The Reader Podcast
Episode Nine: All I Want for Christmas

Episode Nine: All I Want for Christmas

December 15, 2021


‘Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!’ Neil Gaiman 


If you need inspiration for the perfect bookish gift for a particular person, give this episode a listen. Whether it’s for someone who loves the great outdoors, or for someone who has cared for you this year, or for some bright spark who is always making, doing and creating – Reader staff have recommendations of great books to suit them all. We also have recommendations from the Founder/Director of The Reader, Jane Davis, and from the writer and critic Tomiwa Owolade, who we’ll be hearing from again in a future episode of this podcast. And if you listen right to the end, there’s a festive poem for you. 

Merry Christmas to one and all! 


Christmas Gift Guide 1: For the person who finds respite in nature 

Christmas Gift Guide 2: For the busy person who needs 15 minutes of calm 

Christmas Gift Guide 3: For the person who stands by when things get tough 

Christmas Gift Guide 4: For the person who teaches, encourages and tries to lead the way 

Christmas Gift Guide 5: For the person who writes, creates, experiments, and thinks differently 


Buy the books from The Reader Shop at 


More gift ideas from The Reader 


The Reader magazine subscription offer 


Read some of Tomiwa Owolade’s articles on 


‘For Maia’ by Gary Johnson 

Episode Eight: Making Space

Episode Eight: Making Space

November 8, 2021

When our Young Person’s Mentor Greg spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live on 30 September about Shared Reading, many listeners wrote in to say it was the most inspiring thing they’d ever heard on the radio. We caught up with Greg for an extended conversation about his role at The Reader and to hear more about how Shared Reading fits into this and into Greg’s own story so far. We’ll also hear from another Reader staff member, Sue, who reads a poem by Wordsworth and talks about the powerful and unexpected sense of calm that this old poem can create in her groups. 


The Reader on BBC Radio 5 Live 


BBC Radio 5 Live Word Matters project 


Young Person’s Mentoring Scheme at The Reader 


‘Love After Love’ by Derek Walcott from The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 published by Faber & Faber. We have applied for permission of the publishers FSG to read this poem here. 


‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’ by William Wordsworth 


‘Spiderweb’ by Kay Ryan Kay Ryan's poem 'Spiderweb' is from her collection Odd Blocks: New & Selected Poems published by Carcanet. We are grateful for the kind permission of the publishers to read it here. 

Episode Seven: What If?

Episode Seven: What If?

October 18, 2021

The Reader Podcast is back after an extended break with an episode about being bold, taking risks and keeping an eye out for the unexpected.  Gill Smith worked at The Reader’s Storybarn, our interactive play space for children and young people, when it opened in 2016. Since then, Gill’s gone on to enjoy success as an illustrator – her first collaboration, a picture book of Victoria Hislop’s Maria’s Island, was released in June. Gill chatted with Annie from The Reader about reading, where she finds inspiration, and she shared some valuable advice for budding creatives out there.  


Maria’s Island by Victoria Hislop, illustrated by Gill Smith, is available now from Walker Books.  


We’ve been busy over the summer producing The Reader magazine and a new anthology for National Poetry Day, The Road Not Taken. 


‘What If This Road’ by Sheenagh Pugh With thanks to Seren Books for permission to use the poem here and in the anthology The Road Not Taken. 


Read the rest of the short story ‘The Lumber Room’ by Saki here. 


Episode Six: Stories of Walking Away

Episode Six: Stories of Walking Away

July 8, 2021

What makes a poem great for Shared Reading? Again, we take a closer look at a single poem, this time Cecil Day Lewis’ ‘Walking Away’, and hear stories about how it what this poem has meant to group members who have read it together in a Shared Reading setting. 


Walking Away 

By Cecil Day-Lewis 


For Sean 


It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day – 

A sunny day with the leaves just turning, 

The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play 

Your first game of football, then, like a satellite 

Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away 


Behind a scatter of boys. I can see 

You walking away from me towards the school 

With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free 

Into a wilderness, the gait of one 

Who finds no path where the path should be. 


The hesitant figure, eddying away 

Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem, 

Has something I never quite grasp to convey 

About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching 

Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay. 


I have had worse partings, but none that so 

Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly 

Saying what God alone could perfectly show – 

How selfhood begins with a walking away, 

And love is proved in the letting go. 



If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme, it might help to talk about it. A Samaritan is ready to listen, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit  


The Reader Bookshelf 


Find out more about Cecil Day Lewis at the Poetry Foundation 


Find out more about The Reader – donate,get involved,join a Shared Reading Group 


Episode Five: The Languages We Know This Landscape By

Episode Five: The Languages We Know This Landscape By

June 2, 2021

The title of this episode comes from a poem by award-winning poet, short-story writer, essayist and novelist Kei Miller. Kei was The Reader’s guest at an online event earlier this year to celebrate Sefton’s year as Liverpool’s Borough of Culture, when he read poems from his 2014 collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, and spoke about the inspiration for this collection and his wide-ranging work. You can hear part of the recording of that event in this episode, as well as listening to Erin from The Reader sharing another ‘tried and tested’ poem, ‘Interludes’ by Debjani Chatterjee. Both Kei Miller’s poems and ‘Interludes’ are included on The Reader’s ‘Walking the Earth’ Bookshelf and they allow us to explore ideas of how we use language and poetry to understand landscapes both around and within us. 


