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The Penguin Podcast

Books & Literature

Conversations with some our of leading authors and creative thinkers, as we seek to understand how they write and where their ideas come from. Guests bring to the interview a handful of objects that have inspired their work. #PenguinPodcast See for privacy and opt-out information.

Conversations with some our of leading authors and creative thinkers, as we seek to understand how they write and where their ideas come from. Guests bring to the interview a handful of objects that have inspired their work. #PenguinPodcast See for privacy and opt-out information.


United States


Conversations with some our of leading authors and creative thinkers, as we seek to understand how they write and where their ideas come from. Guests bring to the interview a handful of objects that have inspired their work. #PenguinPodcast See for privacy and opt-out information.




Richard Powers with Nihal Arthanayake

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Powers joins Nihal Arthanayake to discuss his thirteenth novel, ‘Bewilderment’. Using objects like Bach’s Goldberg Variation 18, an unsmoked hickory nut, and a petrified piece of redwood, Powers transport us to his home in the Great Smoky Mountains, musing on the importance of sense as an entranceway to curiosity, writing as a resistance of habituation, and the centrifugal feeling that connects the work of the artist and the scientist; that of...


Stanley Tucci Live at The London Palladium with Dolly Alderton

In this special live recording at The London Palladium, Dolly Alderton speaks to award-winning actor and writer Stanley Tucci to discuss his new food memoir, Taste: My Life Through Food. Stanley speaks passionately about food, and shares with Dolly the ways in which it’s been inextricably intertwined with his life. He recalls early memories of TV chefs, tells us some favourite recipes, and explains how surviving throat cancer has renewed his appreciation for the simple joy of taste....


Elizabeth Strout with Isy Suttie

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout joins Isy Suttie to discuss the third book in her Lucy Barton series, ‘Oh, William!’. Using objects like a ring gifted to her by a great aunt and a postcard of the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald as a starting point, Strout muses on the almost mystical process that allows her to inhabit the characters she creates, her preoccupation with class and the shame that so often sits alongside it, and the epiphany that came to her on the comedy stage....


Jade LB with Nihal Arthanayake

The writer that penned an early-noughties viral phenomenon aged just 13, Jade LB, speaks to Nihal Arthanayake about ‘Keisha The Sket’. Having lived on the phones and websites of fans for the past two decades, it’s now been formally published for the first time with additional content from the author and essays from esteemed contemporary writers like Candice Carty-Williams and Caleb Femi. Using the notion of Black-British girlhood and an old diary, Jade dissects her own life growing up in a...


Shon Faye with Nihal Arthanayake

The author, podcaster and stand-up comedian Shon Faye joins Nihal Arthanayake to discuss her first book, The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice. Using iconic queer artefacts like the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, starring Judy Garland, alongside Lady Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’ album as a gateway, Shon shares with Nihal the experiences that lead to her writing The Transgender Issue: the internalised homophobia, street harassment, and urgency to set the terms of the conversation around Trans...


Gyles Brandreth with Nihal Arthanayake

Author, broadcaster, entertainer and former politician Gyles Brandreth talks to Nihal Arthanayake about his upcoming memoir, Odd Boy Out. In this episode, Gyles Brandreth considers how delving into his own childhood has challenged his usual aversion to being introspective, and how breaking the mirror of self-indulgence can truly enrich your life. Using a teddy bear, a green carnation and some words of wisdom from a war commander, he shows us that the sunshine of his childhood still shines...


Derren Brown with Isy Suttie

“Time is just the medium through which life unfolds.” This week, mentalist, illusionist, painter and author Derren Brown talks to Isy Suttie about his latest book, ‘A Book of Secrets: Finding Solace in a Stubborn World’. In this episode, Derren and Isy delve into the questions at the heart of the way we live our lives. Using objects like a camera and a paintbrush, Derren shares the small ways in which he is able to make peace with the universe. #PenguinPodcast ‘A Book of Secrets: Finding...


Paula Hawkins with Nihal Arthanayake

World-renowned author Paula Hawkins talks to Nihal Arthanayake about her latest thriller, A Slow Fire Burning. In this episode, Paula Hawkins reflects on the disparity between commercial success and her confidence as a writer, particularly in the face of criticism. Is it possible to strike the perfect balance between prosperity and critical acclaim? Using a postcard and a well-worn jumper, she shares her fondness for the keepsakes which remind us of who we are. #PenguinPodcast The...


Conn Iggulden with Nihal Arthanayake

Bestselling historical fiction author Conn Iggulden talks to Nihal Arthanayake about Protector, the latest book in his Athenian series. In this episode, Conn Iggulden recalls the wondrous stories which ignited his imagination as a child and inspired him to begin writing. Armed with a Roman sword and a silver pen, he reveals his methods for understanding the reality of physical combat and tells us about his growing sentimentality in adulthood. #PenguinPodcast Protector is available to buy...


