This year for our annual reading list, we thought we would do something different. As most libraries and bookstores are closed we wanted to recommend things that you would actually be able to get ahold of — podcasts. We tried to choose episodes that stand on their own, meaning you don't need to have any background information or know any ‘lore.’ The Ubyssey editorial are exactly the kinds of people who are podcast fanatics so you know we have good taste. We’re transitioning to a new editorial so there's double the amount of recommendations!
Outgoing coordinating editor, Alex Nguyen:
I cheated a little bit so this is both a podcast and book recommendation.
Even as cybersecurity becomes an increasingly important topic, it can sometimes feel too technical to be something you casually pick up for leisure reading. But Sandworm — Wired senior reporter Andy Greenberg’s new book on state-sponsored cyberwarfare, especially in Ukraine — is a certified page-turner. With equal care for investigative reporting and narrative writing, Greenberg gives the readers an in-depth and human look at how different cyber attacks temporarily took down the world’s biggest shipping firm or a country’s critical infrastructure.
Want to nerd out even more after reading the book? Check out Longform Podcast episode #372 to learn more about Greenberg’s reporting process and larger journalism career and the fun, fun world of cybersecurity.
Incoming coordinating editor and outgoing features editor, Pawan Minhas:
Take a break from news on COVID-19 and take in something lighter — a podcast reviewing Canadian colonialism and the folks we've immortalized in stone and steel. The Secret Life of Canada is a great show hosted by a Black woman and an Indigenous woman, both of whom are committed to telling you the stories you never heard about in Social Studies. Beyond history, their 'Shout out to...' series (re)introduces you to folks who aren't often included in people's 'Great Canadians' lists, but should be.
Incoming features editor Bailey Martens:
If you should know anything about me it is that I am an enneagram eight; I am strong, assertive and fear losing control. Sleeping At Last wrote an entire album filled with songs for each of the enneagram personalities. Listening to my song left me gut-punched. In this podcast, he goes through every tiny choice that went into creating this song and how it relates back to the deeper psychology behind the type. Though almost two hours long, I find myself listening to it whenever I feel misunderstood, which being an eight, is often.
Outgoing blog and opinion editor, Tristan Wheeler:
“U Talkin’ U2 To Me?” (now known as R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: Me) was and continues to be the crowning achievement in meandering, two guys talking about a pop culture thing podcasting. Their magnum opus, asides from the hours of side podcasts like “I Love Films” or “Talkin’ Turtle,” is Staind Glass. The episode is premised on a Tweet from a fan suggesting saying they should get comedian Todd Glass to talk about the one-hit-wonder metal band Staind. You remember them right? That band who sang “It’s Been Awhile?” No matter your knowledge with Staind or U2 the show is a masterclass in comedic chemistry.
Hosts Scott (Aukerman) and (Adam) Scott goad Glass’s complete ignorance of pop culture for over two hours, at one point playing song after song of hits like “I Told The Witch Doctor” by Alvin and the Chipmunks and “Buddy Holly” by Weezer, asking if Glass thinks the band singing is U2. While a simple premise, it remains one of the funniest sequences in podcasting history. Some of the other stand-out moments include a rundown of Glass’s bonkers parties and the group’s opinions on weddings.
This remains one of my favourite episodes of any podcast ever. I recommend it to anyone who loves irreverent conversation and jokes about Bono’s dick.
Incoming blog and opinion editor, Sam Smart:
This episode is a wild ride from start to finish. The two hosts explain a tweet to their boss who doesn’t understand it, and in the process explain the phenomenon of Gritty, the infamous Philadelphia Flyers mascot, and Jacob Wohl, one of the most hilariously incompetent grifters in the United States. I recommend listening to this if you like learning about bizarre Internet phenomena and want to hear them explained by two non-judgmental people. Once they go through the entire explanation of the tweet, it will become one of your favourites.
Outgoing news editor, Emma Livingstone:
I love This American Life because you usually get to listen to a sampling of stories, which is great if you have a short attention span as I do. This episode includes the story that Lulu Wang turned into the movie The Farewell. Even if you've seen the movie, I highly recommend listening to her retelling of it. It's an even more heartwarming and emotional experience getting to hear the story directly from her and her family.
Outgoing news editor, Henry Anderson:
Malcolm Gladwell is a hero of mine and, in my estimation, a genius. For one, he’s a phenomenal storyteller, but he’s particularly adept at using stories to clearly illustrate themes and concepts that seem complicated on their surface. Picking one episode from Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History was excruciating — there are so many good ones spanning so many topics. But because this is a “news” paper and I'm a “news” editor I chose an episode that dives deep into history. “The Prime Minister and the Prof” visits a little-known historical figure in Britain — Winston Churchill’s best friend — and considers his impact on the 1943 Bengal Famine.
Incoming news editor Charlotte Alden:
I love the Stuff Mom Never Told You Podcast, particularly the episode “Feminism of Running.” The podcast discusses many different topics through a feminist lens, ranging from analyzing the language we use to the colleges we attend to the celebrities we idolize. In this episode, the hosts discuss how running interacts with body image, the extra precautions that female runners have to take when running alone and how the act of taking time to run by yourself is in itself a feminist act. As a runner, this made me rethink how I see running, but it’s an interesting listen for everyone, whether you run or not.
Incoming news editor, Andrew Ha:
A phone booth with a direct line to the afterlife, frequented by callers who wish to speak to the ones they lost in Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Through recordings of their calls, Meek explores how we grapple with grief and loss — and how we can show love in the most ordinary of ways. I made the mistake of listening to this on the bus and had to pause before I got too emotional. Put it on at home and let the sorrow behind these seemingly mundane conversations blanket your soul.
