The Best Books I Read in 2019

I listen to most books these days, but some of the books to the right of Frosty I actually read.

I eagerly anticipate this time of the year when the year’s best reads are published. I don’t compare the books I read with the writers/editors choices since most of the books I read (or listen to) in a calendar year are published in other years, I use these lists as books to consider reading next year or later.

With that said, here are my favorite reads of 2019, with only four of the titles published in the last twelve months (and one of them originally released about 1000 years ago). The list is in no specific order except for separating nonfiction from fiction; however, the first three or four titles in Nonfiction are my top reads of the year.

NONFICTION

Most books I read/listen to in a given year are nonfiction and of these titles, my favorite are political. It is a hangup of mine that I wish I could shake, but to repeat a popular term, I am a political junkie.

We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement by Ryan Grim, 2019

This should be essential reading for all progressives. The Intercept‘s Ryan Grim tells the 30-year story of a popular movement that started with Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Collision and has culminated in the rise of Bernie Sanders into the national conscience and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s meteoric rise into American politics (who may have coined the name of the book: “We’ve got people. They’ve got money”). Grim expertly shows how Ocasio-Cortez did not grow out of a vacuum but is part of a movement that’s time may have come. If I had to pick my favorite read of the year (regardless of when it was published), it would be this one! Note to audio book listeners: Chapter 16 is a mess, but after I contacted the author via Twitter, he sent me a clean recording of the problem chapter. For audio book enthusiasts, note that reader, Sean W. Stewart must have recorded the book on his back porch—you can hear birds tweeting in the background!

Ryan Grim talks about the genesis his book.

Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman, 2017

If Grim’s book is my favorite read of 2019, “Utopia for Realists” comes in a close second. The same goes for the authors: Grim is as gracious as he is knowledgeable. Equally, Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian, journalist, and author is a brilliant thinker who is not afraid to tell it like it is, even when surrounded by multimillionaires and billionaires. If you haven’t seen him dressing down of the elite during the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, click here. It is a thing to behold! He has become one of the champions of universal basic income or UBI. Check out his 2017 Ted Talk. His book–that came out the same year–tackles that idea in detail as well as the 15-hour workweek, and open borders. He wasn’t convincing about the 15-hour workweek. I vaguely remember him writing about how John Maynard Keynes brought it up in the depths of the Great Depression, but reducing the workweek (without reducing pay) in America is an idea which time has come.

On Fire: The Case for the Green New Deal by Naomi Klein, 2019

Naomi Klein is quite possibly the most significant thinker of our times. I once read someone saying Klein is the next Noam Chomsky. An absurd statement. Chomsky is Chomsky, and Klein is Klein. Still, the idea that the Canadian author, journalist, and activist has risen to the heights of a Chomsky is an achievement. She is absolutely essential.

“On Fire” is a continuation of one of her masterpieces, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.” It reports from the front lines of the people and ideas that are looking for solutions like The Green New Deal. It is not as thorough and as in-depth as “This Changes Everything,” but I think it is meant to be a companion piece to it. Worth a read!

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by William Pollan, 2008

Pollan’s manifesto is: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Of course, when he says “food,” he is not referring to Twinkies, Snickers, all processed foods. There are 64 Food Rules in the book. Each rule is simple, and its explanation is only about a page long. For being a tiny book, it is deceptively dense in wisdom. I’ve been trying to lose weight, and this book has helped, though “Food Rules” is not, by definition a diet book, but rather a guide on how to eat right.

What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States by Dave Zirin, 2005

For some time now, my son has been trying to get my wife and me to read “Welcome to the Terrordome,” written by someone named “Check D,” a wrapper my son apparently likes. He hasn’t been successful, but on a long car trip, he had me cornered. I finally looked up the title and found out the book is actually written by The Nation Magazine‘s sports editor Dave Zirin. (Chuck D, turned out to write the Forward.) As a long-time reader of The Nation and a one-time listener to Zirin’s podcast, “The Edge of Sports,” I knew and appreciated Zirin. So I ended up ordering the book, and in the meantime, Zirin’s previous book, “What’s My Name, Fool?” was available in audio, so I started listening to that. I was not disappointed.

