When Reading Isn’t Reading

icon_510307Let’s face it, sometimes we just cannot pick up a book. We’re too busy, we’re too tired, we’re in a slump, whatever, we just can’t. But if you’re anything like us, sitting around watching re-runs of Law and Order makes you feel kind of crappy (though it’s pretty comforting at first!). Nicola, Alyssa and I thought it might be nice to take a moment, every once in a while to let you know what we “read” when we can’t be reading. Think of if as recommendations for what we readerly women go to for media that still fills our souls and entertains our brains when we can’t go to a book.

I’ll kick us off. I like audiobooks, but I confess I have a hard time finishing them. The pace kind of kills me. As good as they are, they’re not really produced to be consumed as audio because most books aren’t serials anymore. There’s not enough conclusion to most chapters to let you stop and go to the grocery store, live your life for a day and come back and pick up again super easily. Podcasts are changing the game in this area in both fictional and non-fictional genres. I’m sure you’ve all heard of NPR’s Serial, because it shook the podcasting world to its core, changing the game for how we’re telling stories on podcasts and radio.

But I’m not recommending Serial today, not because I don’t like it, because I do, but because there’s another podcast that I love that I’m not sure you’ve heard of yet, Invisibilia. Invisibilia is all true, but it listens like science fiction. Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel have created a podcast about some of the most bizarre and mindbending wonders of  “the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”

Co-hosted by NPR’s Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, who helped create Radiolab and This American Life, Invisibilia delves into a wide array of human behavior, interweaving narrative storytelling with fascinating new psychological and brain science. Listen and research will come to life in a way that will make you see your own life differently. Produced by NPR News, Invisibilia turns the dry and scholarly into utterly captivating storytelling.


In Invisibilia‘s pilot season, Spiegel and Miller dig deep into our innermost minds — examining our dark, disturbing thoughts and whether those thoughts say anything about who we are, our fears and how they shape our actions, and our need for belonging and how it shapes our identity and fuels our emotions over a lifetime. They will take you into the real-world consequences of our own expectations — sometimes so powerful that they can overcome physical disability — and test your assumptions that empathy brings people closer together. Along the way, you’ll encounter fascinating individuals, such as the man who has merged with his computer and a woman who physically feels what others feel.


Invisibilia is a glimpse into a world you can’t see. – NPR


What I like about the show is that Miller and Spiegel don’t just “report” on what they hear. The way the show is produced, you can go along with them as they learn what you do. You hear them think it out together, just the way you are as you listen. There are narrative twists and turns to each story that keep you off balance. You think they’ve started with their flashiest story, but no, there’s something even stranger waiting in the wings to blow you mind just a bit more.

It’s true, what NPR says about Invisibilia, Miller and Spiegel have turned the show into something captivating, even dazzling at times. I used to listen to podcasts at night (especially ones with “NPR voices”) so I could fall asleep faster. Invisibilia isn’t for that. Invisibilia is my go-to for washing dishes, going on walks, loading laundry, or really anything where I can keep my hands busy but my mind engaged.

I love the versatility of podcasts. They can do so many things and are accessible to so many people, in the way books often aren’t. I think there’s a ton of great podcasting out there, you just have to find it. I hope you’ll give Invisibilia a shot!

Allison Carr Waechter has finished all of the Invisibilia available to listen and is tapping her feet nervously, awaiting the new season. Get here sooner. 


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