters.” Give it a read and meet us back here next week!

    — Tod, Rider & Julia

  • Stay Tuned for our next book!

    Check back soon and we’ll give you a preview of what’s to come in our next episode.

  • Episode 4: The Chairs are Where the People Go

    Hi, everyone! Here’s Episode 4. Sorry for the delay. We were having technical difficulties, so here’s a tried-and-true MP3 for your listening pleasure.

    Friends, family, loved ones of all sorts: if you were to organize a room for a lecture, where might you put the chairs? If you were to teach people how to play charades, what would you tell them? Are messenger bags relevant to this discussion at all? Kathryn Borel discusses “The Chairs Are Where the People Go,” with Tod, Rider, and Julia, who do not agree on its quality. Ready for a showdown?

  • Next book: The Chairs are Where the People Go

    Next Monday: The Chairs Are Where the People Go by Misha Glouberman and Sheila Heti.

    With special guest Kathryn Borel, author of the memoir Corked.

    Kathryn chose The Chairs Are Where the People Go for us to read– she knew we’d either love or hate this little book of essays about teaching improvisation, living in a city, and how to behave at parties. The discussion became lively, and there was much talk of messenger bags. If you don’t have time to read it before listening to the podcast, no worries; there aren’t many spoilers associated with a book of three-page essays.

    Now, people, go to a chair and read The Chairs Are Where the People Go.

  • More Sweet Valley Snark

    Hi all,

    If you can’t get enough of our Sweet Valley opinions, please visit the hilarious Dairi Burger blog. We are superfans. There are recaps, there are pictures, there are even invented Babysitters Club books. Go for it.

    — Lit Disco

  • Episode 3: Sweet Valley High & Klassics Korner

    Today, we get silly. We discuss the various merits and demerits of Sweet Valley High. We revisit the classics, but upon Julia’s insistence, we give it the stupid name “Classics Corner– with two K’s!” See, that makes it friendly and approachable… right?

    Let us know what you think in the comments, and please enjoy!

  • The Author Photos

    As discussed in our NEW EPISODE, here are the author photos Rider found so…unappealing.

    Anybody agree, or do we all think Rider’s been in Hollywood too long?

    (Rider would like to add that it doesn’t help that both of these guys have chosen to designate themselves by the ever-so-writerly “two initials.” That’s another pet peeve of his.)

    T.C. Boyle: genuine guy or ultimate poseur?

    S.M. Stirling looking stern.

  • Next book: Sweet Valley High (Double Love!)

    For our next installment (which will come out two weeks from today), we’re going as far from Half a Life as we can go. That’s right. We’re going to Sweet Valley.

    We’re only tackling the first in the Jessica/Elizabeth Wakefield saga, entitled Double Love. You can very likely get it online for less than five cents.

    And get ready for drama.

  • Episode 2: Half a Life & Poet Voice

    In our second podcast, we go back to our bookshelves again (or maybe put on our ipods, or maybe even just look at the back of the book).

    Then we take a deep dive into Darin Strauss’ memoir, Half a Life, which leads to a hot debate about the current challenges of nonfiction.

    Finally, Tod tries to stump Julia and Rider by reading things from the internet in the voice of a substandard poet.

    If you haven’t finished the book yet, don’t fret– you can revisit the episode any time. And there are no major spoilers– Half a Life is a meditative book so it’s more about style than plot, anyway.

    Feel free to leave your reaction to the book in our comments, or tweet us @LiteraryDisco.

    Happy listening,
    Literary Disco

  • The Next Book: Half a Life by Darin Strauss

    By now you’ve all listened to and enjoyed our first on-air game, “Bookshelf Revisit.” Well, guess what? We have at least three more bookish games to share with you. You’ll have to keep listening to find out what they are.

    Our next episode will feature more book games as well as a discussion of Darin Strauss’ devestating memoir, Half a Life. Even if you don’t have time to read the whole thing (although, trust us, it’s a one-nighter), the discussion will still be interesting to you. We’ll talk about the nature of memoir and Strauss’ perceptions of the book’s major event, which occurs in the very first paragraph.

    Give it a read and tune in in a couple of weeks to hear what we thought!

  • You want more?

    Don’t forget to follow us on facebook and twitter!

  • Episode 1: Bookshelf Revisit & Bright’s Passage

    The long-awaited first episode of Literary Disco has arrived!

    We begin by revisiting our bookshelves and recommending some of our favorites (or, in Rider’s case, weird books from the teen years) to each other.

    Then we get to the meat and potatoes of the episode: Bright’s Passage. We react, we question, we banter, we express enthusiasm for talking horses.

    If you haven’t finished the book yet, don’t fret– you can revisit the episode any time. And there are no major spoilers. We mostly speak about style and character in this episode, not plot.

    Feel free to leave your reaction to the book in our comments, or tweet us @LiteraryDisco.

    Happy listening,

    Literary Disco

  • The First Book to Read

    In the post below you’ll find our Episode 0, in which we talk about the podcast and books in general.

    But very soon, we’ll be posting our first discussion of an actual book. If you want to read along, it’s going to be the novel Bright’s Passage by Josh Ritter. (The image below will take you to the book on Amazon, but feel free to support your local bookstore!)

    It’s not a very long book, so we’ll post our talk in only a week or so. In the meantime, drop by our Facebook page and let us know what you think.

  • Episode 0: Introduction

    Subscribe and listen! This is our introductory podcast, in which Rider, Tod, and Julia discuss the books they loved, standing up to librarians, and meaningful professors.