Staff Favorites 2021--Podcast + Book Pairings

With so many amazing podcasts out there and so little time, how do you find one that meets your needs? We’re here to help. As with our popular Staff Picks for books and movies, we’ve created a list of some of our favorite podcasts. When you find one or ten that you like, check out the book recommendation that we’ve paired with each selection! 

Maintenance Phase
The podcast that was mentioned more than any other by staff was Maintenance Phase, in which investigative journalist Michael Hobbes and writer Aubrey Gordon (under handle "Your Fat Friend") explore rampant and pervasive misinformation and anti-fat bias in the health and wellness industry. 

If you like that, then try: What We Don't Talk about When We Talk about Fat by Aubrey Gordon.

Lazy Genius
The Lazy Genius Podcast promises to teach you “be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't.”

Pair that with The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn't, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi.

Still Processing
On Still Processing, Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham share their astute takes on the current culture. 

If you like that, you’ll love Black Futures edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham.

Ologies with Alie Ward is a wonderful science podcast that interviews a different "ologist" every episode. Favorite episodes include Corvid Thanatology (Crow Funerals), Opposumology, and Anthropodermic Biocodicology (Books Bound with Human Skin).

To complement all of your scientific discovery, check out The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2021, Ed Yong, editor.

Cults asks: “What does it take to make a cult leader? How do cults gain such a strong hold over so many?” Episodes explore the personal histories of some of the most notorious leaders.

Pair with Cultish: the Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell.

The Allusionist
The Allusionist, Helen Zaltzman investigates all things related to language from puns to name meanings. A lively podcast with plenty of dry British wit in addition to the history of words, phrases, and usage. 

After that, dive into Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch.

There Are No Girls on the Internet
There Are No Girls on the Internet highlights the often-overlooked stories about how marginalized voices shape the technology and internet landscape. 

After you listen to episode 16 (“The Black Women Fighting Climate Injustice”), try All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, & Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine Keeble Wilkinson.

Desert Oracle Radio
Desert Oracle Radio is a weekly road trip through the weird American desert from the publisher of Desert Oracle, the pocket-sized field guide published in Joshua Tree, California. Hear tales of mysterious lights, missing tourists, lost mines, venomous creatures, weird history and weirder people. Hosted by editor Ken Layne and featuring a cast of intriguing mystics, oddballs, scientists and artists, Desert Oracle Radio is your soundtrack for a desert night.

The companion book is Desert Oracle: Volume 1 : Strange True Tales from the American Southwest by Ken Layne.

Seeing White
Seeing White takes on questions like “Where did the notion of ‘whiteness’ come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for?” This episode details how the idea of race (and especially whiteness) in the American colonies came specifically out of the practice and for the protection of legal slavery.

After you’ve percolated on that, read Stamped From the Beginning : the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi.

Third Pod from the Sun: Stories Behind the Science
The tagline for
Third Pod from the Sun: Stories Behind the Science is “the stories behind the science”, and it’s run by the American Geophysical Union. Start with the Camp Century profile–a toxic city under ice in Greenland.

After that, try The Hidden Life of Ice: Dispatches from a Disappearing World by Marco Tedesco with Alberto Flores d'Arcais; translated by Denise Muir; foreword by Elizabeth Kolbert.

The Way Out Is In
The Way Out Is In features interviews with monks and nuns from Thich Nhat Hanh's monastery, as they seek to help listeners “transcend our fear and anger so that we can be more engaged in the world in a way that develops love and compassion.”

If that appeals, check out Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh; edited and with commentary by Sister True Dedication .

Poetry Unbound
In each episode of Poetry Unbound, poet Pádraig Ó Tuama discusses just one poem. The episodes are short and cover elements of the poem such as rhythm and tone, with a reading of the poem once at the beginning of the episode, and again at the end. It's a lovely way to reflect, almost meditative.

Pair that with Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems by Joy Harjo.

Nice Try
Nice Try! Season 1 (2019) focused on utopias that were attempted around the country and why they failed. The 2021 season was about "why we bring certain goods into our homes. What kinds of utopia they promise, and what they deliver with the latest technology" 

Has hearing about utopias inspired you? Check out Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman; translated from the Dutch by Elizabeth Manton.

What are some of your favorite podcasts? Share below!

Blog post submitted by Erin W., University Hills Branch.

Written by Dodie on December 22, 2021


Joel Bass on December 27, 2021


Wonderful post! (And not just because I already love several of these books and podcasts!) Thanks so much for introducing me to more great stuff.

One question: was this written by Dodie? Or by Erin W. at U Hills? Either way, great job!


Hi Joel! I'm glad you liked it. It was written by me, Erin, but posted by Dodie because she has those powers. :)


(And actually, it's more accurate to say that I compiled this list from staff recommendations around the Denver Public Library system. I had fun pairing each recommendation with a book).

DAW on December 28, 2021


I'm a fan of Skeptics Guide to the Universe.
"The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is dedicated to promoting critical thinking and science literacy through insightful content and resources including an award-winning weekly podcast."

Danielle on January 14, 2022


Thank your for such a fun post! I just reserved a few of the book rec based on the podcasts!

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