I’m not sure when podcasts became “a thing” to the rest of the world but they’ve always been up my alley. I feel like the past two years have showered our collective ears with great podcasts.
What's it called when someone exuberantly talks about that thing they are super into? That person at a party who just got into Stranger Things and fell down the rabbit hole of recaps and write-ups and think pieces that dissect all the Easter eggs and lurk on Reddit subthreads about the symbolism, etc... ? And it's not that this person is a blowhard or dominating the conversation or not letting anyone else give their opinion. It's that their enthusiasm for a specific topic makes that topic so much more interesting and fun to talk about.
I have a friend who we lovingly joke that he is passionately enthusiastic about anything you're talking about. I've heard him get really into a conversations about really boring, banal things but he finds the nugget of interesting or asks a quirky question that breaks open the entire thing. Find him at any party and he is into it—whatever it is. It actually makes him such a fun person to talk with. Ah, he's a good guy...
Anyway, while I'm not as congenial as my friend, I may be that person about podcasts (I may be that person about Stranger Things, too). I love a good story, especially when told to me in a nice-to-listen-to voice, preferably while I'm driving. I have a wide range of interests when it comes to podcasts but each leave me feeling that I learned something—about the world, about others, about myself, about interesting science stuff, about literature. And it juices me up to share this great ear-nugget of info. I'm an evangelizer of audiotainment, so if I see you at a party and you're not into hearing about podcasts, ask me about anything else. I understand.
I first started listening when I had a commute on the asses-and-elbows #9 Ashland bus, which meant it was too crowded to read my book (what with one hand looped through the handle and one trying to create my own safe space from the rowdy teens throwing apples at one another.... ugh that bus...) About this time of the Thunderdome Commute was when Serial came out and it proved to be the gateway podcast I was jonesing for. Soon, I was researching what else I could inject into my ears and zone out for my commute.
Now a full-on junkie, I have about 4-6 on regular rotation. It's been harder than ever to keep up and I finally gave my completionist self permission to skip an episode if it wasn't speaking to me or if it was out of order. I love a good This American Life but sometimes I don't have an hour to get really into an in-depth reporting about world issues, so I opt for one of the shorter, sweeter Modern Love podcast. Or Hidden Brain, whose host Shankar Vedantam is this friendly, funny, wisdom-dropping gentleman that I love to listen to.
Lately, I've been especially taken with Note to Self with Manoush Zomorodi. Their tagline is how to stay human in this accelerating world and covers how tech and humanity are colliding in real time. It's fascinating and I wish Manoush was my friend. Taking the Privacy Paradox challenge changed how I use and get used by my iPhone, so it's life-changing in that way.
Again, I could talk about this all day long so remember that next time we're at a party together.
(Also, what should I be listening to? I could use some fresh word-jams in my ears. Let me know!)
— Another favorite is the Dear Sugar podcast with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. I get to satisfy my deep-seeded dream to be an advice columnist while hearing varying perspectives on other people's lives and the issues that plague them (and us all). And that theme song is just the best. Moody, jazzy, lovely, smoky.... really sets the tone.
— I like the Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin because it's about the tiniest details of life. The real joy is in listening to Gretchen and her co-host and sister Liz Craft dive deep into mundane, tiny details of life. Sometimes it's a little too light and frothy and lately, it's really heavy on Gretchen's personality quiz book, but overall, it's like a flipping through a magazine on a lazy Sunday.... but for your ears.
— I also have Selected Shorts in my podcast library though admittedly I don't listen as often as I like. It's a series of short stories read by famous people at a live event, so you get Stephen Colbert reacting to the live audience while reading T.C. Boyle's funny "The Lie". Just a delight all around.
— I also have Lore in my queue though I have a hard time getting too involved in it. In a very nit-picky way, the hosts voice has the up-speak cadence that is so distracting to me. The whole series is about urban legends and stranger-than-fiction true tales that I lllloooooovvvvveeeee but I cannot get passed his speaking style. Luckily he created a whole Lore-verse and there are other ways to get my folklore fix.