I have done a lot of driving since the beginning of the year. A. LOT.
If I were leasing my car, I would be well over the mileage limit for the next five years. It takes me exactly two hours to get from my front door to the hospital where my father was admitted, and two and a half hours to drive to the rehab facility. I can also tell you that when you’re driving by yourself for such long distances, the road can get pretty monotonous. I’ve downloaded playlists on my phone, but I get tired of listening to the same songs over and over.
I downloaded an episode of S-Town on the recommendation of a coworker and I couldn’t stop listening. I made excuses to drive further out of my way to continue listening to the story. Once I finished that series, I found others that were similar and binge-listened to those as well.
I’ve branched out from those first few podcasts. These days, I’ve found myself gravitating toward some fictional podcasts and others that I can listen to with my whole family. I’m still trying to find ones that are geared towards my kids, but they enjoy the ones that are a little more — well, let’s say bizarre.
Here are some of my favorite podcasts:
S-Town takes you deep into rural Southern life, and it’s a heck of a ride. What starts out as an investigation into a nonexistent murder becomes, over the course of its seven-episode stretch, a look into the mind and life of a fascinatingly complex man. I ended the last episode sad at not having met John B. McLemore, the protagonist of the series, but feeling like I knew him.
This program has been in existence since 2002, first as a broadcast on New York’s public radio station. It’s been in podcast form since 2009, although many of the earlier episodes are no longer available for download. Radiolab bills itself as “a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” Each episode features a fast-paced ride through some abstract scientific or philosophical concept. My favorite episode is “The Primitive Streak” which is about a lab that grew an embryo further than anyone had done before. No matter where your interests lie, you’ll find a plethora of material to choose from here.
More Perfect is the brainchild of Radiolab co-host Jad Abumrad. This series revolves around the U.S. Supreme Court and its inner workings. I have to admit that at first, this didn’t sound terribly interesting to me. But, by the end of the first season, I was riveted by some of the content that had been covered. Check out “Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer” for a catchy tune to help you remember most of the current roster of Justices. Season 2 comes out this summer and I can’t wait.
Does the weird and otherworldly intrigue you? Do conspiracy theories fascinate you? Would you vote for a five-headed dragon who’s incarcerated for insurance fraud in the mayoral race? If so, you need to visit Night Vale. This fictional podcast is presented as a radio show based in Night Vale, a town somewhere in the southwestern United States. It offers your run-of-the-mill community fare, like announcements and upcoming events, but with a bizarre twist. The new dog park? That’s where the hooded figures hang out. Beware of lane 5 at the bowling alley, because the pin retrieval area is the entrance to a mysterious subterranean city.
Use your discretion when listening with kids, because it’s not specifically a family show. My daughters have become as obsessed as I have with host Cecil’s crush on Carlos the scientist and his ever-growing list of interns who have met a strange and horrible fate.
In 2016, documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey was looking for an interesting cold case that he could turn into a movie, along the lines of Netflix’s Making A Murderer. He stumbled on the mystery of the disappearance of former beauty queen Tara Grinstead in rural Georgia in 2005. Lindsey’s obsession with solving this case has been the focus of this podcast. It’s fascinating to hear a decade-old missing persons case take on new life. The renewed interest in the case generated by this podcast led to the arrest of two men in February. New episodes are coming out every week updating listeners, and there are ample opportunities for fans to interact with Lindsey and his cohorts on the website and social media.
Those familiar with the Vermont comedy scene will recognize this name. (Seriously. I’ve seen her perform. She’s hilarious.) Annie Russell describes this as “a comedy podcast… Sort of.” Annie chats with her comedian friends and other local artists and people of influence to find out what things they’re obsessed with, hence the term “no chill.” Her interviews aren’t always funny. However, they are insightful and really make me think about all the serious work that goes into entertaining the rest of us. Check out the end of each episode if you’re looking to explore new music venues or activities around Vermont recommended by each guest.
What other podcasts should I add to my queue? No subject is too strange. Let me know what your favorites are!