“What’s My Name, Fool?” (a refrain Muhammad Ali asked his competitors who insisted on calling him by his “slave” name, Cassius Clay) is about the confluence of sports and politics. The book’s main topics are Ali and his fight for dignity against a white establishment, Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ expression of Black Power and racism 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City and how the two continued to fight after the blowback. Zirin also compassionately expressed the other side of when George Foreman waved a small U.S. flag after winning his gold medal in boxing during those same Olympic Games. Zirin covers Jackie Robinson and the racism he had to face every day when playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the long-term effect that had on the ballplayer’s life. Other topics include the plantation mentality of the multi-billion-dollar NCAA, the Billy Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs match, and other issues. I’m glad my son, indirectly pointed me to this book. Perhaps n 2020, I’ll read “Welcome to the Terrordome,” which, if the critics are correct, is a sequel to “What’s My Name, Fool?”

Lightly: How to Live a Simple, Sceren, Stress-Free Life by Francine Jay, 2019

I don’t read very many self-help books, but I have read a couple of books on minimalism: the elegant “Goodbye Things” by Fumio Sasaki, and my first book on the subject, “Everything That Remains” by Joshua Fields Millburn, but “Lightly” is the first book that doubles as a field guide. That is, it is part theory, part “how-to” manual that someone like Marie Kondo might appreciate. It has been a while since reading the Sasaki and Millburn books, but I believe what I really love about Jay’s beautiful book is how she addresses global issues. While the other authors focus mostly on personal issues, Jay also talks about the importance of reducing your carbon footprint.

The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future by Andrew Yang, 2018

I like Yang, even if he is against minimum wage (a deal-breaker if he wants my vote). He has some good ideas: his “Freedom Dividend” (read: UBI. No better yet, read Rutger Bregman’s “Utopia for Realists,” mentioned above). His idea on how to pay for the $1k a month to every adult American is refreshing, but I prefer Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s better. Yang doesn’t seem to want to ruffle the elite’s feathers—he believes the Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming like a runaway train, and there’s nothing we can do about it, but take the $1k and deal with it. He does a great job here explaining how the Fourth Industrial Revolution (automation and artificial intelligence (AI)) is going to make a lot of blue-collar and even some white-collar jobs obsolete, but, as I recall, he offers few solutions besides a monthly check to remove some of the sting and the way he will pay for his “Freedom Dividend”—implementing a European-style Value Added Tax. (A tax that is placed on all products whenever value is added at each stage of the supply chain.)

Since I’m a socialist, I don’t think we should just roll over and let Big Tech and corporations steal all these jobs. AI and automation should be for the benefit of labor, not for the board of directors and shareholders. AI and automation should work to reduce the workweek, not the paycheck. Still, there are a lot of great ideas in this book. It’s worth a read.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean, 2017

Just when I thought how the radical right took control of America, my friend at work handed me this hardbound bomb. I was ignorant enough to think the attack on the liberal gains of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society started with the Powell Memorandum in 1972. The Powell Memo was indeed destructive, but that was only one volley and Powell played a minor roll in the rise of neoliberalism in America. There was a far bigger player in this successful dismantling of the social programs and institutions that even Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon accepted as established. His name was James McGill Buchanan Jr.

“Democracy in Chains” is an explosive expose of the radical right’s most successful attempt at destroying labor unions replacing them with Right to Work laws, privatizing public education, privatizing the prison systems, hobbling health care, replacing pensions with 401k plans, launching multiple attempts to privatize Social Security, keeping as many of us as possible out of the voting booth, and, in general, disenfranchising the middle class. MacLean does an excellent job of revealing the hidden political establishment behind far-right foundations thought to be started by billionaires like the Koch Brothers. Buchanan stands head and shoulders above highly visible thinkers like Milton Friedman, Richard Fink, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises.

