Audiobook and Podcast recommendations

11 June 2020

The last few summer issues of ITS Update have included a Books and Movies section. Before sharing the recommendations that we had been gathering over the past few months, we suggest looking at these anti-racism books, podcasts, and movies recommended by the Carleton Student Association, OIIL, and others.

This year we asked ITS staff members and our Library friends to offer suggestions for audiobooks, podcasts, and other media. Accessing audio-based media can involve a wide range of tools, but the main ones we use are phone-based apps. For podcasts, the classic app is Apple Podcast. But other stock apps like YouTube and Google Play offer similar tools for finding and subscribing to audio broadcasts. For audiobooks, the best known commercial app is Audible (Amazon). 

Audiobooks can also be checked out from the library at Carleton and listened to with Overdrive. The local public library also offers a good selection of audiobooks, and you can browse what’s available easily with Libby. Almost anyone in the state can register for an account with the Hennepin County Library and browse through and listen to their large selection of audiobooks through Libby.


Gaiman, Neil. Fortunately, the Milk. 2013.

 This is a children’s book? It is one hour long so maybe good for a planned car ride. It is a funny and whimsical story of a father’s journey to get milk that took way too long. ~ Neal Weeg

Harrow, Alix E. The Ten Thousand Doors of January. 2019.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, the author’s debut novel, is at its core a study of love and belonging.  Set in the early 20th century, Harrow has the protagonist battling through opposed longings.  She desires, on the one hand, to be seen as the smart, genteel, and well-behaved charge of her rich de-facto guardian.  But, and the other hand, she longs to follow her dream of running away with her largely absentee treasure-hunting father.  As she takes her first clumsy steps outside her guardian’s control, she realizes that virtually no one in her life is exactly what they seem to be—not only her guardian, but also her father, and herself.  The twist that this book gives to what might otherwise be just another story of a teen finding herself is that the journey ends up taking her not only across a series of racial and cultural divides but also, ultimately, across several worlds as well.  I love interesting fantasy, and this book did the trick. ~ Richard Goerwitz

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass. 2013.

It gives a different perspective to our relationship with nature that I very much enjoyed. It’s also particularly nice if you have a short attention span, since each chapter is it’s own story in itself. ~ Elizabeth Black

Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus. 2011.

This is my favorite audiobook. It’s about dueling magicians who perform at the mysterious night circus and fall in love despite being in competition with one another. The story is fast paced and the descriptions of the performances, the food, and the settings are all so rich that it lends itself well to the audio format. ~ Anonymous


Abumrad, Jad. Dolly Parton’s America.

This is a 9-part series focused on the life and work of Dolly Parton. It explores Dolly’s life through interviews with her and others, and examines her influence on American culture. ~ Kate Niemisto

Goldman, Alex and PJ Vogt. The Scaredy Cats Horror Show.

This is a new podcast from the (excellent) Reply All podcast folks. However, this show is an attempt by Alex to introduce his co-host PJ, the “scaredy cat” of the title, to scary movies. As a fellow scaredy cat, I have been enjoying the first two episodes as an introduction to the genre, and learning what it is about horror that people love so much. The guest for the first episode is the comedian Jason Mantzoukas (of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, among many others) and it is funny, scary, and yet somehow gentle? All in all, the first two episodes have been a lovely diversion (they release about one every other week). ~ Sarah Calhoun

Gross, Terry. Fresh Air. (podcast)

Fresh Air is a radio talk show broadcast on National Public Radio and has been on the air since 1985. It is produced by WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where I lived for 20 years). The show’s host is Terry Gross, who is renowned for her interviewing skills and her breadth of interests (political, entertainment, etc). I can’t listen to Fresh Air on my drive anymore (since I walk to work), so I use the Fresh Air podcast as my background while I’m cooking.  ~ Janet Scannell

Hallberg, Amy ’92 and Christina “Kiki” Kelley ’93. Tales from a Bucket List Champ.

I have been immensely enjoying listening to a simply fabulous – sometimes funny, often emotionally searing, always inspiring – podcast series produced by two Carls of the Classes of ’92 and ’93. Amy guides her friend Kiki as Kiki tells us the story of her life to date – an amazing narrative of unlikely survival from a serious illness (starting while she was a Carleton student) that nearly killed her and then her spirited subsequent adventures. Against all odds, Kiki has led an extraordinary life. (Much of this story is still ahead, as episodes are being released one by one.) Kiki and Amy have done SUCH a great job with this; Kiki’s story (and Kiki herself) are SO appealing, and I have found every episode so far entirely absorbing. ~ Eric Hillemann

Long, Justin. Life is Short with Justin Long.

My favorite new podcast is Life is Short with Justin Long, which debuted in 2019. The actor interviews other actors and creators and breaks down the interview after it’s done with his brother Christian. It’s funny and well done. I also love the New York Times podcast Still Processing that’s been going since 2016. Culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris discuss TV, movies, art, music, and the internet. They truly process their opinions and ideas during the show and it’s a welcome change to other podcasts where the hosts have strong opinions right away. ~ Anonymous

McElroy, Justin and Syndee McElroy. Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine.

This podcast offers a humorous (or perhaps I should say humerus) take on topics from the history of medicine. Each week, Dr. Sydnee McElroy, a family medicine physician, researches the history of a different diagnosis, treatment, person, event, or product related to the field of medicine, then discusses that topic with her comedian and podcaster husband, Justin McElroy. They have released over 300 episodes, with recent topics ranging from Ignaz Semmelweis to medical masks to Viking’s Disease. Some of my personal favorites are the “Weird Medical Questions” episodes, in which Sydnee answers questions submitted by listeners; their episodes covering (and refuting) pseudoscientific “treatments” are also a highlight. ~ Audrey Gunn

O’Donohue, John. “The Inner Landscape of Beauty.” In Krista Tippett’s On Being, Feb 28, 2008.

It has a similar theme to Braiding Sweetgrass. I like it because of the insight O’Donohue brings to the concept of beauty. Also, can’t not love the Irish accent of course! ~ Elizabeth Black

Public Official A (podcast)

Public Official A follows the downfall of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying to sell President Obama’s senate seat. It’s a fascinating and nuanced look at a popular governor’s rise and fall. ~ Austin Robinson-Coolidge

Wallace, Carvell. Finding Fred.

This is a 10-part series which explores Mr. Rogers’ life and work through personal interviews with people who were affected by his work. In addition to the other Fred Rogers content that has come out in the last few years, I appreciated the new ways Wallace examined how and why Mr. Rogers impacted the world. ~ Kate Niemisto

And an Album

  • Title: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  • Author: Fiona Apple
  • Date (if known): April 2020
  • What it is, why you liked it: According to Pitchfork (who gave it 10/10), “Fiona Apple’s fifth record is unbound, a wild symphony of the everyday, an unyielding masterpiece. No music has ever sounded quite like it.” I’ve been listening to it on repeat for a month now, and it’s an album that keeps giving. Fiona Apple oozes an amazingly exuberant and joyful energy that is also very grounding and reassuring. It’s definitely a bit weird at times, but there’s something about its weirdness that somehow matches our current reality and says “Yes, I see you there, chatting with your plants — send my best to them!”. “Under the table” is an excellent entree to the album. ~ Sarah Calhoun

Appears in Issues: