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That's Lit: a conversation with the creators of one of Columbia's newest podcasts

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

by Sophie Pollock

Karson Terry (right) and Brindolyn McNair

Karson Terry and Brindolyn McNair certainly didn’t set out to make a podcast when they

started trading book recommendations and thoughts on the latest best things they were

reading. They also did not expect that a podcast consisting of the two of them just doing

what they loved would be so widely well-received. But that’s exactly what happened.

McNair describes herself as a “recovering journalist” who now works in PR and produces a

legal podcast in her spare time. Terry is a “self-proclaimed book nerd” who works at UofSC

in the College of Information and Communications. Together, they are a literary dream

team with a seemingly endless supply of humorous, insightful observations on life and

literature in their arsenal.

Their creation, called “That’s Lit Podcast,” has much of the spontaneous, excited energy that

McNair and Terry exude when they’re placed in a room together, and within 5 minutes of

talking to them it becomes obvious why their system works so well and why the listeners love it so much. Where else can you hear about good books, Matt Damon, tacos, and self-

care all at the same time?

When they started the podcast back in January, it was with the simple desire to spread their

love of books to a wider audience. “It got to a point where we were like, ‘we should be telling everybody about all of these books. How can we do that?’” McNair says. Thus, the

“That’s Lit Podcast” was born. McNair, who had previous experience with podcasts, handled

the tech side of things, and Terry developed the structure.

Terry says that in developing the structure she wanted, above all, for the podcast to be

accessible and relatable. Every episode opens with a personal anecdote or a discussion about

community events. The middle segment is reserved for book discussion, and at the end Terry and McNair get the listeners involved with a literary quotes guessing game. And for all of the careful planning that goes into creating the podcast, each episode still retains the camaraderie and spontaneity of a natural conversation between two friends.

“I ... feel that’s how book clubs realistically start off,” says McNair. “You don’t meet and

immediately dive into the book. ... So having that element kind of makes it flow like an

actual book-club meeting and I feel like it makes people feel like they’re part of something

rather than just an uninvolved observer.”

Including the audience is important to McNair and Terry, and together they have found

ways to work around the limitations of the podcast format. “It’s hard to have a dialogue

with the audience and I wanted it to be something social,” McNair says, “so we encourage

people to communicate with us via social media, we tell them ahead of time what books

we’re reading so they can read along with us.”

But the podcast goes beyond just talking about life and good literature. One of McNair and

Terry’s main goals in starting the podcast was to challenge themselves and their listeners to expose themselves to different perspectives and to hopefully open up a dialogue about the important social issues explored in the books they read.

“I think it just helps us be better global citizens,” says McNair. “It gets us closer to that point of intersectionality that I think will just make us better people and make our community a better place.”

“It doesn’t have to be solving the world’s problems,” Terry added, “but really just starting to talk about it is half the battle.”

McNair and Terry want to include as many people as possible in the discussion. They

are devout apologists for the importance of reading.

“There’s so many different benefits of reading,” Terry says. “It helps you engage in your

community, helps you further your knowledge, helps you connect with your family and loved

ones and friends - there’s just so many benefits to continuing to read throughout your life

that we benefit from all the time, so we want our listeners to embrace that ...”

Yet, despite the vast array of benefits, McNair acknowledges that there remains a stigma

attached to reading, some unexplained aversion of the American public to the time-honored

tradition of sitting down and cracking open a good book for the sake of pure enjoyment.

And she’s not wrong.

In fact, as a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed this past summer, leisure reading is at an all-time low in the United States. The amount of women who read for personal enjoyment in America is just 22%. Men are even worse, with only a dismal 15% engaged in leisure reading.

Books are slowly fading into the background, drowned out by the flashing lights of a high-tech

world of instant gratification. But McNair and Terry have a solution: audiobooks.

Audiobooks have been around for a long time, but in recent years they’ve been reformatted

for smartphones to appeal to a new generation of users.

“It is passive listening,” McNair says, “but you’re still acquiring the knowledge and the story, and a great narrator can just make the experience a thousand times better ... It’s just a different way to get people to have the same experience.”

McNair and Terry hope that, in a way similar to audiobooks, their podcast can reach a

previously isolated group.

“There are some people who just cannot sit down and read a book,” Terry says. “They can’t

focus, they don’t like reading for whatever reason ... but the podcast is a great way for you to

get the same experience and to get something out of these books without having to read it if

you don’t want to.”

Terry makes a short addendum with this appeal: please read. But, for those who do struggle

with the idea of reading, perhaps a podcast by two women who wholeheartedly love books is

the first step to entering the world of literature.

“That’s Lit Podcast” airs every month and can be found on the Apple Podcasts app or at Follow @ThatsLitPodcast on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Follow Brindolyn McNair @Brindolyn on all platforms. Follow Karson Terry @KGayleT on all platforms.

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