I’ve become someone who secretly looks forward to travel delays. If I get stuck on a train for an unexpected hour, no sweat. If my flight is delayed by a few hours, or I can’t find a good connection so I have to spend half a day in an airport in the middle of who-knows-where, no problem. Why? Because of podcasts.
I’m utterly, delightedly addicted to podcasts.
But not just any kind of podcast, I love podcasts that tell true stories in beautifully curated ways. Apparently yesterday was International Podcast Day, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite podcasts with you.
I’ve recently discovered the wonderful Strangers podcast by Lea Thau and I’ve been binging on it ever since. Thau describes Strangers as featuring “true stories about people we meet, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that we aren’t even who we thought we were.” I’ve found it to be intimate, moving and delightful.
I’ve also been listening to back to back episodes of Criminal which features stories of “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” As a lover of real crime and good storytelling, I highly recommend this beautifully produced show by Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer.
I’ve also recently starting listening to The Story. I can’t quite believe I hadn’t found it sooner, it’s so utterly my cup of tea. It ran from 2006 until 2013, and each episode features someone telling their own story, usually in conversation with the host Dick Gordon. Today, out on a long run, I listened to two great episodes. One was about the man who helped track, capture and relocate wolves from Canada to re-establish the wolf population in the U.S. The other was about the largely forgotten residents still living in what was once the United State’s largest leprosy treatment centre.
This American Life
Like so many people the first podcast I ever loved was This American Life with Ira Glass, so if you are yet to discover this, perhaps the godfather of this recent new wave of narrative non-fiction podcasts, I highly recommend you check it out.
Last year I fell completely under the spell of Serial, a spin-off from This American Life which told the story of Sarah Koenig’s investigation into the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, and the trial and conviction of her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. Season two of Serial is due to begin soon, and will follow the case of United States Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who was held captive in Afghanistan by the Haqqani Network, and insurgent group connected to the Taleban. He was released after five Guantanamo Bay detainees were released.
Every Sunday I hang out for the new episode of Dear Sugar Radio with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond like ‘normal’ people hang out for long talks with old friends. This is largely because listening to Cheryl and Steve respond to letters from their listeners – Dear Sugar was first an advice column on The Rumpus – is like listening to wise, compassionate old friends.
The Good Fight
The podcast that keeps me inspired to fight the good fight at ActionStation is the wonderful The Good Fight with Ben Wikler, which tells the story of people who are, as you might expect, fighting the good fight. People who help mobilise grassroots movements, or launch campaigns to bring about a more fair, kind and decent world. Exactly the kind of people, in other words, we launched ActionStation to support. This show, perhaps more than any other, has been inspiring me to consider starting my own podcast!
Finally, I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, and have been enjoying her companion podcast, Magic Lessons, for an injection of joyful, creative inspiration and encouragement.
So yes, I may have a bit of a podcast addiction. But as a long distance runner and frequent flyer, that seems to work out okay for me. The beauty of podcasts is that you can listen to them while you exercise, on the train or bus, while you clean the house or lying in bed late at night when you are too tired to read but needing some soul nourishment.
If you haven’t listened to any of these podcasts, I recommend you have a listen. You might find something that is just your cup of tea.