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Our Podcast Recommendations

No ‘golden age of TV’, no Netflix, no Binge, no Instagram or TikTok… leisure time while social distancing during the 1918 flu pandemic must have been very different. Lots of reading, card games, jigsaws and embroidery, no doubt. We feel very lucky.

As lockdowns go on and many of us become overly familiar (read: bored witless) with the streets and parks of our 5 kilometre bubble, we’ve discovered the joy of podcasts to keep us interested. Our Dinner Ladies zoom meetings often seem to end now with a chat about which podcasts we’re listening to, so we’ve parcelled up our staff recommendations, just like they do in real-life bookshops (remember them?). 

You should be able to find these easily on (what’s the professional sounding phrase they use?) your favourite podcast provider. Or just Google!

Armchair Expert  

Loads of people seem to have discovered this one – a podcast that ‘celebrates the messiness of being human’. It’s ongoing, with a new episode every couple of days. The host is Dax Shepard in California, and he describes himself like this: I love talking to people. I will attempt to discover human ‘truths’without any laboratory work, clinical trials or data collection. I will be, in the great tradition of 16th-century scientists, an Armchair Expert.
The episodes vary from mainly long-ish celebrity interviews – Matt Damon to Russell Brand, Kim Kardashian to Quentin Tarantino – and reports on special subjects as varied as medical misinformation, QAnon and clean meat. 

Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen 

This 11-episode podcast ‘unspools the story of one of the weirdest and wildest scams in history’. It was named one of 2020’s best podcasts by Spotify and Rolling Stone. Once you’re back at the water cooler, you’ll be able to have ‘water cooler discussions’ about this, so encourage your friends to listen too. The scam is that for the past seven years, hundreds of Hollywood gig workers have been fooled into flying to Indonesia to work on a movie that doesn’t exist. As so often with great podcasts, there’s the scam story element, but also the psychology… the two veteran reporters examine the cost of wanting something so badly that you only see what you want to see. There’s also interesting comment on the nature of Hollywood, where everyone’s pretending to be someone else. 

Stuff you should know  

This one’s also American, created and hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, with episodes varying in length from 15 minutes to an hour that reveal surprising facts on subjects as varied as landslides, Champagne, sarcasm, satanism, MRI scans, Rosa Parks, chaos theory and pet psychics. If you’ve got lockdown guilt because you haven’t learnt to play piano, mastered a new language or taught your teenagers to put together a ‘really great antipasto board’, then get listening. An hour a day with Josh and Chuck and you’ll redeem yourself in no time! 

On Purpose with Jay Shetty

London-born Jay Shetty was a monk for three years and is now a purpose coach (and podcast host). The aim of his podcast is to ‘make wisdom go viral’. The episodes are conversations with insightful people and cover just about everything to do with human life and soul, from overcoming perfectionism, to signs of burnout, how to stop being distracted, finding love, to healthy diets and hundreds more. New episodes come out on Mondays and Fridays. 

Desert Island Discs

Guests are ‘castaway’ on to a desert island and allowed to take eight records (plus a luxury and a book). We listen to the soundtrack of their life, and it’s hard to find a dull episode of this hugely successful BBC radio programme. There have been so many castaways over the years that they’re sorted by genre (comedians, sportspeople, politicians, rock stars), choice of music, or date (back to 1952). Ricky Gervais’ choice of luxury item made him giggle so much he could hardly speak. 

Desert Island Dishes 

This is such a cool idea – a pun, of course, on Desert Island Discs. Instead of records, guests choose the seven dishes that have meant the most in their lives. Interviewer Margie Nomura is a chef and food writer. Guests are often chefs and restaurateurs, but also sportspeople, actors, politicians… The most recent is Alison Roman from the New York Times and cookbook fame. Margie writes recipes for the dishes her guests talk about, and these also appear on the website, which we love!