Back to bus rides part 1: Non-fiction podcast recommendations for your campus commute

Since most of us are now back on campus for in-person instruction, many of us are in the process of having to readjust to the monotony of long transit rides to campus, whether your starting destination is a stones throw away on Dunbar Street or the distant shores of New Westminster, Richmond and beyond. With all that dead time, why not get into a few podcasts?

I, for one, have spiced up my daily hour-ish long bus and Skytrain commutes by listening to a few intriguing and thought-provoking non-fiction podcast series, and perhaps you could too! So I thought I’d share a few of my current favs.

The Blue and Goldcast

Episode length: 20 to 40 minutes

My favourite episodes:Tina Loo on Power, Privilege and Colonialism,” “Introducing the CanMask!,” “Order in the Court!

Hosted by UBC’s favourite bow tie-wearer (President Santa Ono, if you didn’t figure), The Blue and Goldcast is definitely one to watch (or I guess to listen to)! Every episode, Ono is joined by UBC community members to explore big issues that interest and affect UBC students, staff and faculty and the world of higher education in general. This podcast series covers a wide variety of interesting topics from a bunch of fields, so there’s definitely something for everyone. In one episode, for instance, Ono speaks with a history professor about the linkages between power, privilege and colonialism. In a few others, he talks with UBC professors and students who developed COVID-19-fighting technologies. From Indigenous ways of knowing to business ethics, or from sustainable water treatments to UBC Olympians, The Blue and Goldcast gets into some pretty interesting shit! (Also, you’re welcome, Santa Ono, for plugging this for you!)

The Anthropocene Reviewed

Episode length: usually between 15 and 30 minutes; a few one hour-long episodes

My favourite episodes:Halley’s Comet and Cholera,” “Googling Strangers and Kentucky Bluegrass,” “Auld Lang Syne” (This one got me bawling whilst drunk on New Year's Eve.)

You might have seen John Green’s book The Anthropocene Reviewed on bookstore shelves, but this podcast series is actually where it all started. Green reviews aspects and phenomena of our human-centred planet on a five-star scale. Though this premise seems ridiculously simple and perhaps even a bit dumb, Green just has a way of taking seemingly mundane topics and going super deep with them. The way in which, for instance, he linked the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest to humans and our xenophobic tendencies still blows my mind. And, I kid you not, this pod has gotten my eyes to well with tears on transit twice (so far) with some of its impactful and significant messages and stories! All in all, Green produces a quality podcast series and I’d highly recommend taking a listen!

Love Me

Episode length: 20 to 30 minutes

My favourite episodes:At a loss for words,” “Falling,” “Howl

Love is such a contradictory concept. It’s beautiful yet vicious. It’s simple and obvious yet painstakingly complex. It’s happy and yet it can be extremely heartbreaking. Exploring such contractions in meaningful and moving ways is what drives this amazing CBC podcast series. Love Me is all about “the messiness of human connection” and how we can and can’t deal with the confusing notion that is, well, love. In each episode, we get to hear deep and thoughtful personal stories about breakups or maternal instincts, about an animal’s love for their estranged owner or the myriad ways to lose love as well as a few playful fictions. I love this pod and I hope that you love it, too.

Short Cuts

Episode length: 25 to 35 minutes

My favourite episodes: Couldn’t tell you; they’re all unique and beautiful! (But okay, “Red,” “Call me,” “Nature Documentaries”)

This BBC podcast is one of my absolute all time favourites. In Short Cuts, the listener is plunged into a world of what host Josie Long describes as “true stories, brief encounters, radio adventures and found sound.” Every episode consists of a few adventurous, silly and/or extremely thought provoking short documentaries, all linked by a central theme such as “Silence,” “Counterpoint” or “The Forgetting.” A recent episode entitled “Red,” for instance, explores the experience of an auburn-haired woman as she tried to find identity at a redhead convention, memories of a red toy piano as well as the power of the scarlet of a mountie’s tunic in The Scream, a painting that depicts a horrible scene of Indigenous children being ripped away from their parents. The beautifully curated shorts in each episode always leave me either in a deep, contemplative state that I’ll stay in for the rest of the day or with a smile on my face. The sound design also so magically pulls you into a captivating sonic experience. This pod is a feast for the ears and for the soul. In the end, Short Cuts really showcases just what beautiful, thought provoking and worthwhile immersive adventures in sound one can have.