This Week in Podcasts


Back in June, I decided that I was going to start a semi-regular series about my recent podcast discoveries. Semi-regular became not-at-all-regular, as that one post and this one are the only two in the series so far. But I’m on a new blogging kick, so I thought it was time to resurrect it and try and make it something I write a little more often. So, on with the recommendations.

Bag Man is a seven-part series from MSNBC, presented by Rachel Maddow. It tells the story of Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon’s first vice-president, who found himself under criminal investigation, and as a result, became the first vice-president to resign office. It’s a story that I was tangentially familiar with, as I think many people may be, as it’s inextricably linked with Watergate. But I was not at all familiar with the details, and this is a well-researched and well-presented podcast that is a must-listen for anyone who is interested in American politics.

Mark Kermode’s new (ish) podcast, Kermode on Film, is everything you would expect from someone as intelligent and knowledgeable about film as the nation’s favourite film critic. The best thing about the podcast is that each episode offers something different. Once a month, an episode is dedicated to the show that Kermode does at the BFI Southbank (which I attend as often as I can – I even make a fleeting appearance in episode 2!), featuring guests and general film chat. Other episodes finds him out on location, at famous film spots, including the alley from Peeping Tom, and the streets of Belfast from Good Vibrations. All in all, the perfect podcast for film fans.

I’ve been listening to The Daily from The New York Times, though I find it hard to commit to listening to it each day – the episodes are piling up! I definitely recommend it though; I recently listened to one about what happens when you enable location services through apps on your phone, and how that information is sold. It’s scary stuff!

Finally, I’ve been dipping into Dan Snow’s History Hit. Although my usual method of listening to podcasts is to go right back to the start and listen from the first episode, but with this I have just been cherry-picking episodes that I think will be most interesting to me. I recently listened to an interview with Charles Spencer about his biography of Charles II; and another one about genetics and history with Adam Rutherford.


Bag Man
iTunes | Acast

Kermode on Film
iTunes | Acast

The Daily
iTunes | Acast

Dan Snow’s History Hit
iTunes | Acast

This week in podcasts


These days, if I’m not reading, I’m probably listening to a podcast. In fact, my love for podcasts is probably the reason that my yearly books-read total has taken a bit of a dive, because I can’t get enough of podcasts, and sadly, as good as I am at multi-tasking, I can’t listen and read at the same time.

So I thought I’d do a semi-regular series (all of my series are semi-regular) in which I simply round up what I’ve been listening to. If I can pull my finger out enough to make this a weekly thing, I will. If not, it will be as often as I can find the time to write it.

Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year is a brand new podcast that has been established to replace the Radio 2 Book Club, that used to make up part of Mayo’s Drivetime show. With the advent of a scheduling change, the book club was dropped, so Mayo and his former co-host, Matt Williams, have started this new podcast to fill that gap. The first episode features a fiction and a non-fiction pick: Widows by Lynda La Plante and Reveal by Robbie Williams respectively. The episode includes a chat with each author, both of which are illuminating and interesting (even for a major non-Williams fan like me), and the chemistry between Mayo and Williams that worked so well on the Radio 2 show is here in abundance. There’s also a section for unpublished work, with this week’s episode featuring a story from a ten-year-old that was sent in by his mum. It’s a tried and tested format that works, and while it’s a shame that literary coverage has been dropped from primetime radio, this is a great replacement.

Now into their fifth season, this week The West Wing Weekly covers the fifth episode of the fifth season of The West Wing – Constituency of One. The fifth season is a problematic one for many West Wing fans, as it was the first without the Messianic figure of Aaron Sorkin, and at the end of the last season of this podcast, we learnt that one of our co-hosts, Hrishikesh Hirway, had only watched up to the end of the Sorkin era, and is watching most of the episodes from here on out for the first time. This episode features an interview Jennifer Palmieri, the former White House communications director for Obama, and was communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. As ever, this is a podcast that pays very close attention to the details of the episode, and gives what amounts to a close textual analysis. It’s really rather wonderful (though probably less appealing to those who aren’t West Wing fans).

If you’re following and enjoying the World Cup, I recommend the Guardian’s World Cup Football Daily. Unsurprisingly, given its name, there’s a new episode every day, and it simply takes a look at the football action of the day. There’s a lot of technical talk about the games; tactics, players and statistics are all discussed, but as it’s a Guardian production, they aim go a little deeper, and they have erudite correspondents who really know what they are talking about. Definitely recommended for anyone who’s following the football.