The most fascinating thing I found about this book is Buchanan, and his like-minded thinkers attack “democracy” in favor of “freedom.” I’ve never heard of democracy referred to as a dirty word in America until reading this book. Too, the term “freedom” has the convenient definition as something that benefits wealthy white men–a greater opportunity for the rich to get richer and for everyone else (especially poor people of color) to remain disenfranchised. The Nation awarded “Democracy in Chains” Most Valuable Book of 2017. It deserves the accolade.

Nancy MacLean talks about how she came up with “Democracy in Chains.”

Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn, 2019

I should take it easy on the political books and podcasts. I didn’t know who to kill after reading “Democracy in Chains”–maybe start with me? I always feel better reading/listening to works like “Revolution of the Soul.” Seane Corn is a singular yoga teacher and this is an excellent read for being her first–part memoir, part the kind of instruction Corn’s followers have come to expect from her.

Her publisher, Sounds True writes, “Seane’s real purpose is to guide us into a deep, gut-level understanding of our highest Self through yoga philosophy and other tools for emotional healing – not just as abstract ideas but as embodied, fully felt wisdom. Why? To spark a ‘revolution of the soul’ in each of us so we can awaken to our purpose and become true agents of change. Seane writes, ‘When we heal the fractured parts of ourselves and learn to love who we are and the journey we’ve embarked upon we will see that same tender humanity in all souls. This is the revolution of the soul.'”

Each chapter of this memoir includes practical tools from the author: instructions on the chakra system, pranayamas, healing, forgiveness, the subtle body, and more. Not into yoga? Perhaps this book isn’t for you. What can I say? It’s my blog.

Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat’s Walk Across America by William Stolzenburg, 2016

The author traces the steps of an embattled mountain lion from the Black Hills of North Dakota, across the Great Plains, through the Midwest to Connecticut’s Gold Coast–a two-year odyssey. It’s a fascinating and, at least for me, tragic tale of how we are slowing killing off some of our most majestic mammals due to human encroachment and misunderstanding. Goodreads.com calls it “a testament to the resilience of nature, and a test of humanity’s willingness to live again beside the ultimate symbol of wildness.” I couldn’t have said it better.

The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jim Dutcher, Jamie Dutcher, James Manfill, 2013 and The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack by Jim Dutcher, Jamie Dutcher, James Manfill, 2018

This was the first year I ever started reading about wild cats and dogs. First, I read “Heart of a Lion” then I read “The Hidden Life of Wolves” followed by the he beautiful pictorial “The Wisdom of Wolves.” I came away with a similar feeling had had when a read books on sharks after seeing the film “Jaws”: how misunderstood these predators are.

What was especially fascinating about the Dutcher books is how the couple and Manfill were able to become accepted in the Sawtooth Pack in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. (At one point Jamie Dutcher is allowed into a she-wolf’s den after after she has given birth to pups!) The products of this kind of acceptance is an excellent study on how wolves live and some absolutely stunning photography.

America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis, 2016

“Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wallis writes, “America’s problem with race has deep roots, with the country’s foundation tied to the near extermination of one race of people and the enslavement of another. Racism is truly our nation’s original sin. It’s time we right this unacceptable wrong.” I have read Wallis’ books and editorials for years in his Sojourners Magazine–a Christian progressive monthly.

In “America’s Original Sin,” Wallis tells of how he was driven away from his faith by a church that didn’t want to address the problems of racism in the 1960’s. He turned to working with civil rights groups. He returned to the church when he found a faith that commands racial justice. “Yet as recent tragedies confirm” he writes, “we continue to suffer from the legacy of racism. The old patterns of white privilege are colliding with the changing demographics of a diverse nation.”

Jim Wallis on his 2016 book.

