I went through a stage recently where the only books I’d read were non-fiction. Whether they were biographies, documentaries or even just ‘inspired’ by real events – they were on my reading list, and most often they were pretty grisly.
People often asked me why I chose to read so many books about tough times people had gone through, and my response was always “Because I feel like if I’m not learning something, I’m wasting my time”.
I do realise that comment is somewhat rubbish; you can learn from fiction books. But I craved that deep understanding for something real. I guess after thirteen years of school and three years of university, I missed learning outside of my every day work – so I fulfilled my thirst for knowledge with these books.
But reading takes time, which is something I’ve been severely lacking in lately (as you can see by this post!). Then I realised, I can’t really multitask whilst reading, but I can listen.
I spend half an hour each morning walking the dog, and one hour every week day commuting to work. I had listened to T-Swizzle’s new album a dozen times and was getting a little tired of the same old songs on the radio; then I discovered podcasts.
I apologise if you’ve been sitting comfortably on this bandwagon for years now, but if you haven’t delved into the wonderful, wide world of podcasts, it’s time to push your music collection gently aside and prepare to be entertained.
You could say I’m addicted. I listen to them every morning, every evening, and sometimes try and sneak some in when I have a few quiet minutes brushing my teeth or cooking dinner.
I feel like I am learning something new every single day, most often about topics I wouldn’t actually choose to read a book or watch a TV program about. They are broadening my interests by the dozen. And those long car trips? I look forward to them now, knowing I have my podcast friends ready to keep me company.
In this post, I’d like to share with you a few of my favourite programs I’ve subscribed to and simply can’t get enough of. Serial. The podcast that started it all for me. It must be something that’s more popular in America than Australia, because I’d only seen a few American bloggers mention it, and after a visit from a friend from the US who said she’d been listening to it, I thought ‘May as well see what all the hoo-haa is about’. And I’ll tell you what – this hoo-haa is incredible.
I was hooked after only a few minutes. The 12-part series covers a journalist’s investigation into the murder of a teenage girl in 1999, for which her ex-boyfriend, also a teenager at the time, was convicted. Despite being behind bars for over a decade, he has always maintained his innocence, so the narrator goes back through every skerrick of information to try and find out once and for all ‘whodunnit’.
Although the whole series is around nine hours long, I finished it in three days and have already gotten a few friends addicted. Now it’s your turn.
After finishing Serial, I was on the hunt for a new podcast to fill the void in my ears (and mind), so a workmate recommended NPR’s Radiolab. I’ve been listening to this ongoing series for around a month now, with each episode, which can vary anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour in length, exploring a specific theme or topic – the sky is the limit.
Sometimes there’s multiple stories in one podcast, other times it focusses on only one, but every minute is enthralling and I truly feel like I am becoming more intelligent just by listening along. If you asked me to watch an hour long documentary about the survival of the land tortoises in the Galapagos Islands for example, I’d probably give you a polite excuse and switch it over to Grey’s Anatomy. But turn it into a Radiolab podcast? I not only learnt nearly everything there is to know about these tortoises, but was hanging on every word.
The way each podcast is put together is exceptionally creative and engaging, and it kind of feels like some of your friends are just telling you really interesting stories about a ridiculously wide variety of topics. New ones only come out every couple of weeks or so, but the good news is that if you’re a newcomer to the show, there’s a huge backlog you can catch up on.
You can thank me later – just hurry up and have a listen.
Another NPR podcast is Invisibilia. Thankfully, Radiolab featured a preview of Invisibilia one week and I was delighted to discover yet another ridiculously interesting show. This podcast, “explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions”.
I fell in love from the very first episode, titled The Secret History of Thoughts; it had me intrigued, gobsmacked, a little freaked out, sad, overjoyed and plain ol’ happy throughout the duration of just this one episode. I even had a little teary.
The topics they discuss are a real eye opener, as they relate directly to how our own minds and bodies function, and I’ve had so many ‘wow’ moments I’ve lost count.
Oh, and if you happened to spot me dancing down the street at around 7am this morning whilst walking my dog, you can bet your bottom dollar Invisibilia was responsible for that little outburst. (Listen to How to Become Batman and you’ll understand.)
There are only six episodes, but fingers crossed they’ll be coming back for round two.
And on my ‘to listen’ list?
I’ve subscribed to a few other podcasts to prevent myself from being halfway through a six hour drive and running out of material to listen to. They include Ted Talks: Ideas Worth Spreading (because if you’ve ever listened to a Ted Talk, you know you can never get enough of them) and True Murder: The Most Shocking Killers in True Crime History and the Authors That Have Written About Them (because after Serial, I couldn’t get enough of true crime stories on my radio). All of the podcasts mentioned in this posts are available on iTunes (for free!).
I am also fully aware that the podcasts I’ve mentioned are in the top of the charts – I’d be completely surprised if they weren’t! But podcasts just don’t seem to be something a lot of people I know listen to, so hopefully this is new information for some.
And yes, I also realise audio books are a thing! Don’t get me wrong, I love a good audio book – especially for a loooong drive – but I was finding I’d only have a few on hand and if I didn’t enjoy the story or the narrator wasn’t to my liking (no matter how good the book is, if you the narrator bugs you, it’s so hard to listen to!), I’d run out of options really quickly.
In comparison, podcasts are plentiful; if you don’t dig the topic, you can just flick to the next one (or ten), and you don’t have to dedicate a few days just to get some kind of closure on a story. I usually go through one a day, and for someone with a short attention span, that suits me perfectly.
If you jump onto this podcast bandwagon with me, or area already a long time listener, I’d love to hear what you think – and please share any discoveries of your own in the comments!
And next time we’re at a dinner party together and I start discussing the origins of AIDS, whether dolphins can speak English or the 60 words that legalised the ‘War on Terror’ – you’ll know I’ve been listening very carefully.