Finally, for all you true crime fans, I’ve just started listening to an Australian podcast called The Teacher’s Pet, about Lyn Dawson, a woman who went missing in 1982. It’s widely believed that she was murdered, and two coronial inquests have found that her death was caused by her husband, though there’s no body, and the police don’t seem to have investigated too thoroughly in the early days of her disappearance. I’m only two episodes in, but like all great true crime podcasts, it appears to be well-produced, well-researched, and draws you in from the get-go.



Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year
iTunes | acast

The West Wing Weekly
iTunes | acast

World Cup Football Daily
iTunes | acast

The Teacher’s Pet
iTunes | acast

Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash

My Favourite Podcasts

I love podcasts. I take myself out for a walk, open up a podcast, and I try to walk for as long as the episode lasts. Sometimes this is easy; a thirty minute podcast is an easy lap around my village, but anything longer and I start having to go back on myself. I don’t get as much exercise as I would like, and while I don’t kid myself that a half an hour walk is sufficient, it’s definitely a start, and I don’t really think of it as exercise.

I therefore thought I’d share some of my favourite podcasts. It will become a series as and when I find new things to listen to, but for now, I’ll just share what I’ve been listening to over the last few months.


Of no surprise to anyone who has ever met me, followed me on Twitter, or read this blog: Wittertainment is my favourite podcast of all time. I discovered it as a podcast first, and then I started watching the live stream on a Friday afternoon, and now, as I’m working more or less full time again, I’m back to being a podcaster. For anyone who doesn’t know, Wittertainment is the BBC’s flagship film show; a two hour radio show presented by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, where they discuss the week’s film releases. That probably sounds about as average as possible, but it’s so much more. Kermode and Mayo have a unique partnership, made up primarily of a special kind of bickering, but ultimately one of love (we know how much they love each other really). There are plenty of in jokes, the likes of which you might think you’re never going to understand, but listen to a few episodes and  you’ll soon get them, and hear as new ones are established. There’s an archive of over 230 episodes on the BBC website, going back to 2010, and if you know where to look, you can go back even further. I’m lucky enough to have had emails and the like read out ten times on the show, which is pretty awesome considering I’ve only been listening for a year. I wonder if I can call myself a contributor now?

Adventures with Words

Shamefully, despite being Twitter friends with Kate for quite a while, it’s taken me ages to get around to listening to her and Rob’s podcast, Adventures with Words. Their tagline is ‘Exploring storytelling in all its forms’, and they really do; although they focus primarily on books, there’s films and museums and conventions and plays, and much more. It’s great to listen to, because it does feel as though you are just sitting down with your friends and talking about all the books you love, and it is also adding to my to-read list quite considerably!

The Empire Podcast

I actually started listening to the Empire Podcast before Wittertainment (before I even knew it existed!), and it was the first podcast that I used to accompany me on my walks. It is very entertaining, because it’s a group of people that work together and bounce off each other very well, and they clearly know their stuff when it comes to films. I haven’t listened to as many of these as I should have; I started with some current episodes when I first started listening, but now I’m taking advantage of the archive, and I’ve started from the beginning. They have great guests, and lots of movie talk, and they really make me laugh too.


OK, I know Serial is so 2014. But there are still people (most of the people I know, in fact), who haven’t listened to it, and so I’m taking this opportunity to tell you that YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO SERIAL. I’m pretty sure that there has never been a more compelling podcast series. It comes from the creators of This American Life, an NPR podcast, and is hosted by a journalist called Sarah Koenig. She decided to start looking into the 1999 murder of a teenager called Hae Min Lee, of which her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed was convicted. Adnan is serving a life sentence, but has maintained his innocence ever since he was first accused, and Serial takes a look at the evidence, and tries to decide one way or another if he did murder Hae. The chances are, you’ve already heard of this podcast, if you haven’t already listened. All twelve episodes are available, so you can binge-listen if you so wish (and I think once you start, you’ll be glad you don’t have to wait a week between episodes, like the rest of us did). At times it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this is real-life, and a real girl lost her life, but at no point is it anything other than utterly gripping. It’s definitely worth a listen. Serial will be back later in the year, during which Koenig will concentrate on a new case, and I can’t wait.

My plan was to write about five podcasts, but on looking through my phone, I just don’t listen to anything else enough to give a good enough account of it. The odd episode here and there, but nothing I’ve found myself downloading episode after episode, as I do with this little lot.

If you have any recommendations for things I simply have to listen to, please do let me know. I’ll be searching for more myself, and I’ll be back at some point with another round up to let you know about them.