Alexander McCall Smith with Nihal Arthanayake

Prolific author Alexander McCall Smith joins Nihal Arthanayake to share tales from behind his impressive body of work. In this episode, the ever-curious Alexander McCall Smith tells of his affection for Botswana, and its important role as the backdrop to his much-loved series, The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, gives due respect to the surprises of an author’s subconscious mind, and waxes lyrical about the Celtic art that inspired the story behind one of the fascinating objects he’s...


The Penguin Podcast's Best of the Booker Prize

To celebrate this year’s upcoming Booker Prize nominations, we've delved back into the archives and cherry-picked highlights from eight very special interviews. Hear about the inspirations, frustrations, and secrets behind the winners of the most prestigious prize in literature. What’s in a name? What is the worst question you can ask an author? Who has a squirrel skull hidden under their bed? All these questions are answered, alongside discussions of African Temporality, the importance of...


Avni Doshi with Nihal Arthanayake

“There’s a way in which memory can press up against the present”: this week, American author Avni Doshi talks to Nihal Arthanayake about her wildly successful debut novel, ’Burnt Sugar’, which was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. In this episode, Avni and Nihal discuss the problematic deification of motherhood in South Asian communities, using humour to explore dark subject matter, and using her nomadic experiences to develop her writing style. #PenguinPodcast 'Burnt Sugar' is...


Ed Miliband with Nihal Arthanayake

Labour MP, podcast host and now author Ed Miliband talks to Nihal Arthanayake about his debut book, ‘Go Big: How To Fix Our World’. Using a scene from ’The West Wing’ and a Robert Kennedy speech as jump off points, Ed and Nihal meditate on Ed's time as Leader of the Opposition, reconciling a partisan political climate, and being an idealist in a world of pragmatists. #PenguinPodcast Robert Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation speech can be found here - The ‘Let Bartlet be...


Barack Obama and Marcus Rashford in conversation

Tune in to an exclusive conversation between President Barack Obama and England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford as they meet for the first time. In this special bonus episode of the #PenguinPodcast, moderated by June Sarpong, Barack Obama and Marcus Rashford discuss the power that young people have to make change, the positive impact that reading can have and the importance of giving back to your local community. See for privacy and opt-out information.


Taylor Jenkins Reid with Nihal Arthanayake

Bestselling author Taylor Jenkins Reid talks to Nihal Arthanayake about her latest book, ’Malibu Rising’. Much of Taylor’s fiction focuses on the world of celebrity and fame - she talks to Nihal about why a cultural fascination with celebrities exists, the insidious, seductive nature of fame, and how the accessibility of stars today has changed fame forever. They also discuss her writing process (which involves a lot of iced tea!) and the joys of immersing yourself in another time period....


Emma Dabiri with Nihal Arthanayake

Author, social historian and broadcaster Emma Dabiri talks to Nihal Arthanayake about her latest book, 'What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition’. Emma picks objects, including a bookshelf and an incense holder, which instigate a fascinating conversation about the changing landscape of online activism, the books she continues to return to for inspiration, and the importance of interrogating our current world order. #PenguinPodcast 'What White People Can Do Next: From...


Zadie Smith and Nick Laird with Nihal Arthanayake

Literary power couple Zadie Smith and Nick Laird chat to Nihal Arthanayake about their collaborative project, ‘Weirdo’, a children’s book about the quiet power of being different, featuring exquisite illustrations from Magenta Fox. In this episode, Zadie and Nick discuss the joy of removing words from their work, the virtues of rawness in writing, and the inspiration they take from the internal life of their aging pug, Maud. #PenguinPodcast ‘Weirdo’ is available to buy as an audiobook now...


Yaa Gyasi with Nihal Arthanayake

Ghanaian-American novelist Yaa Gyasi talks to Nihal Arthanayake about her second novel, ’Transcendent Kingdom’. Using objects like a photo of a mouse and a SZA song, the author of the award-winning ‘Homegoing’ chats to Nihal about her Ghanaian heritage, liking your own characters, and discussing mental illness in African cultures. #PenguinPodcast ’Transcendent Kingdom’ is available to buy as an audiobook now - See for privacy and opt-out...


Ashley Audrain with Nihal Arthanayake

Author and ex-publicity director Ashley Audrain talks to Nihal Arthanayake about her wildly successful debut novel, ’The Push’. Using objects like a popular Canadian children’s book and a Brandi Carlile song, Ashley chats to Nihal about the contradictions of motherhood, the catharsis of exploring our deepest fears on a page, and how parenting and writing co-exist. #PenguinPodcast ’The Push’ is available to buy as an audiobook now - See for...


Kehinde Andrews with Nihal Arthanayake

Professor of Black Studies and author Kehinde Andrews talks to Nihal Arthanayake about his latest book, ’The New Age of Empire’. Using objects like his dad’s British passport, a keyring, and an iconic hip-hop album, they chat about embracing Black culture as a teenager, reckoning with the concept of ‘Britishness’ and the commercialisation of Black music. #PenguinPodcast’ 'The New Age of Empire’ is available to buy as an audiobook now - See for...