Great Podcasts: Ologies by Alie Ward

I feel I need to share this podcast I recently became mildly obsessed with: Ologies with Alie Ward. The gist is, Alie Ward is fascinated by how many “ologies” (or, branches of scientific study) exist in the world: volcanology, primatology, paleontology, gemology, and minerology, to name just a few. To dig more into these mysterious worlds, she decided to interview scientists from these disciplines to get a human perspective. In each episode, she interviews an “ologist” about what their field of study entails, their favorite and least favorite parts of the job, their field’s role in popular culture, along with some delightfully random questions submitted by listeners.

It’s an appropriate recommendation for a library because it’s similar to my favorite non-fiction titles: science made accessible to a general audience, with a good dose of warmth and humor mixed in. The vast range of disciplines covered in the episodes means there’s something for everyone here, from explosive volcanoes, to chimpanzee social dynamics, to the healing possibilities of crystals, this podcast has it all. Also, Alie Ward is an excellent host because she’s honest about her own lack of expertise while brimming with enthusiasm and curiosity.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming, informative, and funny podcast, check out Ologies with Alie Ward, on her website, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

For books with a similar vibe, try What If by Randall Munroe, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty, or the works of Mary Roach including Grunt, Stiff, and Spook.

Great Podcasts: Sleep Better

In the past, I’ve recommended podcasts about great stories from history, laugh-out-loud funny podcasts, and profound podcasts to really make you think. This time, I’m recommending podcasts that don’t ask you to do any kind of mental gymnastics or engage much at all – podcasts where you really can just listen. My goal with these is to encourage rest and relaxation; if you have any trouble with insomnia or winding down before bed, one of these podcasts might be helpful to you.

Phoebe Reads A Mystery is a good podcast for restful enjoyment. It’s exactly what it sounds like: the host (Phoebe) reads a chapter a day from a mystery novel. The focus is mostly on classic or historical mysteries, which makes for a cozy and relaxing story experience, without too much angst or drama.

Check out some of the books featured on Phoebe Reads A Mystery if you want to read along, including Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie, Turn of the Screw by Henry James, or Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Nothing Much Happens is a podcast of “bedtime stories for grownups”. It seeks to relax the mind, keep it from wandering, with simple stories in which, you guessed it, “nothing much happens”. The goal is to transition easily into sleep with a feeling of peace. This one is available only on Apple Podcasts or Google podcasts and is supposed to be a great one to fall asleep to. The stories don’t have much plot to speak of, but focus on soothing everyday tasks like spending time with friends, morning and evening routines, etc.

If you love the concept  but prefer books, try The Enchanted Hour by  Meghan Cox Gurdon, about why reading aloud is so powerful, or see our Gentle Reads Libguide for books with similar themes and effects.

If you’re looking for a different, more humor-based approach, you might prefer Sleep With Me hosted by Drew Ackerman. It uses a rambling storytelling style to distract its listeners, giving their minds something to focus on while lulling them to sleep. Its content is drawn from many corners of pop culture, including superheroes, fairy tales, TV shows like Star Trek, and gumshoe detective stories.

For books of subversive bedtime stories for adults, try The Wild Swan by Michael Cunningham or Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner.

However, on the flip side, if you’re just plain tired of being talked at (which is fair) you might like Slow Radio from the BBC. This podcast focuses on unstructured sounds, such as music, nature sounds, people chatting, and much more. It’s a good opportunity to slow down and pause, being more aware of all the sounds in the background of our lives.

For another relaxing, talk-free sound, try any of our great classical or jazz music CDs like Inspiration by Sheku Kanneh-Mason (a cellist) or Time by Jess Gillam (a saxophonist); you might also try New Age music like To The Evening Child by Stephan Micus.

Great Podcasts: Think Deeply

Most of the time, I want a podcast that’s going to make me laugh or tell me an interesting story (or preferably, both) but sometimes I want a podcast that’s mindful, thoughtful, and helps me see things in a new way. Here are a few podcasts to try if you’re looking for a moment of gentle profundity, or insight.

Poetry Unbound (or any of the On Being family of podcasts) is a particularly beautiful place to start, in my opinion. In Poetry Unbound, poet Padraig O Tuama reads a poem and offers insight into what the poet may be saying (about life, being human, etc.) before reading the poem a second time. A great podcast for feeling calm and profound. Other podcasts from On Being include the eponymous On Being, Becoming Wise, and This Movie Changed Me, all on the same theme of life’s meaning and personal transformation and insight.

For a print version of this podcast, try The Poetry Remedy, edited by William Sieghart, or for a timely collection, Together In A Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn.

If you’re looking for a podcast that makes you think and helps you rest, but also teaches you something new, you may like 99% Invisible. This popular podcast focuses on the design, architecture, and infrastructure which underlies our daily lives but all but completely escapes our notice. Aiming to help you see the world differently, it’s accompanied by a print book, The 99% Invisible City, by the show’s creator Roman Mars.

And of course, there are also podcasts to help you start a meditation and mindfulness practice, such as Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris. This podcast features guests, insights, and advice into how to live a more mindful life. Accompanying the audio insights is Harris’ 2014 book 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.  For a more practical, advice-based book, see Harris’ Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.

Great Podcasts: Fake News (in a good way!)

I’m back with another set of podcasts to highlight! Today’s two are a unique type: structured like a news or interview show, but set in fictional places, sharing fictional news. Hijinks and hilarity ensue, providing a welcome respite from real news and interview shows, which for me are almost universally exhausting. Again, as a disclaimer, I’m nowhere near caught up with either of these podcasts, so I can’t vouch for their entire content. As always, share your tips and recommendations in the comments! These podcasts are also available through Spotify, their websites, and other podcasting platforms like iTunes.

