Several months ago, I discovered podcasts. The shows made cleaning day tolerable, as I’d prop my phone on counter tops and listen to Jeff and Rebecca talk books while I scrubbed sinks, or Terry Gross interview Stephen King as I swept the kitchen floor. I found the access to new information so exciting, I began listening on other days as well. I’d tuck my phone into the Valley Bank (my bra) and listen while I washed dishes, folded laundry, prepped dinner, or ran errands. Soon, I was listening every day. I knew when my favorite (Book Riot) aired new episodes (Saturday or Sunday if you have the Book Riot app, Monday otherwise), became familiar with formats, got to know hosts.
I checked my phone every morning to see if anything new had posted so I could listen during that day’s chores. It got to where I was listening faster than my podcasts were airing episodes, and I needed new material. About a month ago, I sent out a Twitter plea for podcast ideas. Since then I’ve found some new favorites, and one gem in particular that I am nearly as excited about as Book Riot: The Moth. See below for more details.
Book Riot: As I mentioned, this is my favorite podcast, bar none. The hosts Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Schinsky are the editors of BookRiot.com (Always Books. Never Boring), and I like hanging out with them. They’re smart and they make me laugh. On the podcast, they don’t just talk about new releases or prize winners or good books that will make your to-be-read pile even more overwhelming (though that does happen), they cover news that is of interest to readers: new technology in the reading world, the latest research on how reading affects empathy or human health, a vibrator that, ahem, enhances your e-reading experience (I’m not kidding.) If you like books and you’re fun and you’re looking for a new podcast, start with Book Riot.
Bookrageous: Bookrageous is like sitting around with friends and talking books. When I listen to this one, I often find myself opening my mouth to chime in, then realizing Josh, Jenn, and Rebecca are not sitting on my bathroom counter. They can’t hear me. It’s just my phone. But its fun to pretend. Bookrageous is up there with Book Riot on the faves list. I listen as soon as a new one airs.
Books on the Nightstand: Hosts Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, who seem to have read everything and who also work in the publishing industry, give book recommendations and talk about the behind-the-scenes world of the book industry. They are knowledgeable and approachable, and I’ve read several recommendations after hearing their descriptions. I have not been disappointed. Plus Ann loves Pat Conroy, and Prince of Tides is one of my favorite books of all time, so that gives her a special place in my heart. This is another I listen to as soon as it airs.
The Readers: I just found this one a couple of weeks ago, and fell in love with it. The podcast’s tagline is “Book Based Banter,” which captures its charm brilliantly: the hosts are an Englishman and an American, and their exchanges tickle me. I particularly loved episode 85: Your Country in Ten (or Eleven) books, in which they each selected ten books from their home country in an effort to showcase the culture and sense of place of the US and UK. My TBR list grew by 15 books that day.
Literary Disco: I only recently discovered Literary Disco, so I haven’t listened enough to give a full report here. But they talk books, and I like books, so I’ve got them on my list.
The Moth: Y’all. You must listen to this. The Moth is second only to Book Riot as a favorite, and I have to give a huge thank you to my Twitter friend @PhilthePill for recommending it. The Moth is true stories told live on a stage, and the first time I listened, I was so inspired I paused the episode, leaned on my mop, and recorded a 15 minute story of my own onto my phone’s voice recorder. Most stories include comedic elements but they are all powerful narratives told by regular people. I eagerly await every new episode. My favorite story so far is from October 1, Nathan Englander’s “Unhooked,” about Englander’s travels to the Berlin wall just after it has fallen. Give it a listen.
The Truth: The Truth describes itself as “Movies for your ears,” and that’s exactly what it is. Each fictitious story is about 15-20 minutes, and while The Moth is stories performed with a mic on a stage, The Truth stories are recorded in a studio with sound effects and mixing and a script. The stories are very well-written. My favorite piece so far is The Talk (October 13), about three teens who drank too much, and the talk the girl’s father had with one of the two boys she was with as he drives his passed out daughter home. The windshield wipers going in the background make the story for me.
Radiolab: Supported by the National Science Foundation, Radiolab is another favorite of mine. It describes itself as “A show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” The hosts, Jad and Robert, take a topic like Bliss, or my personal favorite, Words, and dive into it with stories and scientists and comedy. I love this show.
Fresh Air: Best interviews anywhere, ever. Terry Gross is my hero, and I admit, I have pretended that one day, when I have written an earth-shattering best seller, she will interview me. I have her questions, and my smart, funny answers, all written out in my journal.
NPRs Pop Culture Happy Hour: My good friend, who is my age (late 30s), somehow always knows what’s going on with the young people (she knew what twerking was, knows all the hip lingo, introduced me to Gangnam Style, which I had never heard of even a year after it was a thing). So I figured I needed some sort of instruction in popular culture in my life. As the blurb on the website says, “NPR’s entertainment and pop culture round-table podcast features spirited discussions of movies, books, television, nostalgia, and — every time — what’s making us happy this week.”
Science: This is the podcast of the journal Science. It can be a bit dry, but sometimes there are fascinating tidbits.
Nature: This is the podcast of the journal Nature. Ditto the Science podcast, but with a British accent.
TED Radio Hour: I’ve only just begun listening to this one, but on the Radio Hour, host Guy Raz curates TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) around a specific theme and interviews the speakers about the background of their talks. For example, the Turning Points episode included a TED Talk from a man who had received electro-shock therapy.
Freakonomics: Life seen through the lens of economics. My favorite episode so far is The Economist’s Guide to Parenting, which includes some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever heard, and not just from the perspective of economics.
Writing Excuses: I love this one because it’s short and to the point. As their tagline says, “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” The panelists are a novelist, a fantasy novelist, a cartoonist, and a horror novelist, and they answer listener questions on specific writing topics, then end the show with a prompt. This one is perfect for cleaning up the breakfast dishes when everyone has left the house for work and school.
Narrative Breakdown: Hosted by video director/screenwriter James Monohan and editor Cheryl Klein, this podcast covers creative writing, revision, characters, and really anything a writer might be interested in to improve her craft. This is the podcast I referenced in my Are you a pantser? post on revision techniques back in May.
Lexicon Valley: This is possibly even geekier than the Science and Nature podcasts – the latest episode is titled “Grammar Scolds Unite! Embracing the hand-slapping, prescriptivist schoolmarm in all of us” in which they discuss the disappointing new definition of “literally,” which allows it to mean precisely the opposite of what literally really means. If you understood that sentence, and feel the pain, you will like Lexicon Valley. (Incidentally, Lexicon Valley is the podcast that taught me that dangling prepositions are in fact NOT awful, and inspired my Why is this not headline news?! post).
What about you? Do you have any favorite podcasts?