My Love Affair With Podcasts

For better or worse, the amount of free time in my days has increased exponentially in the Peace Corps. To fill this space, I’ve started listening to a lot of Podcasts. While I always knew they were out there, I’d never taken the time to find ones I liked or to listen to them regularly before – and I was definitely missing out. Here’s a few of my favorites, in no particular order, that have gotten me through long bus rides, long work days, and long walks around town.

Radiolab – From the flow of the episodes to the unique topics each one addresses, I’m never disappointed in Radiolab. My favorite recent episode is called Debatable, and tells the story of black students challenging the concept of what debate is and should be (and encountering a shocking amount of racism along the way). Less serious, but equally as fascinating, was an episode called K-poparazzi about the lives of Korean pop stars.

Modern Love – Personal essays on any subject related to the concept of love are read by different celebrities each week. After the essays are read, the authors are interviewed for follow up on their story and the celebrity who read it talks about why they chose that essay and what it means to them. They are all touching and thought provoking in their own way, and they’re a little shorter than a typical podcast which is great for when you don’t have a whole hour or more to devote to listening.

This American Life and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me – These are both shows I listen to on NPR back home, so they are comfort food for my brain as well as entertainment.This American Life is a radio classic, presenting a collection of stories on a theme for about an hour each week, while Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the NPR news quiz, satisfies my inner need for trivia (and always makes me laugh).

Stuff You Missed In History Class – I think if I could go back and repeat high school as an adult, I would really love it. History was always one of my favorite subjects, but of course squeezing thousands of years of a world’s worth of stories into just a few classes in a couple of years is bound to leave things out. These episodes are well researched, and cover subjects that add texture to periods of time that may have been glossed over or packed into a few big events. It has been around for a long time, so there’s a good backlog of episodes to keep me going, and it’s a female-hosted show that also makes an effort to tell stories of women in history, which I really appreciate. Probably my favorite episode is the one about Amelia Earhart – there’s so much more to her story than the fact that she disappeared!

Serial – Is there anyone that doesn’t love Serial? I missed it when it first aired a few years ago and everyone was talking about it, but started listening to it at work this winter and got completely hooked. The first season took apart the story of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of killing his high school ex-girlfriend when he was 17 despite some pretty questionable evidence. The second season, which came out a few months ago, centered on Bowe Bergdahl, his capture by the Taliban, and subsequent court marshall. While I thought the first season was more captivating, the second season gave a lot of context and detail to what had appeared to be a simple case. The range of voices, from interviews with Bergdahl himself to high ranking members of the military and even members of the Taliban, really speaks to the impressive strengths of Sarah Koenig as a journalist and storyteller.

This just scratches the surface of the Podcasts that are out there, and I can’t wait to keep exploring them. I’m always on the lookout for recommendations, so if there’s one you love let me know!


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