I Need Your Recommendations! Podcasts, Books, And… Mirrors?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 9.648% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Okay, so I hate asking people for recommendations because it always, always goes like this:

“Whenever I see romantic comedies, I break out in blistered rashes and have to go to the hospital for three days. So do not recommend a romantic comedy.”

“Oh, but I love romantic comedies, and this romantic comedy is really different so you should watch…”




(And also stop the not-quite-as-funny-as-you’d think joke of recommending a romantic comedy to me in the comments.  It’s also been done.)

What I’m looking for are very specific recommendations because I am a man with very specific needs.  So I’m gonna ask you to share your favorite books, podcasts, and morrors with me – but only if those wonderful books, podcasts, and mirrors match the criteria I’ve asked for!

(And if I sound exhausted, it’s because I’ve literally spent fifteen years saying, “Can someone recommend a band similar to  They Might Be Giants?” and having people hand me their favorite death metal band.  It’s great that you love death metal, or even this band!  But is it that hard to understand that This Thing You Love isn’t at all like what people are asking for?)

So!  Let’s try this!

I have to find a thirty- to forty-minute podcast so I can exercise longer.   Currently, all my favorite podcasts (Planet Money, 99% Invisible, Writing Excuses, Revisionist History) clock in at around 20-25 minutes, and my doctor says I have to up my exercise game to keep my heart clean.

So I need a thirty to forty-minute nonfiction podcast that is an actual focused topic  – while I like the looser podcasts where two guys just ramble on for an hour, that’s not enough to keep my concentration during the agony of the elliptical.  If it’s a shorter podcast, or significantly longer, it literally won’t work for me.


So I’ve been reading stressful books lately, which isn’t very fun given the stressful politics.   I need a light series of books to get me through that are a) short, b) fast-paced, and c) not urban fantasy.   Snappy patter and lovable characters a significant bonus.

(These do not have to be series.  A one-off, enjoyable book is just fine.)

My mother has asked me to get her an “artistic” mirror for her living room.  She doesn’t have anything in mind, but wants to see cool mirrors with artistic frames and/or glass that are at least large enough to see her face in.  (Larger is better, up to a point.)  If you’re an artist or know someone who is an artist who works in this medium, point me to it!

(Warning: If you’re posting links on the LJ version of this entry, URLs are automatically screened thanks to Russian spammers filling up my text.  I’ll see ’em eventually, just not immediately.)


  1. Gee
    Feb 2, 2017

    On the book front, any thing by Rafael Sabatini. They are fun, quick reads about pirates and swashbucklers. Though written at the beginning of the 20th century they still hold up today. I could be biased though, because I read them at a young age.

  2. Adam
    Feb 2, 2017

    Podcasts: Pop Culture Happy Hour is my one cannot-miss go-to, and it clocks in around 42 minutes or so. The West Wing Weekly, if you’re a fan of the show, is also in that wheelhouse, although if they have a special guest it can run significantly longer.

  3. Bea
    Feb 2, 2017

    The History of English
    Perhaps a smidge too long (they clock about 45-50 minutes per cast). I listen to them on the treadmill because the gym only plays Fox News.

    The Warrior’s Apprentice
    Lois McMaster Bujold
    I personally recommend anything by Bujold (who has a book for pretty much any of my moods), but it’s the opener to a series and the borders on YA, so kind of light and frothy

  4. Huehueteotl
    Feb 2, 2017


    Stuff You Missed in History Class is 30 to 45 minutes of obscure-yet-fascinating things and people, hosted by two women from How Stuff Works network.

    Explain Things To Me: Actors Anna Akana and Brad Gage host a 45-minute show with people coming on to explain their professions, trades, specialities, etc.

    The New Yorker Radio Hour: Just that. One hour (really more like 57 minutes) of stuff from the New Yorker. Some of it is related to articles in the current week’s issue, some is sorta independent content.

    All of these are downloadable from iTunes.

  5. Fy
    Feb 2, 2017

    David Eddings – the Elenium trilogy – is fun, fast paced traditional fantasy with snarky characters.