FICTION

I probably read one book of fiction for every three nonfiction books, but after reading each of these books I felt I was missing out.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth, 1987

Roth won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for this masterful work of loss and distrust recounted by a family friend during a high school reunion and spans about fifty years, starting in the early 20th century where Seymour “Swede” Levov’s father starts a profitable glove manufacturing business and continues through the idyllic 50’s when the son, All-American college star, Swede Levov, and his trophy wife, Dawn, watch their seemingly perfect life, with their daughter, slowly unravel through the tumultuous ’60s. For me, it is one of the most heartbreaking yet compelling books I have ever read, and the first book I have read by the lauded Philip Roth.

Ohio by Stephen Markley, 2018

Shortly after Philip Roth, one of the most significant figures in American letters died, Stephen Markley publishes his first novel. I’m not trying to claim Markley has taken Roth’s mantle, I’m only saying “Ohio” is worthy of a master’s offspring. “Ohio” is a brutally vivid story of a community in the rust belt where the American Dream is all but dead, and the opioid epidemic is in full swing. Told from the perspective of four former classmates who return home after the untimely death of a friend in Iraq. The four return on the same night, with different motives and none of their homecomings, go as planned. The novel ends with a terrifying act of violence, the culmination of a set of lives that have been destroyed by abuse, drug addiction, hatred, war and poverty.

Vox by Christina Dalcher, 2018

Something like a fundamental Christian theocracy takes over the U.S. government and begins to roll back liberties–especially for women and young girls. On the day, the government decrees that women are allowed to speak no more than 100 words a day. At first, Dr. Jean McClellan thinks this will pass, but it doesn’t. She, her daughter, and all females have a counter fascinated to their wrists to monitor and govern their speech. Soon, women lose their jobs, girls are no longer taught to read or write in school. A moment comes when McClellan can step up and do something about this injustice. This is no “Handmaiden’s Tale,” one reader commented, but “Vox” is clearly not trying to be that story. It is more subtle and, in a way, that makes “Vox” more terrifying.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, 2014

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.…”

Nope, that wasn’t a spoiler, that’s how the book starts, and it is because of this setup that everything that follows so tragic. Lydia is torn between the demands of her mother and the different expectations of her father while her own desires ans aspirations are ignored. Thus paving the way to the established climax.

The structure, while not completely novel, is executed expertly. “Everything I Never Told You” is a moving story of a Chinese American family living in a small town in 1970’s Ohio. It is a moving story about a family divided by cultures, gender, and generations.

Purity by Jonathan Franzen, 2015

Pip (Purity) Tyler, a young woman, straddled with college debt and a burning question: who is her father. Her eccentric mother knows but won’t tell her. She fled from him before Pip was born, changed her name, and retired to live in anonymity in the woods of Northern California. Pip begins an internship with the Sunlight Project, the organization founded by the famous and charismatic German leaker, Andreas Wolf (fashioned after Julian Assange). Pip moves to Bolivia, where the Sunlight Project is based, with the hope of being able to use hacker technology to discover her father’s identity.

I enjoyed the odd sexual tension between Pip and Andreas, the dark secrets revealed in intimacy, and the betrail. Like Franzen’s previous book, “Freedom,” the pacing might be slow at first, but the story picks up momentum and is well worth sticking with it.

Jonathan Franzen talks about his latest novel “Purity.”

Beowulf by Unknown, between the 8th and the early 11th century (Okay, the version I read was transcribed by Francis Barton Gummere and translated by Seamus Heaney)

I try to read a piece of classic literature a year. I’ve been meaning to read Beowulf for years. In the meantime I have seen the The Lord of the Rings, based on J.R.R. I try to read a piece of classic literature a year. I’ve been meaning to read Beowulf for years. In the meantime, I have seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Reading Beowulf, I see where he got his inspiration. It is one of the most essential works in old English literature and can take credit for a lot of European works from Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” operas to “Game of Thrones.”

