It’s been 10 years since podcasting first entered our pop-culture lexicon; Ben Hammersley introduced the term during this 2004 article in The Guardian. The democratization of digital platforms over the past decade has had a lot to do with the podcast’s rise in popularity–essentially anyone with a computer and a recording device can create one.
There are of course podcast pioneers like Radiolab and This American Life, which made popular public radio programs available in podcast form, as well as Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk and shows from comedians like Marc Maron and Todd Barry who have cornered the enormous comedic podcast market over the past couple years.
Two years ago we put together a list of 10 podcasts every writer should know about, but now, in an effort to breathe new life into our current listening roster, we started looking for new series to add to our iPads. Turns out we didn’t have to look far. Brooklyn has birthed a number of exceptional new podcasts as of late that run the gamut in terms of topic but all have one thing in common—they were created right here in Kings County.
The newest of these new podcasts comes courtesy of Greenlight Bookstore, which just launched its own radio hour last month. Having gained a reputation for helping put together some of the best literary programming in the city, including the Brooklyn Voices reading series at St. Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill and the Unbound book series at BAM (not to mention their own in-store author events), the indie bookstore’s owners Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting chose to infuse their audio series with the same spirit.
“I saw a real hole in the market for a new series about literature,” says David Hoffman who initially approached Fitting and Stockton Bagnulo about putting together a podcast, which he now hosts. “I saw three things that all linked together for me: One was this incredible event series that they do there…I saw that and I saw the whole staff…and how well read they are and how smart they are about books. Then, those two things fit into something I had been noticing on my own—I think the people who will read good books are the people that listen to podcasts.”
Fitting and Stockton Bagnulo agreed and Hoffman started recording author talks last May, publishing the first episode of Greenlight’s podcast series on June 28. The debut show featured Colum McCann (Let the Great World Spin) in conversation with Phil Klay (Redeployment) who discussed war writing, violence in literature and the blurred lines between fiction and reality. It also included a review of Emma Straub’s The Vacationers from Angel Nafis, a staff member at the bookstore, and recommendations on new releases.
New episodes of the podcast are released twice a month and Fitting says they’re planning a bigger launch of the new series this fall once they’ve had a chance to stockpile a few more episodes.
“One of the challenges that we’ve had, which is a nice problem to have, is narrowing down because we can’t record every podcast for every event,” Fitting says. “We can’t record everything and then figure out which ones to choose. We have to decide in advance which ones that we’re going to record. It’s a hard decision in that so much of the programming is good.”
In addition to McCann and Klay’s conversation, there is also a Greenlight podcast featuring Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Rebecca Mead (My Life in Middlemarch)’s talk as part of Brooklyn Voices. Tomorrow they will publish an episode with Tom Rachman (The Imperfectionists, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers) and Susan Kamil, the head publisher at Random House and Rachman’s editor, which Fitting says is, “a wonderful and interesting conversation.”
In terms of Brooklyn’s new wave of podcasts, Greenlight finds itself in good company. Here are two more local shows we think are worth a listen, plus one from the West Coast we couldn’t help but include.
Call Your Girlfriend
Finding meaningful ways to maintain long-distance friendships is a conundrum we can relate to. Ann Friedman, a magazine journalist and columnist for New York Magazine who lives in Los Angeles, and Aminatou Sow, her best friend who works for Google and lives in Brooklyn, have found a pretty ingenious way of keeping in touch. They put together a weekly podcast during which they catch up with each other over topics as broadly sweeping as menstruation clickbait, Beyonce and Obamacare (all of which were covered in the podcast’s pilot).
Tell the Bartender
Everybody has a story to tell and nobody hears more of them than a bartender. After spending eight years behind the bars of some of Brooklyn’s best establishments, Katherine Heller decided to start her own bi-weekly storytellers’ podcast and for that, we thank her.
Even though she might not actually reside here, Molly McAleer definitely deserves to be an honorary Brooklynite in our book. McAleer lives in Los Angeles and doles out advice to anyone—from 26-year-old virgins to Tinder users—who calls in with a question.