I May Be Married to Books, But Podcasts Are My MistressRachael Berkey

I’m a nerd in so many ways, but my prime-identifying characteristic is probably my bookishness. I have to admit though, I’ve been cheating on my books of late. My current paramour is the podcast.

I live in a place where I am required to commute underground if I want to reach an office environment that will pay me. For a long time, this meant that I had two hours a day, at minimum, to bury my nose in a book and ignore the people in my vicinity. There is a distinct air of lemur-ness to this situation; everyone else on the train completely ignores their surroundings too, and if they don’t, they are edged away from and treated like a leper.

No seriously, it is only appropriate to talk to other people on the subway if you see something is horribly awry with their outfit, hair, or attaché-like belonging, or if you know them and converse with them regularly.

Anyways, for the last few months, I have decidedly not been burying my nose in a book. I have been plugged into my phone, soaking up podcast after podcast. I’m not just hooked on one set of silver-pipes though. I’m currently subscribed to (and pretty obsessed with) ten podcasts.

I know, I know. You hear “podcast” and you think, “Jesus, I am not listening to talk radio in my free time. Boring!” But podcasts are not talk radio. Podcasts are this wondrous melting pot of comedy, song, stories and learning all rolled into one. The podcasts I listen to are primarily based in comedy but they vary.

For instance, the first podcast I actually subscribed to that wasn’t musically based was the Nerdist Podcast, a comedy podcast that is a mix of nerdery, interviews, and what you may think of as comedy. The lovely thing about it is that I have been introduced to a bunch of other comedians as a result. I became completely addicted to Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy podcast next. Tyler fulfills all my wishes for a best friend – even if I’ve never met her. She talks fast; she’s whip smart; she’s a total nerd; and she seems to love intelligence and to learn. Also? She drinks and swears and asks smart questions, and it’s great.

After these two more “traditionally” comedic podcasts, I branched out. I started listening to the Thrilling Adventure Hour: think the fictional parts of This American Life for nerds in the style of old-time radio. There are Martians, and ghost hunters, and space ships, and whether you’re a science fiction, gothic or western fan, there’s something for everyone. No really, I’m kind of obsessed, and you should give it a listen.

Then I backtracked in my writing geekery and started listening to the Nerdist Writer’s Podcast which is all about the business of entertainment writing as told by the people who do it every day. And it’s funny. And I feel like I’m learning something every time I download it.

It’s all a vicious cycle. Nerdist Podcast led to Girl on Guy. Then Thrilling Adventure Hour led to the Nerdist Writer’s Podcast which led to Wired’s Storyboard podcast. If you at all read and like Wired magazine, you will like Storyboard. There are all kinds of fun topics that are microscopic but color a larger world. Seriously, give it a listen.

Continuing in the education and comedy vein, I gave Sex Nerd Sandra, Making It with Riki Lindhome, and Mike & Tom Eat Snacks. They are, understandably, very different but equally interesting. Give them all a try.

On a fairly regular basis, I run out of new episodes to listen to, and I do return to my bookishness. I’m currently reading my way through Summerland and Rebecca again – all in bed or when I know I have a solid hour of sitting still on the subway with no transfers. But I just downloaded three updates to my podcast list today. They are strictly for my walking around time and my commute. I’m working on getting some balance between mistresses (misters?) so that my books and my podcasts don’t feel neglected, and I feel fulfilled.

Books may be my first love. Podcasts may be my new-ish love. But I will find a way to make them work together whether they like it or not.

Image via Shutterstock

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  1. Oh! Combine podcasts and books? I’ve got that covered. I started my podcast-listening days with an episode of MuggleCast, a Harry Potter podcast. After that I went 5 years back in time and had to listen to -every episode- and it was fabulous. From roughly the same group of people there’s Imprint, a Twilight podcast, and Hunger Games Chat, a The Hunger Games podcast.
    What they have also done for about 2 years is Smart Mouths, a political and entertainment podcast. On that I got to meet the people I already knew and loved on a much more personal basis with hilarious stories and opinions, as they didn’t have to censor themselves because of a certain audience podcasts like MuggleCast had.

  2. You may also want to try Riki Lindhome’s “Making It” – it’s also on The Nerdist channel, but it’s her talking to various people in “the biz,” mostly actors, about their stories. She’s really entertaining and very down-to-earth. Plus, she’s half of Garfunkle & Oates!

    An entertaining newsy show is NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” in quiz-show format.

  3. Who Charted is also a great podcast. Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack are just gold together…

  4. Gasp finally someone with some of the same appreciation I have for podcasts! However, I listen to a lot of news-style podcasts (a lot of BBC, some sports), mainly to be exposed to the world out there. For example, have you heard about the rape atrocities soldiers and rebels are inflicting on women AND men in the civil war in the Dem Rep of Congo? Other than rather depressing stuff like this, I occasionally have to stop myself from laughing to myself on the bus/train at things I hear on podcasts.

  5. Totally Laime! Also, You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes. But really I’ve never listened to a comedy podcast I didn’t like. People sometimes stare when I just start laughing while walking to class, but really they’re just missing out on the awesome.

    • that’s exactly how i felt when listening to Jenny Slate on You Made It Weird. i was at the airport, bent over laughing, vein in my forehead popping out. LOL.

  6. The JV Club with Janet Varney, over at Nerdist! That’s my JAM!!

  7. Yes! Podcasts are a commuter’s best friend! My favorite is probably Stuff You Missed in History Class. Other favorites: Radiolab, This American Life, Stuff You Should Know, Stuff Mom Never Told You, Freakanomics, Moth, and A Way With with Words. I learn so many interesting things from podcasts, and I’m not ashamed to admit that some episodes of Radiolab and This American Life have made me cry. They’re also a nice reminder that the art of verbal storytelling is not dead.

    • Ohhh I’ll have to try your list out. And seriously, if you like TAH, you should try Thrilling Adventure Hour. It’s fantabulous.