What to listen to this summer

Michelle Obama’s podcast launched this Wednesday 29 July with her first guest Barack Obama. After her brilliant memoir Becoming, and the subsequent Netflix show we might feel we know Michelle Obama’s story by now but hearing these two in conversation – with all their laughter and informal intones like Barack ‘getting whooped’ as a child – makes for great listening. Politics and race are discussed in the context of their relationship as they wonder what sort of world they’re leaving for their daughters, and what happens when the ideas discussed around their dinner table just don’t translate into the boardroom. The series is the first from the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground in partnership with Spotify. Other guests in the series include her mentor Valerie Jarrett, brother, Craig Robinson and her mother Marian Robinson. We’re excited to hear more.

More US podcasts we’ve been listening to lately:

Rabbit Hole is a new series from the New York Times that launched in April. The tagline is “What is the internet doing to us?” A provocative and thoughtful series taking you down the rabbit hole of YouTube viewing and how the internet is changing all of us.

Dolly Parton’s America – this one is more of a feel good listen. It’s all about Dolly and even if you weren’t previously a fan, you might walk away wanting to listen a little more. 

The Jungle Prince – a fascinating story about one of Delhi’s greatest mysteries, the eccentric and self-proclaimed royal family of Oudh. Told over three episodes from The Daily.

Wind of Change – was the cheesy rock ballad Wind of Change by heavy metal band The Scorpions actually written by the CIA? Patrick Radden Keefe, a New Yorker staff writer, has been pondering this question for almost ten years after a tip provided by a covert source. This is like Argo in podcast form, but way better.

And if, like us, you were riveted by the Netflix series Unorthodox about a young woman’s escape from the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, you might be interested in a new recording of Deborah Feldman’s memoir on which the show was based.

For fiction, we recommend Richard E Grant reading Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea. Made by Penguin in celebration of Murdoch’s centenary, the book (which won the Booker Prize 1978) feels rather relevant for our times – about a man who de-camps to the coast, determined to spend his days in hermit-like contemplation.

Sally Rooney fans will be happy to hear that Faber have released two of her short stories as an audiobook. Two Stories includes recordings of Mr Salary – published in a Faber Stories edition last year and Colour and Light – that appeared in the New Yorker in March 2019.

Finally, we have to mention Louis Theroux’s lockdown podcast, Grounded, of which our favourite remains an early episode with Helena Bonham Carter that’s just the right level of gossipy and wise with her wonderful cackles of laughter throughout. If you haven’t listened, we recommend you do.

 

 

— Daisy Allsup
30th July 2020