Audio Essay Recommendations

Hi y'all, I was really appreciating some of the picks in the video essay thread and was wondering if I could tune those recs in a specific direction. I get into all sorts of analytical media, but usually while walking my dog or doing work, so the video part is absolutely secondary to the essay.

I'm curious what sort of audio folks might have in mind that gets properly essayish. I'm thinking conference talks, traditional lectures, non-interview/discussion-based radio and podcasts, storytelling/standup, essay collection audiobooks (pref with shorter chapters), or any youtubers/documentarians that get into some grit without relying too much on visual reference or sight gags. I think Noah Caldwell-Gervais is pretty well acclaimed as the ideal games person who works in this style.

My current faves are book talks by John Darnielle (talk goes to 29:57, before Q&A starts)
on the plotting of Wolf In White Van, a beautifully detailed rundown of how idle wonderings become fiction

and Jeff Vandermeer (reading ends & talk begins at 5:00)
on the general themes of the Southern Reach, with some gorgeous guidelines for narrative design in the service of depicting something as truly Weird as a hyperobject at 19:43

They are way more free-associative than essays, just an off-the-cuff monologue in a car, but I do keep coming back to Imogen Binnie's synopsis-y movie reviews as comfort listening between other podcast kicks. not totally sure which episode to link bc it's more of an "I love the way she talks" thing than her choice of topics.

I know lots of writers no longer living have some pretty famous lectures because I hear them sampled on rap albums, so that's probably where I'll continue to dig next, but I'm curious about any media that fits this bill, highbrow or lowbrow, on art or life.

There‘s a thread based around podcasts “nobody knows about” – ones we listen to that aren’t hugely popular, don't get yelled about on social media every time there is a new episode, etc etc.

There are some great fits to this in there:

I'd like to selfishly re-suggest one of my suggestions from that thread, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History.

You might like the audiobook Team Human by Douglass Rushkoff. I remember it having a whole lot of very short chapters and Rushkoff has a super-interesting outlook on things. The book is largely about society‘s relationship with technology and how it’s important to be on the side of humans instead of the side of machines and corporations.

I'm not great at describing it, but look it up and give it a chance!

You can get it [on Amazon]( but I'd recommend trying your public library instead (there's a free app called Libby that allows for people to download audiobooks and ebooks using their library card, most libraries in the US support it, it's awesome). It may not be something I can link to, but I'm a librarian and I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest that!

Here‘s something a little out of left field. One of my favourite academics, Michael Parenti, talking about ancient Rome, and specifically what led to the assassination of Julius Caesar. If that sounds a little dry, trust me, it’s really not. Parenti is a remarkably witty and down to earth guy who could make pretty much any topic entertaining, and this just happens to be a great example.

I'm late to this thread, but I feel like it is worth calling out the work of Robert Ashley here, A Life Well Wasted. Recorded in 2009 (with the last episode recorded later in 2013), an excellent series (at least I recall it being excellent, I have not gone back to re-listen!) about “…video games and the people who love them.”

Plus, there is some pretty rad art for each episode.
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7 years ago or so I got really into listening to university lectures that have been made available online. These are all full courses, so a huge time commitment, but for a while I really enjoyed listening to a lecture every night before I went to sleep. Turning of the lights, closing my eyes and just having a nice relaxing time, while also learning stuff. I haven’t listened to as many recently though. In general one obviously doesn’t learn as well by just passively listening through a series of courses as actually engaging with material, but for a lot of topics it can give a nice overview in addition to being a pleasant way to spend some time.

Ecological economics in a historical context,
This series of lectures is really good, both as an introduction to ecological economics and some heterodox economics in general. Good discussions on the relation between institutional economics and more mathematical economics, the issue of robustness vs specificity in mathematical models of the economy, the difference between ecological economics and environmental economics etc. A lot of really interesting history about the development of economics as a field and how it has been thought of in relation to ecology at various point in history as well. In general it is an overview which is accessible to people with no technical background in mathematics in my estimation, although it discusses some technical aspects, but it is abstracted enough that I think it is still useful for people who don’t care about the nitty gritty. Of the things I mention in this post this is what I most highly recommend due to its importance with respect to current events and policy.

I find deep-dives into religions and religious texts that take the historical context into account fascinating. is a thorough exploration of the Hebrew Bible, going through how the text itself is synthesized from various sources, how these sources can be distinguished in the text and how texts were interpreted at the time of compilation and later. It also discusses the historical context and compares and contrasts the religious concepts espoused in the Hebrew bible with other contemporary religions and myths. similarly gives an interesting account of the context in which the texts we now know as the new testament were written, how many of them were related to specific debates within the early christian community (such as the question of non-Jewish believers) etc.

I am not personally religious, but just in case people think this is some boring debunking of religion it really isn’t and indeed much of the research uncovering the sources of “the bible”, the context etc. were done by theologians in the first place and it is still actively studied at religious institutions in addition to secular ones. I mean obviously for textual fundamentalists it can be problematic…

In general I find the topic of how a relatively small Jewish cult became a world-wide religion fascinating, a complimentary lectures series is which as the title implies is about European history from 284-1000, one of the topics covered is how Christianity came to be the dominant religion in the Roman empire.

Also, I found this lecture series ( to be a pretty good overview of Chinese history for something a bit different from all the European/middle-Eastern stuff I mentioned above. It has been a long time since I listened to it though.

As you can see I have linked to multiple Open Yale Courses, I have listened to more stuff from there as well that I quite enjoyed, I would recommend looking through their listed courses, a lot of interesting stuff in there!

Second that endorsement of those two religion courses on Yale Open Courses. They're extremely interesting just as textual studies even if you have you have no real connection with the text itself. The Bible is really old and really weird, and too often gets reduced to either the direct word of God or a fairy tale dreamt up to control people depending on who you talk to. The truth is much messier and much more interesting, and Dale Martin and Christine Hayes are two of the most important scholars in their respective fields.

@“goonbag”#p27037 Coincidentally I have been listening to a lot of Parenti talks lately and saw this thread come back up.

I also found a few days ago that Michael Parenti is such an old man that not only does he have the most web 1.0 website, he also just has an email address that presumably goes straight to him that he reads and shit. I feel like I wanna email Michael Parenti?? I might.

Also he has a link to a radio station's archive of recorded talks by him (in the form of links to Broadcast Quality mp3's) just hanging out too. You can also order them on CD, as well!

@“rejj”#p41733 The long dormant A Life Well Wasted returns with new episode after almost a decade!

Accompanied by limited timed release of poster by Ollie Moss. Sales ending on 12/19 12pm EST.
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Blindfold speedrunner. Soviet arcade museum. School kid game designers, cruelty of childhood friendship, and >!big company stealing from kids possibly!<. Made my emotions run in all kinds of ways.

We live in an unprecedented era where entire college courses from some of the best professors are available to watch completely for free on youtube. Electrical Engineering is more like review at this point but I've watched a lot of economics in the past couple years.