1. Aria Code
This is a fairly new podcast from the Metropolitan Opera, that I love. For musicians or other lovers of classical music, this one is a must—it features incredible performances of some of opera’s most compelling arias. But even if you aren’t a fan of opera or classical music (and you might change your mind about that if you start listening to this podcast), this podcast is worth listening to for its thoughtful exploration of character. For people interested in writing or theater, this podcast offers in depth analysis and discussion of some of opera’s most poignant scenes and fascinating characters. The host, Rhiannon Giddens, discusses how composers express a character’s complex emotions using music, drawing on that character’s place in literature. The guest musicians on the show impart their understandings of the role the characters play in the opera and how their own experiences inform their interpretations and performances of that character. What’s more, every episode is entertaining and beautifully produced as well as informative.
I got a subscription to Podcastle after I started writing more fantasy short stories. I think that writers should be readers, but it’s hard to always find the time or the energy to read after a long day of work and babies. But I’ve found that scifi/fantasy podcasts can really fill the gap. I like to listen to them during my commute, which is nice because the stories are well timed for my drive. Not every story is a hit for me, but the ones that are, including "Opals and Clay" by Nino Cipri, "Hands of Burnished Bronze" by Rebecca Schwartz, and "Beat Softly My Wings of Steel" by Beth Cato, have knocked it out of the park. These are great stories--the worlds and characters the writers create are unique and original, yet so real it feels you could visit them in real life. The narrators are expressive without overwhelming the text. I'd recommend Podcastle to anyone who enjoys fantasy or listening to stories--it's perfect for a daily commute.
My friend Sarah Mensinga recommended this podcast to me when I was looking for something new to listen too, and once I started listening I was completely hooked. The History Chicks quickly became one of my favorite podcasts. Basically, it’s two women, Beckett and Susan, who discuss important women in history in a fun, conversational, but highly informative way. If you’re interested history, this show is well-researched and thoughtful, and I think they do a great job of understanding the women’s perspectives and the time periods that they lived in. Also, if you’re interested in writing, they even cover several famous female authors, including Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery.
4. Escape Pod
I got a subscription to Escape Pod for the same reasons I started listening to Podcastle, at the same time. Of course, Escape Pod and Podcastle are own by the same company, but while Podcastle is dedicated to fantasy, Escape Pod is for science fiction (Pseudopod is their horror podcast, which I also like, but I'm afraid it might be too scary for me:). Escape Pod was the first podcast I ever listened to--I decided to give it a try since I hadn't picked a new book on Audible yet. I haven't heard as many Escape Pod stories as I have Podcastle stories, but the ones I have listened to are very good. I especially loved "Among the Living," by John Markley, a haunting tale about a futuristic firefighter in the aftermath of a terrible disaster, beautiful and heart-rending. It's well worth checking out for fans of scifi.
I know this show might be controversial because it’s political, but I honestly think that Tommy Vietor and his guests do an excellent job of breaking down extremely complex foreign policy issues and explaining them in an understandable way. If you ever wonder why Vladmir Putin is so determined to undermine the United States or what Kim Jung Un is looking for in his negotiations with us, I’d highly recommend this show. Vietor is passionate, thoughtful, and well-informed, and he has some pretty incredible guests. What’s more, for a show that discusses such dire issues, it always comes across as surprisingly hopeful.