Tag Archives: Podcasts

Starting Some New Habits: Podcasts

As we mentioned last week, we here at the Free For All don’t believe there is a bad time to start a good habit.  And there is no habit better than learning and expanding your mind.


The Library offers a multitude of ways for you to learn and experience more, both ‘in house’, so to speak, as well as online.  Online platforms such as Hoopla, Overdrive, and apps like Libby offer you, our beloved patrons, ways to read, watch, listen and learn from our materials in the comfort of your own home, in the car, and while traveling far afield.

But there is a world full of knowledge, and we cannot hope to contain every single molecule of it.  So this year, we wanted to offer you some other ways to be educated and entertained for free.  We start today with podcasts.

Image result for old time radio

Podcasts function much like radio shows of the past.  Then tend to be serialized–some tell a continuous story across multiple episodes, while others feature the same format and/or cast, but change topic regularly, based on a theme.  They can be found on the internet, and listened to on the computer, or downloaded to an MP3 player to take with you on the go.  The word ‘podcast’ itself is a portmanteau word that combines ‘iPod’ (the device for which they were originally developed) and ‘broadcast’ (like the radio shows of yore).

Most podcasts are entirely free.  They succeed by monetizing–that is, selling ad space in their podcast, and usually offering listeners an incentive to check out their sponsors.  Anyone who is used to television commercials, YouTube or Netflix ads will be familiar with these ads, and, for the most part, they aren’t very obtrusive at all.

Anyone with internet access and some recording implement can make a podcast.  As a result, there is a very wide array of topics, themes, genres, and presenters from which to choose–a concept that is both exciting and a little intimidating for first time users.   So where to begin?  That’s where we, your friendly Public Service Library Staff come in.  We’re busy curating a list of podcasts that make us laugh, wonder, shiver, or inspire us to create, and we wanted to share those with you.  Below is our first selection of podcasts, along with links to access episodes.  Feel free to try them, and let us know what you think!


Just a note: these podcasts are not run by, or in any way affiliated with the Peabody Library–or any library.  You don’t need a library account to listen to them, either.  They are freely available to all listeners on the internet.  These selections are, however, ones that staff members of the Peabody Library greatly enjoy.  For those of you with an iTunes account or similar smart phone app, you can also search for these podcasts and download them that way.  If you would like help with this process, just let us know!

And, by the way, if you have any suggestions for podcasts that you enjoy, be sure to let us know!  We’re always looking for recommendations ourselves.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical:

This podcast features hour-long episodes featuring hosts Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino, pianist Scott Passarella, as well as drummer Dana Wickens , who are joined by a special guest for each epsiode, including such comedy and musical luminaries as Rachel Bloom and Paul F. Tompkins.  Together, they create a Broadway-style musical on the spot.  The results are delightfully wacky and startlingly clever.  Take, for example, the entire spoof on the Law and Order franchise, entitled ‘Law and Order: Restaurant Unit’!  Click the box below for more information about this podcast and to check out new episodes.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical

Welcome to Night Vale:

Perhaps one of the most well-known podcasts out there is this series, created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.  This twice-monthly podcast is presented in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.  This Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, but…weirder.   This franchise has bloomed into two full-length books, several scripts, and spin-off podcasts over the years.  So for listeners who want a fully-developed world to discover, look no further than the odd little town of Night Vale.  Click the box below to access episodes.

My Favorite Murder:

Anyone who was a fan of the NPR series Serial can attest to the allure of true crime stories, to the haunting nature of the unsolved, and the dark intrigue of exploring the darkest shades of history.  If such tales are for you, and especially if your humor runs to the black, then be sure to check out this podcast, hosted bystand-up comedian and television writer Karen Kilgariff and Cooking Channel writer and host Georgia Hardstark.  In each episode, each host selects a single murder, true crime story, or survivor story to recount and discuss, occasionally sharing additional “hometown murder” stories submitted by friends and fans.  Rather than dwelling on the gruesome or the visceral, both hosts strive to emphasize compassion for both the victims and perpetrators of the crimes they discuss, actively combatting the more problematic aspects of the true crime genre, such as misogyny, victimization, and dangerous stereotypes about sex workers and the mentally ill or struggling.  The result is a surprisingly funny, consistently interesting series that has been earning a wide and very, very loyal fan base.  Click the box below to find out more.

And stay tuned, beloved patrons, for more podcast selections from your favorite Public Service Staff members in the near future.  Happy Listening!

