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Series 3

Episode One - Author Caroline O'Donoghue

I wanted it to look like how it feels like, and how it feels to be Irish sometimes is that you are in a murder mystery.

Caroline O'Donoghue, host of Sentimental Garbage and author of Promising Young Women, Scenes of a Graphic Nature and the forthcoming YA novel All Our Hidden Gifts, tells Jess about playing with different genres, how some endings are too unbelievable to work, the inherent witchiness of being a girl, and how annoying it is for a movie to share your book's title. She also gives some stellar book recommendations for all those taking up this year's Audiobook Listening Challenge.

If you enjoy this episode, consider leaving us a review. You can also find us on Twitter and Instagram @ListeningBooks. We'd love to hear from you.

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Episode Two - Actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I was telling a story, and as an actor, as an artist, that’s the central love.

Actor and audiobook narrator Kobna Holdbrook-Smith talks about what it was like to voice Rivers of London as his very first audiobook, what he had to unlearn to do voice work, how Frank Sinatra inspired his mic technique, and even his first experience of snow. He also offers a heap of recommendations for your reading list.


  • Slough House series by Mick Herron, narrated by Sean Barrett
  • The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak, narrated by Grant Cartwright
  • The Terrible: A Storyteller’s Memoir, by Yrsa Daley-Ward, narrated by the author and Howard Daley-Ward
  • She Would Be King by Weyétu Moore, narrated by the author
  • The Milkman by Anna Burns, narrated by Bríd Brennan
  • Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo, narrated by James Goode
  • Circe by Madeline Miller, narrated by Perdita Weeks
  • The Rosewater books (The Wormwood Trilogy) by Tade Thompson, narrated by Bayo Gbadamosi


  • Anne Carson
  • Roxane Gay
  • Toni Morrison


  • Imogen Church
  • Anna Bentinck
  • Nicole Davis
  • Raj Ghatak
  • Tania Rodrigues
  • Adjoa Andoh
  • Bayo Gbadamosi

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Episode Three - Author Francis Spufford

My other conviction here, is that when you're writing difficult things, you should make them as rich and pleasurable as possible for the reader, that there need to be compensations...

Author Francis Spufford talks about what it's been like to launch his new novel, Light Perpetual, during a pandemic, the many talents and accents required of audiobook narrator Imogen Church, the fondness he holds for his 'unlikable' characters, and why the narrator was especially important for his historical novel Golden Hill. To top it off, he delivers a beautiful reflection on the extraordinariness of our ordinary lives.

Books Francis Recommends for the Audiobook Listening Challenge

Historical Fiction:

  • Antonia Hodgson's Tom Hawkins series, specifically The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins and The Silver Collar
  • Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower, The Beginning of Spring, Innocence, and The Gate of Angels
  • Nonfiction: Oliver Morton's The Moon: A History for the Future


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Episode Four - Author Claire Fuller

It does play huge roles in describing the character and circumstances, but really it’s there because I love food!

Author Claire Fuller talks with Jess about her latest novel, Unsettled Ground, shortlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, and her third novel, the simmering, suspenseful Bitter Orange. Claire reflects on the roles music and food play in her story-telling, and she describes how someone who never aspired to be a writer became one nonetheless.

Books Claire Recommends for the Audiobook Listening Challenge:

  • Ian McEwan's Atonement
  • Donna Tartt's The Secret History


Claire’s Playlist for Unsettled Ground

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Episode Five - Author David Gange

The kayak gives this incredible perspective on the world, where you are really embedded in the worlds of the species, you're surrounded by other animals, they don't respond to you in the way that they respond to humans on foot because obviously they are so much more skilled in and on the water than you are.

Writer and historian David Gange talks to Jessica about his book The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel, describing his adventures by kayak, his encounters with wildlife, the importance of poets to history, and why he was discouraged from narrating his own audiobook.

David's book recommendations for the Audiobook Listening Challenge

  • Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait by Bathsheba Demuth
  • Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
  • Moder Dy/ Mother Wave by Roseanne Watt


The Frayed Atlantic Edge

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Episode Six - Poet Fiona Bennett and Actor Michael Schaeffer

My reading experience with poetry is that I'm in the presence of some...body and we're in that kind of potentially ... it might be that slightly late night kitchen table moment where you've sort of got through all the news and the stuff and you actually enter into where you really are, and what's going on, and what you really need to talk about.

Poet Fiona Bennett and Actor Michael Schaeffer talk with Jessica about how The Poetry Exchange began, why the poems are introduced as friends, and how the way we encounter poems can shape our experience of them.

Fiona’s recommendations for the Audiobook Listening Challenge

  • Rapture, by Carol Ann Duffy
  • A Sleepwalk on the Severn, by Alice Oswald

Click here to listen to the poem that has been a friend to Jessica

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Episode Seven - Actor Helen Barford


Do you think we'll ever really belong anywhere?

'I suppose not,' said Papa. 'Not the way people belong who have lived in one place all their lives. But we'll belong a little in lots of places, and I think that may be just as good.'

Actor Helen Barford talks with Jessica about Judith Kerr's classic children’s novel When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, which she narrated for Listening Books' Sound Learning production. Helen also shares some good advice for anyone interested in taking up audiobook narration.

Books Helen and her children recommend for the Audiobook Listening Challenge:

  • Beast Quest (series) by Adam Blade
  • Harry Potter (series) by JK Rowling
  • The Secret Seven (series) and The Famous Five (series) by Enid Blyton
  • Julia Donaldson’s books, especially Tyrannosaurus Drip and What the Ladybird Heard
  • Roald Dahl’s books, especially Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Coming Soon!

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