Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

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Where to start

Hello, new friends and/or future enemies: thanks to this post at The Millions, we’ve been getting lots of traffic today from people presumably trying to figure out what our whole deal is. It can be pretty daunting to figure out where to start any new podcast, but especially one that has a 4 year backlog of weekly episodes (understandably, the author of the post at The Millions was a little thrown by our… unorthodox… episode numbering system, and though that post says we have 130 episodes, we have something closer to 250).

So, if you’re new here and trying to figure out where to begin, some suggestions:

1) Our 2015 Year in Review post will point you to a lot of the highlights

2) This post from April 2015 was my previous attempt to help people find an entry point

3) This very generous review by Marie Manthe names some of her favorite all-time episodes

4) My favorite episodes from this year, which for obvious reasons aren’t included in the 2015 recap:

5) UPDATED 1/3/17: We recently posted our 2016 highlights, in case you’re looking for even more suggestions.

People love different things about this show, so your favorites might differ from mine. But hopefully this helps you get started.



Bonus episode final voting

Because we’re making the rules up as we go along, and because the first round of bonus episode voting offered an unwieldy number of options, we’re running a second round of voting here, in which we’ve selected all the books that had at least 1% of the vote in the previous round. Just like last time, we’ll run this poll for one week, and the winner of this round will be the book for our bonus episode.

At least one of these books appears to have a very strong backing (or maybe just one person who keeps voting over and over and over. And over.) so you’ll have to campaign hard to rally support for your book choice.


How to be a weird loner on your flight to AWP

This year, we’re both taking a break from the AWP conference, mainly due to scheduling issues but also due to the thing where AWP is exhausting and expensive and dangerous to our fragile psyches, but we will still be with you in spirit, holding our own off-site event in suburban New Jersey, in which just the two of us have a couple beers and talk about how we’re pretty glad we’re not at AWP right now.

However, if you’re looking for a great Barrelhouse experience, and you should be, then check out this post detailing where you can find all the Barrelhouse things you need to find (including Issue 14, which is fresh from the printers today, and the glorious cover of which is pasted below):


Anyway: on your flight, you will need to keep yourself entertained and also will need to do everything possible to avoid conversations with strangers. So, if you’re new to the show and don’t know where to begin or you’re just looking for a refresher on some classic episodes, here’s a sampling of Book Fight episodes of note that you can download and feed to your brain, except during takeoff and landing because you need to hear those safety instructions.

  1. AWP Dispatches (2013 and 2014) – These aren’t our traditional episodes, but they give you a pretty good sense of the AWP experience, as told by two guys who maybe aren’t cut out for this whole thing. I think the 2013 episodes are a little better than the 2014 ones, but they both are worth a listen.
  2. Silver Linings Playbook – frequently noted as a listener favorite, this was last year’s bonus episode and was a long-awaited confrontation with one of my most hated books. According to Andrew Mangan at The Colorado Review, this “is one of the funnier podcast episodes I’ve listened to that also manages to remain very enlightening craft-wise.”
  3. White Out with guest Leslie Jamison – I’ve noted several times that this might be my favorite episode of the show, because we’re discussing an interesting book in a way that really strikes our ideal balance between serious writing talk and nonsense.
  4. Christmas specials (2012, 2013, & 2014) – if you’d rather avoid really serious book talk and think you’d like the more lighthearted episodes, the Christmas specials are an ideal starting point. In them, we discuss a wide range of pretty terrible books, including Glenn Beck’s dumb Christmas novel, a firefighter romance, and an incomprehensible mystery story about a magic bounty hunter or something?
  5. Leaving the Atocha Station – if you’re interested in the episodes on the more sober end of the spectrum, then this is a pretty good representative, in which we discuss Ben Lerner’s acclaimed novel during the first half (and then, oh yeah, the second half features an installment of Mike’s forays into fan fiction, so maybe the serious stuff is mostly in the first half?)
  6. The Year of Magical Thinking – in which we discuss Joan Didion’s memoir in what actually qualifies as a more sober episode and involves no fan fiction.
  7. The True Deceiver with guest Matt Jakubowski – Matt guides us through the strange Nordic world of Tove Jannson’s fiction, discusses gender disparity in literary awards, and more. This episode also stands as one of the slightly more serious ones, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  8. Writers Ask (various) – In this feature (currently on hiatus) we answered listener questions about MFAs, submission cover letters, MFAs, and other stuff. You can dig through the full archive or just check in on episodes dealing with how to generate new material when you’re between projects, scams that prey on writers, some MFA stuff, writers in academia, literary agents, and, maybe the true fan favorites, our two NaNoWriMo episodes from last year.
  9. Fall of Failure # 7 – my favorite of our fall episodes, in which we discuss Stefan Zweig’s final published story and also look into the long history of failed comebacks (including the discovery of The Gum King himself).
  10. Winter of Wayback 1982 – not only because we’re discussing my birth year, but because of the interesting backstory of James Ferry’s “Dancing Ducks and Talking Anus.”

BONUS: the entire Summer of Shorts, unless you hate fun, in which case, just check out the stuff above.

This ought to be enough audio entertainment to keep you occupied through one layover and/or one delayed flight. If you’re looking for more, you can always dig through the archives on this site or in the iTunes store. And, hey, if you like us, please pass the word on to your friends and also leave a rating for us in iTunes.


Bonus Episode 2015 – The People’s Choice

[UPDATED 4/9: the poll has been updated, eliminating one book option, not so much because it had been hijacked by a small group of people–we encourage multiple votes, and people championing a book– but because their motivation for voting for that book seemed particularly mean-spirited. Empress Theresa is off the list; the book doesn’t look great, but it’s a self-published book by an unknown writer and we have no interest in joining an extended online bullying campaign against him. We don’t think our fans would enjoy an episode devoted to that kind of meanness, and we, frankly, wouldn’t feel good about recording it.]

Because we hit our fundraising goal this year, we’ve promised to record a special bonus episode, based on a book of your choice. Last year, given the choice between exposing us to some compelling indie literature, you chosen instead to cruelly subject Tom to facing his demons and re-reading a book best described as the airport hot dog of literature.

This year, your choices (based on nominations by listeners) are extensive and varied. The list includes canonical novels, famous YA books about scarred wizards, recent bestselling literary novels, small press story collections, comics, a book about sexy vampires (not the one you’re thinking of), and what appears to be a semen cookbook. This is the sort of list that makes us proud to be your dumb podcast of choice. It’s hard to even tell which ones we should be rooting for (or against).

Because of the size of this list, we may end up running the poll in 2 rounds. Unless there’s an obvious runaway juggernaut in this round, we’ll pick the top contenders based on your votes and then have a runoff next week.

This poll will be open for one week. Check the list carefully and then cast your vote. And then go take a nap – you’ve earned it.

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Annual fundraiser begins

Yes, it’s that time again. The annual fundraiser begins today.

We never went into podcasting to get rich, but we do hope to get some small return for all the time and money we invest in producing a weekly show that’s free for everyone to download. We love doing the show, and we’re going to keep going as long as it’s fun for us. Your contributions can help to support us in that endeavor, enhance the quality of the show, and (we hope) fund at least one road trip for another live show (or two or three?).

This year, we’re running fundraising through Indiegogo, so if you visit our fundraising page, you can see the full story and also track our progress.

Because we are an affiliate of Barrelhouse, which is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, all donations are tax deductible, and there are, as always lots of great rewards for donors. My personal favorite is the Freaky Friday level of $1000, but you may be more comfortable with the $35 level which will get you the holiday bonus pack of three exclusive holiday episodes. Like last year, if we reach our goal of $5000, we’ll record a bonus episode based on your votes. What the hell, maybe we’ll even read Silver Linings Playbook again.

(we won’t).

The fundraising page is here. Please check it out, tell your friends, and if you can spare it, make a small donation to the show.



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NEWS: Live show, merchandise

Hey everyone: we have a store now. And it sells t-shirts. Until 9/10, you can pre-order t-shirts at the discounted rate of $18. Over time, we’ll be adding more products and a greater variety to the store, but we think you’ll love the designs we have in place already.

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So go there and get your pre-orders in now.

ITEM NUMBER TWO: We’re running our first ever live show in Philly on 9/25 at 7 PM. Guests include fan favorite Katherine Hill, Barrelhouse author Lee Klein, and writer/musician Joey Sweeney.

We’ll be hosted by the great indie bookstore The Spiral Bookcase, and the evening will be full of all the tomfoolery, mikefoolery, and lit-adjacent talk you’ve come to expect. Also maybe bring a flask.

Full event details are here.

We hope to have some shirts to sell on site, but your best bet is to head over to the store and order one now.

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T-shirt design poll

As we sadly near the end of the Summer of Shorts, it’s time for us to honor that unsung hero of all of our wardrobes: the t-shirt.

Thanks to listener, writer, and artist Killian Czuba, we now have 5 great t-shirt designs in the queue, and as we decide how many shirts to print, and in which styles, we need your input.  Check out the designs, study them, memorize them, and then select your favorites (choose up to 2) in the poll below. And then go follow Killian on Twitter @killianczuba. And then, after that, start clearing space in your t-shirt drawers and on your torsos.

bookfight egg color (1) bookfight horsenames color (1) bookfight corgi color (2) beer and books w text (1) detective baby shirt test (3)

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Annual Fundraising begins now

Time for a rare midweek post to note that we’ve begun our annual fundraising drive, which functions to cover our various administrative costs, but also to make this a financially viable enterprise for us.  Full details of our goals and the donor rewards are on our support page, but two highlights include:

1) For a $20 donation, you get a private download link to a special BONUS EPISODE of the show, in which we discuss Rush Limbaugh’s foray into young adult novels, RUSH REVERE AND THE BRAVE PILGRIMS.

2) For a $25 donation, you get the BOOK FIGHT FRIENDS AND FAMILY  SAMPLER, a PDF anthology of essays and stories written by us and our guests, including Paul Lisicky, Matthew Salesses, and Katherine Hill, plus the download link for the bonus episode.

There are other levels, but we anticipate these may be the most popular, but we hope you’ll be able to support the show at whatever levels you can comfortably afford. When donating at any level, all donors are invited to list one book you would like us to discuss on the show. If we reach the goal of $2000, we will list all nominated books in a poll and invite listeners to choose which book they’d like us to discuss in another bonus episode.

TO DONATE: click the button on the the support page, or follow this link. And please help us spread the word via your various social media tentacles, so we can keep this show going strong into another year. Thanks for your continued support!