Podcasts for the Road

Leaders of the radical Weather Underground accompanied us during our recent road trip to Chicago. We drove home with the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

We also spent time with an Indianapolis radio reporter involved in a hostage crisis. He sounded just like the actor Jon Hamm. In fact, he was Jon Hamm, playing the lead role in an 8-episode podcast drama, American Hostage

The Weather Underground was the focus of a 10-episode podcast series, Mother Country Radicals, narrated byZayd Dohrn, the son of celebrated radicals Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. He described what it was like to grow up underground and on the run with parents wanted by the FBI. Project Unabomb considered whether Ted Kaczynski was just a madman who murdered people or a troubled prophet who foresaw how technology can harm us.

These and other long-form podcasts have made the hours fly by when Champa and I have traveled. Sweet Bobby was a 6-part series about a woman who fell in love with someone who appeared to be a handsome cardiologist but was actually a cruel scammer. Passenger List featured a woman seeking the truth about an airplane that disappeared with her brother and others on board. S-Town made me care about a strange man who despised his Alabama town and decided to do something about it.

With their dramatic stories, talented casts and compelling audio, podcasts like these grab my attention more than most audiobooks with a single narrator reading text. However, I have enjoyed audiobooks such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, and old favorites like Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck.

I prefer these multi-episode podcast series when we travel but not when I’m home. For my daily morning walks, I usually listen to the latest episodes of shows ranging from the news (The Daily) to current affairs (Fresh Air), sports (Pardon the Interruption), technology (Pivot), travel (Rick Steves), foreign affairs (Pod Save the World) and business (Planet Money). 

I’ve also enjoyed several humor and entertainment podcasts — such as from Marc Maron and Conan O’Brien — but usually listen in spurts and then take a break. Similarly, I’ve sampled podcasts on particular topics, such as Ear Hustle on prison life, but decide “that’s enough” after a few episodes.

I download podcasts for free onto my iPhone and listen with earbuds or, when we’re traveling, through our car’s audio system. If you’re unfamiliar with how to do this yourself, it’s easy, and I encourage you to give it a try. Here are instructions.

I’m always on the lookout for something new, so please share your own podcast suggestions with a comment. Heard anything good lately?

2 thoughts on “Podcasts for the Road”

  1. Hi David: I’m sorry you and Champa had Covid while on your trip–hope you’re both feeling quite well by now. I enjoy podcasts as well, and since you’re soliciting suggestions, I can recommend two for your next road adventure:

    “9/12” was a thought-provoking look at many of the sequelae of 9/11 that haven’t got much attention. Both Henry and I were riveted by it. (Don’t give up with the first episode–it gets better.)

    ‘Cover-Up’ is like Project Unabomb in that it’s a look back with new eyes at an old story–the Chappaquiddick/Ted Kennedy incident. I learned a great deal that I didn’t know, much of it disturbing. When our children were small we vacationed on Chappaquiddick island in the same rental for 15 years in a row, so this has particular resonance for us, but I think anyone who was alive in 1969 would be interested.

    Enjoy!

    Katie H.

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    1. Hi Katie. I forgot to mention 9/12! I loved it, too, and hope others will discover it as well. As for “Cover Up,” it’s now on my list. Thanks so much for sharing these.

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