With the exception of the news, I consume podcasts more than I consume any other media. I love the intimacy, the on-demandness, and the way podcasts point outward to the world. I love them as much as Matt Baume does, although I listen to different ones than he does.
They're the multitasker's dream form. Through podcasts I figure out what kinds of books and articles I should read, what kinds of music I should be paying more attention to, and all while I'm or trying to make lunch with a hangover, or run off a hangover at the gym, or walk to work (with a hangover).
Here I've collected a group of my favorite writerly podcasts. They're all funny, super smart, and I see them as vital to my continuing education as a writer.
• Lunchbox Podcast: Poet and Stranger Genius Nominee Ed Skoog and acclaimed novelist J. Robert Lennon present an hour-long, loose conversation about literature, the frustrations and joys of the writing life, world events, and what they ate for lunch that day. Skoog's calm wit and Lennon's neurotic stories make the very talky and casual show seem lively. Both writers teach writing—Lennon at Cornell and Skoog PCC—so students of the craft might be interested in swimming through heads of professors. Lunchbox is also one of my favorite places to snag off-beat but excellent book recommendations.
Start here: The latest episode, "What Does Goofy Taste Like?" begins with a sad-but-funny-and-also-self-deprecating story by Skoog, wherein he realizes that he, and not anyone else attending the model train show at the Portland Convention Center, is the trashiest person in the room.
• Start the Week with Andrew Marr: This BBC Radio 4 show is probably the smartest podcast in podcastland. Andrew Marr, a Cambridge man and polymath who served as a political editor for BBC News, hosts the show. He invites four guests (artists, scientists, politicians) to talk about a single theme, and someone always lays out some mind-blowing argument I've never heard before. The guests typically have slightly divergent political views, and so it's fun to hear them spar. The show is VERY BRITISH, so if you're into backhanded compliments and dry humor, then you'll love this thing.
Start here: The episode called "Evolution and Extinction" gave me so many thought stars.
• The New Yorker Fiction Podcast: The most fascinating thing about this podcast is learning about writers who other writers read. They pick their friends, teachers, mentors, family members—it really gives you a sense of how connected the literary world is, a sense of how literature works as a conversation among generations of writers. Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor for the New Yorker, asks contemporary authors to pick a story from the magazine's archives to read, the two have a brief conversation about why the author picked that particular story, and then the author reads it. Episodes typically run a little over half an hour, so the show is perfect for the commute.
Start here: Tobias Wolff reads Stephanie Vaughn's "Dog Heaven." Wolff has one of the best reading voices you will ever hear, plus a pretty solid mustache. Vaughn is the best short story writer nobody knows about.
• Poetry Off the Shelf: Yeah, like I wasn't going to put a poetry-only podcast on this list. Podcast veteran Curtis Fox produces this show, and he's one of those rare people who can talk about poetry without sounding at all pretentious. He chats with poets about what they're getting at in their poems, and he often shows how poems interact with and affect change in the real world.
Start here: "The Poet and the Riot" explores the connections between riots and poetry. Some of these episodes are quiet conversations with poets—not this one.
• Switched on Pop: There's nothing in the world I like more than music geeks geeking out about music. Every week I tune in and listen to musicologist Nate Sloan and musician Charlie Harding talk about how and why certain pop songs work. They run an academic but humorous analysis on songs by Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, and many more, and often make connections between riffs in pop music and those found in classical music. Sloan in particular sounds so charming and fun-loving you just wanna hang out with him all the time.
Start here: Beleibers should start with the show wherein Harding and Sloan present a solid existential analysis of Justin Bieber's recent hits. Wanna know why Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen" is so impossible to stop listening to? Then check out "The Dual Meaning of Fetty Wap's Trap Queen."
• Scriptnotes Podcast: If you're a novelist, a poet, an essayist, or a journalist, chances are you're probably writing a screenplay on the side. Wanna know how to navigate all the problems that emerge during the writing process? Wanna know the nuts and bolts of the business side of things? Then you need to hear John August talk with Craig Mazin on this funny and informative podcast. They're both mid-career writers with big hits, and they give it to you straight.
Start here: If you want a good example of their hyper-practical episodes, then listen to "Cutting Pages and Fixing Holes."
• And let us not forget Blabbermouth: The Stranger's beloved week-in-review podcast, which is hosted by the silken-voiced and silver-tongued Eli Sanders, often features local writers talkin' about what's going on in the world today. When I first started here, Eli even let me read a poem on it!
Start here: My esteemed colleague Angela Garbes has one of the greatest voices of all time. Here she is talking about her beautifully written article about the wonders of breast milk. But I'm sure you've already read it, right?