Kathleen Barber is a podcast aficionado, so much that she wrote an entire book about one! ARE YOU SLEEPING, out today, is a twisted psychological thriller centered around a viral podcast about a decade-old murder, which consumes the victim’s daughter as her past comes back to haunt her. Read on for a little of Kathleen’s inspiration and five of her favorite podcasts.
Considering that my novel Are You Sleeping centers around a podcast, it is probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of the medium. I love that podcasts are essentially portable stories you can take anywhere—I listen to them while I walk to the grocery store, while I exercise, while I cook dinner. There’s a staggering number of podcasts available, covering just about every topic you could imagine. I like to listen to a wide variety of podcasts myself, but my favorites cover topics like true crime, books, and pop culture.
Here are my five top picks:
- Serial. The first season of “Serial”—which investigated the 1999 murder of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee and the subsequent arrest and conviction of her classmate and former boyfriend Adnan Syed—holds a special place in my heart because it helped inspire me to write Are You Sleeping. If you’ve never listened to “Serial,” I whole-heartedly recommend it. Co-creators and co-producers Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder have produced a really compelling piece of investigative journalism.
- Overdue. As an avid reader, I really enjoy this podcast about the books “you should have read.” Hosts Andrew and Craig tackle their reading backlog, and the result is amusing discussion on classics like Wuthering Heights (episode 142), popular contemporary fiction like Eleanor & Park (episode 190), and childhood favorites like Island of the Blue Dolphins (episode 186). In the episode I’m currently listening to, they’re reading aloud a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book called You Are a Shark (episode 241), and it’s hilarious.
- Reply All. “Reply All” is a podcast about the Internet, and, as such, it covers a lot interesting (and sometimes wacky) topics. The tone is set from the first episode (“An App Sends a Stranger to Say ‘I Love You’”), which covers a story about someone receiving a message through Miranda July’s now-defunct Somebody app. (If you’re not familiar with Somebody, the concept was that you could convey a message to another person through the medium of a real, live stranger. Yep, you read that right.) Another classic episode is “Boy in Photo,” in which the producers search for the subject of a message board thread. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a wild ride. Some episodes are more serious, like the four-part series in which a producer corresponds with a man who operates a blog from inside prison (“On the Inside”) and the amusing but chillingly informative episode on phishing (“What Kind of Idiot Gets Phished?”).
- What Should I Read Next? Anne Bogel, the blogger behind the popular “Modern Mrs Darcy” blog, hosts this podcast, in which she interviews readers to discover their taste in books and then recommends other reads to them. It’s a fun way to discover books you might not have heard of or missed. In one recent episode (episode 81), Anne interviewed Chelsea Humphrey, who runs the blog “The Suspense Is Thrilling Me,” and they discussed why psychological suspense novels are so popular with women. As a writer and reader of novels in this genre, I found this particularly interesting.
- Death, Sex & Money. Host Anna Sale uses her boldly named podcast to discuss important topics that are often not spoken about in polite conversation, like infidelity (“Cheating Happens”), autism (“Autism Isn’t What I Signed Up For”), and student loans (“Our Student Loan Secrets”). The thing I love most about this podcast is how she takes often uncomfortable subjects and transforms them from something taboo into stories about other humans.