It’s no secret that audiobooks do not work for me. Kelley loves and reviews them. Dave has developed into an avid audiobook listener. But me? It doesn’t matter the book, the narrator, and the activity I’m doing at the time, I just cannot seem to absorb a story through my ears…
Unless that story is told through a podcast.
During November and December 2014, I worked with the publicity department at Orion. And while it was a lot of fun and I’m thankful for the experience, it was a job in which I was sort of cut off from everyone else. I had no designated spot to sit at, no computer to communicate with, and I was often left in a separate room doing repetitive and somewhat mindless filing work. Luckily, I was allowed to bring in my headset to work and I discovered the world of podcasts. And it was a magical world that made my time at Orion so much better.
If you’re not familiar with podcasts, they are defined on Wikipedia as:
a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio, digital radio, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device.
In other words, it’s like an audio blog. It has a feed that you subscribe to and each time a new episode is released it appears in your media player. What you find within the content of each episode can differ greatly from one program to the next, and there are millions of podcasts to choose from.
The Podcasts I Have Listened To
The first podcast I subscribed to, and fell in love with, is Serial. Seriously, if you have not listened to this podcast you need to fix that ASAP. Serial tells one story over an entire season with each episode giving you greater insight into the story, characters, difficulties, etc. And the first story, which just wrapped up this year, revolves around Adnan Syed who was arrested and sentenced at seventeen for murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
The crazy thing about this podcast is that the story you’re hearing is a true story. When I first started listening to it, I assumed that it must be fiction because it reads just like a murder mystery. There’s a murder, there’s suspects, there’s some loose evidence, and there’s no obvious answer. I just thought, “Ooh, how fun. We’ll get to try and figure out this murder mystery together!” But then I realized, no, this is a real story. A young girl really got murdered and her ex-boyfriend is now in jail and yet no one really has a firm idea of what actually happened. It’s crazy!
My favorite thing about this podcast is that it really makes you think. Not only about the murder (because it’s hard not to form your own ideas on what really happened that fateful day), but about how well you know a person, whether or not a person is capable of murder, how crazy our justice system is, how many different sides of a story there can be… all of the things! I definitely recommend giving this one a go, if you haven’t tried it already. So good.
As soon as I decided to enter the world of podcasts, I knew I had to give Welcome to Night Vale a go. I had no idea what it was about, but I saw other bloggers talk about it (such as Lillian) and figured there’s no harm in trying.
Well… maybe there is.
This is the weirdest, strangest, out-of-this-world thing I have ever heard. I don’t even know how to describe it, it’s that crazy. I guess it’s supposed to be like a radio service for this fictional desert town of Night Vale, and it features local weather, news, announcements, etc… but it’s all weird. Like, the episode I listened to asked listeners if they remember the list that was featured randomly on an episode two years ago, a list that they were told to memorize but didn’t know why, and you were pretty much told you’d be in trouble if you didn’t remember the list. But then, later, you find out it’s all just a drill.
I just don’t know what to say. It’s the most surreal thing I’ve ever listened to!
That being said, I didn’t really like it. I only listened to two episodes and I can see the appeal, but the narrator’s voice creeps me out and I’m pretty sure listening to it will give me nightmares. I say proceed at your own risk.
The third podcast I’ve listened to, and another one I really like, is Radiolab. As they say on their website, Radiolab is “a show about curiosity.” Each episode of Radiolab is hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich and focuses on one particular idea or concept and it dives into that topic through the use of personal stories, expert perspectives, and investigative work.
I can’t even begin to tell you all the amazing things I have learned through this program. There was that episode about communicating with dolphins, and the lady who admitted she would sometimes jerk off her dolphin friend she was trying to teach English to so he would stop humping her leg and focus on learning. There was the other episode about the mall shooting and how the information the witnesses gave reporters the day of the shooting did not match the results of the investigative reports done by the FBI and documenters. Or there was also that episode the little Native American girl who was adopted by white parents and then suddenly removed from home one day when her Native American father turned up and took her, and the complicated laws that revolve around that matter.
No joke, during my month of working at Orion, I listened to every Radiolab episode available from the past two years! It was just the perfect combination of interesting, informative content and engaging, personable narrators. I approve.
Why Are They Different From Audiobooks?
So wait, why can I get so into podcasts but not audiobooks? I think that’s actually a good question, and one I’m not entirely sure the answer to. If I had to guess, I’d have to say it has to do with the following:
- I like that podcasts cut out all the unnecessary bits. I think audiobooks are difficult for me because they often include a lot of details and extraneous things that work well in the text, but sort of cause me to zone out when hearing it through my ears.
- I like the sound effects and different voices! I think when I hear one narrator telling a story, even when they are using different voices for different character, I tend to turn off. With podcasts you get different people telling different parts of the story, sharing their input, and you also get some sound effects included to help bring things to life. It keeps my attention better.
- It’s much easier to start and stop. I find audiobooks difficult because I never know when to stop. It’s not always feasible to keep playing until the end of a chapter! With podcasts, it’s so much easier because each episode is usually only a hour long, at most. I could tell at a glance if I would have time for a whole episode before pressing play, and not have to worry about cutting episodes in half.
- Podcasts are bite-sized stories. Depending on the podcast, the story/topic that’s being featured only lasts one episode. You don’t have to worry about retaining the information for ages to come because it might impact a later story. You can listen to it, enjoy it, and then forget it!
That’s not to say I don’t wish I were better with audiobooks, because I do, but I’m glad I finally have found something that works for me audio-wise. (While I enjoy listening to music, I can’t do so without singing along and dancing in my seat, and that would just be way too awkward for work.) Podcasts are the perfect outlet for me to keep my mind entertained while doing monotonous work. If you haven’t given them a try, I definitely recommend them!
Oh, and since I started drafting this post, Shannelle has also expressed her love for podcasts. If you get a minute, I recommend checking it out! You’ll see some of the podcasts I mentioned above featured in her post too. 🙂