Saturdays @ the South: Fiction by any other name….


If a work of fiction has any force to it, we close the book with a head full of images, lines, and emotions.

The above quote is from an article on The Vulture (a version of which also appeared in New York Magazine) that got me thinking about plot and fiction. In it, the article’s author also mentions that while it’s prose that we most often remember, “it’s the plot that keeps us turning pages.” While the outline of the evolution of plot was interesting, and even though I’m not sure I agree with all of his “worst endings” sidebar, it got me thinking about plot and what keeps us reading.

orpheus-eurydice-300x258In my exultant ramblings about Forrest Leo’s The Gentleman a couple of weeks ago, I talked a lot about the humor, but little about the plot. In fact, the plot was a fairly common trope going back to ancient Greek mythology; it was a bit of a riff on the Orpheus story. Nothing remarkable there and yet for me the story was completely remarkable (clearly if I’m mentioning it here twice). So I suppose it’s perhaps not what the plot is, so much as what the author does with it.


And what some authors have been doing with plot is moving it off the page and into our ears. These podcasts are the modern version of the radio dramas that kept previous generations entertained for hours with installments that encouraged listeners to return time and again.  I’ve talked about bookish podcasts and audiobooks here on the blog before, but there are some fiction podcasts that will tell you a great story, leaving you with the lines, images and emotions of fiction that stays with you. As with any audiobook or podcast, you may need to keep in mind your surroundings as some will have an E for explicit content, but this is no different from other forms of artistic expression.

The Bright Sessions76827

This podcast sets itself up as the recordings of a psychotherapist, Dr. Bright, who specializes in what she calls “atypicals” patients who have unique powers that she helps them manage and control. As the podcasts develop, we learn more and more about why Dr. Bright entered into her specialty in the first place and the listener begins to understand that there are nefarious underpinnings that Dr. Bright is struggling against. This podcast does a great job of humanizing those with different abilities (even though those abilities aren’t any we encounter in reality) and gives the listener just enough as the sessions go on to keep us entertained and interested.

http---mashable.com-wp-content-gallery-x-best-storytelling-podcasts-leviathanThe Leviathan Chronicles

Set in a world situated underneath the pacific Ocean, this is an original sci-fi drama that is very professionally produced with longer episodes than most podcasts. The Leviathan are a human-like, immortal  race that is infiltrated by a human who comes to realize that she is descended from the Leviathans and tries to come to terms what that means for her and the human race.

http-%2F%2Fmashable.com%2Fwp-content%2Fgallery%2Fx-best-storytelling-podcasts%2FthrillingadventurehourThrilling Adventure Hour

Speaking of old-time radio shows, this is a live-produced, Los Angeles based comedy show that has an array of well-known guest stars with original content posted very frequently. This one has a backlog of over 100 episodes, so if you’re in the mood to binge and get addicted to something, this may be your best bet!

Welcome_to_Night_ValeWelcome to Night Vale

This is probably one of the most well-known fiction podcasts that was eventually turned into a book because of its enormous popularity. This podcast is known for its creepy vibe, subtly dark humor and suspenseful storytelling. If you’re looking for something light to fill a Walking-Dead hole, or if you’re looking for something in which to get totally absorbed, this may just fit the bill for you.

The_Writers_Voice_1400x1400The Writer’s Voice

If you’re looking to become totally absorbed in fiction, but don’t want the commitment of having a story told to you across multiple episodes, you may want to try this podcast, the most “literary” on this list, but one most definitely worth listening to. Authors like Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Curtis Sittenfeld and many more, have written short stories for the New Yorker, and this podcast brings them to life, in the author’s own voice. If you’d like to hear more of what your favorite literary author has written or if you’re wondering just what your favorite author might sound like when reading his or her own stories, this is a must-listen.

I realize that this post is glaringly lacking in library-related items, but I strongly believe that the library is more than just books and programs. We should be able to help people access as much information as they desire in as many forms as possible. Free formats are an added bonus. I know full well that while I do my best to keep the South Branch stocked with materials that people want to watch and read, our most voracious readers (and listeners) are inevitably always looking for a good story. Podcasts are another way to find them and introduce patrons to people who have their own voices, even if they don’t choose to express it in paper form.  If I can keep people intrigued with stories, no matter what source they come from, I feel like I’m doing my job. Till next week, dear readers, whatever keeps you intrigued with a story, whether it’s the plot, the writing or how it’s told to you, I hope you spend the weekend enjoying it.