99% Invisible

Letting Podcasts into my Life

I developed an interest for podcasts only quite recently. I think it was before our 12-hour flight to Japan when I started searching for podcasts worth listening to. First I looked into the direction of Monocle Magazine, the Guardian, BBC and the likes. Then I asked people on Twitter for recommendations. And in the end, instead of 12 hours of crappy Hollywood movies, I spent most of  the time on the flight listening to podcasts. I definitely left the plane more relaxed and maybe a little bit smarter.

Back in Zurich, I keep trying to establish podcasts as a routine for my commute to and from work. 2o minutes I would normally spend scrolling aimlessly through my Instagram and Facebook feeds, that is turned into quality time by listening to podcasts.

I am still in my research phase, but so far I have identified the following favourites among the growing list of podcasts I subscribe to:

99% Invisible

One podcast that pops up on almost all lists of podcasts is 99% Invisible, an independent production from Portland. They describe themselves as “focussing on the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about – the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world” and I love how they unearth all those stories and details I really would not have thought about. Through 99% Invisible I learned about H-Day in Sweden, the trash system in Taiwan, the obscure discovery of Legionnaires’ Disease  and many other things. And with its 20 to 30 minutes per episode, it’s almost perfect for my morning commute.

Here’s the thing

Dear Mr Baldwin, I have never been a fan of you as an actor, but your podcast is brilliant and your voice is quite pleasant, too.

On Here’s the Thing, Baldwin interviews fellow performers, policy makers and artists. More conversation than interview, I quite enjoy listening to those people talk eye to eye, comparing careers and giving insights into their lives and inspirations. It’s a little bit like sitting in a café at a table next to Baldwin and his acquaintance, eavesdropping on their conversation. My favourite episode so far was the one with Molly Ringwald.

The New Yorker Fiction Podcast

The podcast that’s been on my radar the longest is The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. The concept is simple: writers read stories that have appeared in New Yorker Magazine in the past decades and talk about them with New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treiman. It’s perfect for train rides or lazy days at the lake or beach. So on our train ride from Kinosakionsen back to Tokyo I really enjoyed listening to Jonathan Safran Foer reading “The King of Norway” by Amos Oz whilst looking out the window.

Monocle 24: The Menu

To unwind after a day at work I listen to episodes of The Menu by Monocle 24. Every episode offers a  really nice selection of food-related topics. It’s quite dangerous, though: after 8 to 10 hours of work I am quite hungry and listening to people talk about food just exponentiates my appetite. Hearing about great food creations, markets, restaurants and stores often results in a quick stop at the deli department of one of Zurich’s fancy department stores.

Lexicon Valley

Back in university, I studied English and linguistics were a big part of my coursework. Admittedly I was never very fond of learning how vowels are produced, but I loved lectures about the development of language and I was fascinated by sociolinguistics. Slate Magazine’s Lexicon Valley brings back this passion for the English language. I already missed tram stops immersed in episodes about the disorder of the English language, the roots of obscure words and sayings or the history of profanities. I think it’s important to be aware of how language works, where it comes from and how it impacts our lives constantly.

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Do you have any more podcast recommendations for me? Maybe even some good German speaking podcasts?

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