My mom listened to NPR constantly while I was growing up. Morning Edition packed my lunch and sent me out to wait for the bus. In the afternoons the brass fanfare of All Things Considered layered an uninvited counterpoint over my piano practice. And Terry Gross narrated every ride to soccer practice. As a kid I found it painfully boring, and couldn’t wait to get back to my own room to drown out the drone with Queensrÿche or Boyz II Men.
Now, of course, my feelings are quite the opposite. In my years as a stay-at-home-mother with young children, I craved adult voices discussing adult topics, and saw with new eyes my own mother’s NPR habit. Although NPR was definitely on rotation in my car, I had the added richness of newly available podcasts to choose from. I wasn’t limited to Terry Gross’s luminary-du-jour: I could choose from an endless array of personalities, topics, and styles. I enjoyed exploring the audio world and relished the freshness it added to my life full of diapers and cheerios and sippy cups.
Fast forward fifteen years and podcasts are everywhere. And so many of them are amazing, as the responses to any “Going on a road trip next week, what podcast should I download?” social media post will demonstrate. We at Literary Mama would like to share some of our podcast recommendations with you this month. Let us know what you think, and what you enjoy listening to!
Profiles Editor Kelsey Madges recommends The Perks of Being a Book Lover: “Amy Smalley and Carrie Vittitoe are friends and book lovers living in Louisville, KY. They say on their weekly podcast, The Perks of Being a Book Lover, that they think ‘reading people are the coolest people,’ and it shows. Smalley and Vittitoe have been in a book club together for years and have channeled their passion for all things bookish into this delightful podcast that feels like sitting down for a chat with good friends. They explore all aspects of reading, primarily the ways in which reading can be a social experience. While the conversations feel casual and flow easily, it’s also clear that the women do their research before each episode. The guest list has included authors, booksellers, librarians, teachers, book club leaders, and readers of all kinds. Smalley and Vittitoe cast their net widely and have featured folks with ties to the Louisville area as well as book folks living as far away as Prague. Now in its fifth season, The Perks of Being a Book Lover recently featured Caroline Stine, the general manager of The Blue Marble, one of the first children’s bookstores in the country where shoppers can visit a recreation of the great green room from Goodnight Moon. The fourth season included an interview with Literary Mama Senior Editor, Christina Consolino, discussing her debut novel, Rewrite the Stars. My list of books to read is already several lifetimes long, but I’m always adding to it after listening to the latest episode. Listen and subscribe to The Perks of Being a Book Lover wherever you find podcasts.”
Blog and Photo Editor Stephanie Buesinger suggests: “Make yourself a hot chocolate and curl up with the spine-tingling Lore podcast. Lore’s tagline cautions us ‘sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.’ Just remember you were warned before you dive into this riveting podcast series. Lore is the creation of writer, host, and producer Aaron Mahnke. With 178 episodes and counting, you will surely find something to haunt your dreams, or spark a writing idea. But it’s not all scary. Mahnke explores common themes, legends and mythologies across cultures and time periods. He weaves together tales of mythical creatures, hauntings, disappearances, and medical mysteries. Subjects range from the Loch Ness monster to the biblical golem, UFOs, and everything in between (and beyond). The popular series has spawned an Amazon series of the same name as well as a series of books. Mahnke’s voice is perfect for storytelling, and he doles out information in such a way to create a listening experience more like that of an audiobook, with pacing and suspense and a twist or final observation at the end. By the time you get to your destination, you’ll be thoroughly entertained. Just be sure to lock the door behind you.”
Senior Editor Andrea Lani shares: “I discovered the podcast Writer Mother Monster, hosted by Lara Ehrlich, a few months ago and have been eagerly devouring all of the past episodes, going back to October 2020. In each interview, Ehrlich delves deep into the challenges and advantages of writing while mothering. Her queries address both the practical–how to get the writing done with little people vying for attention–and the more amorphous–how writing changes with motherhood and vice versa. The discussion are always smart and insightful, and I come away from each one with a stack of books I want to read and inspiration to put pen to page. Living in a place where I don’t have a lot of literary community, I find Writer Mother Monster feeds a great hunger for intelligent conversation about books and writing and how they interrelate with my life as a mother.”
And I can let no discussion of podcasts go by without recommending my all-time favorite. Uncivil, hosted by Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika and Jack Hitt, is everything a podcast should be—surprising, engaging, mind-opening, and creatively produced. In short, it is imminently binge-able. Uncivil exhumes stories from the American Civil War that rarely, if ever, see the light of day in a classroom or on a movie screen. But that’s not all. Kumanyika and Hitt then follow those story-cords through history to reveal how the stories we tell, and those we don’t tell, shape American life to this day. Some tales told on the podcast are thrilling–like the daring Combahee River Raid or the ingenious women-led spy ring that infiltrated the home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Some are maddening–like the vast financial networks that were built on the backs of enslaved people. Some are frankly hilarious–like the counterfeit Confederate money trade. Whether thrilling, maddening, or hilarious, all illustrate the show’s tagline, “The past is never really past,” and give the listener much to ponder and explore further.