The Sunday Salon: Podcasts

I am a book woman to my very core—bury me with my copy of The Lord of the Rings!—but no one, as they say, can live on bread alone. I think it’s important to step out of your expertise and expand your mind from time to time, so I try my best to do so. When I’m not listening to audio books or discreetly learning all I can about classic rock (I’m at the beginning of Queen’s Jazz at the moment), I’m listening to podcasts, and I thought I’d recommend five of my favorites that have nothing to do with books today.

The Nerdist

Okay, yes, technically The Nerdist does occasionally have something to do with books when they interview authors like Neil Gaiman, but hush your face. The Nerdist finds comedian and television personality Chris Hardwick using his stunning Rolodex to pull interviews with people from Matt Smith to Tina Fey to Neil DeGrasse Tyson—you know, people nerds like. Hardwick, along with friends Jonah Ray and Matt Mira, is funny, quick, and engaging to listen to; in fact, the Nerdist has recently started doing podcasts that’s just the three of them. Their output is, frankly, incredible, and the stuff they cover is really interesting: Hardwick, as a comedian, will talk craft with people, and I was delighted to find that the second Greg Proops podcast is composed of at least thirty minutes of discussing European history. And I still find myself singing a line or two from the Back to the Future musical, as seen in the opening of the Donald Glover episode. Fair warning: there’s a lot of cursing and occasional vulgar humor. Steer clear of the John Barrowman episodes if that is not your cuppa.

Down in Front

I’d heard of Down in Front before this summer, but I started really listening while I was realizing that I had never seen anything ever over this summer and strove to correct it. The gentlemen of Down in Front all work in the film industry and appreciate the form, making both their commentary podcasts (which you can sync up with a film or listen to on your own) and their shorter “intermission” podcasts fascinating and engaging. I mean, even their Twilight podcast takes the film apart respectfully and asks how the film could be made better. It’s a really hands-on approach to thinking about film, which I appreciate. Plus, they’re super awesome: when I posted on their forums asking for a recommendation list, the community turned out in style. I feel bad that I can’t make it to the forums that much, but they know I love ’em. Fair warning: they curse too. 

Ask E! Anything

I’ve been listening to Ask E! Anything from day one, when it was called Answer Bitch. A few years on and another name later, the format (and kickin’ theme song) remains the same: Leslie Gornstein, with the help of a rotating cast of sidekicks, answers your questions about how anything works, but especially Hollywood. Gornstein is witty and cutting, her sidekicks are great (and she nicknames them well: Baby Vegas, anyone?), and the answers are well-researched and honestly interesting. She’s also one of us, being a Battlestar Galactica fan and a Lord of the Rings fan.

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

I think my brother stumbled onto this when he lived in Seattle briefly, and then passed it on to the rest of the family. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! is a news quiz show—you know how the Brits love their quiz shows? (You should. Big Fat Quiz of the Year is the best; I just have to say “MR. BLOBBY” to my roommate and she cracks up.) Well, this is the closest thing we Americans have got. (I’d say Yankees, but I’m from the South.) Three journalists and/or comedians (favorites include Paula Poundstone and Mo Rocca, beloved since my I Love the 80s days) join host Peter Sagal and announcer Carl Kasell to examine the past week’s news, with a few call-in games and a celebrity guest. If you like NPR’s style, you’ll like this; it’s a lot of fun.


I took a yoga class as my second physical education credit. I didn’t care for it; when I work out, I want to work out, not meditate (I’m an overthinker, I have to distract myself into being calm). Also, the fact that I am physically incapable of downward facing dog didn’t further endear the class to me. But Chaz, the yoga instructor who produces this video podcast, is very much my style—fifteen to thirty minute lessons that often include him reminding you that if your heels don’t touch the floor, well, your heels just don’t touch the floor. I still focus much more on cardio and weight lifting, but when I’m sick or otherwise down for the count, this is really nice to have. Plus, it’s free and all you need is some floor space and your computer.

This week has been… well, busy as usual. I did go on a picnic in a cemetery (and whisper “DON’T BLINK” into people’s ears, since I’m a bad person) and went to my very first Pride yesterday with my friend Chad. It was a lot of fun, and it’s really amazing how much of a relief it is to be around your people. I managed to finish Ha’penny this week, and Jo Walton continues to be a genius.

The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

What are your favorite non-bookish podcasts?

2 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Podcasts

  1. I love podcasts! I use them to get through workouts–the time goes much faster if I have something interesting to listen to. I’m a huge fan of Wait! Wait! and have embarrassed myself at the gym by laughing right out loud at it. I also really love Radiolab, This American Life, and Pop Culture Happy Hour. (Why yes I am an NPR geek.)

    I love the idea of the yoga podcast. I have a hard time getting enough stretching into my exercise routine, and I could use that!

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