People In My Ears

The Urbanist

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Most of them are about books and writing, popular culture, current affairs. I listen to podcasts when I’m walking my dogs, doing things domestic, or filling my supermarket trolley. I listen because having smart talk in my ears makes dull tasks more than bearable – I look forward to time with my people.

I may have become a little too dependent on my podcast people lately. On the weekend, when I was cleaning our chaotic attic space, my partner asked if I wanted my iPod (he was doing other things, so I was alone for most of the day). I was finding the task of bundling up my sons’ baby clothes emotional, confronting. Without a trace of irony or even awareness of the strangeness of my words (until they’d left my mouth), I said: ‘I could listen to a podcast but I don’t think they’d understand.’ He barely blinked. Which is a concern.

However, despite the fact I don’t know any of the people who lend their voices to my day, I’m sure they are all wonderful. And I’d like to share the podcasts I’ve come to know as reliably clever, entertaining and excellent company.

There are podcasts for everything: fertility tips, zombie talk, Warcraft, weight loss, learning Dutch, The Bacon Podcast, Interesting People Talking Wrestling, Creative Real Estate, Spinach and Friends (real titles, all). But here are 21 podcasts I’m listening to lately from the thin sliver I look at. Just copy the names into iTunes and you’ll find them.

Oh, you may notice that none of these are Australian, although I am. That’s because when there’s nothing stuck in my ears I listen to the ABC. The best Australian podcasts come from the ABC.

  • BBC Books and Authors with Mariella Frostrup
  • Between the Covers: Author Interviews with David Naimon
  • The Guardian Books Podcast
  • Here’s the Thing (Alec Baldwin interviewing famous people, all of whom he’s handpicked and clearly adores. Do not listen to this Lena Dunham interview – it’s excruciating, for her as well as us.)
  • Longform (Nonfiction writers talk about how they work, what they’re working on and offer great insights about storytelling.)
  • Modern Manners Guy Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Polite Life (Because it’s hilarious.)
  • Monocle’s The Urbanist (Monocle magazine has a series of radio shows/podcasts. This one talks about cars, maps, urban meeting places and other droll issues.)
  • The Moth (Stories told to live audience in small venues.)
  • New Yorker: Fiction (If nothing else, download Lauren Groff reading a story by Alice Munroe’s short story ‘Axis’.)
  • NPR: Fresh Air Podcast (Arts and current affairs show hosted by Terri Gross.)
  • NPR: Books Podcast
  • NPR: Pop Culture Happy Hour (Whip-smart, funny people chat about books, tv, movies, comics. Always entertaining.)
  • Slate’s Audio Book Club
  • Slate’s Double X Podcast
  • Studio 360 (Kurt Andersen’s guide to all that’s new and interesting in art and culture.)
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class (There are lots of ‘Stuff’ podcasts – Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Stuff You Should Know, but this one’s consistently the best.)
  • The Tobolowsky Files (Actor Stephen Tobolowsky talks about his life.)
  • This American Life
  • The Why Factor (Why do we do the things we do?)
  • WNYC’s Talk to Me (Listen to Jennifer Egan talking about her book A Visit from the Goon Squad.)
  • Writers and Company from CBC (Canada)
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