I've been on something of a podcast kick lately. It kind of started with Serial (a little This American Life listening before that too), which everyone and their dog became obsessed with. Really for me though, Serial was a one off. I'd liken it and my consumption of it to a a really good box set - I needed to concentrate when I listened, I needed to have the next episode like, yesterday, and I wanted to discuss and google the hell out of it.
I've realised that my favourite podcasts are the ones that are closer to a classic radio programme though...remember those? It's simply crafted, with interesting subject matter and is pretty self contained. As someone who spends the majority of her time being responsible for two children under 5 (I know, I sometimes find it hilarious that this is allowed to happen too) I spend a lot of time at home, and I like background noise. Interesting, engaging, funny background noise. It's like eavesdropping on some cool people at a cafe. Sometimes I go crazy and listen to the actual radio; here in the UK we are blessed with the BBC and it's varied output. But podacsts are hitting so many genres and are aimed at a wide spectrum of people that whatever mood you're in, there is nearly always something to suit. Here is a round up of my current favourites.
Steven D. Levitt is an economist, Stephen J. Dubner is a writer and together they have written three books under the Freakonomics banner. I haven't read any of the books (YET. I really need to get on that) but if the podacst is anything to go by then I can see why they have sold over 7 million copies. The podcasts span a wide ranging subject base, from crime to relationships to drugs... the list is endless. It's always interesting and often teaches me something new. I particularly like the idea floated in this episode about “Temptation bundling”: the idea of tying together two activities — one you should do but may avoid; and one you love to do but isn’t necessarily productive. I was actually using the podcast and cleaning as my own temptation bundle at the time without even knowing about it. I also really enjoyed this one about diamonds and marriage.
I have been a fan of Dan Savage for years. If you're not familiar with him, he's described on wikipedia as 'an American gay activist, author, media pundit, and journalist' and this podcast started as an advice column. He has given some of the best advice on relationships I've ever seen, titled "The Price of Admission', which everyone should watch and learn from.
This podcast is frank, funny, political and covers all sorts of sex and relationship territory. It's very explicit in content and language FYI, but that's partly what makes it so excellent - it's rare to hear anyone be so open and speak so frankly. Listen alone or with the person you're getting down and dirty with, not one for when kids or parents are in the room. Last weeks episode had a really interesting bit about happiness levels in liberal and right wingers, and a study into contraception that had proved extremely successful in lowering abortion rates but had actually been blocked by Republicans.
Death, Sex and Money
I started listening to this podcast this week and have really enjoyed the episodes I've listened to so far. The host Anna Sale has all the things I like in a presenter; a relaxed, inclusive and conversational tone, and not at all shouty. It describes itself as 'A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation', and it's just that. There are a mix of stories from celebrities and regular folk alike. I found this episode on cheating to be pretty fascinating, along with the story of back up singer Lisa Fischer, who was featured in the oscar winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.
Food is the New Rock
A podcast for foodies and music lovers, interviewees talk about their passion for both. This is great background fodder, especially good if you like the artists featured - everyone from Questlove and Wolgang Puck, to Kings of Leon and David Chang. Personally I'd start with Mark Bitmann, then Alex James.
The Longest Shortest Time
One for the parents among us. The Longest Shortest Time is excellent, covering all things parenting, talked about in a way that is honest and relatable. The discussion is usually about stuff that doesn't get talked about enough or in detail, like sex after kids or how parenthood has changed you. It has light and shade and is very good at making you reflect on whats gone and whats to come. The Sex and Parenthood Series was great, especially the hilarious and illuminating episode on talking to your kids about sex.