Ten podcasts to pass the time in quarantine
List of podcasts to get you out of a daze while you stay inside
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on theeaglecoronavirusproject.com, a separate website created by Eagle staff at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. Articles from that website have been migrated to The Eagle’s main site and backdated with the dates they were originally published in order to allow readers to access them more easily.
We have all found ourselves in this moment where the novel coronavirus has our emotions changing as frequently as the news itself, but at some point, we have all felt boredom being stuck inside.
We’re dealing with homework, tests, families, stressors and other personalized problems as we learn to navigate these next indefinite number of weeks of quarantine. But, when we finally exhaust all our Netflix options, scroll through Instagram to the point where we are somehow three days back and can no longer endure one more press conference, we’re going to need something to do. That something can be listening to podcasts.
Whether you’re a podcast aficionado or amateur, podcasts are abundant and easy to pick up. And, the greatest part of podcasts is there are ones out there for your niche interests.
For the Newcomers and True Crime Fans
Hello newcomers! Don’t feel embarrassed about not listening to podcasts until now. We all have to start somewhere, and you just happen to be starting here.
Genre: true crime
Length: three seasons, 32 episodes, episodes typically 40 minutes to 1 hour long
A good place to begin in your podcast journey is with “Serial,” created by the makers of radio program “This American Life” and hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig. “Serial” tells the real-life story of the murder of Hae Min Lee and the lifelong prison conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed for allegedly murdering her. According to the show’s website, “Sarah Koenig sorted through thousands of documents, listened to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talked to everyone she could find who remembered what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee.” This podcast is often recognized as the podcast to popularize the serialization of the medium. If you’re new to “Serial,” you might not appreciate the serial release of the podcast every week, but you can still appreciate the storytelling aspect that comes with serialization.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "Serial" Trailer
Genre: true crime
Length: seven episodes, typically 45 minutes to 1 hour long
After listening to “Serial,” continue on the path of listening to everything the makers of “This American Life” have created and listen to “S-Town” hosted by Brian Reed, the senior producer of “This American Life.” “S-Town” begins when Reed receives an email from a man named John B. McLemore, urging Reed to come explore a murder allegedly covered up by a notable family in a small Alabama town. Filled with many twists and rants about climate change, “S-Town” also follows the serialization method of storytelling as Reed brings you on a journey to the South to uncover the truth about a supposed murder to only be met with the unexpected death of another man.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "S-Town" Trailer
Enlightening and Emotional
Once you’re well-acquainted with the medium, there are a variety of genres and thousands of episodes of podcasts for you to get lost in. Two emotionally-charged podcasts that are great for that are “Heavyweight” hosted by author and humorist Jonathan Goldstein, and “The Anthropocene Reviewed” hosted by acclaimed teen author John Green.
Genre: personal journals
Length: four seasons, 31 episodes, episodes typically 30 minutes to 1 hour
“Heavyweight” follows Goldstein as he travels around attempting to mend broken and estranged relationships for people who have “laid awake imagining how it could have been, how it might yet be, but the moment to act was never right.” Episodes are funny, sad and sentimental, as they make you wonder about your own past and present relationships.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "Heavyweight"
Genre: personal journals
Length: 26 episodes, episodes typically 15 to 25 minutes
When: released every last Thursday of each month
The Anthropocene refers to the current geological age where human activity has had an increased presence. In “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” Green reviews two parts of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. Sometimes the facets are tangible and simple, such as scratch ‘n’ sniff stickers. Other facets are loftier concepts such as humanity’s capacity for wonder. With each episode usually being under 25 minutes long, these episodes won’t take up too much of your time.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "The Anthropocene Reviewed"
Staying-in While Staying Informed
Since most of us are bound to our homes, a good way to stay put is to stay informed, both about the pandemic and about the homes we find ourselves in. To stay informed about the world, two news podcasts are “The Daily” hosted by New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro and NPR’s Coronavirus Daily hosted by journalist Kelly McEvers.