  6. Rob Davis
    Feb 2, 2017

    Don’t know if you’ve tried Mark Rosewater’s podcast on Magic design and general life lessons, but I find it pretty entertaining and it meets your time interval. There’s also a huge backlog and he puts out 2 30-35 minute episodes a week.

  7. PDV
    Feb 2, 2017

    You’ve probably already read all of Diana Wynne Jones’s books, but if you haven’t: The Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin; ,Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle In The Air, and House of Many Ways; the Chrestomanci books are longer and less fast-paced, but light and wonderful. (There’s some short fiction in that series, they’re collected in Mixed Magics.)

  8. Rosemarie
    Feb 2, 2017

    Podcast: You Must Remember This! I’m afraid its timing is a bit variable, but USUALLY each episode is between 30 and 45 minutes, and I think it meets the rest of your criteria. It’s about Hollywood’s first century, but not chronologically; each episode is about a specific person, and sometimes a specific time of that person’s life. I love it.

    Books: If you’re into YA fantasy at all, I LOVE Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The first book starts with a princess running away from home to get “captured” by a dragon so her parents can’t marry her off, and it runs from there. If I recall correctly, snappy patter and lovable characters abound. 🙂

  9. Tracy
    Feb 2, 2017

    Short, fast-paced, with happy endings, lovable characters and snappy patter? Honestly it sounds like a romance novel- if you hate romcoms, maybe this is a totally terrible recommendation, but Julia Quinn’s later novels, like What Happens in London might work for your requirements as stated. I hate romcoms and love romance novels, so I figured it was worth a shot.

    The Vorkosigan Saga (mentioned above) and the Discworld series are my comfort reading, and I return to them again and again when I need familiar voices.

    Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series, maybe? They’re sci-fi on the pulpy side with a troubled heroine who kicks ass and shoots things.

    Oh! Donald Westlake’s Put a Lid on it! It’s a heist novel, fun, short, snappy banter.

  10. laura
    Feb 2, 2017

    okay so i mostly listen to crime podcasts, here’s a couple i really liked that fit the bill:

    -thin air (each ep is a different missing person case, almost all are under 50 mins, most 35-45 mins)
    – missing and murdered: who killed alberta williams? (focuses on alberta williams’ unsolved murder, but also talks a lot about canada’s highway of tears/the shit their indigenous population has gone thru, the host is an indigenous canadian woman, only last ep is longer than 45 mins)
    – someone knows something (2 seasons, 1st season is about a missing boy, 2nd season is about a missing woman, produced by same ppl as missing and murdered but different host, most eps 35-45 mins, some shorter, 2 longer)
    -accused (35-50 mins, about a 1978 murder, boyfriend was accused, but went free, looks into other possible suspects)

  11. Zelda
    Feb 2, 2017

    I do like BBC world commute as a podcast. It’s about 29 minutes 6 days a week.
    Book wise, the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Alternative steam punk, with vampires and werewolves. Also abnything by Yee Morris and Pip something or another.

  12. Joanne B
    Feb 2, 2017

    Sawbones, focused on one medical topic per week. Husband & wife, where she’s a doctor and he is not. Just over 30 minutes
    In Our Time, more from the BBC, a focused panel discussion, each week a new topic. Extensive back catalogue, runs about 45 minutes. These days pushing closer to 50 minutes, actually (I just checked).

    Books: another vote for Lois McMaster Bunold. I am halfway through re-reading one of the Vorkosigan books right now (a civil campaign) because I wanted something light.

    • Joanne B
      Feb 2, 2017

      Bujold. Not Bunold. That was me failing at typing on my phone, sorry.

  13. Mark
    Feb 3, 2017

    Freakonomics (from the guys who wrote that book) and Starcast (Neil Degrasse Tyson) are focused and clock in around an hour usually. And for a one of you may want to check this podcast on financial crises and star wars: http://www.economicrockstar.com/zachary-feinstein-systemic-risk-economics-star-wars-harry-potter/

  14. Orikes
    Feb 4, 2017

    If you’re at all interested in true crime, I highly recommend Case File. It’s a single narrator with well researched and neutrally presented stories of true crime. Most are lesser known stories from all over the world (the crew behind the show is from all over the place). Obviously you need to like true crime to enjoy it, but it’s a really good show. Oh, and the episodes clock in around 40-hour.

