Six of the Best Podcasts to Subscribe to This Autumn

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The Last Days of August

From Jon Ronson’s investigation into the death of porn star August Ames to a series of folk tales reimagined by contemporary female writers, here are six podcasts to plug into

While oral storytelling is a tradition as old as time, podcasting has breathed new life into the spoken word. Here, we shortlist our favourites for autumn, from philosophical frontiers and feminist folk tales, to stories about human connection and scientific speculation.

1. The Last Days of August

In The Butterfly Effect Jon Ronson and producer Lina Misitzis told charming stories from porn’s San Fernando Valley that were touching, thoughtful and optimistic. It was a refreshing and heartwarming look at an industry that’s often marginalised and caricatured. In many ways The Last Days of August is the reverse of that same coin. Focusing again on the world of porn, this remarkable series unravels the never-before-told story of what caused the death of August Ames in December 2017. Touching on cyberbullying, sexual trauma and social shaming, The Last Days of August unearths messy truths about violence against women and how we police their behaviour. Start with ‘Episode One’.

2. Love Me

A podcast about the messiness of human connection, Love Me uses personal stories and playful fictions to celebrate that weird little voice inside each of us that cries out “love me”. Each episode contemplates why our most commonly shared drives are sometimes so hard to talk about, be that a son shielding his dad from a painful family secret; a widow confronting her grief; or how to define your relationship when sparks fly through Google Translate. Start with ‘The Detonator’.

3. 1619

Hosted by Rukmini Callimachi and produced by Radiolab-alum Andy Mills, Caliphate was one of the most gripping, informative and compelling series of 2018. 1619, the next narrative, long-form podcast from The New York Times looks set to be no less remarkable. 400 years after the first slave ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia, 1619 explores the way slavery and its legacy continues to shape all aspects of American life. Start with ‘The Fight For A True Democracy’.

4. Hag

Exploring otherness, identity, faith, religion, gender and trauma, Hag invites award-winning authors and Sunday Times bestsellers to reimagine the UK’s forgotten folklore as a series of modern-day feminist fables. Richly sound-designed, combining subtle vocal effects, atmospheric textures and an original score, Hag prompts listeners to reflect on who gets to tell stories and how these tales shape our understanding of the world. Just as the Brothers Grimm codified Germany’s rural folklore, Hag catalogues the early myths and legends that have shaped the UK’s storytelling heritage. Start with ‘The Sisters by Liv Little’, who we featured on this week.

5. Here Be Monsters

Named after the concept in cartography, created by and for people interested in pursuing their fears, Here Be Monsters is a podcast which revels in the ambiguity of the unknown. Exploring new frontiers in science, art, philosophy and the dark corners of the human mind, the show marries droning electronica, distorted tape and a multitude of unnerving sonic textures to sink listeners into the world of the story. This is a sonically sophisticated and mischievously experimental show. Start with ‘Sagittarius Has $45’.

6. Bellwether

One of the founding staffers at 99% Invisible, Sam Greenspan’s work blends reportage, documentary and audio artistry to create radio stories that are as absorbing as they are original. His latest project, Bellwether – which blurs the line between narrative nonfiction and futuristic fantasy – is no exception. An experimental and sound-rich approach to storytelling, Sam mixes real-world reporting, forward-gazing research, science fiction, and radio drama to report what the world may look like in the not-too-distant future. Start with ‘01_Autopilot Off’.