The Reader Bookshelf 


The Reader magazine, Issue 71 – featuring an interview with Dr Iona Heath 


Kei Miller’s author page on the Carcanet Press website 


Kei Miller’s new essay collection, Things I Have Withheld, at 


Debjani Chatterjee’s author page on the Royal Literary Fund website 


‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson 


Find out more about The Reader – donate,get involved, join a Shared Reading Group 


Episode Four: The Kindness of Strangers

Episode Four: The Kindness of Strangers

May 14, 2021

Over the years, staff and volunteers at The Reader have learned that there are five essential values or behaviours that are key to a great Shared Reading experience and one of them is: be kind. The Reader relies on the kindness of authors, who volunteer their time and allow us to use their work; we rely on the kindness of those who begin as strangers and become volunteers running Shared Reading groups around the country; and we rely on the belief that all of us, however different, can tap into a shared humanity through reading together. In this episode, we hear from two authors who have been great supporters of The Reader’s work: Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Joanne Harris. Frank reads his ‘Eulogy for the Lost’, broadcast by Culture Liverpool and BBC Radio Merseyside in March to mark a year since the start of lockdown. Joanne Harris speaks about her novel Orfeia, about grief, loss and the power of stories, and we listen in to a National Prison Radio Shared Reading discussion of one particular story by Joanne, ‘Tea With the Birds’, in which an encounter between two strangers proves transformative. 


Liverpool Together: Reflecting on a year of lockdown at the Culture Liverpool website 


Frank Cottrell-Boyce on Instagram 


Orfeia by Joanne Harris 


Jigs and Reels - short stories by Joanne Harris 


Listen to more episodes of The Reader on National Prison Radio 


Find out more about The Reader – donate, get involved, join a Shared Reading Group 


Episode Three: Planting Trees

Episode Three: Planting Trees

April 25, 2021

This episode is part of the launch of The Reader’s 2021 ‘Bookshelf’ - a constellation of reading matter which will shape our programming, partnerships and Shared Reading this year. We look at two of the pieces of literature from the Bookshelf - ‘The Promise’, a picture book by Nicola Davies, and ‘The Sycamore’, a poem by Wendell Berry. Both the book and poem make us look afresh at our relationship with the natural world, and the potential power and promise of this is brought out in an interview between author Nicola Davies and The Reader’s Kara Orford, and the words of Shared Reading group member Patricia. We also hear from Clare Ellis from The Reader, who sets the mood with a few lines from Philip Larkin’s poem The Trees. 



Walking the Earth – find out more about The Reader’s Bookshelf for 2021-22 


Find out more about The Reader – donate, get involved, join a Shared Reading Group 


‘The Trees by Philip Larkin 


The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin  

Find out more about the short animated film of The Promise, directed and produced by Chi Thai. 


The Peace of Wild Things - selected poems, including ‘The Sycamore’, by Wendell Berry 


Episode Two: Stories of Sonnet 29

Episode Two: Stories of Sonnet 29

March 18, 2021

What makes a poem great for Shared Reading? This episode takes a deep dive into a single poem, a sonnet by William Shakespeare, and tells stories from Shared Reading groups over the years who have read this old poem together and found that it moved them in unexpected ways. There’s an interview with Philip Davis who has witnessed and written about Shared Reading experiences of this sonnet, and there’s an extract from another National Prison Radio programme where Shaun, from The Reader, read Sonnet 29.  


Reading by Philip Davis and Fiona Magee is a recent book exploring how and why literature can improve mental health 


Listen to more episodes of The Reader on National Prison Radio


Watch short films about Shared Reading 


Maya Angelou speaks about Sonnet 29 in a 1994 episode of BBC2’s The Late Show (@ 21.15mins). 


The Reader is a registered charity and we rely on the generous support of individuals and organisations to help us change lives through Shared Reading around the UK. Please visit to donate and find out how you can get involved with our work.

Episode One

Episode One

February 4, 2021

The Reader dips its toes into the pool of podcasting, aiming to bring you a regular taste of what our Reading Revolution is all about.

The Reader brings thousands of people together every week to read aloud from books and poems and talk about the shared experience of reading. Our first episode will give you a taste of Shared Reading as we listen in (thanks to National Prison Radio) to a small group read a short story about a dolls house. Elsewhere, the Founder/Director of The Reader, Jane Davis, tells the deputy literary editor of The Times that he’s a very odd man. And Reader staff share their literary earworms – the lines of poems or stories that accompany them as they go about their lives.


The Reader is a registered charity and we rely on the generous support of individuals and organisations to help us change lives through Shared Reading around the UK. Please visit to donate and find out how you can get involved with our work.

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