Podcasts are great all year ‘round, but especially in winter. You might have a long trip or two if you’re going to visit family; you might spend some extra time sitting in your car, either waiting for the heat to crank up or stuck in holiday traffic; and you may even want to pop in some headphones during long hours at grocery stores or malls shopping for holiday gifts and goodies.
For all of those scenarios, the right podcast can be an ideal escape. And as you know, it can also keep you informed, plugged in to pop culture, or even educating yourself on new topics.
Check out these ones!
If you’re a fan of Serial and This American Life – two of the bigger names in podcast culture – you may already know about S-Town. It came out fairly early in 2017 and is already commonly being called one of the best podcasts of the year. In one article on just this subject, Vulture started its description by writing, “of course S-Town would be on this list,” which should give you an idea of the reputation this podcast has already gained.
As for its content, it’s actually a little bit difficult to explain. It’s essentially a novel-quality exhibition of investigative journalism wherein a podcast host is contacted about a crime in rural Alabama. Upon traveling to a small town to interview people close to the situation, the host becomes acquainted with an absolutely fascinating (though somewhat troubling) local man. Ultimately the podcast becomes more about this particular man than the original case, but it’s an incredibly captivating journey.
What Really Happened?
This is actually a brand new podcast, so it’s a little bit harder to describe in full, or characterize in the context of 2017 as a whole. If you just like to hear interesting stories, however – and you’re interested in famous figures and history – it’s one you should consider getting into as winter approaches. Hosted by writer/filmmaker Andrew Jenks, this is a podcast that seeks to delve into fascinating stories that seem somehow mysterious or unfinished – but which most of us have left behind. Early examples include the time Muhammad Ali allegedly stopped a suicide jumper, the events behind the Chris Christie “Bridgegate” scandal in New Jersey, and Britney Spears’s infamous meltdown. Jenks has a talent for spotting details that enable us to question popular accounts without delving into full-on conspiracy theorizing.
The Ringer NBA Show
The NBA appears to be on its way to becoming the most popular league in North America (and with more and more Canadians making it there, it’s particularly interesting in Canada these days!). Even so, the average sports fan could be forgiven some level of fatigue. Heading into last summer’s Finals series one preview pointed out that the top two teams were almost in a league of their own, and that now seems to be down to one. The Warriors are just a lot better than everyone, and that can make following the whole season feel a little bit tiresome.
But the Ringer NBA Show – part of the Ringer network run by famous sportswriter Bill Simmons – goes a little bit further than just keeping up with the games. On this one podcast you’ll get a variety of different mini-shows, some looking at recent league action, some delving into player drama, some reacting to the latest news stories, etc. It’s a fun way to enjoy a fascinating league, and it’ll make you more knowledgeable as well.
If you’re at all interested in scripted podcasts – which basically describes a sort of new form of audio fiction, somewhat like a serialized novel in audiobook form – Homecoming is one to take a look at. It’s presented by Gimlet Media – the “HBO of audio” – which is a favorite company for a lot of podcasting enthusiasts. Best known for the podcast Reply All, Gimlet made its first foray into scripted storytelling with Homecoming, and it’s been a major success.
This tells the story of a few people – a caseworker, her supervisor, and a soldier home from war – through telephone calls and conversations. And it paints a surprisingly vivid picture once you give yourself an episode or two to get into it. Making it all the more enjoyable is an impressive cast of voice actors, including Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer, among others.
Finally, if you’re interested in getting some practical, everyday advice through your podcasting habit, look no further than NPR’s Planet Money. It’s not as exciting or new as the selections above, but a lot of people find it to be a fairly invaluable resource. Consisting of episodes that only last about 15-20 minutes (and are thus very easy to consume and pay attention to), it essentially provides ongoing education about the state of the economy in the U.S. However, it’s also become a good financial education in general for a lot of people who feel they aren’t adequately prepared in economics by school systems.