Backlisted Podcast



A regular podcast presented by Unbound's John Mitchinson and Andy Miller (author, The Year Of Reading Dangerously) a/k/a Leavis and Butthead. Bringing old books back to the surface.


  • The Dream Songs by John Berryman

    04/10/2021 Duración: 01h12min

    Joining us on Backlisted this week is novelist and memoirist Susie Boyt (My Judy Garland Life, Loved and Missed). The book Susie has chosen for us to discuss is The Dream Songs (1969) by John Berryman, the publication of which briefly made its author the most famous poet in America but also, unfortunately, hastened his decline and ruin. But the work shines on. Also in this episode Andy is struck by the contemporary resonance of Vivian Gornick's The Romance of American Communism while John drinks in Public House: A Cultural and Social History of the London Pub edited by David Knight and Cristina Monteiro. Please note, this episode contains references to suicide.

  • Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee

    20/09/2021 Duración: 01h02min

    We are joined by novelist Mary Costello for a special episode recorded live at Galway International Arts Festival in Ireland on September 10th 2021. The book we're debating is Elizabeth Costello (2003) by South-African born Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee, a novel that politely asks the reader to consider, amongst other matters, animal rights, the power of faith and the limits of fiction itself. Also in this episode, new books by two Irish authors: Sally Rooney's novel Beautiful World, Where Are You and John Moriarty’s The Hut at the Edge of the Village, a collection edited by Martin Shaw and published by the Lilliput Press.

  • Summer Reading 2021

    06/09/2021 Duración: 01h53s

    It’s time for our annual look at what we’ve been reading over the summer break. John, Andy and Nicky discuss David Keenan’s fourth novel Monument Maker; Open Water, a promising debut novella from Caleb Azumah Nelson; Deborah Levy’s three-volume ‘living autobiography’, Things I Don’t Want to Know, The Cost of Living and Real Estate; a reissue of Percival Everett’s satirical diatribe Erasure; Life With a Capital L, Geoff Dyer’s selection of essays by D.H. Lawrence; and Vivian Gornick’s The End of the Novel of Love and Unfinished Business, in which the author re-reads favourite classic books and comes to fresh conclusions about them. All these titles can be purchased from the Backlisted bookshop at

  • Fat City by Leonard Gardner

    05/08/2021 Duración: 01h06min

    Perhaps the greatest boxing novel ever written, Leonard Gardner's Fat City was first published in 1969; it was shortlisted for the National Book Award; Joan Didion and Denis Johnson are amongst those who have sung its praises. The book was made into a film in 1972 starring Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges, directed by John Huston from a screenplay by Gardner himself. In this episode Andy, John and Nicky explore both the novel and the film and the ways in which Gardner shows the reader the whole of a society through the prism of sport. We also hear from the author as to why he has never published another novel. Plus in this episode John reignites his love of D.H. Lawrence with Frances Wilson's acclaimed new biography Burning Man, while Andy shares an extract from Leonora Carrington's magical novel The Hearing Trumpet, read by actress Siân Phillips.

  • Heart of the Original By Steve Aylett

    19/07/2021 Duración: 01h16min

    Joining us on Backlisted this week is writer John Higgs, whose fascinating new book William Blake Vs The World is out now. We were thrilled John chose Steve Aylett's guide to originality, creativity and individuality, Heart of the Original, first published by Unbound in 2015 and as original, creative and individual a book as we have ever featured on this podcast; be prepared to experience a "small-particle tulpa storm" of ideas. Also in this episode, John enjoys the waspish melancholy of Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights, while Andy introduces a reading from Black Teacher by Beryl Gilroy, a trailblazing Guyanese woman's memoir of post-war London.

  • In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

    05/07/2021 Duración: 01h08min

    Returning to Backlisted this week are literary agents Becky Brown and Norah Perkins, joint custodians of the Curtis Brown Heritage list of literary estates and previously our guests on episode #109, Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. This time we are discussing the work of crime novelist Dorothy B. Hughes and in particular her suspenseful and subversive novel In a Lonely Place (1947), freely adapted as a classic film noir by director Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Also in this episode Norah and Becky pitch titles by Kay Dick, Stella Gibbons and R.C. Sherriff to Andy, John and Nicky. Make sure you have a pen and paper to hand...

  • Are You Somebody? by Nuala O'Faolain

    21/06/2021 Duración: 01h12min

    Joining John and Andy this week is novelist and host of the books podcast Sentimental Garbage, Caroline O'Donoghue (Promising Young Women, Scenes of a Graphic Nature, All Our Hidden Gifts). We are discussing Nuala O'Faolain's revelatory memoir Are You Somebody? (1996), the original publication of which caused a sensation in her native Ireland. The book went on to top the New York Times bestseller list for six weeks; it still has the power to astonish. Also in this episode Andy has been exploring John Higgs's new book William Blake Vs The World and John is moved by Consumed: A Sister's Tale, the family memoir of Arifa Akbar, a former guest on Backlisted.