The story is set in Scandinavia. Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid The story is set in Scandinavia. Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, who has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel, and much gallantry is displayed. After reading the epic poem, I bought and enjoyed Santiago Garcia and David Rubin’s large-format graphic novel version of the seminal piece of Old English lit. It was a nice encore.

Interview with David Doel

dd1
David Doel at work on The Rational National

I don’t spend a lot of time on YouTube, but when I do I check out short clips from hour-long shows like Democracy Now!, Majority Report, Thom Hartmann Program, and Democracy at Work. There is one channel, however, I religiously check out every day: David Doel’s The Rational National.

The show’s subject matter is always fascinating and Doel’s insight and the even-handedness towards his subjects is refreshing in this divisive political climate. Personally, I’m a bit of a crank and would handle some of these subjects with anger or frustration. Some of my sounding boards (wife, sons, Facebook friends) would agree my passion gets the better of me and muddles my arguments at times. That’s part of the reason why I admire Doel’s fairness and criticism.

The thirty-two-year-old has been a video editor for a national broadcast news station, a freelance writer covering the video game industry, a web marketing specialist for a tech company, and a political candidate. Doel currently runs Eleven21 Productions where he has produced a number of projects including music videos and events. He focuses most of his energy these days on his YouTube channel, The Rational National.

He was gracious enough to answer some questions via email.

Burger Scoot: What inspired you to start The Rational National YouTube channel?

David Doel: Coming off a short run as a political candidate in the 2015 Canadian federal election, I wanted to continue discussing ideas I felt passionate about. So I decided to combine my interest and brief experience in politics with my work experience in video production.

You are Canadian and yet, from most of the subject matter on your channel, you are obviously very interested in US politics. Why?

I got into politics in my early to mid-20s, spurred by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. So growing up on a diet of American politics, in some ways I felt I knew more about the American political system than that of my own country’s. On top of that, Canadian politics is less of a spectacle; most Canadians are really only familiar with their own Mayor, MP, Premier, and of course Prime Minister. Whereas being a politician in the U.S. is essentially like being a celebrity. It’s a lot more about the individual than it is about the party, and it’s discussed nationwide. So someone from Oklahoma has a better chance at knowing who Elizabeth Warren is than someone from Nova Scotia knowing who Kathleen Wynne (Ontario’s Premier) is. Because of that, the market for political discussion occurs on a much larger scale; not just in terms of population (with America having ten times more people than Canada) but also just because of the constant national political discourse occurring in America. As an outsider, I feel I have a unique perspective from a country that already experiences many of the benefits, like universal healthcare, that American will one-day have. And by offering that perspective, I hope to educate people that progressive policies are not as scary as the Republicans and many Democrats make them out to be.

You ran for Parliment in 2015 on Green Party of Canada ticket. What was it like to be on that side of politics?

daviddoel1
Doel debating

Running for parliament was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I naturally overthink everything, so I felt completely unprepared for the experience, but in many ways, you can never really be prepared to do a completely new thing. I jumped into it because my local Conservative MP, apart from being terrible in other ways, used cannabis as a way to try and fear-monger for votes. He was spreading lies about how legalized cannabis was ‘destroying’ Colorado and other states. Those blatant lies bothered me to the point that I felt like I had to do something, and it was the final push I needed to contact the Green Party; a party that already impressed me with their progressive platform and leader Elizabeth May. What scared me though were the debates, before this, I had only had horrid memories of public speaking in elementary, high school, and college. But to my surprise I discovered how much I enjoyed speaking at the debates once they finally got going – when you’re passionate about issues and the policies you’re putting forward, the talking comes naturally. But the days and hours leading up to them is a level of anxiety I’ve rarely had to face.

Do you have any interest in running for office again?

I’ve thought about running again, but haven’t come to a conclusion either way. I think we truly underestimate how much we expect a politician to be educated on. At least that’s one of the pressures I faced and why I dreaded the debates. You’re expected to be an expert on all topics, yet realistically, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’re well-versed on everything. In some ways, I think politicians should really just be the mediators between the people and the experts on each topic. I mean, it’s kind of supposed to be that way, but it’s rarely communicated as such. 

