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The best new podcasts for the week of August 10, 2019: Room 20 and more

The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: Washing dishes, going for a run, coloring, and especially, driving. But there are so many podcasts these days that it’s simply impossible to keep up. There are new ones debuting all the time, and it’s hard to know whether they deserve a spot in your feed.

Every week, we highlight new and returning podcasts we couldn’t put down. Whether you’re looking for the latest and greatest or you’re just dipping your toe into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about an unidentified patient, songwriting, the secret lives of black women, and facts with Adam Conover.

News podcast

Room 20

Room 20 Podcast

Why should I listen? It’s a mystery with a smidge of memoir, mixed with meditations on what it means to be alive. 

How many episodes are there and how long are they? There are four episodes so far, between 21 and 27 minutes apiece.       

Describe it in one word: Compassionate. 

There’s an absolutely unforgettable episode of the podcast Invisibilia about a man who was unable to communicate for 13 years and what was going on in his mind all that time. 

In a San Diego nursing home, another man lay, supposedly in a vegetative state, for 15 years. No one at the facility knew his name, so they called him Sixty-Six Garage. Reporter Joanne Faryon quit her job to try and find out his identity. But in trying to find out his name, Faryon is also trying to learn who Sixty-Six Garage is now, whether he still has some consciousness when he smiles at her.  

Music podcast


SongWriter Podcast

Why should I listen? You like the writers and/or musicians involved.  

How many episodes are there and how long are they? It will be a 12-episode season. So far, none are more than half an hour.       

Describe it in one word: Lyrical. 

There’s not a week that goes by that some Ted Leo lyric isn’t running through my head. (“I’ll put it to you plain and bluntly: I’m worried for my tired country” is a constant refrain, as is “Everyone needs a Sunday someday” from his self-care anthem “La Costa Brava.”) 

In other words, I’ve been waiting for his episode of SongWriter to recommend the podcast. The concept is simple and genius: A story, from a writer like Roxanne Gay or Susan Orlean, and a song written in response, written by a musician, like Kodacrome’s Elissa LaCoque. Songs inspired by books are pretty common, but host Ben Arthur makes it a more formal process. By the way, Ted Leo penned a lovely song in response to a wrenching passage from Joyce Carol Oates’s short story “Deceit.” 

Culture podcast

The Secret Lives of Black Women

The Secret Lives of Black Women Podcast

Why should I listen? The secret is out.   

How many episodes are there and how long are they? Thus far, there are three episodes, each between 32 and 50 minutes.       

Describe it in one word: Celebratory. 

In case you needed more evidence that Instagram is a scourge, both Xosha Roquemore and Tarriona “Tank” Ball talk about how the social media site makes them feel bad about themselves. 

The two women discuss Instagram on different episodes of The Secret Lives of Black Women. The show is the creation of writers Charla Lauriston and Lauren Domino. The two friends invited Roquemore, Ball, and attorney Bärí A. Williams to talk about what it’s like to be the only black woman in the room, self-care, and self-image. At the end of each episode, they ask their guest, “What’s your secret?” 

Culture podcast

Factually! with Adam Conover  

Factually with Adam Conover Podcast

Why should I listen? As one guest says, fear outpaces data, but now the facts are in.   

How many episodes are there and how long are they? The 11 episodes often run over an hour.        

Describe it in one word: Informed. 

After two mass shootings last week, President Donald Trump said the United States needs to crack down on violent video games. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” he said. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.” People have been making similar claims since Columbine. 

In his new podcast Factually! with Adam Conover, the comedian speaks to experts about a range of controversial or misunderstood topics. Though the latest episode was actually recorded before the El Paso and Dayton shootings, it’s extremely prescient. Conover discusses the evidence of whether violence in video games carries over to the real world with Dr. Patrick M. Markey, who wrote the book on the subject. 

Not a new podcast

The world lost two poets in rapid succession this week: Toni Morrison and David Berman. You can listen to interviews with them from the New York Public Library and Kreative Kontrol and then, if you’re so inclined, write, write, write. 

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