This is The Good List — I’m Tsh Oxenreider.
These are works of art.
Well, as I’m talking to you, it’s just a few days until Election Day here in the United States, COVID numbers are on the rise again around the world, and so many of us are either being asked or doing what we can to make our lives feel somewhat “normal” — you know, school for the kids, work for us, groceries and health and socially-distanced community things and the upcoming holidays. It can feel like a lot because it IS a lot. And on top of all that, we’ve also got serious information overload slamming our inboxes and Twitter feeds and I presume even the news on TV even though I don’t watch the news on TV.
It’s hard to know where to look and it feels like our two choices are to either deep-dive into staying current on absolutely every bit of information that’s out there, morning noon and night, or bury our heads in the sand and pretend like we don’t need to stay informed because it feels uncomfortable to us. Neither one of those options are good, though, because they inhibit us from both being good neighbors and being good to ourselves.
So, right now it’s all the more important to take in current events as necessary, then purposely stop the news feeds and take in other things as well. Since you’re listening to this, I presume you’re a podcast listener — I am too; no surprise there. So in this short episode, I’m going to tell you about 5 podcasts that are really helping me these days, either by staying informed in a healthy way or by helping me enjoy something else besides the news — also in a healthy way. I’m going to tell you about these specific shows, then recommend a recent episode you can try out to see if it’s a good fit for you right now — because if you’re a mature adult who cares about the world, then you’re in the same boat as me. We all need to do our part to stay informed, and we all need to do our part to not burn out.
1. First is one of my favorite podcasts right now, called Throughline. It’s put out by NPR, and it’s a show about history, which is one of my favorite subjects to nerd out on. These episodes are very well produced and usually around 45 minutes to an hour, so not too long while still getting deep. Their basic premise is to go back in time to understand the present, which means the topics they explore are timely. At the time of this recording they’re doing a short series called (mis)Representative Democracy as a lead-up to the election, and oh my goodness is it fantastic. Their episode on the electoral college was phenomenal, and I thought I already knew a bit about the electoral process. But as great as that episode was, the episode I want you to try out is one from September 2020 called The Evangelical Vote — it was eye-opening. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop recommending it to people in my life that I knew would appreciate it. Regardless of your own personal history and whether it intersects with American Evangelicalism, you’ll gain something from this episode because it pulls back the curtain on a significant part of our society. So, NPR’s Throughline, and their recent episode called The Evangelical Vote.
2. Next up is a podcast that’s probably not brand new to Good List listeners — it’s the podcast Pantsuit Politics, from my friends Sarah Stewart-Holland and Beth Silvers. This show has gotten hugely popular recently, which couldn’t make me happier, because it’s (in my opinion) the best political podcast done by some of the best women around. The basic idea is grace-filled political conversations filled with tons of nuance, and if there’s anything our culture’s rhetoric needs regarding politics right now, it’s grace and nuance. Plus, these ladies are just nice and lovely and the type of people you want to have lunch with, because I have and I truly wish we lived in the same neighborhood so we could do it more often. They put out current event-specific episodes on Tuesdays and Fridays, and they serve us well in processing and filtering the most important news and explaining it in layperson terms, which is why I think they’re essential listening. And yet even though each episode is current and timely, the episode I want to recommend to you is from mid-October 2020, which is not too long ago from this recording, but you know how fast the news moves these days. This episode is called Political Shifts and the VP Debate, and even though they’re analyzing the VP debate, there’s still so much in their chat that’s timeless, especially when they get into how we should think about politics as rational citizens. So, Pantsuit Politics from Sarah and Beth, and their recent episode called Political Shifts.
3. Third is a podcast that might not initially appeal to all Good List listeners, because its target audience is young Catholics — but I’ve personally really grown to enjoy it this year as a new listener. It’s called Jesuitical, and it’s put out by the folks at America Media. The basic idea is two young Catholics, Ashley McKinless and Zac Davis, cover the week’s Catholic news, then chat with someone in the public sphere about some current event. It’s pretty laid-back yet doesn’t ramble, and those are my two most important ingredients in podcasts I listen to, I find. And they talk to a wide variety of guests, from poet Padraig o’Tuama to Jeannie Gaffigan, to the chaplain of US House of Representatives. Yet a recent episode I really enjoyed was with NPR correspondent Scott Detrow, who’s been covering the campaign trail. It was good to hear more of what that’s like as a journalist, and to hear what he sees on the ground. It’s both informative and relaxed, and I thoroughly enjoyed that episode. So, Jesuitical by America Media, and their recent episode with Scott Detrow called Joe Biden’s Catholic Faith on the Campaign Trail.
