Whether running, biking, or commuting to work, I am increasingly finding that I prefer podcasts and audio dramas to music (except for Hamilton – Hamilton is beyond music). As a way to get back to the blog after a long absence, I offer a list of ten podcasts I have been recommending to everyone for the past few months. They appear more-or-less in the order they are currently listed on my phone.
An audio drama that takes the form of a community radio program in the small desert town of Night Vale. Try not to fall in love with Cecil Baldwin’s voice as he brings you the news about the Sheriff’s Secret Police, the dark hooded figures, a mysterious glow-cloud, a cat named Khoshekh who was first discovered floating about four feet off the ground in the men’s room, and the residents of the quiet desert community.
And remember if you see something, say nothing. And drink to forget.
Ten years ago, over three hundred people disappeared from a small Tennessee town and were never heard from again. In this seven-part podcast, an APR reporter investigates what happened to the people of Limetown. The fictional podcast combines the tone and mystery of the X-Files with the style of more recent nonfiction podcasts like Serial in a suspenseful and compelling story about conspiracies, communities, and the risks of asking the right questions. (I need another season of this podcast!)
The Gist (from Slate Magazine)
Mike Pesca’s voice might be familiar to NPR listeners. He often sits in on Wait…Wait… when Peter Sagal is away and he also makes appearances on Here & Now. The Gist is a daily podcast (M-F) covering current events and culture. The show is typically structured in three parts: an introduction, an interview with a guest on the topic for the episode, and Pesca’s spiel – a commentary on a hot-button issue. Pesca’s reporting and trenchant commentaries carried me through the 2016 election and aftermath. I recommend The Gist anytime someone talks podcasts.
“From WHYY in Philadelphia, it’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.” Obviously. Terry Gross has been hosting Fresh Air since 1975 and was awarded the National Humanities Medal last year. There is too much praise to offer about Fresh Air and nothing that would be new.
“A feminist podcast for those who resist and persist.” – hosted by Devon Handy and Sarah Lerner. I just started listening to this podcast and love the conversational style, the bold tone (the occasional f-bomb), and the attempt to hold out a space for hope and enjoyment in the current political situation without normalizing all of the craziness.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Outliers – among many, many other things, revisits overlooked, forgotten, or misunderstood moments in history in order to offer a new interpretation and bring that moment into conversation with something happening in the present. Gladwell is an excellent storyteller, and Episode One, “The Lady Vanishes” (which was produced MONTHS before the US election), demonstrates well the gifts for historical analysis and cultural critique that Gladwell brings to each episode. My favorites are episodes 1, 7, and 10; but they are all good. I am excited for Season Two.
The Bright Sessions is an audio drama that follows the work of Dr. Bright as she treats patients with extraordinary abilities: Sam travels through time, Caleb feels other people’s emotions, Chloe reads people’s minds, and Damien can control people’s will. The episodes begin as recordings of Dr. Bright’s sessions and notes, but the world builds out from her office in later episodes to develop each of the characters (and their world) more fully. I have fallen woefully behind, but I will catch up and keep up over the summer.
Karina Longworth revisits the history of Hollywood through a series of stories about the actors, actresses, scandals, and achievements in the film industry during its first century. My favorite episodes so far have been focused on individuals (Judy Garland and Marlon Brando), but the retelling of the Hollywood Blacklist was a wonderful arc of episodes as well.
Every one of my politically-inclined, podcast-listening friends recommends this podcast, so I have given it a go as well. Former aides to President Obama – Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor – discuss politics with guests. The conversations are often lively, and they are generous interviewers. I have only listened to a few episodes at this point, but I am glad it was recommended to me and happy to pay that recommendation forward.