Charlie gave me an iPod for my birthday six years ago and I cried when I opened it. “I don’t have time for this! Why would you think I would ever be able to listen to something on headphones when I’m home taking care of little kids?” I rolled my eyes, crossed my arms, and frowned. In a rather ungrateful move I tried to give it back to him.
Not my finest moment.
He made me keep it and, begrudgingly, I downloaded a podcast for the first time. The baby was sleeping and I was sitting at my desk stuffing a jointed horse. Stuffing and closing openings is a pretty tedious task and usually I’d get sick of it and walk away after ten minutes. With the podcast on I worked for a full 45 minutes and by the time I got up, the horse was done.
Listening to podcasts has become hugely important to my daily productivity. I’ll happily wash a sink full of dishes, fold and put away piles of laundry, or run three miles if someone is telling a compelling story to me through my headphones. I work in the studio longer, too. Listening to great audio builds my stamina so that instead of coming downstairs for a snack after a half hour I will cut and pin, sew and press, stuff and embroider for hours without tiring.
Podcasting is still in its youth and there are new shows popping up all the time. Finding out about them is kind of a random experience – a tweet, a mention in a newspaper article, a link that leads to another link. And they’re not all great.
I’m a habitual trier of podcasts. I wrote a post a few months ago with my top 20 shows. Check it out if you haven’t already, and be sure to read the comments for more great recommendations.
Here are 10 more terrific podcasts to listen to while you’re crafting. Three cheers for great audio!
1. Answer Me This - Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann are two very witty, intelligent people who record this long-running show in a living room in the London suburb of Crystal Palace. Listeners submit questions ranging from how to manage an awkward relationship to etymology. The pacing is perfect, the banter uplifting, and the accents are fantastic. Always a fun half hour.
2. Short Cuts from BBC Radio 4 - Wonderful short documentaries of all kinds. Host Josie Long is witty and empathetic. There's some Radio Lab-style sound art mixed in with totally engaging true stories told by real people. Sadly, I've already listened to them all. Please make more, okay?
3. 360 Documentaries - One of the best things about the internet is that I can listen to Australian radio shows while I jog around Wellesley, Massachusetts. Again documentaries, but this show mixes things together around a theme, like cookbooks. The theme pulls thing along, but all kinds of bits and pieces of stories come together to make the final whole. Fascinating.
4. State of the Re:Union - I love this show. The episodes are close to an hour and each one focuses on a particular American town or city, exploring how the people who live there create community and overcome challenges. I spent two years living in the Mississippi Delta, one of the most isolated parts of America, after living in suburban and urban Maryland my whole life. That experience left me with many things, but one of them is a fascination with what makes a region unique. Host Al Letson entered, and won, the Public Radio Talent Quest with the concept for this show. High five, public radio!
5. Snap Judgement - Glynn Washington also won the Public Radio Talent Quest (and I'll note that both of these winning hosts are African American, fairly unusual for public radio). Glynn is a wonderful storyteller in his own right, and hilarious to boot (I love how he does the credits). Again, documentaries. The story Cat Got Your Tongue in episode 412 is one of the best audio stories I've ever heard.
6. Fiber Hooligans - I don't knit. Or crochet. No yarn, unless I'm making a pompom. But I'm a designer and I love to hear from other designers. How did they get their first magazine project? How do they come up with new patterns? What goes on at those yarn conferences and trade shows? This show is hosted by Benjamin Levisay, the CEO of XRX Inc., home of Knitter's Magazine and XRX Books, and the Stitches expos. Each episode he interviews a rock star in the fiber arts world. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Franklin Habit. Next up? Susan B. Anderson, knitted toy designer. Excellent.
7. The Memory Palace - Public radio producer Nate DiMeo tells an unusual story from American history in just five minutes. Touching, eye-opening, sometimes amazing. Like little gems. The Memory Palace is now part of the Maximum Fun network of podcasts, the empire of my radio hero, Jesse Thorn. Some day I'll meet that guy.
8. PRX Remix - Okay, this one isn't a podcast. It's a radio channel. You download the app for free and then listen to a never ending curated mix of amazing shows. This is the best work from hundreds of indie radio producers from Public Radio International and beyond. Current curator is Roman Mars of 99% Invisible so you know it's gonna be great.
9. The Good Life Project - A blog reader just turned me on to this show last week and I'm working my way through. This show is a web TV show, but the audio is also a podcast feed. Guess what? You can watch and listen to host Jonathan Fields chat with Jonah Berger talk about Contagious, and Lisa Condgon, and Seth Godin, and Chris Guillebeau who wrote The $100 Start Up. I know. AMAZING.
10. American Patchwork and Quilting Radio - I'm not a quilter, but as I said in #6 I'm a designer and I like to hear designers tell their stories. This show is hosted by well-known surface designer and quilter, Pat Sloan, and she talks with all the rising stars and big names in the industry. Annabel Wrigley, Jeni Baker, Alexia Abegg, Amy and David Butler, Tula Pink, Riley Blake, Denyse Schmidt, Valori Wells... you get the picture. If you're curious about these people here's your chance to hear their stories in their own voices.
Go get a project and settle in for some excellent audio. And again, please leave your show recommendations in the comments.
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