Have you taken part in any direct action in American or Canadian politics (aside from your MP bid)? 

For me, The Rational National is my way of taking action. I try to play to my strengths, and one thing I do understand is how people think. So knowing that, I try to take a rational approach to arguments that don’t just shame the uneducated, but actually educates them in a non-confrontational way.

You are obviously a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. Are there other American politicians that you admire? Is there anyone you would like to see run for president in 2020?

I think sincerity and genuine care for people are tough qualities to find in a politician, and those are the ones I gravitate to. So other than Bernie, Nina Turner is a huge standout. And I’m going to make a prediction here and say that Nina will become President at some point in the future. She has a passionate way with words that can communicate with people across political spectrums. I’ve seen it in the reactions to videos I’ve done covering her. She’s the only person where Trump supporters openly admit they’d vote for her. People, on the whole, are angry at the establishment, and when they see someone that really does care about them, whether it’s Bernie or whether it’s Nina, they recognize it. And like Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner has the power to unite the country.

You have been critical of American political commentators like Joy Reid. Are there any commentators in mainstream US media that you like?

I enjoy Rachel Maddow, I just wish she covered more topics than the Trump administration. I understand why she’s focused on it and why she feels she needs to focus on it, but for my own selfish interests, I wish she went into other topics like she did before the 2016 election result. She’s incredibly talented at story-telling, which is vital to educating people on topics they may know nothing about. She’s also become a little too cozy with establishment figures over the past few years, which bothers me as well. There really is no one in mainstream media that I can name who is completely indebted to objectivity like they should be.

There has always been a struggle between progressives that try to change the Democratic Party from within and those who have abandoned the party and have either registered independent or joined third parties like the Party for Socialism & Liberation, Socialist Alternative, and the Green Party. I know that I have often been on the fence on this issue, but have now decided (for now, at least) to try to change the Democratic Party from within. Do you have an opinion on this?

I think you do everything possible on all fronts. That said, I think change from within the party has the highest chance at being successful simply because the skeleton of a nationwide party is already in place – which is the toughest part of building a third party; well that and trying to convince people to vote for a third party. Many people now are aware of how corrupt the political system is and are actively trying to change it with groups like Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, who are aiming to vote out corporate Democrats. Bernie’s right when he says it requires a political revolution for change to occur, and I think we’re seeing the beginning stages of that revolution now. But we don’t need to make the revolution tougher than it has to be, and by primarying out corporate Democrats with progressives, it’s a quicker path to victory than starting from scratch with a new party.

(Political) Podcast Junkie 

bike helmet portraitSince I started riding my bike to work about four years ago, I have had much more time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. As I discover new podcasts the time spent on audiobooks naturally diminishes and if I get bogged down in an uninspiring audiobook I end up overdosing on podcasts. Nearly all of these podcasts are about politics.

I’ve listened to “This American Life,” “Serial,” “Stuff You Should Know” numerous podcasts on the yogic life, various titles published by The New Yorker, and Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.” My interest in these is ultimately transitory. I would always go back to the political podcasts.

Currently, I am listening to about ten to fifteen hours of podcast programming throughout the work week. I tend to clean up my habit over the weekend mostly because the podcasts I listen to don’t publish on Saturday or Sunday. I get down to about an hour each day–usually last week’s dregs that I didn’t finish. Then Monday rolls around, and I’m looking for the good stuff again. My name is Jack, and I’m a political podcast junkie.

Here are my favorite podcasts, in no particular order. By the way, if you think I’m missing a good one let me know, just don’t suggest “Stuff You Missed in High School.” I’ll take ice picks in my ears first!

