The best podcasts for your daily commute
By Isabelle Bennett, Features Editor
I think we all have one in our lives — that person who can’t get through a conversation without redirecting it toward their latest listening muse. Perhaps they’ve sent you a casual link or two, or maybe they’ve even been so bold as to suggest a specific episode. Groups clench and individuals flee when they walk into the room, fearing they’ll follow up with their friends (for the zillionth time) on whether or not they’ve indulged the invitation to “just give it a try”. There’s a name for those people: podcast pushers. A disclaimer: I’m one of them.
I haven’t always been this way. Sure, I had the app for it, but aside from being plunked into a junk folder every time I’d reorganize my phone, it went untouched. In fact, there was a time when I didn’t even know what a podcast was, beyond — of course — a pretty purple icon. I hopped on the bandwagon early enough to get a metaphorical window seat, though, and won’t be getting off in the foreseeable future. Why? The versatility of podcasts trumps all other kinds of media (I type begrudgingly into an article) and the variety of topics caters to every imaginable mood and human being. You’re a veggie-chopping mom of four who keeps her cool with cult tell-alls? There’s a podcast for that. You’re a gym buff who thrives off debates about what constitutes the perfect fantasy football league? I can’t relate, but there’s a podcast out there that can. You’re a business guru who needs a dose of the funnies during their lunch break just to stay awake? You do you, boo. My point is this: there’s a podcast out there for everyone, just waiting to be discovered. If you don’t know where to start on your quest, my personal favourites might make a good starting point:
Dr. Death is a long-form (binge-worthy) podcast by Wondery. It shares the (alarmingly) true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch: a charismatic American neurosurgeon with the world at his scalpel. He’s regarded as the go-to guy in Dallas to take away your pain and fix your achy breaky back. But it takes approximately 2 seconds for him to turn sketchy and start botching peoples surgeries, leaving listeners to grapple with the question: is he entirely incompetent, full of greed, or just plain irresponsible? After listening to the entire series (some parts twice) I still can’t decide. My advice: skip the intro and start at episode one. If you’re as squirmy at the sound of surgery as I am, I promise it gets less gory after the first episode. If you can’t get through the first episode, you’re probably not cut out for the medical field.
Contrary to Dr. Death, Swindled is constructed such that each episode is its own neatly-packed story, ready to digest on a singular, approximately 30 to 45 minute commute. Similar to Dr. Death, Swindled features true stories about white-collar criminals — the Posh Spice’s of world — who use their positions of power for evil rather than an excuse to flaunt the planet’s most polished bob haircut. Mayors, CEOs, televangelists and more: the people this podcast speaks of will make you discerning and skeptical in a way we all ought to be. My advice: for the love of all that’s good, don’t start at the beginning of this one, guys. To be honest, I haven’t even listened to the beginning of this one (yet), but I find that most independent producers take a while to find their rhythm and voice in the podcast world, so it’s best to start with a title that really interests you when you’re wanting to get a good taste of what it’s all about. This guy’s voice is a little monotonous, but the content makes it worth it.
In case my podcast genre preference wasn’t painfully obvious, I’m a sucker for true crime. Serial features yet another investigative journalism expedition from the creators of This American Life. It’s infamous in the world of true crime because it’s won a million awards and a bunch of people actually know what this one is, and for good reason. Season one (the one I’d recommend) tells the story of Hae Min Lee, a high-school senior and murder victim in Baltimore, 1999. They think it’s the ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, although his innocence (or whether or not it’s been proved enough for him to actually be in jail) is highly debatable. In fact, my partner and I listened to this one together while on a road trip and came to different conclusions. I know, I know — some of you reading this might have glanced at the year and tossed this page into the nearest bush or the grand abyss of cyberspace after seeing that the story happened before you were born. But don’t dismiss it so quickly — this podcast has led to interesting developments in the fate of the accused. My advice: like Dr. Death, skip the intro and listen in order from episode one. I’ve said too much already.
I hope this gives you a starting place on your road to happy listening. Let me know what you think (and what your verdict is on whether Adnan is innocent or guilty) by leaving a reply below.