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Books on the BBC

Old books in a book shelf with tattered spines

The BBC Arts Books Portal  is an absolute treasure trove of clips, programmes and readings from television and radio. There is so much material available here and each section seems to include links to even more material, both archived and recently broadcast.  It’s well worth browsing through  but can be quite time-consuming so I’m going to try to give an overview of some of the material available.

The Portal’s homepage includes links to articles and overviews as well as sections on available programmes.  Here you can find a link to  The Author Collection

This is a fantastic collection of archive interviews (from radio and television) with and programmes about great authors,

such as

Maya Angelou

Phillip Roth

And Laurie Lee

BBC BooksProgrammes

From this section (accessible from the homepage) there are links to all relevant available programmes and series such as the recent Dangerous Visions series on Radio 4, Book at Bedtime and episodes of Great Lives featuring classic authors.

Book at Bedtime

“Readings from modern classics, new works by leading writers and literature from around the world” episodes from 2010 till the most recently broadcast are available.  Programmes can be streamed directly from the site or accessed via the IPlayer Radio app.

Great Lives

There are several episodes of Radio 4’s Great Lives including one in which Alan Johnson talks about the importance of George Orwell as an influence in his life.

Other episodes examine the lives and work of Robert Louis Stevenson, WH Auden, Graham Greene and Dorothy Parker

Book of the Week

Serialised book readings, featuring works of non-fiction, biography, autobiography, travel, diaries, essays, humour and history. Full episodes and clips such as this  short clip of Sir Ian McKellen reading from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid.

There is also a link to a wide selection of Other Readings available via the BBC iPlayer Radio


Poetry Please

“Roger McGough looks at the poetry produced by groups of friends throughout history, from the Scriblerus club to the Mersey poets, by way of the Lakes and Rose Street.”

And 3 episodes of

Capturing America: Mark Lawson’s History of Modern American Literature

“Mark Lawson tells the story of how American writing became the literary superpower of the 20th century, telling the nation’s stories of money, power, sex, religion and war.”

The Essay: In the Shadow of Kafka

5 episodes available of this series in which leading writers explore the breadth of Czech author Franz Kafka’s thinking, his world and how his writing still resonates for them.

Open Book – Close Reads

Dr Sarah Dillon offers insights into what makes great passages from work of literature such as

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

Stella Gibbon’s Cold Comfort Farm