  • A Goat's Song by Dermot Healy

    07/06/2021 Duración: 01h14min

    Joining John and Andy this week are novelist Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto, Winterwood) and Unbound's editor-at-large Rachael Kerr. We got together to discuss Dermot Healy's remarkable second novel A Goat's Song (1994) and the peripatetic life of its author, one of the great Irish writers of recent times. Patrick, Rachael and John all knew, worked and occasionally drank with Dermot Healy and this special episode reflects their personal connections with a much-loved and much-missed man. Also in this edition Andy considers the most recent novel of another legendary Irish writer, Girl by Edna O'Brien; while John shares his admiration for Shola Von Reinhold's Lote, winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2021.

  • The Evenings by Gerard Reve

    24/05/2021 Duración: 01h13min

    Joining John and Andy this week are novelist Marie Phillips (Gods Behaving Badly, Oh, I Do Like To Be...) and novelist, screenwriter and poet Joe Dunthorne (Submarine, O Positive). The book we are discussing is Gerard Reve's debut novel De Avonden AKA The Evenings, which caused a sensation when published in the Netherlands in 1947 and is now considered a classic. In the words of Herman Koch, it may be 'the funniest, most exhilarating novel about boredom ever written'. Reve was only 24; he went on to have a long, successful and frequently scandalous career but only a handful of his books have been translated into English. Also in this episode John digs Bella Bathurst's new book Field Work: What Land Does to People & What People Do to Land and Andy surveys Landscapes of Detectorists and discovers prose to treasure.

  • The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald

    10/05/2021 Duración: 01h12min

    Joining John and Andy this week are Natasha McEnroe, the Keeper of Medicine at the Science Museum in London, and novelist Lissa Evans, Backlisted's old friend and the show's Original Guest, both of whom are Betty MacDonald superfans. The Plague and I (1948) is the author's unflinching and hilarious memoir of the nine months she spent as a patient at a TB sanatorium in the Pacific North West of America. We discuss this book and the eventful life of its million-selling author (The Egg and I, Anybody Can Do Anything, Onions in the Stew), are exposed to a selection of TB-related public information films and music, and there is even a 'communicable disease in literature' quiz. Also in this episode Andy is grabbed by Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper (1943) by Donald Henderson, reputedly Raymond Chandler's favourite crime novel; while John has been enjoying Olivette Otele's recently published history African Europeans, which traces a long African European heritage via the lives of individuals both ordinary and extraordin

  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

    26/04/2021 Duración: 01h15min

    The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman AKA Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne is the subject of this years-in-the-making episode of Backlisted. Published in nine volumes between 1759 and 1767, Sterne's cock and bull story has entertained, baffled, enchanted, infuriated and inspired readers ever since; needless to say, at Backlisted we love it. Joining John and Andy to celebrate this great, hilarious, digressive novel - or is it a series of great, hilarious, digressive novels? - are award-winning children's author Katherine Rundell and our friend Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who adapted Tristram Shandy for the big screen in 2005 as A Cock and Bull Story. As a bonus, you'll hear Steve Coogan, the star of that film, read from the book(s) - exclusively for Backlisted listeners. Also in this episode, Andy enjoys a "relentless excursion into style" with Fun in a Chinese Laundry (1965), the autobiography of film director Josef von Sternberg; while John takes a sounding of Jennifer Lucy Allan's fascinating new

  • Água Viva by Clarice Lispector

    12/04/2021 Duración: 01h01min

    Clarice Lispector's Água Viva is the subject of this episode of Backlisted. Like several of Lispector's remarkable novels, this slim book caused a sensation when first published in her native Brazil in 1973. Exquisitely written and daringly abstract, it stands as one of its author's masterpieces with Near to the Wild Heart (1943), Family Ties(1960), The Passion According to G.H. (1964) and The Hour of the Star (1977). Joining John and Andy to explore this truly iconic author's life and work are writers Wendy Erskine and David Keenan. Also in this episode, John has been reading Peter Blegvad's recent book Imagine, Observe, Remember, "a way to look at different ways of looking and seeing"; Andy, meanwhile, digs Excavate! The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall, a new anthology of essays, artwork and ephemera edited by Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley.

  • The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness

    01/04/2021 Duración: 58min

    The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness is the subject of this episode. The book was first published in Iceland as Brekkukotsannáll in 1957, two years after Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Joining John and Andy to discuss this ideosyncratic, unforgettable novel and the remarkable life of its author - spanning nearly all of the twentieth century - is author, poet and podcaster Derek Owusu. Also in this episode, John delves into Brian Dillon's new book Suppose A Sentence, while Andy reads A Chelsea Concerto, Frances Faviell's memoir of life during the London Blitz.

  • Daddy's Gone A-Hunting by Penelope Mortimer

    15/03/2021 Duración: 01h12min

    Penelope Mortimer's fourth novel Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1958) is the subject of this episode of Backlisted. Joining John and Andy to discuss Mortimer's fearless and pioneering autobiographical fiction, including this book, Saturday Lunch With The Brownings (1960) and The Pumpkin Eater (1962), plus the latter's subsequent film adaptation, are critic and broadcaster Lucy Scholes and New York Times daily books editor John Williams. Also in this episode John enjoys Brown Baby, the new memoir by Nikesh Shukla; and Andy takes a break with Always A Welcome: The Glove Compartment History Of The Motorway Service Area by David Lawrence.

  • Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

    01/03/2021 Duración: 01h05min

    Josephine Tey's classic mystery Miss Pym Disposes (1946) is the subject of this special episode of Backlisted, recorded as part of Aberdeen's Granite Noir festival on February 19th 2021. Joining John and Andy to explore the life and career of Josephine Tey AKA Gordon Daviot AKA Elizabeth MacKintosh (her real name) is Val McDermind, bestselling author and Tey's fellow Queen of Crime. Tey was the author of a series of highly successful novels, and film and TV adaptations, including Brat Farrar, The Franchise Affair and The Daughter of Time, yet she remains something of an enigma. As you'll hear, we thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in her work and learning more about her from Val. Please note: this audio version of the podcast is longer and contains more material than the Granite Noir video webcast. If you would like to watch the original, it's currently available via the Granite Noir website or on YouTube at

  • Job: The Story of a Simple Man by Joseph Roth

    15/02/2021 Duración: 01h16min

    Joseph Roth's Job: The Story of a Simple Man (1930) is the subject of this episode of Backlisted. Joining John and Andy to explore this austere and powerful novel, first published in German as Hiob: Roman eines einfachen Mannes, are Keiron Pim, whose much-anticipated biography of Joseph Roth will be published in 2022, and a returning Backlisted guest, bibliomemoirist and playwright Samantha Ellis. Roth was a prolific yet enigmatic writer - his other books include The Radetzky March and The Legend of the Holy Drinker - and this episode takes a long, considered look at his (often chaotic) life and work, and where Job fits into both. Also in this episode, Andy shares a reading by Salena Godden from her acclaimed new novel Mrs Death Misses Death, while John is beguiled by the fragmented visions of Max Porter's The Death of Francis Bacon.

  • Locklisted: Teenage Books Special

    08/02/2021 Duración: 01h03min

    This Locklisted episode is the sequel to our earlier Children's Books Special. It was recorded in August 2020 and was previously available exclusively to supporters of our Patreon at This time we cover our teenage years and the tricky transition into ‘adult’ readers. Much of the conversation is dominated by of our re-reading of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, but you also get John falling for James Joyce at seventeen (via Wilbur Smith), Nicky moving from Puffin Plus to Douglas Coupland, a digression on the horror novels of Stephen King and James Herbert and a haunting reading by Andy from Graham Greene. Backlisted is entirely funded by the contributions of our Patreons - many thanks to them! If you would like to hear all past episodes of Locklisted and support Backlisted in the process, please sign up as a Locklistener or Master Storyteller at

  • Karoo by Steve Tesich

    01/02/2021 Duración: 01h14min

    Karoo (1998), a posthumously-published cult novel by screenwriter and playwright Steve Tesich is the subject of this episode of Backlisted. Joining John and Andy to analyse this dark and hilarious tale of a Hollywood script doctor's apocalyptic decline and fall are journalist and podcaster Sali Hughes and novelist John Niven (who previously guested on Backlisted ep. 09 discussing Martin Amis's The Information). Also in this episode, John enjoys This Sporting Life: Sport and Liberty in England, 1760-1960 by Robert Colls, a social history of the English and their relationship to sport. Andy, meanwhile, has been reading Unquiet Landscape, Christopher Neve's recently-republished study of the English imagination in 20th-century landscape painting.

  • The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks

    18/01/2021 Duración: 01h16min

    Rosemary Tonks is the subject of this episode of Backlisted. Our starting point is her fascinating third novel The Bloater (1968) - which is long out of print, unfortunately - but we also discuss her remarkable poetry, her friendship with Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, her eccentric career in fiction, radio and theatre, and her gradual retreat from the world. Joining John and Andy to discover more about this unique and enigmatic writer are two of Tonks's admirers, author and critic Jennifer Hodgson and the comedian Stewart Lee. Also in this episode Andy replenishes his enthusiasm for Elizabeth Taylor with her (bizarrely underrated) novel The Wedding Group (1968), while John shines a light on Andy Charman's Crow Court, a new novel of short stories set in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, in the 19th century, published by Unbound.

  • Locklisted: Children's Books Special, Part One

    11/01/2021 Duración: 55min

    This Locklisted special on children's books was recorded in August 2020 and was previously available exclusively to supporters of our Patreon at Join us on a journey through time and space as John, Andy and Nicky discuss the books they loved as children (so actually no pubs were involved or even mentioned on this occasion). The discussion covers the importance of libraries, the Proustian aroma of parquet flooring, the challenges of the display spinner, the significance of the Puffin Club, the utility of book tokens and the joys of early audio books. The books mentioned make for an eclectic mix and include Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner, The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byars, the Hitchhikers series by Douglas Adams, I-Spy books, the epic sweep of Sweet Valley High, Great Northern by Arthur Ransome, The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, the audiobook of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (as read by Glenda Jackson), the audiobook of Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeil

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