With 100 episodes available, Modern Love (WBUR/New York Times) is a consistently great podcast. Actors including Jake Gyllenhaal, Angela Bassett and Emmy Rossum bring to life the addictive New York Times column in their own voices.
Sometimes the tales are full of joy, but the best show the pain of love, too. In the first episode of this year, The Deuce’s Margarita Levieva reads Kristine Lloyd’s essay about her new year’s resolution to get more cuddles. Craving human contact as a single woman, her quest leads her to a cuddle party, which sounds like one of life’s most grim experiences involving half-hearted hugs with a fear of getting too close. “I was less afraid of becoming a war correspondent than opening a Tinder account,” she says, but it barely fulfils her needs.
Actually, the cuddle party is relegated to one of life’s second most grim experiences by Julia Anne Miller’s instalment, which begins with the words: “As I rode in a cab across the Brooklyn Bridge, a man I barely knew was sucking my toes.” Greta Gerwig tells the tale, which has more to it than just the gory details. “I wish I could say it was the most erotic experience of my life,” she says. “He sucked on each toe as if it were the leg of a tiny crustacean and he was after the meat. Then he tended to my other foot, playing it as if it was a harmonica.” If the slurping sounds she describes don’t turn your stomach, the revelation that the attention is being lavished on feet that have recently walked along New York’s gum-riddled pavements certainly will.
Often the stories are so compelling it wouldn’t matter who read them, but the celebrities add another layer: Julia Stiles is ideal as a woman with a crush on her roommate, Jake Gyllenhaal is a quietly heartbroken doctor and Insecure’s Issa Rae is as brilliant as ever recounting a deep online relationship that didn’t quite pan out in real life.
Every episode of Modern Love is worth a listen, and you never know whether you’ll be moved, soothed or disturbed. It captures the minute details of love and relationships with some of the best storytelling around.
When we go anywhere in the car it’s really hard to find something that keeps everyone entertained. We often end up with both kids in the back with their heads in their iPads, everyone sitting in silence. The Discovery Adventures are a rare thing, something we could all enjoy together, and something that really captured the children’s attention. We love the humour and the kids get really excited by the adventure unfolding. The best bit though is how the experts join in the fun and we all learn something fascinating in the process. Recommended by Joanna Fulford
The Slow Melt podcast does a great job of broaden consumers’ awareness of the chocolate industry, from bean to bar. Presenter Simran brings the listener ‘behind the bean’– introducing us to the historical, cultural, social, political, and economic aspects of chocolate and cacao. While listening I’ve become a smarter chocolate consumer, who has now tasted the difference between chocolate from Tanzania and chocolate from Venezuela. Recommended by Brian Gaffney
The Social Bee is a podcast that celebrates entrepreneurs. Each episode focuses on one person and discusses the highs and lows of running your own business, along with tips and advice on how to use social media to promote your business. I Love presenter Louise Brogan’s no-nonsense practical advice, her down to earth approach and the simple format. It all really focuses on what the guests have to share. The guests all run very different businesses, but there is always something to relate to and learn from. Recommended by Lorraine Cunningham
In this podcast, presenter Tim Radford looks back at an interview done with the Guardian’s former editor in 2014 about a very special report that he oversaw.
On 1 April 1977, Peter Preston, and a small team of journalists in the Guardian newsroom, published a report on the illusive (and mythical) nation of San Serriffe. The story was nothing other than a cunning April Fools’ joke, which managed to confuse readers, colleagues and even travel agents. At a time when many daily, British newspapers could be classed as “terribly pompous”, Preston found a way to place a jovial twist in a serious paper.
The sound of waves crashing on the sandy beaches of a tropical island, coupled with the energetic voice of a man, who remained a stalwart of the newspaper until he died on 6 January 2018, might once again trick you. This time it might trick you into thinking that not all the news out there is bad. A lovely listen. Recommended by Danielle Stephens