I often feel that there are not enough hours in the day to read everything I want to read: newspapers and magazines, the novel that my friend told me a month ago that I “must read”, that article my brother emailed me from the Atlantic, emails, twitter, Facebook, submissions to BA50.
Lately, there also doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to listen to what I want and need to hear. There is a mounting pressure to grab my headphones and sit back and listen in so I can be properly informed, and get a grip (albeit a loose grip) on popular culture.
In the old days (say, more than 3 years ago) the only thing I listened to beyond the television (and my mother) were audio books. Audio books were, and still are, the best book club cheat around, and for the years when time was at a real premium, I would happily get my reading done as I drove to work or as I waited for my kids to get out of school, ballet or soccer practice.
But in the last few years, it has been Podcasts that have beat out audiobooks for ear time.
Podcasts are usually short (up to an hour) radio-type shows, usually with multiple episodes, that you download and listen to at your convenience– when you are driving, exercising, vacuuming, folding laundry, cooking dinner, or sitting on the toilet (TMI?)
There are Podcasts meant to inform, to keep you up to date on the news, to comment on popular culture, to pull at your heartstrings. There is literally something for everyone. If you don’t listen to podcasts yet and want to, it’s free and unbelievably easy. Check it out here.
I listen to a few podcasts on a regular basis, including The Daily (a relatively new and very short (15-20 minute) daily radio report from the NY Times,) Modern Love (which features the popular NY Times column, hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti and read by celebrity actors,) and This American Life (usually the most popular podcast in the country, a weekly hour-long radio program produced by WBEZ and hosted by Ira Glass.)
But the one Podcast that I am pretty sure everyone is going to be talking about soon is a piece of investigative journalism called S-Town, which was just released at the end of March, and is hosted by Brian Reed. It was created by the producers of Serial and This American Life, so I had high hopes. It did not disappoint.
S-Town is as compelling as Serial, but more emotional, so I like it even better. S-Town is short for “Shit town” which is how the protagonist, John B., a progressive, manic/depressive, describes his little town in rural Alabama. The town is filled with unemployed, racist, homophobic, drug and alcohol addicted low-lifes. Like Serial, S-Town also starts off talking about a murder, but within the first two episodes, you realize that the Podcast is not about the murder; it’s about being gay in rural Alabama, about untreated mental illness, genius, generosity, and real people with real problems in real communities in our time.
It is a non-fiction, highly emotional story that unfolds in seven episodes. And I could not stop thinking of Hillbilly Elegy, as I listened.
I’m not about to give this away…you need to listen for yourself. Note that there is a plot twist at the end of the second episode that you don’t want anyone to ruin for you.
The best review I read about the series review which tells way too much, so watch for the spoiler alerts at the end.
Luckily, all seven chapters of this podcast are available at once, eliminating the torture of waiting to download the next episode. You can download all the episodes of S-town here.
Grab your headphones, get your clothes out of the dryer, and start listening…you won’t regret it.
And readers, I’d love to hear from you! What podcasts have you loved?