The Podcasts I Love

I've been hooked on podcasts for years now, and listen to them ironing, gardening, walking and waiting around for trains. I get through quite a lot that way.

Because I talk about them and mention them a lot on social media people often ask me for recommendations. The fabulous novelist Claire Corbett asked me recently if I could do a post on great podcasts, so I thought I'd give it a go. I have split them up by genre to make it easy for you to skip over those you feel you may not like.

Special Series Podcasts

I am conscious that I am not very original with these recommendations. The fact is that the short-series podcasts that everyone has talked about have been quite good, and I have loved them just like everyone else. But in case you haven't kept up, here are the best ones:

Serial (Season 1): The first podcast i ever really waited each week to hear, and the one that has changed the whole landscape of podcasting and, I think, ways of telling narrative short fiction. Its influence has been profound, and if you are any kind of writer or storyteller I think you need to have listened to this. And, again like many other people, I lost interest in series 2 by about the third episode, so don't worry about it.

Missing Richard Simmons: I consumed the whole thing on a long train ride down the South Coast, and I think it is truly superb. I adore Richard Simmons, but you don't have to to enjoy this short series. Superb storytelling, lots of fascinating people. It had its critics, but a lot of that criticism was, in my opinion, unfounded. Entertaining and really absorbing.

S Town: I think that John B. McLemore, the focus of this intriguing story, will go down as one of the great characters in American history. This series is an example of really great artistry and superior storytelling. I never wanted it to end. And if you've grown up in a small rural town, as I have, you will identify like crazy.

Pop Culture

99% Invisible: Ostensibly a podcast about architecture and design, 99%  Invisible is really a great example of telling fascinating stories about history and culture. This podcast is terminally hip, but the episodes are genuinely interesting and shed new light on how we think about our constructed landscapes. I learn something new every time I listen.

The Art of Manliness: OK, I know this title is going to put off most female listeners, but it is simply focused on men, so kudos for making the label 100% transparent. Lifestyle advice, health, history and culture - great interviews with fascinating people, all tangentially linked to men and ideas of manhood. Quite a treasure.

Backlisted Podcast: Perhaps one of my absolute favourites, Backlisted is basically 4 or 5 fascinating people sitting in a kitchen talking about books from the past which deserve to be read by more people. I have discovered some fascinating writers by listening to this, and I have been re-enthused about cult writers from my reading past. Favourite episodes have been on Stevie Smith, Denton Welch and Sylvia Townsend Warner


Angel Heart Radio: The audio quality is not the best, but this Australian-run podcast is wonderfully inspiring. It's really out-there, so not one for my more sceptical friends, but if you are interested in New Age spirituality it is a tremendous source of information. Regularly features my dear friend Rosemary Butterworth. Angels, Ascended Masters, meditations and feng shui. Something for everyone.

Holy Smoke: A religion podcast produced by the Spectator, as you would expect it concentrates on things related to traditional religion, but I find it very stimulating and fascinating. A very honest look at religion and faith, and it's not always positive.

Creative Spirit: This one comes from Unity Online Radio, and really any of their podcasts are fantastic. The base is solidly New Thought, and Rev. Maggie Shannon explores the intersections between spirituality and creativity, and I find it all incredibly inspiring.


Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach: These short little messages are, unusually, issued from a single voice - most podcasts are interview or panel format. I love the conciseness of it all, and a good mix of topics, from dealing with rejection to mastering grammar and composition

Beautiful Writers Podcast: This one could probably have gone in the spirituality section, too. But the interviews are focused on creativity, so it is squarely focused on writers. They occasionally interview really big names, like Anne Lamott.


History Extra: Best history podcast by far. Based on the BBC History magazine. Usually interview format, usually with an historian with a new book out, it features incredibly varied content: Historical novelists writing about the Tudors to Herodotus to America in World War One. Usually a couple of different topics each podcast, so almost always something interesting each episode.

In Our Time: Another BBC podcast, with the gorgeous old legend Melvyn Bragg talking to a handful of experts on a particular topic, varying from nineteenth century American poets to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Once in a blue moon I'll have to skip one because I simply can't understand what everyone is talking about. But usually it represents a superb opportunity to broaden my intellectual horizons.

Oh, and did you know that my first book, Destination Saigon, is still in print and still selling well? If you love Vietnam, or are planning to go there, or know someone who is, then you should get a copy. It's a great fun read, and you also learn a little along the way. 


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