    (Sword & Scale is another true crime show that clocks in at about the same time, but I’m not as big a fan of that show. He gets a little too partisan on some of the stories and there are a few episodes that cross a line IMO.)

    The other shows I listen to are all RPG game related. If you’re into that, I recommend Gaming & BS, Misdirected Mark, Panda’s Talking Games (with the outtakes, it’ll clock in at about 40). Talking Tabletop is a fantastic interview podcast for people in the industry. Also, if you enjoy Actual Plays, you MUST listen to One Shot Podcast’s Campaign. What could be better than a bunch of improv actors playing Star Wars? Not much. 🙂

  15. Rachel
    Feb 8, 2017

    Mary Kowal’s Glamourist books — the first one is Shades of Milk and Honey.

    I second, or third, the Bujold series. Fun and fast paced but also solid sci fi.

    Graphic novel? Sunstone is fun and the series is finished so you can read the whole thing through pretty quickly.

  16. Martha S
    Feb 15, 2017

    Can’t help with podcasts and mirrors… But books, short and not urban fantasy? I dunno if you’ve touched good teen novels in the last ever, but I was especially fond of everything Tamora Pierce ever wrote. Especially the first 4-5 series in her Tortall world.
    Pros; Sentient animals. Cool feminist protagonists portraying girls to ladies in all sorts of different ways, showing off lots of valid ways to be a strong girl, including political narratives. Nifty medieval fantasy world with cool gods and magic and kings and stuff. Really interesting supporting casts that are both good on their own or with the other books as backup. Easy to burn through if you’re a fast reader like me, but there’s lots available to read.
    Cons; They’re teen novels with a lot of coming of age stuff, including lame teenage romance that I don’t connect to well anymore but I remember having had when I was younger. I still cling to them like a 10-year-old though.

    I also enjoyed the Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee.
    Pros and Cons; First person writing style. Short books. Kinda bizzare fantasy.

    And also Here There Be Dragons (and the other books in the series) by James Owen is really fun for fantasy nerds filled with nifty references and an ending that makes nerd friends scream a little or drop the book.
    Pros; Fast, fun, high-flying neato adventure with lots of neat fiction references! Very cool for fantasy book nerds.
    Cons; Those references can feel really generic and trope-y until the end when all the pieces fall into place and it’s super cool.

    Cons for all three book series; Low reading level. Ray Bradbury they aint. But they have compelling ideas and characters and neat things happen, so “easy to get through” doesn’t bother me too much. And you asked for easy to get through so maybe being teen books is a pro. 😛

  17. Alexis Lantgen
    Feb 23, 2017

    Books: Anything at all by P.G. Wodehouse. Seriously, just pick up any book by Wodehouse, they’re light, funny, and brilliant. I especially love Mulliner Nights.

    Podcasts: PodSave America! It’s funny, but inspiring. Fantastic interviews. Also, Pod Save The World.

  18. David A. Burgess
    Jun 27, 2017

    I realize this is months later, but better late than never! I have just now discovered your site and have greatly enjoyed binging on your articles and short stories over the last couple of days.

    Book recommendations:

    Fantasy-wise, I’m surprised no one has mentioned Patrick Rothfuss (‘The Name of the Wind’ and ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’). A master story teller telling the story of a master storyteller telling the story of his own life. Smart and original and clever, in my opinion. Plus, an interesting magical system.

    Being as you’re obviously into Sci-Fi I assume you are also familiar with Robert Heinlein… I recently re-read Stranger in a Strange Land, Friday, Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. I love how progressive he was, for his time… he was more open-minded back then than many are now! I love sexy-romping through time and space with his characters.

    Also, a big thumbs up and a vigorous ‘Second that motion!” to the person who mentioned the Discworld novels. Yay Pratchett!

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