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11 great podcasts to listen to this summer

Posted June 19

Whether your kids are trying to make summer vacation less TV-intensive or you're out of beach reads, these podcasts are worth your time. (Deseret Photo)

Summer is here, and there are endless amounts of books to read and movies to see while the kids are out of school.

But for people who don't have a lot of downtime this season and can't spend their time away from the office lazing on a beach with a book, there's a medium just for you: Podcasts.

Perfect for ambient background entertainment or for a mental jog during your workout, here are some of the best podcasts for new listeners to check out:

1. Embedded

Ever listened to the news and wanted to know more of a particular story? NPR's "Embedded" does just that — it takes news tidbits and headlines and looks deeply into the stories behind them, uncovering fascinating things that wouldn't necessarily be investigated in the breakneck speed of the 24-hour news cycle. What's it like to live as a minor-league NBA player? Or a nurse addicted to prescription drugs? Or to raise a family in the murder capital of the world? "Embedded" host and NPR reporter Kelly McEvers hosts this three-dimensional look at important news topics that often get just a few second of airtime on traditional media channels.

2. Mortified

"Mortified" is a perfect listen after a long day or a commute because it's a funny reminder that everyone is human. The premise is simple: Participants take a relic of their childhood — a photo, a journal entry, maybe a piece of art they made — and tell the story behind it. The result is a series of hilarious and heartbreaking realizations of what it is to be a kid and how people turn out the way they do.

3. Home of the Brave

Many people who have listened to NPR or podcasts in the last decade know about "This American Life," but for those who don't or are looking for something a little more edgy, check out "Home of the Brave." Where "This American Life" probes the funny, quirky and sometimes difficult corners of the U.S., host Scott Carrier offers dispatches from parts of the world that are often talked about but seldom explored in-depth. Whether it's Palestine, refugee camps on the Greek border or ground zero of Indiana's presidential primary, "Home of the Brave" is sometimes tough to listen to, but impossible to turn off.

4. Invisibilia

Much of the fanfare for "Invisibilia" was drowned out in 2014 when it debuted in the wake of the cultural juggernaut that became "Serial." But this curious, interesting podcast is set to shine with its second season, which launches June 17, continuing its examination of the invisible forces that shape human behavior. Whether those forces are social — like expectations or just a person's private thoughts — or more cultural, like the internet and technology, "Invisibilia" looks at the world through the lens of how these things change human life, often unconsciously.

5. Hardcore History

Even if you think you're not interested in history, host Dan Carlin will change your mind. Carlin looks at classical history and current events and ties it to issues that society still wrestles with today. For people worried about the 2016 presidential race, Carlin dissects who the worst past U.S. president is. He draws correlations between ancient conquerors like Alexander the Great to modern tyrants like Hitler with engaging storytelling, fascinating facts and a heavy dose of humor that is far more cheeky and less sanitized than the history most people learn in school.

6. Wait wait...Don't Tell Me

This weekly game show is a great way to catch up on the week's news and a laugh to boot. Host Peter Sagal and celebrity panelists play games and take quizzes to relive the week in news, from the headline-grabbing to the utterly bizarre.

7. Criminal

For true-crime story fans of "Serial" or Netflix's "Making a Murderer," "Criminal" is a great look at the ripple-effect of crime old and new, famous and obscure. One episode explores the life and crimes of Boston nurse "Jolly" Jane Toppan, who was known for her bedside manner and also being "the most notorious woman poisoner of modern times." Others explore more modern brushes with crime, like how one photograph taken during the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, changed the lives of both the photographer and the subject forever.

8. RadioLab

If you've ever wondered how different animals see color, how soap bubbles take their shape or how Newton realized the moon wouldn't fall out of the sky, "RadioLab" is the podcast for you. Labeled as "a show about curiosity," "RadioLab" pulls apart the minutiae of everyday life to fascinating results.

9. My Brother, My Brother and Me

This podcast, hosted by real-life brothers Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy, is billed as an advice show for the modern age. While that's true — readers write in with real-life problems and love quandaries — the show is also a showcase of the comical repartee between the McElroy brothers as they give advice on everything from dating and love in the digital age to online etiquette to ridiculous first-world problems like whether or not to drink bottled water from a stranger.

10. Memory Motel

The relatively new podcast sifts through all the ways humans rely on memory in everyday life and how flawed and imperfect a construct memory is. Whether in the courtroom or just how people remember their own pasts, "Memory Motel" plumbs the fog of memory to ask the central question: "How do we be OK with not always knowing?"

11. Breakdown

At its most basic, "Breakdown" is the Atlanta Constitution-Journal's version of "Serial." Veteran legal affairs journalist Bill Rankin takes one case per season and dissects it, asking if justice has been served. But especially in season 2 of this gripping true-crime podcast, Rankin offers listeners a chance to see the justice system at work as a case progresses, in real time. In the current season, Rankin is investigating the case of Justin Ross Harris, a man about to stand trial two years after his infant son, Cooper, died after being left in a hot car in 2014.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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