Over the past few months, I’ve started turning to podcasts instead of music for entertainment on my drive to work (when I’m not listening to one of the Harry Potter audiobooks, of course). Most of the songs I’ve downloaded to my phone are for working out, making them a little too upbeat and fast for my mornings pre-coffee. I realize I could just join the rest of the 21st century on Spotify and search for new, quieter playlists, but in the meantime, here’s a roundup of podcasts that actually hold my attention span. You can subscribe to them on the Podcasts app for iPhone or listen online.
Dear Sugar Radio
For some reason, I’ve always loved reading advice columns. Maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by the glimpse they offer into the lives of strangers, maybe it’s because I like hearing about other people who have screwed up worse than I have, but in any case, if you’re like me, you’ll love this podcast. The hosts, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild), discuss two or three reader questions on one topic, like wedding drama, in each 45-minute episode. Listen here.
For those who can’t decipher this podcast’s impossible-to-read logo (it kind of reminds me of those online security checks you have to complete sometimes to prove you’re not a robot – I’ve had to abandon purchases in the past because I’m incapable of making them out), it’s called Invisibilia, which is Latin for ‘invisible things.’ Each episode examines an unseen force that affects the way we live our lives, like social norms or the dark thoughts that appear in our minds from time to time. They weave the stories of various subjects in with scientific research smoothly, so it’s also educational without being boring. Listen here.
Each week on this podcast, an actor reads a previously published Modern Love essay of their selection (if you’re not familiar with the Modern Love column in the New York Times, it’s a series of reader-submitted pieces that explore the trials and tribulations of love in its many forms). Then – this is my favorite part – the host checks in with the writer of the essay, who gives an update on his or her current situation. You can listen here and read through past columns here.
This might be my favorite podcast at the moment. Host Kelly McEvers and correspondents around the world take a story from the news and ‘go deep,’ as they put it – embedding themselves anywhere from a South Sudan hospital to understand the life of a pediatrician serving with Doctors Without Borders to a bar in Waco, Texas, where a shootout between rival biker groups left nine people dead last year. I’d start with ‘The House’ and ‘We Found Joy,’ two episodes about a small town in Indiana where (relatively) widespread addiction to a prescription painkiller called Opana – and the sharing of needles to inject it – has led to an HIV outbreak. Listen here.
Allison Behringer, who self-produces this podcast, is a recent Princeton grad who recently began an internship at a tech startup in New York City. Each episode is a blend of what it’s like to work in the tech world and Allison’s experiences as a working Millenial more generally. New episodes are released somewhat inconsistently, but it’s still worth a listen (link here).
Finally, I left this one off the list because I figure most people have already heard of it, but Serial – especially Season 1, which re-examines a murder case involving teens at a Baltimore high school in 1999 – will get you through a 10-hour car trip in a flash. If you’ve listened to it, do you think Adnan is guilty?? I’m still dying to know the truth.