This is a good time of year for radio: a bracing, back-to-school feeling permeates the schedules. Jane Garvey is again at the helm of BBC 5 Live's Drive programme, and Richard Bacon in charge of the same show over on Xfm. This is a good thing. On Radio 4, we can anticipate (if not exactly look forward to) Kirsty Young taking over at Desert Island Discs, and Fi Glover finally filling the gaping hole left by the axing of Home Truths. Meanwhile, Radio 4 is busy dishing up an embarrassment of riches when it comes to book serialisations. Its producers have been Viking-like, leaving no autumn publishing list unraided. This past week, Book at Bedtime (weekdays, 10.45pm) offered an abridgement of Robert Harris's new novel, Imperium, read by Douglas Hodge; Book of the Week (weekdays, 9.45am) was Bringing the House Down by David Profumo, read by Robert Glenister.
This is what is known as pure radio heaven. Both books are extremely hot properties (expensive extracts have also appeared in the newspapers). That they are also about politics, in its high and low forms, makes them deliciously timely. It is oddly satisfying to wake to the sound of James Naughtie telling you yet again that Blair's endgame is entering its final stage, and then, a little later in the day, to listen to a sharp reminder that political lives always, always end badly, whether sooner or later (this last was a point that Harris made, with a wry smile, at his House of Commons launch party). Thus, in the febrile atmosphere of the week, these two books - so knowing and collected - did the work of cooling balm.
Bringing the House Down, Profumo's beady account of the scandal that ended his father's political career, particularly impressed. Glenister's gentle, rather slow reading somehow carried with it a pervading air of disappointment. This was apt: the memoir is not only about the censoriousness of that time; it is about a man coming to terms with his parents' weaknesses.
Profumo Jr is a novelist, and he has a novelist's eye for detail. Of his father's privileged childhood, he opines: "One feels he always had his toast crusts cut off for him." Of being told of the scandal itself (he was just a small boy), he recalls the sandwiches his mother laid on by way of distraction. He gives us such a subtle, vivid portrait of his parents before what his mother called The Fall - selfish and vain, the pair of them - that, almost for the first time, I understood why his father risked everything for a call-girl. This was brilliant, intimate radio.
But perhaps you want to escape from politics. Perhaps it bores you to tired sobs. One possible antidote - absolutely guaranteed Westminster-free - is the Dirt Doctor, aka Howard Garrett, America's number-one organic gardener. I first stumbled on the good doctor when I heard him on A World In Your Ear (5.30pm, Saturdays, Radio 4), which features programmes from around the world. Garrett broadcasts mainly on K-SKY 660AM in Dallas-Fort Worth, but his show is syndicated across the United States and is also available through his website, www.dirtdoctor.com. I recommend it. Howie really has to be heard to be believed: like Alan Titchmarsh on molasses. Does that sound off-putting? It isn't meant to. I could listen to him talk about ambrosia beetles and American beautyberries for hours.
Pick of the week
9am, from 16 September, Radio 4
The long-awaited replacement
for Home Truths, featuring – oh dear – a resident poet.
Heart and Soul
8.30am, 17 September, BBC World Service
Hallelujah! A report from a gay church in the heart of the Bible Belt.
The Mobo Awards
The Music of Black Origin Awards have never shied away from controversy. This year, critics are already hitting out at the commercialisation of an event that some believe should support less high-profile black artists. "It has been watered down," says Danny Walker, deputy editor of the online urban music magazine RWD. "All the bands are supported by major record labels."
On the shortlist this year are the US groups Gnarls Barkley and Black Eyed Peas, as well as home-grown talent in The Streets and Lady Sovereign. Newcomers include the Leeds-born soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae (pictured).
Royal Albert Hall, London SW7, 20 September. Live on BBC3 from 9pm. Tickets: www.mobo.com