You Should Be Listening to Podcasts

A Primer and Some Suggestions

On a good day, I have a 45-minute commute to work here at the library. On a bad day, I’m looking at an hour or more each way. This gives me plenty of alone time in my trusty Honda. Sure, blasting music and singing to myself is fine. Listening to sports talk radio and NPR is great. Thanks to audiobooks, I “read” far more books than I would be able to otherwise. But all of that can get a little monotonous day in and day out, mile after mile.

Then I discovered podcasts and everything changed. If you aren’t familiar with podcasts, they are simply audio programs, like talk radio, usually serialized, that can be produced by anyone. You subscribe to them using your smartphone or computer and can listen anytime, anywhere. They cover any topic you can imagine, from business, history, and travel, to Zen Buddhism, cooking, and battling addiction. Many are recorded by world-class experts in their field, and best of all, they are entirely free!

The restrictions on all of us caused by the COVID pandemic have resulted in what is now considered the “Golden Age” of podcasting. Comedians for example, unable to do standup in front of an audience have moved to podcasting to have their voices heard. And seemingly everyone has a podcast now, from celebrities like Conan O’Brien, Snoop Dogg, and Oprah, to scholars, authors, musicians, and politicians. Now is the perfect time to start listening to podcasts!

Getting started

1. Pick your podcast player:
The player is an app for your smartphone or computer that allows you to find, download, subscribe to, and listen to your podcasts. Some of the most popular today include:

2. Find podcasts:
Browse through the 1,000,000+ podcasts available today and find those of interest to you. They will be categorized in your player for easy browsing. Download a few and give them a listen. If something really grabs you, subscribe to that podcast. Your player will automatically indicate when a new episode of that podcast is released.

3. Try odd things:
Some of the most influential podcasts I listen to regularly now are not things I thought I had any interest in. Start with some of the more popular podcasts and see what all the fuss is about. Just a sampling of the biggies include:

I’ll share quick reviews of some of my favorite podcasts in the coming months, but until then, here is a random handful of some of the interesting, enlightening, or just plain fun things I’ve encountered in my podcast wanderings:

•  In-depth discussions of my favorite cult movies with the actors and directors themselves

•  The insane (and rather dark) history of the bridges of Milwaukee

•  The artistry of sushi

•  The health benefits of being cold

•  An engrossing 10-part hard-boiled murder mystery only available as a podcast

•  A renowned Buddhist monk giving a discourse on Dharma

•  Laughing until I cried at Conan O’Brien’s banter with his friends

•  The legend of “Yucca Man” in the Mojave Desert

•  A series of lectures on medieval warfare by a Harvard professor

•  An impromptu mini-concert by John Prine (prior to his passing)

•  The culinary history of pimento cheese

So if you are new to podcasts, the next time you are driving, doing the dishes, or just curious, give them a try. You can’t beat free, convenient, and endlessly engrossing.


Written by Chris, MCL Adult Services Librarian. Posted: 12/3/2020.