Take a Break from Political Podcasts. Try some Stories Instead
Then STOP listening to so many damned political podcasts, Ishmael, and try some short fiction audio or live storytelling told by real people about real lives instead. Or maybe delve into some history or general information podcasts. These podcasts will not only restore your faith in humanity. These podcasts will restore your soul. Preserve your sanity.
Here’s a selection of podcasts I listen to that brighten my day and expand my soul.
Story Collider True Personal stories about Science told on Stage.
Touching, funny, harrowing field work, the parts of science that none of us ever think about. Youthful Indiscretions, stories about be young and dumb scientists is a good starter.
Mortified Remember we are freaks, we are fragile and we all survived.
Teenage Diary entries read on stage by their much older selves. The mortification comes adults reading reading their earnest and judgemental comments before a live audience. Janeites start with 166: My Diary is a Jane Austen Novel
The Moth True stories told in front of a live audience.
Some funny, some heart breaking, all revealing. The link leads to Never to Forget a story in which a Fire Chief tells a story about duty, brotherhood, honor and a massive tragedy one day. When he had to make the call to abandon trapped firemen to save the rest of his command. Not all stories are a bleak, but all reveal. Magic happens on this stage on a regular basis.
LaVar Burton Reads The Best Short Fiction, Handpicked by the World’s Greatest Storyteller.
Season 4 just ended. Season 5 starts mid-August. Lots of great stories to pick from in the back catalog.
Risk! True Tales, Boldly Told. Where people tell stories on stage they thought they’d never share.
When the host Kevin Allison says, “these stories can be very uncensored,” he’s not kidding. But they’re also extremely funny. I’ve linked Masculinity. The second story is particularly funny. A woman wilderness guide is one of the guides who take a bunch of boys in a judicial diversion program on a long hiking trip. Great story. Revealing. Not as graphic of a lot of Risk! stuff.
The Writer’s Voice from the New Yorker
Fiction writers published in the New Yorker select and read short fiction from the magazine. There is a discussion afterward.
Longform, free ranging discussions with writers, podcasters, scientists, researchers, business people, with big ideas and interesting takes.
The New Yorker Radio Hour
Mostly stories about the writing life. In the linked show, Aaron Sorkin rewrites To Kill a Mockingbird. And US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith talks about being on tour.
Everything is Alive Podcast This week Scott, the Stethoscope.
Scott is always listening. Stick with me, here. I know it sounds lam animating and giving interior lives to inanimate objects, but this podcast is highly imaginative and extremely entertaining.
Writers & Company from the CBC
Host Eleanor Wachtel explores the lives, thoughts and works of remarkable writers from around the world. She’s interviewed all the “bigs” as well as many of the up-and-coming.
30 Animals that Made Us Smarter from the BBC
At heart, this podcast is about biomickry, which is putting tricks in nature to use in human engineering and science. And I always learn something new. Something surprising. For instance, in the spider episode, I discovered that spiders don’t have muscles in their legs. Instead, all that movement is done with hydraulic pressure from blood. Only 10 minutes or so.
50 Things That Made the Modern Economy from the BBC
In the linked edition, CubeSats. Tiny satellites, fast to build, easy to launch in swarms. The Planetary Society Solar Sail that launched this month is a CubeSat. 10 minutes.
In Our Time from the BBC
I’ve linked to a list of top 10 listener favorites. Eclectic tops, literally everything under the sun from Astronomy to History to Medicine. No topic seems to be untouched. An erudite roundtable of academics discussing a single topic. The back catalog is 350 shows. I’m sure you’ll find something you wanted to learn about and will enjoy it. The decades-long host, Melvin Bragg, keeps the discussion moving. My recent favorite was the episode on the life and times of Frederick Douglass.
University of the Air from WPR
Much like In Our Time above, but from the University of Wisconsin. I’ve linked to a particularly fun discussion The Pleasure Of His Company: A Love Affair With Shakespeare. Like In Our Time, University of the Air has an extensive back catalog.
To the Best of Our Knowledge Exploring the Deeper End of Ideas from WPR
Another wide ranging program about ideas with a particularly deep back catalog.
More or Less: Behind the Stats from the BBC
A short, fun podcast about the ridiculous statistics newspapers, governments, and broadcasters throw out, usually from ignorance. This is not a technical stats course kind of discussion. It’s light, fun, and easily understood. This podcast really helped me to understand the statistical fallacies I routinely fall into.
Science Rules! with Bill Nye the Science Guy
Bill and guests answer questions sent in by listeners each week. Usually there is a chat with a science writer or author.
Spunky and lively. Science Vs takes on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between. Takes on all the popular hot topics, separating science from nonsense.
And finally, an epic effort. Epic to produce. Epic to listen to:
Literature and History
I don’t know where to start. Academic Doug Metzger has started at the very beginning of recorded history and interwoven the story of the West through written history and literature. The same historical event is examined through the eyes of multiple cultures many religions. Dr. Metzger does not shy away from the hard or controversial topics. And, believe it or not, this is one of the most fun and funny podcasts around, complete with original tunes written and performed by Doug.
To finish this podcast is a commitment. 67 episodes in and we’re just getting to the Roman Stoics.
Anyway. Those are some suggestions to help you get that Political Podcast Monkey off of your back. All of these podcasts should be obtainable through your favorite podcast app.