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Smart Podcast, Trashy Books: Best of 2021

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We’re recapping all kinds of stuff this week, and today: our top five podcast episodes from 2021 with some honorable mentions! 


Looking at the year overall, these are the top five most listened to Smart Podcast, Trashy Books episodes of the year – and thank you to everyone who listened, recommended, shared, and posted about the show. Special thanks to all our Patreon community members, who helped shape this season and keep the show going each week!

Honorable mentions

463. Women and Poison in History with Mikki Kendall (June 25)

Today, we’re going to talk about food safety law, and the history of women who probably poisoned their husbands. Allegedly.

Mikki Kendall, on Twitter as @Karnythia and the author of Hood Feminism, is an eager historian into the mysteries of what women got away with, and so we cover poison clusters, dying of fever, and the poisons hanging out in your back yard. This conversation was inspired by two Twitter threads, and I’ll link to both below for your continued wide-eyed reading.

As Mikki said in an email after we recorded, “we have evidence of poison clusters with inorganic poisons from autopsy reports & you can look at death record indexes when hunting for clusters of odd deaths.”

Sarah: I think this year’s unofficial theme was “Earl Had to Die,” and I had THE GREATEST TIME recording and editing this interview.

Ep. 461 – Gods, Demons, and Retirement with Lois McMaster Bujold (June 11)

Catherine and I chat with Lois McMaster Bujold (!!!) about The Assassins of Thasalon. If you like the Penric & Desdemona books as much as we do (which is a LOT) you’ll love this episode!

We cover the origin story of Penric and Desdemona, how her retirement partially rests on self publishing, and how much manga she’s reading and watching – with recommendations.

Sarah: Sometimes I get to interview authors and try to keep my inner 13 year old calm and this was one of those times.

Top Five

5. Ep. 442 – A 2021 Books Preview with Erin Galloway from Berkley (January 29)

Erin Galloway and I are talking about some of the books that are coming out this year from Berkley. We’ve got competency p0rn romances, bodyguards protecting brilliant women, and hilarious mysteries – plus we take a side trip into illustrated cover art and how the appearance of romance changes.

We apologize in advance for the damage to your TBR!

I have such a soft spot for Erin as she was one of the publishing people I met early on in my grad studies. She was a wonderful resource whenever I needed a quote for a paper or project. I also miss gabbing with her at conferences.

4. 443. Snowed In Romance Recs with Amanda & Sarah (February 5)

Amanda and I are back! We’re chatting about dubious coverage of romance around Valentine’s day – and the outstanding article that Amanda was quoted in that appeared on Forbes.com, written by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Then we answer a reader recommendation letter from Kate, who is looking for snowed in romances! Plus food, video games, and a typical number of breakthroughs.

Talking with Sarah is so much fun, especially when we’re giving book recommendations. I hope you love these episodes as much as we love recording them!

3. 440: Laziness Does Not Exist with Dr. Devon Price (January 15)

I have been so excited to share this interview. Devon Price is the author of Laziness Does Not Exist, which outlines the three main ways in which “the Laziness Lie” deceives us into denying ourselves rest and care. As I said in my review, this is a book with something for everyone: it addresses historical roots of laziness lie in colonialism and capitalism, and looks at productivity myths, diet culture, gender and sexuality, activism fatigue, parenting, relationship management, and self-abuse.

Also, Dr. Price has a chinchilla and you must hear us talk about its name.

Sarah: This was one of my favorite episodes in the past year, and I still think about Dr. Price’s book constantly. In a year when so many of us were navigating insidious burnout and existential exhaustion (not an exaggeration) this book and my conversation with Dr. Price helped me reframe and update some very important aspects of my life.

2. Ep. 441 Bosoms and Bitches – A NSFW Discussion of Toxic Desire (January 22)

It’s a special, extended length episode: Amanda and I are joined by Melody and Erin from the incredibly delightful podcast Heaving Bosoms! I guested on their show and they joined us to return the favor.

We read Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett, and we had a LOT to talk about. Spoilers abound! But with forked tongued aliens sporting aphrodisiac venom fangs and gold body armor crash landing on a toxic sex gas planet, that’s not a surprise.

Sarah: This inspired a Bonfire campaign that raised over $1k for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence!

And, the number one most popular episode of 2021?

1. 447. Hanging Out with Sarah J. Maas (March 5)

Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to do an interview with an author I’ve never met, but with whom there’s an instant connection. That happened for Amanda and me last year when we interviewed Sarah J. Maas in Episode 395..

And now, Sarah J. Mass is back, nearly one year later to the date, to talk about her new book, A Court of Silver Flames, and about sexytimes, the magic romance house, rage, mental health, and re-reading books through the pandemic. There are so many little love letters to romance in A Court of Silver Flames, so of course we talk about the most lovely parts of being a romance reader, too.

Sarah: Amanda was right! She predicted our episode with Sarah J. Maas would take the number one spot again.

What do you think of the top five? What episodes were your favorites this year? Let us know what you’d like to see next year!

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