I got a chance to ask Christopher Hermelin and Drew Broussard, hosts of the literary podcast "So Many Damn Books" some questions about their show, their reading community and some books they haven't read yet for this month's chat!
I was drawn to this podcast when noticing some of my favorite authors on their guest list (Megan Abbott, Julie Buntin, Alissa Nutting, and Melissa Febos, just to name a few!) but also because of their fun and unique set up. In each episode, Christopher and Drew discuss a recommended book with their guest so its kind of like listening to a really insightful and engaging book club meeting. Christopher and Drew also make a signature cocktail that they enjoy with their guest during their chat, which I loved because the drink is usually linked to the author and their work in some way. This show is a great way to get to know acclaimed authors, find new cocktail recipes and get tons of book recommendations.
So Many Damn Books is now a growing community of writers and readers alike, which must be really exciting for you! What drove you to create this platform? Why do you think having other readers or writers in your life is particularly important?
Christopher Hermelin -- I had been interested in podcasts for years before I met Drew. My first podcast was a comedy show, pitching bad tv show ideas as though they were excellent, back in Boston in 2011. It only lasted 4 episodes. But I never stopped wanting to do one. When I met Drew I immediately saw the opportunity arise again. Our conversation about what we were reading was easy and familiar, and it also wasn’t like any other conversation about books I’ve ever had. We both try to do away with the perceived pretentiousness of being passionate about books, and instead just celebrate reading, no matter what you enjoy. I thought that was a valuable point of view to add to the conversation.
Being part of the literary conversation is important because… I love books. I am a literary agent, a writer, and with this third hat, as a creator of book-related media, I get to be a part of the world that I love in a new and different way. My life is made of writers and readers, purposefully, because I so believe in the power of books and the bonds that they create. Every step in the life of a book is exciting to me, and I’m glad that I can be part of all of it.
Drew Broussard -- Christopher had the spark of inspiration within like 90 minutes of our first in-person meeting that we should have a podcast -- and I’ll admit, I wasn’t really into the podcast world at that point. But quickly, I realized that it was an amazing opportunity to just… be ourselves, on our terms, and that there was likely an audience for that.
It’s amazing to get to talk to authors I love about the books they’ve written, but it’s even more exciting for me to get to talk with them as readers. Because to be a writer, I absolutely believe that you have to be a reader -- and so this show allows me to wave my freak flag high as a member of both communities, and encourage all of us to celebrate being readers and writers and passionate fans of art.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned from other writers?
DB -- Gosh, where to start? Everybody who has come on the show has brought an insight that’s changed me, be it something tiny about an author they love that opens my eyes in a new way or something earth-shaking about the writing process (or vice versa). The most important thing, though, is probably also the most frequently mentioned: just do the work. Put in the time, put the pen to the paper, and do the thing.
CH -- I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that the books I’ve loved the most of the ones we have featured on the show (and some of them are all time favorites) come from authors who read widely and deeply.
With so many ways to get great book recommendations through social media and various online book clubs and literary newsletters, it feels like my list of to-be-read books just grows longer and longer by the day. How do you keep your to-be-read lists organized? Do you have a process for picking the next book you are going to read?
DB -- I’m a big fan of lists and order, so I love Goodreads for organizing my to-read list (as well as what I’ve read). As for picking the next book, sometimes I just know… and sometimes I go through complex, borderline-occult rituals that change depending on the time of year, my mood, the weather, any reading-tasks I’ve set for myself, etc. to choose from several.
CH -- Yeah, lists and sub lists. I have the physical list of separating the books I’ve read from the books I haven’t. And then I have a mental list where I slotbooks in and out based on what I need to read for the show, for my work, or for fun. And then Goodreads is where I end up putting all the books I come across that get recommended to me in one way or another.
Do you have a kind of reading routine?
DB -- Just reading basically everywhere, whenever possible. I read on the train, before bed, with a cup of tea in the morning, while scarfing down my lunch at work…
CH -- I try for 100 pages a day.
Is there a book people might be surprised to know you haven’t read yet?
DB -- Anything by William Faulkner or Tolstoy, David Copperfield, Infinite Jest.
CH -- I’ve never read so many books. I can’t imagine ever getting around to On the Road or Heart of Darkness. I’ll second David Copperfield - the only Dickens I’ve read has been specifically about Christmas.
What is your favorite part of creating this podcast? Do you have a favorite episode?
DB -- My favorite part is absolutely the pleasure of chatting regularly with one of my best friends about something we both feel passionately about. It’s nice to have that ‘scheduled’ as it were, because it’s easy to go months without seeing friends or having long conversations in this busy world, and my life’s better for having this in it. As for favorite episode, that’s a tough one and I’ll probably change my mind as soon as I send this but I’m going with John Darnielle. It was wild to have a rock idol sitting on my couch talking about books.
CH -- It’s all my favorite. Love chatting and hanging with Drew and recording some of it. I love when authors genuinely enjoy the cocktail I’ve made that was inspired by their book. I love when we’re in the middle of a conversation with a guest and everything melts away but that little library filled with books. It happens every time we have a guest at some point, so it’s hard to choose a favorite. I’m not going to.
Thanks again to Christopher and Drew for chatting with me!
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