Sewing and audiobooks are a match made in heaven. Whilst your hands are kept busy stitching, your mind can drift off into a story. Each activity helps prevent you getting distracted from the other and enables you to lose hours in a story. It's the perfect mindful activity. So given I devour an obscene number of audiobooks and podcasts, I wanted to share my latest favourite listens with you. You'll notice I got slightly carried away whilst writing this. These have filled many happy hours over the last few months....
1 | This Cultural Life (BBC Radio 4): Interviews with artists and creatives about their cultural influences, covering the moments which have inspired them and made them who they are. A couple of recent episodes which particularly resonated with me on the struggles of creativity: the musician Nick Cave talking about the agony of song writing and how he wishes he could retire from being Nick Cave. Or writer Aaron Sorkin discussing the crippling fear once a book has ended and he is confronted with a blank page... the fear he will never have another idea again.
2 | Private Passions (BBC Radio 3): Guests discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives. Being on Radio 3, there is a focus on classical music. I found this podcast thanks to a recommendation to listen to the episode with textile artist and colour visionary Kaffe Fassett, which I really recommend!
3 | Invisibilia (NPR): Each episode talks through a different force controlling human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. These psycho-analysis podcasts aren't usually my cup of tea but Invisibilia, particularly the early episodes, are really engaging. Favourites include the discussion of why we force ourselves into categories, what would happen if we stopped feeling fear, or how do you have a personality
4 | Only Artists (BBC Radio 4): Only Artists brings two artists together to talk about their creative work with no presenter. This podcast is new to me but those I have listened to so far have been incredibly calming - it's lovely being a fly on the wall in these creative conversation. I enjoyed writer Tracey Chevallier talking to ceramicist Edmund de Waal, and artist Norman Ackroyd meeting writer Robert MacFarlane
5 | Up With The Lark: Whilst this is a slightly shameless self-nomination (I was interviewed on the podcast this month!), I have been listening to Calandre's podcast for years. Each episode interviews a small business owner and talks through various aspects of running a business. Must listens are Sarah Watson of Balineum talking openly about her designs being copied, or Paynter Jackets' completely unique approach to making clothing.
6 | Art Juice: I religiously listen to this podcast each week by artists Alice Sheridan and Louise Fletcher. So often they discuss things I myself am worrying about or struggling with... be it the pains of social media, how to price products, what we should be doing with our time, how to get out of a creative rut. The conversation is incredibly open and honest, and it feels like an hour spent with friends. If you work creatively, I think you'll find this incredibly reassuring, so I recommend all the episodes!
7 | A Good Read (BBC Radio 4): This one is a great feeder podcast for my audio book habit... each week guests discuss their favourite books. Whilst often the books might be a bit too high-brow for me (I am quite a low-brow reader), they are wonderful for introducing new book ideas. My husband is a great foodie and cookbook reader, so listening to the episode with chef Jeremy Lee helped me find him the perfect Christmas gift!
8 | British Scandal (Wondery): Finally, something light-hearted to end on. If you enjoyed My Dad Wrote a Porno, then you'll love this podcast series. Written and presented by Alice Levine and Matt Forde, each episode explores different British scandals in really funny ways. When you need a pick me up, these are perfect!
Whenever possible, I listen to audiobooks through LibroFM because a portion of your fee goes to supporting independent bookshops. However, sometimes books are only available on Audible, so you'll see a few of these recommended. If you're interested in listening but don't want the membership expense, take a look at BorrowBox, where you can access audiobooks from your local library (UK only). You'll notice a bit of a theme with the first few books here... I love a thriller / murder mystery novel - a gripping story that pulls you along with it as you stitch. I lose hours to these, eagerly anticipating the revelation of whodunit.
1 | The Slough House series by Mick Herron: I have absolutely devoured these books, listening to the first 5 over the course of 3 weeks. That's a lot of listening. Mick Herron's characterisations are fantastic - the complexities and unexpected twists make these so very engaging. A modern day John le Carre. If you like a spy thriller, you'll love these. And once you finish, there is an excellent series to watch on Apple TV featuring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas. This is my number 1 on the list for a reason!!
2 | The Strike Novels by Robert Galbraith: I adore this series... when a new one comes out its the highlight of my year and I am desperately impatient for the next instalment! Each book is lengthy but feels like it goes by in a flash - I have to ration my listening. The latest book was my favourite so far and absolutely gripping in parts. JK Rowling is a master of creating believable, flawed and complex characters.
3 | The Hawthorne Series by Anthony Horowitz: These whodunits are a far more lighthearted option - not intended to take themselves too seriously, This series is excellently read by Rory Kinear. If you do enjoy this, then his other whodunit series, Moonflower Murders, is gentle and equally entertaining!
4 | Wild Swans by Jung Chang: This story charts the history and opening up of China through the story of three generations of women, Jung Chang, her mother and grandmother. Whilst harrowing in parts, it's unforgettable and eye-opening. Don't be daunted by the 27 hours length, it is gripping throughout.
5 | The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope: I am not usually one for a classic novel however, at a point where my audible credits were running low so I needed to opt for a free audiobok, I listened to The Way We Live Now and enjoyed every minute (and at over 30 hours, you get a lot of listening for your credit!). Whilst unfortunately I haven't been able to get on with the next ones in the series, this one still feels relevant today. I now just need to get my hands on the BBC adaptation from 2001 (which stars a young Matthew MacFayden, aka Tom Wambsgans in Succession).
6 | The Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron: Full disclosure, I haven't listened to this book but have just finished reading the hard copy. I have terrible general knowledge, my history and geography are woefully bad, and despite making efforts to improve myself with educational books I always find them a little dry (Peter Frankopan, Andrew Marr etc...). Travel books, however, are a different matter. The history is instead told through the people you meet and sights you see.
7 | The Jeeves Collection by PG Wodehouse, narrated by Stephen Fry: I can't possibly put together a list of audiobooks without having some Stephen Fry narration in there. And while there are many to choose from (Sherlock, Mythos, and, of course, Harry Potter), this is my current favorite. It's harmless, comforting—a 40-hour lullaby. Not that everything needs a TV equivalent, but every couple of years I binge the ITV serialisation from 1990 staring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.
8 | The Power Law by Sebastian Mallaby: This wouldn't be an entirely honest list if I didn't have a dry finance tome in there somewhere. Whilst I haven't gone as far as to recommend The Rise and Fall of Barclays (that really is very dry), this one is definitely still not for the faint hearted. If you enjoy a bit of non-fiction and have a penchant for a business story, then this is an excellent choice. Mallaby tells the story of the characters, businesses and events which transformed venture investing into what is today.