The Intercept from Spoken Edition
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: two or three times each weekday
Drop length: Varies between about 8 to 20 minutes

The Intercept is one of the best investigative journalist sites on the web. Started by Glenn Greenwald (who is best known for being one of the journalists that broke the Edward Snowden story) and Jeremy Scahill, the site also has heavy-hitters like David Dayen, Matt Taibbi, Lee Fang, and Naomi Klein. Spoken Edition is a service that reads selected articles from the latest editions of “The Intercept” as well as “The Huffington Post,” “Reuters,” “Wired,” “Time,” “Playboy,” “Slate,” and about ten other publications. If you like your podcasts in shorter run times check out Spoken Edition’s offerings at http://www.spokenedition.com/

The Daily and The Daily 202’s Big Idea from the New York Times and Washington Post, respectively
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: one each weekday
Drop length: Around 20 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively

“The Daily” and “The Daily 202’s Big Idea” are polished straight news services that give the listener a top story from the day’s two top papers as well as briefings. Neither of these shows challenges the corporate media’s take on current affairs, but they do offer the listener relatively well-investigated stories, and they are convenient if you didn’t get to read much of the newspaper in the morning.

Economic Update from Democracy at Work
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: Every Thursday (roughly)
Drop length: About an hour

Ever since my older son turned me onto this American economist’s work, I’ve been listening to his insightful critiques on corporate America and neo-liberalism. Wolff’s podcast is not about dry economics, but where business, government, and the human condition meet. Wolff calls the podcast “a weekly program devoted to the economic dimensions of our lives–jobs, incomes, debts–those we have, those coming down the road, and those facing our children.” If I were forced to delete all the podcasts from my phone except one, this would be the one that would survive.

Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill from The Intercept
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: Every Wednesday
Drop length: About an hour

Scahill is a founding editor of the online news publication The Intercept. He is also the author of two important books: “Blackwater” an in-depth and damning expose on the private American military company of the same name and “Dirty Wars” about the US’ expansion of war, assassinations, black sites, torture, and lack of accountability. His podcast is hard hitting and, at times, hilarious.

FiveThirtyEight Politics from FiveThirtyEight.com
Type: Politics/Political Polling Analysis
Drop frequency: Every Monday with occasional “Emergency Podcasts.”
Drop length: Around 40 to 50 minutes

Hosted and produced by Jody Avirgan and features political writers, Clare Malone and Harry Enten, and Editor in Chief Nat Silver, “FiveThirtyEight Politics” covers the latest in U.S. political news and how the current events may bode for candidates. The show also does an excellent job illustrating how good and bad polling affects the elected officials and candidates for posts. “FiveThirtyEight Politics” also evaluates the validity of current polls and surveys.

Start Making Sense from The Nation Magazine
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: Every Thursday
Drop length: Around 35 to 45 minutes

Jon Wiener, the host and a Contributing Editor to The Nation Magazine, is best known for his 25 year battle with the FBI over the release of the Bureau’s documents on John Lennon. He also was a consultant for the documentary “The U.S. Versus John Lennon.” “Start Making Sense” usually features two short pieces. If you like the longest running progressive magazine in America (150 years!), you’ll like this podcast.

On the Media from WNYC Studios
Type: News, Politics, media
Drop frequency: Once a week (roughly)
Drop length: Varies between about 20 to 50 minutes

Press critics Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield co-host this award-winning program that focuses on the how politicians and newsmakers spin the news. In these Trumpian days where the media is being attacked, OTM does an excellent job explaining how often the media itself is the news.

Edge of Sports with Dave Zirin from The Nation Magazine
Type: Politics in sports
Drop frequency: Every Tuesday
Drop length: About an hour

Sports Editor for The Nation Magazine Dave Zirin talks about the politics in college and professional sports. Favorite parts of this hour-long show: “Just Stand Up” and “Sit Your Ass Down” praise and harsh criticism, respectively for sports/public figures words or actions over the last week. Also, there’s “Kaepernick Watch” where the host updates his listeners on the ex-NFL quarterback’s politics and social work since the embattled athlete took a knee.