If you’re interested to know more about your childhood home or student apartment, “Clearstory” hosted by television personality Kevin O’Connor will inform you about all things houses. To learn more about our home at school in D.C., or if you’re just missing them, check out WAMU’s “What’s With Washington” hosted by Arts and Culture reporter Mikaela Lefrak and other local reporters.
Genre: home and garden
Length: 1 season, 10 episodes, episodes typically 30-40 minutes
O’Connor explains in the trailer how a clerestory is a window that sheds light into a dark space, providing us with a perfect metaphor for the name of his podcast, “Clearstory,” on the secrets and unknown questions we have about our houses. Find out more about your water system, the framing of your house and the roof above.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "Clearstory"
Genre: society and culture
Length: 18 episodes, episodes typically 20 minutes
“What’s With Washington” follows WAMU reporter Lefrak and other local reporters as they uncover the answers to their audience’s questions about Washington. Some of the questions come from long-time residents, and others come from new transplants to the District. This podcast can help you learn more about the place we call home for most months of the year. Learn about everything from the jazz scene in the district to the Georgetown metro myth.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "What’s With Washington"
Genre: daily news
Length: episodes typically 30 minutes
When: episodes released each weekday at 6 a.m. since January 2017
Barbaro’s podcast “The Daily” is released every weekday to provide you with an in-depth look into some of the top news stories of the day. Most of the recent stories are about different angles of the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming presidential election, including a crossover of the two topics with episodes like Wisconsin’s Pandemic Primary. If you scroll back to episodes before the pandemic struck, however, you will hear more about topics such as America’s education system or questions about President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry through the lens of a third-grader.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "The Daily"
Length: 18 episodes, episodes typically 10-15 minutes
When: episodes released weekday
If you’re looking for centralized coronavirus news, McEvers from NPR has you covered with “Coronavirus Daily,” a concise podcast on some of the top stories about COVID-19. The podcast looks into topics such as the CDC’s mask recommendation and social distancing. Since the episodes are short, you can stay informed without taking too much time out of your day.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "Coronavirus Daily"
And Finally, Musical and Poetry Podcasts
While staying informed is necessary for your safety and the safety of others, sometimes you need a break from all the information. Two ways to escape the news cycle are with an experimental podcast musical called “36 Questions” written, directed and composed by Christopher Littler and Ellen Winter, and “Poetry Unbound” hosted by poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama.
Length: three episodes, episodes typically 1 hour
Although “36 Questions” is written in a traditional three-act style, it’s anything but a traditional musical. It tells the story of Jace Connolly, voiced by Jonathon Groff of “Hamilton,” and his estranged ex-wife Judith Ford, voiced by Jessica Shelton of “Hadestown.” The couple tries to mend their broken marriage after Connolly learns it was built on lies that Ford told him about her identity. To mend the relationship, Ford suggests they re-complete the study “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings,” or colloquially known as the 36 questions. This study was made to see if two people can fall in love based solely on questions, which was how this fictional couple fell in love years before. An explicit musical with a jazzy style of music will challenge you to imagine this couple and their struggles as they reanswer the questions that brought them together before and might tear them apart in the end.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "36 Questions"
Length: 18 episodes, episodes typically 8-10 minutes
When: released every Monday and Friday
“Poetry Unbound” is best described as "short and unhurried." In each episode, Ó Tuama guides you through one poem, offers his interpretation through a literary personal lens and offers advice on how this poem can help you grow as a person. The series’ first episode, “A Poem for What You Learn Alone,” includes the poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin. This poem tells the story of what the narrator misses when they were absent one day from school. Ó Tuama analyzes the poem and gives advice on what we learn on our own, which provides helpful insight into our moment now when many of us feel alone.
Listen to the podcast trailer here: "Poetry Unbound"
Take time to introduce yourself and/or indulge in the world of podcasts during this unprecedented moment. You never know what you may find, feel or learn.