Outgoing photo editor, Elizabeth Wang: classical musical
I don’t listen to podcasts very often... Can I say I listen to classical music instead of podcasts?
Incoming photo editor, Sophie Galloway:
I'd recommend 99% Invisible’s Episode 389 “Whomst Among Us Let The Dogs Out.” If you’re looking for an interesting distraction from current events, any of the 99% Invisible podcasts will do you well. This episode describes some rando’s decade-long quest to discover the unexpectedly storied history of the legendary Baha Men’s “Who Let The Dogs Out.” It has all of my favourite things in it: music, history and people fighting. Listen, it’s wild!
Outgoing science editor, James Vogl:
This is the closest a podcast has ever come to making me cry. While that sounds like a terrible episode to recommend for enjoyment, it’s a really interesting look at three different people trying to make sense of death in some way, and coming out the other side in one piece is a cathartic experience.
Incoming science editor, Myla White:
When I was 18, my best friend and I road-tripped along the west coast from our hometown in BC to San Francisco. We motored through just about every episode of Criminal during that trip and hit “Money Tree” while on a quiet road in northern California. The both of us lost it listening to this episode, partially because of the ending and partially because the description in the episode following was the spitting image of some guy she had just ended things with. It ended up being the first podcast episode I shared with my now-partner of two and a half years. It’s one of my favourite pieces of media because of the wonderful place I have been in every time I’ve listened to it.
Outgoing sports editor, Salomon Micko Benrimoh:
The only podcast I ever really listen to is The Daily by The New York Times. Not the biggest podcast guy, tbh.
Incoming sports editor, Diana Hong:
Looking to improve your Korean? Do you have any dilemmas that you are struggling with? If you are looking for helpful advice, listen to some wise words said by Elena teacher, played by Sook Kim, a South Korean comedian. This podcast is hosted by Eun-yi Son, a South Korean singer and comedian, and Kim. This podcast reads out some of the dilemmas that are sent from their listeners and inputs their thoughts into the listener’s situation. It also features calling celebrities and well-known figures, such as Hye-jin Jang from Parasite. In this episode, Jang shares some insights while she is at the Oscar Awards after-party. Not only does this podcast give laughs, what’s unique about it is that most of the celebrities they call are their friends, so it is very casual that it is cool to see different sides of your favourite celebrity.
Outgoing video editor, Jack Bailey:
Whenever I think of “best podcast episodes” this is always the first one that comes to mind. It is a cross over episode between the podcasts ‘‘99% Invisible’’ and ‘‘Reply All,’’ as they investigate why the 2016 Mazda sedan stereo is unable to play the 99% Invisible podcast. It’s very meta, endlessly surprising and so funny. Just a pleasant, fun episode.
Incoming video editor, Akshay Khandelwal:
My favourite episode of a podcast that definitely stands out on its own would be the two-part “Long Distance” episode from the podcast “Reply All.” In this podcast, host Alex Goldman seeks to discover the truth behind a phone scamming service. Goldman ended up calling the number back once a day for several months and started unravelling a world of antivirus scams. He takes his investigation to a new level when he travels to India. What I love the most about this episode as a novice podcast listener, is the fact that he does not end his investigation at a basic level but delves deeper to understand these call centre workers and to highlight how low wages and difficult situations can lead people to turn to cheap labour in order to live.
Outgoing culture editor, Thomas O'Donnell:
I am in charge of coordinating this list so I can put in as many podcasts as I want.
Both of these podcasts are important to me because they were recommended to me by friends at The Ubyssey. My brother Tristan Wheeler recommended the “Oliver Sipple” episode to me and it was like when someone gets you a gift that is, so spot on you get scared at how powerful it is. I feel like it encapsulates my work at the paper: a deep dive into some gay history. This episode is just so good, from the overview of the gay rights movement, the politics of the role of the press and the heart-breaking story of Sipple himself. After I listened to this I had to sit in my room and just think really hard.
Switching gears entirely, “Hey Riddle Riddle” was recommended to me by Samantha McCabe. This podcast also encapsulates my work at the paper: yelling over my friends who are trying to talk. It's just three improvisors riffin' on riddles and doing scenes based on those riddles. I love this show, it frequently has me laughing out loud on public transit or in the grocery store.
Incoming culture editor, Danni Olusanya:
Not all podcasts are made equal. Some go good with a glass of wine at the end of the day, others are a morning coffee, strong, bitter loaded with a cold hard dose of the truth. Still Processing and particularly this episode “Apology” is hot chocolate, topped with marshmallows and some — but not too much — whipped cream. Jenna and Wesley two culture writers at The New York Times discuss the art of the apology, they talk about celebrity apologies and non-apologies, why they so often suck. Then they go on to talk about how to compose a good apology, and then, just as you think it’s about to end, there is a touching emotional moment that will stick with you long after you’ve listened to it.
Returning visuals editor, Lua Presidio: "I am an outcast of the podcast society, and I have failed Thom"
I'm not super big into podcasts, but I do enjoy the investigative journalism ones. This, unfortunately, means they don't really work as stand-alone episodes, so I'll recommend the first episode of the S-Town series. This podcast is from the same creators of Serial and it tricks you into believing you're listening to one story when you're actually listening to another.
This is not a true-crime podcast, although it might seem like it at first. Instead, it is a deep delve into the life of a man in Southern Alabama and his community. S-Town is about living, being human and all the struggles in between. It made me laugh and cry (mostly cry) and I hope you can enjoy it as much as I did. If anything S-Town was an interesting listen because it forced me to have one of those moments where you step back and realize that in their heads, everyone is the protagonist of their own story.