Welcome to Night Vale

This is a quite famous podcast in some circles, so you may well have already heard of it. If you’re not familiar, it’s structured as a local radio news program broadcast in the fictional (hopefully) town of Night Vale. The show reports strange happenings including strange creatures, ominous surveillance, and bizarre happenings with deadpan delivery, because in Night Vale, the odd and terrifying is also the everyday and normal. This makes for quite a bit of dry, tongue-in-cheek humor which may not be for everyone, but can be delightful.

Hello From the Magic Tavern

I discovered this podcast by accident a few years ago, and the main reason I stopped listening to it on any kind of consistent basis was because it always made me laugh out loud in the public places where I listened to it. This podcast’s structure is fairly typical for the medium: a host interviews a series of guests, hearing their stories and getting their take on current events. However, it’s set in the magical land of Foon, where the host ended up after falling through a portal behind Burger King. The improv comedy is often inappropriate but it’s always hilarious.

Great Podcasts: Storytelling

To be honest, I’m notoriously fickle when it comes to podcasts. I can’t seem to remember to listen to them, because I just haven’t figured out how to work them into my everyday routine. But I know it’s a great medium with a lot of die-hard fans, so I keep trying, and there are a few I really like, even if I’m nowhere near caught up on any of them. The Adventure Zone, which you might remember my recommending in an earlier post, is a big one. Two other podcasts, which I’ll share with you today, both revolve around history, sharing little-known facts and crafting interesting narratives out of them. Quick disclaimer: I’ve only listened to bits of these, so I can’t vouch for all the content they contain. You may know lots more about podcasts than I do – and if you do, please share your tips and recommendations in the comments! These podcasts are available on their own websites, as well as Spotify, iTunes, and other podcast platforms.

The Myths and Legends Podcast

This podcast is about what it sounds like: each episode, the host tells a different story from the realms of myths and legends. Some of the stories he shares are little-known myths from countries around the world, and sometimes he shares the original myth behind a now-famous story like Aladdin or Mulan. He tells the story in a conversational and engaging way, with modern asides, and each episode also features a profile of a different mythical creature, which may or may not be drawn from that episode’s main story. Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they’re gruesome or tragic, but for me they’re always intriguing, entertaining, and I always learn something new. If you like myths, legends, fairy tales, fantasy, or Disney, you may like this podcast.

The British History Podcast

Again, the name is fairly self-explanatory. The host takes on the massive job of telling the story of Britain’s history — from the beginning. The VERY beginning. Starting from its most ancient roots, he tells the story of the individuals, groups, and events that drove British history forward. Like the Myths and Legends podcast, the stories are explained in modern terms and delivered in a straightforward, conversational style. I really like the way he makes historical people relatable, fascinating, and sympathetic, bridging the huge gap of centuries between them and us. If you’re an Anglophile like me, or just a history buff, this may be a good podcast for you.

The Glorious Multimedia World of RPGs

Today, I’m going to share with you one of my deepest regrets: I’ve always wanted to play tabletop games, especially roleplaying (RPG) games like Dungeons and Dragons, but I’ve never had enough interested friends to learn how. I still hold out hope it could happen for me someday, but in the meantime, I’m happy to report there are lots of other ways to experience the RPG world, including podcasts, video games, and of course, books. Primarily, I want to share with you my favorite podcasts and video games that will give you the RPG experience even if you’re flying solo like me.

The arguably most famous – and wildly enjoyable – podcast about Dungeons and Dragons is The Adventure Zone made by the McElroy family. It’s available on a variety of free podcasting platforms including Podcast Addict. The formula is simple: a father and his sons sit down to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons together, recording it in real time so you can follow along with their campaign. The result is hilarious and addictive, and it gives you a real insight into how typical tabletop roleplaying games work. It’s so popular, in fact, that it now has its own graphic novel series!

The Glass Cannon is another option. This podcast is based on the Pathfinder roleplaying game, and is one of several put out by the Glass Cannon network. Like The Adventure Zone, it strives to give the listener an immersive gameplay experience, enjoyable for players and non-players alike. Unlike the Adventure Zone, it has an ensemble cast of various comedians, voice actors, and gaming nerds to flesh out the story and the characters. This podcast is also available on Podcast Addict, among other platforms.

As far as video games go, I personally strongly recommend trying Cat Quest and Cat Quest II for Nintendo Switch. As a self-declared newbie gamer, I appreciated the clear gameplay and intuitive controls as well as the frankly adorable graphics. In the second game (the one I’ve tried), you play as one or both of a cat and dog pair who are dethroned kings trying to regain their rightful places. Just like in role playing games like D&D, these two go on a series of quests to reach that goal, gaining supplies and abilities along the way. It presents enough challenge to be interesting but still manages to be relaxing.

If cute and cuddly’s not your thing, you might enjoy other RPG games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or the online World of Warcraft. These games lean heavier into the more typical fantasy world of elves, dwarves, dragons, and dangerous, bloody quests. In the case of Elder Scrolls, you play as a prophesied hero with a unique gift, which uniquely places you to deal with dragons returning to the realm.

Davenport Public Library Podcast #1

The Davenport Public Library is happy to announce the creation of our own weekly-ish podcast. The intent of the program is to focus on the Quad-Cities community and library issues in general.

Some of our podcasts will present the highlights of interviews conducted with local area veterans as part of the World War II/Korean War oral history project conducted . Our very first podcast looks at the experiences of area veteran Robert Rubley as a minesweeper (15:01).

Please subscribe to this free show in the Itunes music store so you’ll get a piping hot MP3 every time a new episode comes out. Or, just stream them off this blog by hitting “Play” below.