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Podcasts 2023

It’s that time of year, where I do a random update on podcasts I’m really enjoying, just ‘cos it’s nice to share the love.

Sliced Bread

BBC Sounds is having a strong showing right now, with Sliced Bread being one of the more joyfully quirky of the batch.  Its mission is to investigate the latest fads in health, wellbeing and environmentalism – all things I’m on board with – through a medley of anecdotal tests (think: a studio of people necking turmeric shots with a cry of “it burns!”) through to thorough conversations with scientific experts for whom the words “double blind control study” are basically how you say hello.  I love me a good bit of scientific debunking – and even the occasionally unexpected confirmation that no, but really, the things they’re investigating are as good as sliced bread – and it’s a charming listen while pottering around the flat.

28ish Days

Another BBC podcast, this series is a deep dive into menstruation.  I felt like I had a fairly solid handle on the biology of the period courtesy of a terrifying (but excellent) GCSE biology teacher who really made us learn our progesterone, but hearing the entire story of it complete with centuries of medical sexism, female empowerment and social stigma was absolutely fascinating listening.  I’ve got polycystic ovaries so the idea of a ‘regular’ period has been beyond my comprehension for as long as I’ve known, and consequently I’ve been on the mini-pill for years with a slightly blasé attitude of ‘not my problem’ and it was fascinating to realise how wrong I was, and how little I actually understand about my own body.  Thoroughly recommended.

The Oxventure DnD Podcast

DnD seems to have suddenly become… cool?  Slightly less immediately ostracising to mention in public than it has been, perhaps?  Maybe?  I occasionally DM a game, both in private and occasionally for conventions, and am baffled that anyone lets me do so.  Fair to say that my DMing style is chaotic/joyful and probably owes a lot to the vibes of the combined forces of the youtube channels OutsideXtra, Oxtra and their DM Johnny Chiodini.  Their DnD sessions are an absolute joy to watch, but personally I’ve found the podcast version a lovely thing to take with me on long runs, when it’s time to swap those speed-running beats for a more laid back romp that keeps you laughing even at that painful 15km mark when it starts to sleet.  Other runners are doubtless faster than me and will burn through fewer episodes over longer distances, but for me they’re often just about perfect.

Bad People

Another podcast I take with me on runs, this BBC podcast combines the unlikely duo of a comedian and a professional criminologist who manage to make their subject matter – often incredibly dark, incredibly grim true crime – a strange mixture of funny, moving, powerful and thought-provoking.  There’s a lot of true crime out there, and the handling of it can often be creepy, but Bad People’s mix of science and humanity really works in keeping me interested without feeling icky in the process.

… Honourable Mentions…

It’s really been the season of BBC Sounds, and two honourable mentions are going to Sport’s Strangest’s Crimes and Disaster Trolls.  I have almost zero interest in sports, but the sheer convoluted complexity of some of the stories Sport’s Strangest Crimes tells, and the characters involved, has really kept me engaged.  And Disaster Trolls, though short, is a fascinating look at the world of conspiracy theories, and though it can be hard listening sometimes, it also feels like a really important topic to cover.  Finally, the Myths and Legends podcast does both a charming, thoughtful and modern look at ancient fables, and was also genuinely very informative when I was writing all this Greek stuff.  If you’re looking to expand your mythological knowledge and have a nice time doing it, it’s a great place to start.

… Regulars still going strong!

Sawbones remains an unmitigated delight.  As the years have rolled by this marital look at misguided medicine has grown increasingly confident in tackling recent medical news as well as tragic/comic catastrophes as the past, ranging from wellness fads to how to have conversations with your friendly anti-vax relatives.  Still a highlight of the weekly listen.

As indeed, is Criminal, which once again manages to range from the grim to the almost charming in its explorations of crimes from the famous to the bizarre.  Both Sawbones and Criminal are just about the right length for a medium-distance run, and make the miles fly by.

Fond Farewells

Revolutions is over.  This series from Mike Duncan, who also did the excellent History of Rome, started with the English Civil War and finished many, many hundreds of episodes later with the Russian Revolution of 1917.  In the course of the series it covered everything from Haiti to Mexico, America and France.  It’s a fascinating way to look at some of the massive events that shaped world history, and if you’re looking for something that’s gonna keep you going for years of learning and good story-telling, Revolutions is a fantastic choice.