In 7th grade, one of the electives that my middle school had available was something like “digital communications.” I can’t remember the exact name, but what I do remember about the class was that we were required to record and upload a podcast to iTunes as one of the projects. This was my first introduction to podcasts, and I don’t remember being interested at all. Fast forward (..let me do the math here…) ten years, and I can’t get enough of them.
I was previously a firm proponent of audiobooks > everything. Starting in college though, I started hearing more and more people talking about podcasts. “Boring!” I thought, remembering that I remembered nothing about podcasts from my 7th grade class. But people are persistent. “You’ve got to listen to THIS podcast,” I would hear again and again. “What podcasts have you been listening to lately?” someone would ask me as I pretended to care deeply when I answered “I haven’t gotten into podcasts lately, which ones would you recommend?” (Apologies to everyone who tried to talk to me about podcasts prior to fall 2016.)
This year, it’s my turn to share with everyone what podcasts I’ve been listening to. It’s okay if you don’t listen to podcasts. Just know that eventually you will cave once you find one that you like listening to! To help you get started on that journey, here’s my list of five podcasts that I could listen to all day:
Sweet & Sour
This podcast goes into a lot of topics around race, particularly Asian American, that helped me grapple with my own encounters with racism as well as my family and loved ones. It also made me think more critically about things that I have taken for granted and also touches on a lot of topics that I never really thought about but have a profound impact. For example, in one episode, the hosts discuss how Asian stereotypes focus around femininity (quiet/shy, small penises) and Black stereotypes focus on masculinity (angry, criminal, uncivilized). This results in Asian men being feminized and Black women viewed as masculine, two demographics which have the hardest time with online dating. All in all, I would highly recommend this podcast to anyone looking to understand or participate in more conversations about race.
This is a really funny podcast hosted by three close friends who live in NYC and interview interesting people (the episode I link to is one where they interview a butcher). Sometimes they take reader’s questions as well and give advice. They cover a lot of topics from relationships (friends, family, lovers!) to work and food. As a warning to science buffs, they will say the occasional pseudo-scientific thing but I choose to ignore it.
Land of Desire
This podcast is written and produced by a UC alum living in SF and it is all about French history. I really like how she focuses on particular topics (The History of Picnics, The Dreyfus Affair, Bees in Paris) and really brings to life things that I thought were dull if I had just been reading an article or textbook. Even if you’re not a Francophile, give this episode a listen and see if you like the style of the podcast!
I’ve written a blog post on Krista Tippet before, but I wanted to include her podcast here again because I am totally in awe of her interviewing style and how she is able to get to the depths of what all these great thinkers and human beings are up to. Her conversations cover so many interesting, relevant, and thought-provoking topics such as religion, technology, civil rights, history, and philosophy. If you’re feeling a bit uninspired by life or feeling overwhelmed by day-to-day politics, I would definitely give this one a listen.
This American Life
I recently started listening to This American Life after a coworker was describing one of the episodes to me. The topics are a hit or miss, so I will usually just download ones that I am interested in. The host, Ira Glass, usually introduces different stories for the podcast and interviews the subjects to understand their stories. The episode I picked out is about Paris and features David Sedaris, whose writing I really like. His accounts of his life are really hilarious. There is also another woman featured who described how being black is different in America vs. France. Again, if you’re not too into the whole France thing, I’d recommend two other really good episodes: Essay B and One Last Thing Before I Go