My top ten podcasts of 2020 | Sarah Boslaugh

Photo by Tommy Lopez from Pexels.

Podcasts are so common today that it’s easy to forget that they’re a fairly recent addition to the media landscape. I find myself listening to them more than ever these days, in part because my favorite way to relax these days is to take a walk in Forest Park while listening to a podcast. By some estimates, there are about 1.5 million podcasts out there, so it would be ridiculous to try to pick a few as “the best.” Instead, here’s ten of my current favorites, in alphabetical order.

All About Agatha. I find the orderly world of Agatha Christie’s novels to be a welcome refuge in these troubled times, and her efficient prose style doesn’t hurt either. Kemper Donovan and Catherine Brobeck analyze a novel or short story every week, with occasional breaks for special guests or occasions.

Coronavirus Global Update. The coronavirus epidemic concerns the entire world, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from American news coverage.  Thanks to the BBC World Service, I can keep up to date on the news related to COVID-19 from all over the world (special bonus—each episode is only about 5 minutes long).

The Gayly Prophet. I love the Harry Potter novels as much as I hate the politics of their author. Listening to hosts Jessie Blount and Lark Malakai Grey and their many guests illuminate aspects of the books while eviscerating she-who-must-not-be-named really makes my week shine.

Gymcastic: The Gymnastics Podcast. I’ve never competed in gymnastics, but I do like to watch Simone Biles and the U.S. national team show the world how it’s done. Gymnastics also offers a window into many issues, from national attitudes towards sport to abuse of women and children, and this podcast, hosted by Jessica O’Beirne and Spencer Barnes, is a delightful blend of technical details, history, and social context related to the sport.

Hazel & Katniss & Harry & Starr. Reading YA novels provides me with a reliable source of comfort from the safety of my home while waiting for the U.S. to get the pandemic under control. It’s a pure delight to hear Brenna Clarke Gray and Joe Lipsett) apply their knowledge of literary and film theory and history to this genre, and I’ve gotten lots of good tips from them about books and movies to check out.

Just Women’s Sports. Hosted by USWNT member Kelley O’Hara, this podcast offers a wonderful corrective to the pitifully narrow focus of most sports media in the United States. Each episode centers around an interview with an accomplished female athlete; guests have included Nneka Ogwumike, Michelle Wie West, Allyson Felix, Breanna Stewart, and Sam Kerr.

More or Less: Behind the Stats. Another BBC World Service podcast, this one hosted by Tim Harford and focused on explaining statistical issues in common language. This podcast has had a lot to say about the pandemic of late, but has also discussed statistical matters such as the recent U.S. presidential election, auction theory, and global warming.

A Podcast to the Curious. In his day, M.R. James was a noted antiquarian scholar, but today he’s best known for his ghost stories, which are concise marvels of psychological suspense. Hosts Will Ross and Mike Taylor cover all matters relating to James, from his own stories to critical views of his work to stories by authors influenced by him.

Secret Feminist Agenda. The tagline for Hannah McGregor’s podcast is “because feminists are inherently interesting” and I couldn’t agree more. Every episode offers insight and delight, and the author, a professor at Simon Fraser University, is also doing innovative work on podcasting as a scholarly medium.

Witch, Please. Who knew that literary theory could be so illuminating when applied to children’s fantasy novels? Me, now that I’m a regularly listener of this podcast, hosted by literary scholars Hannah McGregor and Marcelle Kosman. | Sarah Boslaugh


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