The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: 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 two into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about French expectations, Muslims not talking about Islam, and unique love stories.
Why should I listen? As is often the case with idealized notions, reality is much more interesting.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? There are three half-hour episodes so far. New episodes are released every other Wednesday.
Describe it in one word: Elan.
In their book The Bonjour Effect, Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow argue that one reason some American tourists have a hard time traveling in France is they don’t know the magic word: bonjour. Every conversation, they say, should start with this magic word.
Americans often have a lot to say about France. As Bénédicte de Montlaur points out in The Thing about France, Americans both mock and revere the French. As the cultural counselor to the United States, de Montlaur helps facilitate exchanges between the two countries. For the podcast, she interviews Americans who have lived, worked, or studied France, including writer David Sedaris, musician Dee Dee Bridgewater, and novelist Claire Messud. Will hearing Sedaris proclaim there are rednecks in France change your perspective on the oft-romanticized country? C’est possible.
Why should I listen? They’re funny, quirky, sometimes cringe-worthy stories that just happen to be from Muslims.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? Euceph is releasing an episode for each weekday of Ramadan, each between about 15 and 20 minutes.
Describe it in one word: Daedal.
My high school English teacher would never let us use the word “society” in our essays, as in, “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein reflects society’s apprehension about science.” Society isn’t a monolith, he pointed out, and to get at what you really mean, you’d have to add too many qualifiers: century, region, class, gender, age. The list went on.
It’s applicable to other short-hand used to apply to large groups of people. When someone says “Muslims,” do they mean 27-year-old Muslims who grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, whose parents are from Iraq? Even then, you’ll find a group of people who lived different lives and don’t have blanket opinions on a myriad of subjects. In Tell Them, I Am, host Misha Euceph discusses formative experiences with Tan France, Ramy Youssef, Reza Aslan, Alia Shawkat, and other Muslims. By doing so, she gives them room to talk about more than headscarves, temperance, and terrorism. Paraphrasing a line from Maz Jobrani’s stand-up, Euceph says, “I want to show a Muslim baking a cookie.”
Why should I listen? You love well-produced podcasts that venture off the beaten path.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? Each season has six episodes, which are no more than half an hour.
Describe it in one word: Merritt-ian.
When it comes to true-crime podcasts, Criminal is the cream of the crop. Instead of focusing exclusively on murder, Criminal has stories about a truck-stop tiger, magicians, and Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Some episodes, like “Money Tree,” stick with you months after you listen to them.
Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, Criminal’s co-creators, went on to make This Is Love, which finds equally interesting, unique stories about love. For season three, they travel to Italy. The first episode focuses on a place called The Ugly Club in Piobbico. As its name would suggest, it celebrates the unattractive in a country known for beautiful things.
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