Podcasts I’m Listening To Lately

I grew up without a tv, and in my adulthood, I am still not much of a tv watcher but I do like to listen to something while I’m doing things around the house (especially cooking and cleaning). It’s supposed to be spring, but we’ve had a rash of bad weather and snowstorms lately so I’ve spent a lot of time in the house (the above photo was taken near where I grew up on May 1st). I also have a fairly lengthy commute to work and podcasts (and audiobooks!) help make the time in the car more bearable. I have a few podcasts that are regular staples, but I also rotate what I’m listening to fairly frequently. This is a list of my all time favorites.

FiveThirtyEight Elections – This podcast is a must for political junkies and might also be interesting to stat geeks who have only a passing interest in current events. This show is produced by well known statistician Nate Silver and his team and is a weekly (sometimes more often) discussion of what’s happening in the presidential race – what the polls mean, what the data says, and what’s likely to happen next in the race. I was worried when it was announced that Silver was making the jump from the NYT to ESPN that he would no longer weigh in on politics, but the FiveThirtyEight blog and this podcast have allayed my fears.

The Black Tapes – Now in its second season, this podcast is a serialized fictional account of one reporter’s journey chasing paranormal questions across the globe. I am not a science fiction or fantasy fan, so I approached this with some trepidation and was initially surprised by how much I love this. The story telling is structured in a nod to Serial. The story follows one reporter working for the fictional Pacific Northwest Stories as she investigates The Strand Institute’s efforts to disprove the existence of the paranormal. The black tapes refer to the institute’s unsolved cases – the ones that science can’t explain. As the episodes progress, the story gets both deeper and broader. Not only is the story engaging, but the writers touch on some of the controversy that Serial’s first season and strive to have a discussion about the real life ethical implications of reporting still unfolding stories in a digital age.

Pop Culture Happy Hour – This podcast comes out on Thursdays and is always my Friday morning “it’s almost the weekend” pick me up. Every week a colorful cast of NPR staff join host Linda Holmes to discuss current t.v., movies, books, music, celebrity, and all things pop culture. Even when I am not familiar with the material they’re discussing, I always find the commentary to be witty and intelligent.

Dear Sugar – This podcast is an adaptation of the Dear Sugar advice column that originally appeared on the website The Rumpus. Since initially donning the mantle of Sugar, Cheryl Strayed has become a successful author. In this podcast, she teams up with Steve AlmondĀ  (who originally asked her to become Sugar) and answers listeners questions. I will admit that I was not a fan of Strayed’s wildly popular memoir Wild (now a major motion picture!), but I can’t get enough of her and Almond’s unrelentingly compassionate and unfailingly practical advice about all of the tough stuff in life.

What Should I Read Next – I’m a sucker for anything that allows me to listen to people talk about books, but even so, this podcast stands out among the numerous (and good) podcasts about books. What sets this podcast apart is the format. Host Anne Bogel asks a rotating cast of guests (there’s a new one each week) to talk about two books they love, one book they hate, and how they’d like their reading life to be different. Based on these answers, Bogel then recommends three books for the guest to try. Simply put, I love this format and the conversation that flows from the questions. The rotating guests are all vastly different with equally different tastes in books. Because of this, I’m exposed to lots of books that I might not normally have ever considered reading, must less sat down and read. I also appreciate that reading is approached in a completely non pretentious way and recommendations run from the high brow literary masterpieces to weekend beach reads. In this universe, all good and well written books are treated equally. As someone who reads and enjoys a wide array of genres, authors and kinds of stories, I really appreciate that.

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