summer podcasts
On those summer days where killing time is your main objective, these long, one-off programs are perfect. (Illustration by Glucksman, Rhode Island School of Design)
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summer podcasts

Each of these programs has a standalone format, which means no bingeing required.

What type of summer are you planning? Looking forward to a care-free vacation? Searching for a new project? Wanting to keep busy? Yearning to learn something new? No matter how you want to spend your break, this list of summer podcasts can be useful to you.

Between great books and binge-worthy television, making time for another intricate plotline, a new host of characters and regularly scheduled episodes might seem impossible and overwhelming. Luckily, there are multiple summer podcasts that provide a stress-free way to pass time — whether that be during a lunch break, before bed, sitting on a beach or laying in a tent on a cool night.

Each show features episodes that are independent of each other, so there is no need to binge-listen three seasons just to catch up. Whichever genre you find yourself in the mood for, this list has the perfect podcast for your summer season.

Keeping Up-to-Date During the Hot Days

For many, summer is a time to kick back and embrace the well-known Disney mantra, “Hakuna Matata.” Surely, the idea of “no worries” is appealing during a time when school is out — the days are hot, and work is slow. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop for vacation season, and, come the fall, you may find yourself out-of-touch with major news stories.

Produced by London’s Monocle 24 radio program, “The Globalist” is an excellent source of international news. Episodes are recorded five times a week and are an hour long, making them perfect for a morning commute. The show is written and hosted by Monocle’s award-winning editors, who present breaking news in a way that makes it both accessible and interesting for even politically uninformed listeners.

Looking for domestic news? Check out “The Takeaway,” hosted by Tanzina Vega and Amy Walter. Co-produced by Public Radio International and WNYC, this podcast prides itself on being “driven by America’s national conversation.” Episodes are not simply a recap of current news stories; instead, hosts encourage a dialogue with listeners who can contribute their thoughts live via text, call, tweet or Facebook message. It’s perfect for those looking for a casual listen and provides an opportunity to practice political debate skills.

History Can Be Fun for Summer, Too

Despite what you might be thinking, these podcasts are not just an audio version of your History 101 textbook. “LORE,” written and produced by Aaron Mahnke, won iTunes’ best of 2015 and best of 2016 awards, in addition to best history podcast 2016 by the Academy of Podcasters. Seasons 1 and 2 were made into Amazon Originals by the executive producer of “The Walking Dead.”

In each episode, Mahnke “exposes the darker side of history” by choosing a story, myth, folklore or legend and discussing what it reveals about human nature. Between Mahnke’s soothing, yet eerie, voice and Chad Lawson’s musical accompaniment, “LORE” brings scary campfire stories right to your living room. Want to learn more about Ireland’s fairies, ghost ships, the truth of Bloody Mary, how to escape a coffin, haunted dolls and more creepy legends? Then get swept away into the world of “LORE,” with a new episode every other Monday.

But if creepy stories ruin your summer vibe, then try “Stuff You Missed In History Class,” hosted by Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey. As the title suggests, each episode presents a historical event which, although fascinating, is generally unknown. Coverage includes the history of crime, Civil Rights, Halloween, medicine, academia, Europe and exhumations. Just because classes are over doesn’t mean you can’t get your history fix.

Philosophy majors and enthusiasts should consider adding “History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps” to summer playlists. Host Peter Adamson began the podcast in 2010 and has since expanded his original coverage of classical philosophy to include great thinkers from the Byzantine, Islamic, Medieval, Indian and African traditions.

The podcast attempts to “tell a continuous story” regarding philosophy in its various forms — metaphysics, ethics, art, logic, etc. Worried about accuracy? Adamson and his colleagues are all university professors who have put together the show to further explore the field they love, but also to make it accessible to an audience that is perhaps unfamiliar with philosophy.

These historical summer podcasts can brighten up even the sunniest of days, so consider taking a listen.

Don’t Let Your Hard Work Slip

Most university students are required at least a year of foreign language education, and many choose to continue studying the language throughout their career. But alas, summer interruptions often mean that language skills slip, as practice and use become less frequent, making next semester’s classes increasingly difficult.

Coffee Break Languages” offers free podcasts for learning French, Spanish, Italian, German and Chinese. Each podcast runs about 20 minutes long and can easily be incorporated into a daily routine. “Coffee Break Languages” makes learning a new language or keeping up with existing language skills easy and fun.

The Allusionist” also relates to language, but rather than exploring a foreign language, it teaches listeners about the history of the language itself. If you’re wondering how phrases like “Dear Santa” or “To Err is Human” came into common usage, or why society dubs an unknown man a “John Doe,” you should tune into Helen Zaltzman’s surprisingly humorous podcast on etymology.

The Ultimate Summer Pastime

When it comes to sports, the availability of podcasts and radio shows is nearly endless. ESPN alone offers dozens of free podcasts and daily radio shows that are available to anyone, even those without ESPN subscriptions.

If you are looking for a podcast that gives you the best sports news and highlights while touching on pop culture, “The Bill Simmons Podcast” is perfect for you. Celebrities and renowned sports announcers contribute as guest stars to the most-downloaded sports podcast of all time. Although episodes run over an hour, segments are neatly divided, and listeners can easily skip to their desired topic of discussion.

Finally, approaching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it is a great time to listen to the podcast “31 Thoughts.” Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman, reporting from Canada, bring listeners up-to-date on the most important NHL and AHL news. Although lacking in the humorous banter that is prevalent on many other sports summer podcasts, “31 Thoughts” is ideal for anyone looking for a quick source of hockey news.

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