2 minutes with… Ruth McKee from Burning Books


‘If your house was on fire, what books would you save from the flames?

Burning Books podcast, featuring an array of our favourite authors and cultural figures, is a show which takes great pleasure in delving into the books which have formed the backdrop to its guests’ lives. We are absolutely delighted that the podcast’s host and Books Ireland editor, Ruth McKee, will be taking the podcast live to the stage for this year’s festival. We caught up with her to find out a little bit more about Burning Books…

What inspired you to start Burning Books podcast?

At Books Ireland we were excited to start a books podcast—but with so many amazing programmes out there we wanted something that would have a unique approach, that would offer something a little bit different. Burning Books is cousin to a radio programme I’ve loved and listened to all my life: Desert Island discs. But instead of bringing records to a desert island, it’s saving books from your burning house.

This podcast is a great way for book-loving audiences to find out more about what books have impacted and shaped their favourite writers and other cultural figures, but the last question also injects a bit of extra fun or insight into the conversation. Can you talk to us a bit about this?’ 

The idea is that just like the best books, there are moments of depth and insight but also some levity, so the two last questions are about which book you would leave in the house to burn (we’ve had some hilarious and unexpected answers to this one!) and which non-book item you would save. We’ve had everything burning in there from Ulysses to school poetry books, and people dragging out photo albums, and sometimes strange but meaningful objects (you’ll have to listen to find out more!).

Burning Books is just over a year old now. What are some of the key things you have taken home from this year of hosting the podcast?

Humbled is not a great word, but I can’t think of another one to describe what it has been like to talk with authors I deeply admire. Conversations have changed my day, and sometimes even my thinking, not just about reading or writing books, but about approaching life’s hard lessons. Every person brings their own light and shade with them into the programme and the best ones are when we go off on a completely unexpected tangent.

What other events in the festival are you looking forward to the most?

That’s an unfair question as there is so much great stuff going on! But from a professional point of view I’m really looking forward to Publishing Ireland’s Trade Day, on 11 November – the first one in person for quite some time. It’s a whole day of events for the publishing community, and I’m looking forward to learning, and to meeting some people in person who I only know from the end of an email.


Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the audience listening to Burning Books live as part of Dublin Book Festival, at The New Theatre in Temple Bar, where Ruth will be chatting to author Andrew Meehan and poet Liz Quirke. TICKETS HERE.

The latest Burning Books episode, released today, where Ruth chats to Martina Devlin, is available HERE.

Martina Devlin will also be appearing at this year’s festival as part of our Writing History Event.