4. The fourth show I want to recommend to you is called This Day in Esoteric Political History from Radiotopia. If one of the things you like about The Good List is its brevity, you’d like this about this show as well, because most episodes are around 10-15 minutes long. Co-hosts Jody Avrigan and Nicole Hemmer talk about one thing that happened in political history on the day that episode airs. New episodes release twice a week, and since they’re short, they’re easy to quickly listen to as you run errands or cook dinner or whatever, and again, since I love history, I find that I learn something new in each one because the things they usually talk about are obscure. So they’ve got episodes about fallout shelters in 1961, a bank war in 1833, Wyoming’s entry to the US in 1890, and even more recent things like Obama’s tan suit in 2014. The specific episode I’m recommending is one from earlier this year in April 2020 about when President Wilson contracted the influenza virus in 1919 that had become a global pandemic. They reposted it in early October when news hit that our current president contracted COVID, and I found it a fascinating look into what it was like a hundred years ago for something similar to happen. So, that’s On This Day in Esoteric Political History from Radiotopia, and their recent episode called The President Catches the Virus in 1919.
5. And lastly, I wanna talk about a show you might already listen to, but has been such a balm for me the past few months. It’s called Poetry Unbound from The On Being Project, and you should listen to it alone for the voice of its Irish host, poet Padraig o’Tuama. It’s another short podcast, and its premise is an invitation to immerse yourself in a single poem twice a week. It’s short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing. If you love poetry, or if you don’t yet but you want to love poetry, this podcast is for you. Padraig reads the poem once, shares his reflections on it, then reads it a second time. This is the show you need to listen to when you feel stressed or rushed and you’re in search of a reason to stop and just be. Episodes are under 15 minutes long; most of them are under 10 minutes. And it’s the perfect listen for when you want to grab a few minutes of contemplation. The episode I want to point you to is called A Blessing by James Wright, where Padraig unpacks a poem about nature, which is perfect for the fall. It’s a delightful introduction to the world of poetry in an accessible, beauty-focused posture.
So, there you go — five podcasts that both inform and delight, that help us become better people holistically, both for our inward growth and our work of being better neighbors to each other. I’m grateful for each of these labors of love.
[ LISTENER COMMENT ]
Hi Tsh, this is Donna calling from Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia. Thanks so much for the podcast. I love it. I think this is a habit that could qualify as a thing but I think it’s more of a habit. I want to talk about dollar store reading glasses. So I’m in my early fifties so I’m a little bit older than some of you young folks, but I have been reading glasses for the last few years. I would get frustrated when I go into a supermarket or wherever and I couldn’t see, or any type of store and pick up a package to read and you can’t see so you have to get out your glasses from a backpack. Now I put them on my head like a headband before I go in the store so that when I need them, I just pull them down. I have long hair so it helps to keep my hair from my face, too. It’s a double-duty I think, like I said, it could be a habit, it could be a thing, but dollar store reading glasses have saved me so I can actually read labels in the supermarket without having to stop and take my backpack off my back and grab my glasses out. I just put them on my head like a headband. Hope you’re having a great day. I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. Keep up the great work. Thank you so much.
Thanks so much to Donna for sharing with us what’s on her good list. And also, check out this episode’s show notes for links to all the podcasts I talked about as well as the specific episodes I’m recommending to you.
A reminder that Advent is here soon, starting on November 29 this year, so now’s the time to get my latest book, Shadow & Light: A Journey Into Advent. I’d also love you to join our new online Advent community, where you can find support, ideas, and encouragement for walking through Advent in your own home in a way that works for you, as well as help us spread the word about Shadow & Light. I’d love to have you join us. So, find the book and the place to join this community at shadowandlightadvent.com, just use the link I’ve got in the show notes of this episode, #50 of The Good List.
I’m on Twitter @tsh and occasionally on IG @tshoxenreider, but I mostly like to connect with you through my free weekly email called 5 Quick Things, which I send it out most every Friday morning. To get it, go to tsh.email, that’s t-s-h dot email, or find the link in this episode’s show notes.
Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, and thanks, as always, to Caroline TeSelle and Kyle Oxenreider for their help, as well as my furry intern, Ginny. I’m Tsh Oxenreider, and I’ll be back with you soon — thanks for listening to The Good List.