Democracy Now! from Pacifica Radio
Type: News, Politics, media
Drop frequency: one each weekday and frequent extended interviews
Drop length: About an hour

If you don’t watch Amy Goodman and company on PBS, or subscribe to the show on YouTube.com, you should at least check out the podcast version. (They also have a smartphone app.) Goodman’s guests are the vanguard of investigative journalists, activists, and authors: Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein, Matt Taibbi, Lee Fang, Jeremy Scahill, and Ralph Nader, to name only a few. I don’t listen to this as much as I used to, but I often watch the show on YouTube.com. Goodman is the best journalist you can see on your TV. It is tragic to say she has no real competition.

MLB podcasts
What: Major League Baseball
Drop frequency: Roughly every day
Drop length: From about 25 to 59 minutes

I’ve got four MLB podcasts on my phone. I listen to Statcast Podcast every week. It’s a little over my head, but I’m intrigued at such arcane metrics as hit probability, exit velocity, spin rate, Expected Weighted On-base Average, and barrelThe Ringer MLB Show is another podcast I rarely miss. Nothing mysterious like what exactly is “barrel,” just talk about why older players are less likely to be considered for Cooperstown, and predictions on who will be the Wild Cards and how the post-season will turn out. I occasionally enjoy Cut4cast, but it can be annoying when the co-hosts try too hard to be funny–laughing at their own jokes. I rarely listen to Fantasy Baseball 411 but keep it on my phone because it might come in handy next season. I might end up in two fantasy baseball leagues next year! How does fantasy baseball work, anyway? I still haven’t looked it up. When April comes along, I just may write a post about my rookie season(s).

Each week, listening to political podcast after political podcast, I have moments of clarity. Moments when I will stop my bike on the work commute, halt the podcast that is informing me of some committee’s decision to limit my rights or fuck over the already disenfranchised and–yearning for some beauty in this world–I’ll swipe to a different type of podcast. A podcast where people talk about the most beautiful game on Earth. Maybe it will be two guys talking about Giancarlo Stanton’s dingers, or Billy Hamilton’s incredible speed on the bases or in center field, or maybe how many batters Chris Sale K’d last night. Maybe it will be someone recapping Aaron Altherr’s inside-the-park grand slam, or how long it has been since a left-handed first baseman like Anthony Rizzo played third base. Maybe someone will point out how the sad Phillies have a promising rookie from my hometown of Sacramento and my alma mater, Sac State! Or perhaps, a podcast will find something promising to say about my Oakland Athletics. (Alas, if the A’s are mentioned in a show, it’s usually about players who are leaving the club.)

My Struggle
I get frustrated at players, teams, owner, and commentators, but those moments can’t compare to the red-hot anger I feel when I hear of another Trump chestnut. Not to mention how his base doesn’t seem to notice what a dumpster fire of a presidency his is. Or, for that matter, how the GOP-controlled Congress is using these high-profile incidents as cover to push through regressive legislation. “The dumpster fire, electorate! Keep your eyes on the dumpster fire!” All the while my dysfunctional Democratic Party continues to take the cynical route and ignore the new voices on the left that could be its/our salvation: Kshama Sawant, Zephyr Teachout, and Nina Turner, to name only a few. Never heard of these people? Well, it just so happens this post has some podcasts for you to sample! When I’m about to scream and ride my bike down the embankment and into the Sacramento River, I opt to cut over for some baseball talk.

Notice the tone switch of those last two paragraphs: from Idyllic to Angry; from Tranquil to Turmoil; from an inside-the-park grand slam to, well, a dumpster fire? Why is the former clearly the place I need to hang out and the latter the one I visit the most? Not sure, but I was this way before podcasts–and the intranet for that matter–were around. I almost always prefer to be outraged, I guess. I blame it on a college professor who pushed the red pill.

I think A. Bartlett Giamatti is right, baseball really does “break your heart,” but it’s like a first lover’s jilt, compared to the slap in the face of bad politics, yet I keep coming back, red face and all.