Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The perfect book programme...

I've seen a bit of discussion around recently about the lack of a book programme on television and what it should include. It's the kind of question that few book lovers are likely to resist, so what would I like to watch?

Now ideally (for me) any such programme would follow my particular interests almost exactly, accepting that probably isn't possible and wondering what might appeal more broadly the most important thing I can think of is that I want to hear about books that would otherwise pass me by.

I want to know about independent publishers, favourite bookshops up and down the country, I want something that isn't London centric. I'm sort of interested in interviews with authors - though as I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction not that interested. Archive interviews might be a different matter. I would love to hear more about the business of publishing; everything about how a book is put together, and I'm always interested to hear about the books that somehow didn't catch on. Literary fiction is great but some genre stuff would be good too, and definitely features about classics, all those books on the shelf you haven't quite got round to reading yet, and yes; even out of print books.

I don't much care for things fronted by 'celebrities' - what I love about blogs is getting a sense of the blogger as a reader, building trust in their taste and opinions takes a bit if effort. The same is true in bookshops - casual conversation at the till (which I know the seller has to make) can lead to all sorts of interesting recommendations (and some that should be avoided). So definitely people who first and foremost give the impression that books matter; booksellers, bloggers, publishing types, academic sorts, writers, reading group regulars - all good. And I don't really need to hear about best sellers - they already get enough attention - but then I might want enough information to make me feel I know what I'm talking about without having to read the dratted things.

In the end though the question is also do we really need such a programme? I subscribe to Slightly Foxed which covers older books, listen to Radio 4 which serves book lovers quite well, skim through the review pages of  The Guardian, along with any other broadsheets that come my way, And read blogs that do dovetail with my own particular set of enthusiasms as well as introducing me to new books. In short I feel quite well served already and whilst book discussion isn't necessarily very photogenic it works extremely well on the radio.

On the other hand the proliferation of book festivals suggest that there are no shortage of people prepared to spend money on watching others talk about books and if that's the case then there's clearly an audience for a book based programme that manages to be inclusive, intelligent and imaginative. What would you want to watch?


  1. Nice post - My response is all of the above! Plus I'm always interested in writers' research for novels. I wouldn't want the programme to be too studio-based - talk to bookish people up and down the country, feature writers on their home turf, lots of lovely indie bookshops ... anything and everything about books!

  2. What a great question! Like you, I think radio is perhaps best suited to booky discussions, but your ideas about a television programme are very appealing and I'd happily watch all of that. I like Annabel's too, especially the writers' research.

    I loved that series of Writer's Rooms that the Guardian did a few years ago, so writers in their natural environment would be something television could do better than radio. I would want to have interviews with mad book obsessives who name all their children after characters in mediaeval poems, interesting libraries, maybe some sort of poetry game with poets being given a word or a theme and having to write something by the end of the programme, drunk writers/critics en group discussing books. I'd want lots on translations and small presses, editors, agents and writers talking about how books are developed and written, and definitely not all focused on contemporary publishing but digging out both well-known and forgotten books of the past. I'd want academics to talk about their research too - there's so much fascinating stuff going on and so often the general reader doesn't really encounter it.

  3. Anything that explores more out of the way books would be great