Yesterday, as I was talking to a patient about how he might exercise during the pandemic, I suggested he pair the (far less desirable or interesting to him) indoor workouts with something he really enjoys. He loves to read.

“Do you like books on tape?” I asked.

“No,” he answered then explained that his wife loves her Kindle but to him a book must be a book. He likes the feel of it, the heft and smell and sensory experience.

I don’t disagree, though my middle aged eyes are fond of the e-book functions that allow for larger print and adjustable lighting. It took me a second to realize that my patient had lumped e-books and audiobooks into non-books, and it took me until later that day to realize that I have a different divide: books and ebooks vs audio experiences, books and podcasts and radio.

I too have trouble with audiobooks and often with voice-actor read articles. Too often the voice, the intonation, what words are emphasized, the entire performance of the audio experience of the text by an actor distracts from what I value most: the text itself and the author’s voice.

So I love radio (especially all things NPR) but I don’t like audiobooks. I find myself planning our dinner, or running through all the work I haven’t done. I miss key parts of the book or story and I rewind and the same thing happens again.

Podcasts, however, are different. To me, they are more like radio. Why? Because they are meant to be heard. There’s a huge difference for me between listening to a work that is meant to be read and listening to something that was designed to be listened to. Thus: NPR and Podcasts. They accompany me when I walk the dog, exercise, cook, and in the pre-COVID days, when I drove places.

The biggest problem with podcasts is that there are too many of them.

Still, I have favorites, ones that appeal particularly to different parts of who I am and what interests me. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • For all things geriatric and palliative care, a great bro-show (tolerable, even fun for those of us who will never be bros) with music: GeriPal
  • For stories from healthcare, a podcast started by Emily Silverman while she was a medical resident (?!!) and now nationwide, curated to hear varied voices and meaningful experiences: The Nocturnists
  • For understanding intersectionality and the experiences of people of color in the world: NPR’s Code Switch
  • For amazing interviews about topics from politics to the economy to TV and the arts with the world’s best interviewer: Fresh Air
  • For some high brow fun The New Yorker Radio Hour
  • For getting deep, existential, spiritual, and considering the issues that matter most to us as human beings: On Being
  • For literary geek time with thoughtful interviews with others you might not hear from in the above podcasts and a fantastic interviewer David Naimon: Between the Covers
  • And for learning from some of the world’s best thinkers: The TED Radio Hour

Younger people will no doubt notice that this is the list of a middle age woman of a certain background. And readers of all ages likely have some suggestions for me — if you do please post or send them!