Five on a Friday: Podcasts for a Varied Life

I am addicted to podcasts. Much like the earlier 2000s were the golden age of blogging, it seems that today we are living in a golden age of audio. Podcasts crept into my life very unassumingly. I can’t even name the first one I ever listened to. But like the Netflix-induced binging of television series from start to finish, podcasts can have an equally beguiling effect.

While I may be a historian, writer, and educator by day, my interests and hobbies are very wide-ranging. I listen to podcasts to stay informed, to learn and grow, and to remain ever-curious about the world around me. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll stumble upon a gem that really brightens my day.

I typically find myself listening to podcasts in the car, but I’ll sometimes play them when I’m cooking dinner or cleaning the house. I’ve also slipped on my headphones and listened as I scan through roll after roll of microfilm in the archives. Over the summer, I spent a lot of time on the road traveling for research. I made sure to queue up a bunch of episodes to make the lonely drives more lively. I even finished catching up on several years worth of My Favorite Murder (shoutout to my fellow murderinos)! During term-time I spend a few days a week commuting up to an hour each way to a satellite campus for teaching. Podcasts and their hosts keep me company along the way.

All of this is to say that if you’re curious about adding a podcast into your listening lifestyle, there’s something out there for you! Here are five podcasts (and a few bonuses) that I am loving right now:

#amwriting (Writing)

The #amwriting podcast is a must for any aspiring or seasoned writers out there. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, short-form or long-form, there is something here that will make you say aha! Writers KJ Dell’Antonia, Jessica Lahey, and Sarina Bowen share their ups and downs, writing tips and tricks, frequent conversations with fellow authors, and book recommendations with listeners weekly — all with the reminder to “keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game.” If you’re looking to participate in NaNoWriMo, check out past episodes on how to prepare for accomplishing your upcoming writing goals!

Dolly Parton’s America (Culture/Music)

This is a new podcast that explores American culture through the lens of Dolly Parton’s life, career, and music. I just listened to the first episode “Sad Ass Songs” earlier this week and, man, there is some really great stuff on here! Host Jad Abumrad discusses various cultural topics related to Parton, all interspersed with conversations with the powerhouse herself, other journalists and historians, and, of course, Parton’s songs. I can’t wait to see how this nine-part series progresses.

Slow Burn (History/Political Science)

I put Slate’s Slow Burn on my “to be played” list ages ago, but it’s focus seems especially relevant in our current political climate. Season One chronicles the Watergate scandal and the impending impeachment of President Richard Nixon, while Season Two examines the Clinton administration, Monica Lewinsky, and President Bill Clinton’s subsequent impeachment. I’m getting further into Season One right now and discovering a lot I didn’t know about Nixon and the political scene of the 1970s. Season Three was just announced for this fall and will focus on the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

Cape Fear Unearthed (History/Folklore/Culture)

This podcast is produced locally in Wilmington, NC by StarNews Media and hosted by journalist Hunter Ingram. What I love about it is Ingram’s enthusiasm for learning more about the history, legends, and lore of southeast North Carolina. Many of the stories that are recounted here are ones that got me hooked on history to begin with. After sharing a brief narrative at the beginning of the episode, a local expert joins the host for a discussion of the story in hopes of uncovering the truth.

On the Ledge (Home/Lifestyle)

If you know me, you probably know that I’m a plant geek. I’ve been obsessed with plants for most of my life. How I didn’t end up a botanist, I’ll never know (but maybe it was a hot summer working in a landscaping nursery). On the Ledge is a charming little podcast from UK plant expert Jane Perrone all about houseplants! I have been increasing my houseplant collection over the past few months and the host does a wonderful job of walking listeners through common problems, questions, and concerns about plant care while encouraging us to be adventurous.

Honorable Mention: Communal Table (Food & Wine/Lifestyle)

Communal Table brings chefs, cooks, and food writers from around the globe to the table to discuss their careers, food itself, and balancing life. I first found Communal Table when I binged virtually any interview I could get my hands on with Samin Nosrat of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame. Host Kat Kinsman’s conversation with Samin is honest and open about her struggles with depression, going to therapy, and being a creative. I love how it opens up new ways to think about how we relate with one another.

Upcoming Bonus: Following Harriet (History)

Following Harriet is a new podcast chronicling one of American History’s bravest heroes — Harriet Tubman. There’s been some recent buzz about Tubman due to the upcoming Focus Features film (due out in November), so this podcast is a timely one. Historians and educators join together to examine the life of this complex 19th-century woman and the lives of African Americans in Virginia. Catch new episodes beginning October 22!


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