Marlon & Jake Read Dead People

The podcast where Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James and his editor, Jake Morrissey, discuss the (dead) authors they love and hate.

Marlon & Jake Read Dead People

Marlon & Jake Read Dead People is a podcast hosted by the Booker Prize-winning and internationally bestselling author Marlon James and his editor, Jake Morrissey, Executive Editor at Riverhead Books. In each episode, Marlon and Jake talk about authors—specifically dead authors. Authors they like. Authors they hate. Great books, terrible books, and books they love that you’d never expect them to. As a writer and an editor, Marlon and Jake have read thousands of books between them, and they’re not shy in expressing their opinions about them. Sometimes they’ll agree, sometimes they won’t, but in every episode, they’ll tell you what they think – uncensored and with no holds barred. (That’s why the authors have to be dead.) So listen along to hear about the spectacularly good, the hilariously bad, and the brutally honest.

Season 1


Trailer: An introduction to Marlon and Jake Read Dead People, a new podcast in which Marlon James and Jake Morrissey tell the truth about dead authors and their books.

Episode 1: Marlon and Jake take on some literary giants in a grudge match for the ages. This time, it’s Charles Dickens vs. Anthony Trollope and Louisa May Alcott vs. Laura Ingalls Wilder in a no-holds-barred royal rumble.

Episode 2: Marlon and Jake discuss which dead author they’d take with them to a desert island to reread over and over again, as well as which ones they’d happily leave lost at sea.

Episode 3: Marlon and Jake venture into fantasy: the imagined worlds of dead writers—from quests and dragons to magic carpets and pregnant kings.

Episode 4: Marlon and Jake go back in time—way, way back—and revisit the myths and legends that have terrified and tantalized us for centuries.

Episode 5: Marlon and Jake delve into the very real lives of very dead writers with an episode about Memoir and Autobiography.

Episode 6: Marlon and Jake put on their Hollywood sunglasses as they discuss the films adapted from books by dead people.

Episode 7: Marlon and Jake dive into one of life’s great guilty pleasures: the trashy novel.

Episode 8: Marlon and Jake answer some of the questions that listeners have asked.

Episode 9: As Marlon and Jake wrap up Season 1, they reflect on what they’ve learned and what dead books and authors they want to discuss when they return for Season 2.

Season 2

Teaser Trailer: Marlon and Jake are back for season two, coming this summer!!

Season 2 Trailer: Marlon and Jake are back with a sizzling new season of the dead authors they love, hate, and will never agree on. Get ready for even more heated (and hilarious) debates, unexpected insights, and—of course—brutal honesty. Dead authors never felt so cool.

Episode 1: Marlon and Jake reunite to discuss the books that got them through the pandemic, classics they wish they had written, and whether Lord of the Flies needs a sequel.

Episode 2: Marlon and Jake talk short books they love, syllabus staples to skip (Hemingway die-hards, consider yourselves warned), and their first-ever real-time joint read, Blood on the Forge by William Attaway.  What does Marlon consider the closest thing to a perfect novel?  Tune in to find out!

Episode 3: Marlon and Jake weigh in on the age-old “artist versus art” debate, as they examine good books by problematic dead authors, as well as the bad and sometimes problematic books by great dead authors.  From Flannery O’Conner to Roald Dahl,  Vladimir Nabokov to the surprisingly challenging Charles Dickens, Marlon and Jake explore the thorny questions surrounding the books worth fighting for and the ones worth fighting over. 

Episode 4: We’ve heard them rave about their favorites and rant about their least favorites, but Marlon and Jake reveal in this episode their second favorite books by dead authors: the books they love that are the runners-up to the #1 spots in their hearts. From Amos Tutuola to Gabriel García Márquez to John le Carré and more, Marlon and Jake explore why one’s favorite book by an author might not always be their best book, what separates an intellectual vs. an emotional response to a book, and the importance of being a promiscuous reader. (That’s right, promiscuous.) And what is the next book by a dead author Marlon and Jake will be reading together for the first time? Tune in to find out!

Episode 5: In this episode Marlon and Jake ponder the tricky question of the last books by authors who’ve … um … left this mortal coil. Which last books are actually worth reading? (Not many, it turns out.) From Roberto Bolaño to Penelope Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath to Eudora Welty, Marlon and Jake discuss how an author’s last book compares to their previous ones, how success and age changed how and what they wrote, and the wistfulness that comes when some last books are actually good and you wonder what the authors might have written next, if, you know, they hadn’t died. Tune in for this and more, including Marlon and Jake’s surprising thoughts on James Thurber’s humorous memoir, My Life and Hard Times.

Episode 6: Marlon and Jake share their “gateway” books by dead authors, the first books they read that that turned them on—or off—the rest of an author’s work. From John Steinbeck to Dorothy Parker, Umberto Eco to Norman Mailer, Ayn Rand to Carson McCullers, Marlon and Jake don’t hold back in discussing the imprints, footprints, and thumbprints these books left on them. They also ponder the long-lasting consequences of the high school lit class, whether a gateway book can be assigned, and the enduring power of dullness in a novel, no matter the century. Listen for this and more, including what Marlon and Jake think of The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara, edited by one Toni Morrison.

Episode 7: Literary speculation abounds as Marlon and Jake reveal which books they wish they had written and which they think would have been better if they’d been written by someone completely different. Listen in as they explore the questions you never knew you needed answers to. Would The Confessions of Nat Turner have been better if Zora Neale Hurston had written it? Who could have written a funnier Ulysses? Were members of the Bloomsbury Group actually total bores? And perhaps most important: Does Marlon’s mom still have his Tom Jones fan-fiction and if so, how much is Jake willing to pay for it? Tune in for all this and more, including a lively discussion about plays that are as enjoyable to read as they are to see on stage. (And spoiler: Jake is not a fan of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

Episode 8: Marlon & Jake take on literary giants in a grudge match for the ages. This time it’s Charles Dickens vs. Anthony Trollope and Louisa May Alcott vs. Laura Ingalls Wilder in a no-holds-barred royal rumble. The two of them pull no punches, whether they’re talking about racism or Edith Wharton’s snobbery, colonialism or Hugh Grant’s hair. So get ready to cheer on your favorite dead author and literary warrior as Marlon and Jake go mano a mano in a street fight you’ve definitely never come across before.

Episode 9: This week Marlon & Jake discuss memorable characters from books by dead authors—who they love, who they despise and everything in between. What exactly makes a character great? Who would they invite to their literary dinner party and why? From Elmore Leonard’s Raylan to Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March, Lady Macbeth to Auntie Mame—tune in to hear which fictional personalities would get a seat at the table, who would be banished forever, and who Marlon and Jake would simply ignore.

Episode 10: This week Marlon & Jake discuss the books by dead authors they give as gifts and the very important decision-making that goes into that selection. Whether it’s for a younger, skeptical or pretentious reader, they share the unintentionally comedic and surprisingly engaging books they choose to bestow upon their loved ones.

Episode 11: Prepare for what might be Marlon & Jake’s most controversial hot takes yet, as they travel back through the last four hundred years to decide which dead authors from each century stand the test of time and which can be left to gather dust on the shelf. Where do they fall on Paradise Lost? Who triumphs in the battle of the poets v. novelists of the 18th century? How much has the 1930s Hollywood studio system shaped classic stories? Which of them stans Huckleberry Finn, and who thinks it might be overrated? Marlon and Jake answer these questions and more as they discuss the timeless work of the freaky, the rebellious and the groundbreaking. From Mary Shelley to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Paul Laurence Dunbar to Daphne du Maurier—with a healthy dose of Alexander Pope-dissing—tune in to find out where you stand with their picks.