Australia’s preferred image of itself as a sports-obsessed nation of easy-going drunks obscures a vigorous and distinctive cultural life which manages to survive despite the Federal government’s ingrained suspicion that the arts in general are a left-wing conspiracy.

The publicly funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation does more than any other organisation to foster the arts and to provide information about events, trends and opinions.

Among the ABC’s many hours of arts programming The Book Show stands out. Running for an hour each weekday with a highlights edition on Sundays, it covers a huge range of Australian and international literature.

In the last week, for example, the show has featured an interview with Professor Hamid Dabashi, author of Authority in Islam, Theology of Discontent, and Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, Future; a review of The Art of Apple Branding: Australian Apple Case Labels and the Industry since 1788; a discussion on Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane Austen and another about crime writing in Holland, as well as many other subjects.

It also incorporates a regular short segment, First Person, a reading of published autobiography. At the moment it’s Child of the Revolution by Luis Garcia, an account of a childhood which began as Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba.

Its erudite and energetic presenter, Ramona Koval, is a skilled and knowledgeable interviewer and the show has a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

As well as airing on the ABC Radio National network, the show is available free as streaming audio, podcast and RSS feed. Don’t miss it.