Podcasts: Please Help

It’s no secret that I read (and pilfer) books religiously, but it’s less well known how many podcasts I also put into my brain. They’ll never replace the joy of reading a book for me, but they’re handy for passing the time while I’m doing such mundanities as driving, doing the grocery shopping, cooking, running, or waiting for or riding on the train.

I’ve not ever tried audiobooks, which I realise sounds entirely crazy—they’re books combined with podcasts, which seems like a match made in heaven for me. Though I think they’re a fabulous idea, I’ve for some reason not yet entered that world. It might be because although I enjoy listening to podcasts, they’ll never beat actually reading for me—I regularly tune out and get frustrated not being able to accurately, easily rewind my iPod to the precise point I need.

It might also be because I know that once I go down that rabbit hole, I’ll never return. I need podcasts that are finite in length and easily stoppable—an audiobook version of ‘just one more chapter’ could be the death of me and my ability to meet deadlines and earn money. Some of my favourites include:

Conversations with Richard Fidler

I first discovered Richard Fidler not via ABC TV show Race Around The World, of which he was the affable, disarming, compassionate, clever host. He’s brought those same skills to Conversations with Richard Fidler, a one-hour daily show in which he interviews people famous and very often not famous about their lives. It’s perhaps based on the premise that ‘everyone has a story’, but Fidler’s ability to tease out the most compelling, occasionally tear-jerking, tales is something else. I absolutely devour this show.

This American Life

If you don’t want to both clone Ira Glass and climb inside his brain before the end of listening to your first This American Life podcast, you’d best check whether you still have a pulse. The American version of Fidler, he’s turned radio and storytelling on its head. Oh, and he’s incredibly humble and witty and very happy to both share his wisdom and refreshingly, inspiringly show that he’s anything but a prodigy—it took him longer than we ever realise for him to get good at his job. It’s no surprise that he and Fidler are friends.

The Nerdist Writers’ Panel

I stumbled across this panel recently via the original but less-good The Nerdist. The Nerdist Writers’ Panel is, as the name suggests, an industry podcast where Ben Blacker interviews writers about their craft. It’s most often screenwriters as they’re based in LA, including some heavy hitters such as Jane Espenson, who is both incredibly talented and incredibly warm. She’s written for a bunch of shows you might have heard of, including Buffy, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Once Upon A Time, and Firefly.

The Nerdist is also worth a look too, but I have to issue a disclaimer—there’s a lot more riffing by the hosts and there are often three of them instead of one. Sometimes I think they need to streamline it or at least get a little more out of the way. That said, I have found some episodes of gold. It’s worth checking out if you’re prepared to weather the occasional miss.

Planet Money

In the same vein of (and recommended by) Ira Glass, Planet Money is the show that allows even fiscally blind and deaf people like me to understand how money works. Even better, they do it in a way that actually makes it interesting. Particularly worth checking out is their episode collaboration with This American Life called the ‘Giant Pool of Money’, which explains the Global Financial Crisis and just how things came to be as bad as they are.

Stuff and Things

A new podcast by Brisbane-based creatives Carley Commens and David Burton, Stuff and Things is the Australian version of The Nerdist (but better). They’ve had a bunch of writers, actors, directors, publishers, dancers (you get the point—industry professionals) on to discuss their craft and their careers. Fascinating listening and wickedly funny too. I come away from this podcast impressed at the creative industries’ get-up-and-go and inspired to do a bit more getting-up-and-going myself.

That list makes it sound like a lot of podcasts, but I have to admit I quickly run out of fresh episodes and am perpetually on the hunt for more. I used to listen to ABC Radio National podcasts The Book Show and Life Matters, the former despite the fact that I absolutely loathed and despised Ramona Koval and the latter because I loved Richard Aedy and the topics he covered.

Koval is now thankfully gone, but so too is The Book Show, replaced by Books and Arts Daily, which is undeniably its poor, not-yet-found-its-feet-and-maybe-never-will cousin. It tries to do too much too generally and doesn’t do enough books. The show is, really, just really boring.

Aedy’s moved on from Life Matters, which is a devastating loss. Radio National’s kept the name, but tried to rejig it—as with Books and Arts Daily, I’m sorry to say it’s a bit dud. Both shows have completely lost me as a listener.

Which means I’m book and interesting non-fiction podcast-less and desperate to find one. Anyone got any recommendations for me (preferably free)?

Published by

Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.