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Best podcasts of the week: Inside the lives turned upside down by Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban


Picks of the week

Unbelievable
BBC Sounds, episodes weekly from Thursday
“At Rotherham, I never washed me jockstrap if we won … We went 19 games undefeated.” Neil Warnock is the first football heavyweight to share his stories from the pitch and changing room in this new BBC Radio 5 live podcast. Hosts Ben Shephard and Chris “Kammy” Kamara keep the organic conversations going with ease, making it a fun listen to take football fans into the new season. Hollie Richardson

Just a Little Shady
Widely available, episodes weekly

Longtime Eminem listeners will be familiar with the fact that he has a daughter called Hailie. Her new rambling chat of a podcast – co-hosted with childhood friend Brittany – sees her discuss topics including a youth spent on a tour bus and watching the Detroit Pistons basketball team with her dad. Alexi Duggins

Book Exploder
Widely available, from Wednesday

Song Exploder’s bite-size episodes see creators examining their finest tunes – and now the spin-off about books (released on the same podcast feed) is here. Susan Orlean hosts a brilliant lineup of authors including Min Jin Lee and Celeste Ng, but first Hrishikesh Hirway asks her about the inspiration behind her own work The Library Book. Hannah Verdier

Kabul Falling
Widely available, from Monday

British-Afghan journalist Nelufar Hedayat hosts an eight-part podcast featuring people who were affected as the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan a year ago. From the immersive sound of people trying to board a flight to a man who walked for eight hours in blistering heat to collect his son, the human stories are powerful. HV

The Electricity of Every Living Thing
Audible, all episodes available from Thursday

This immersive audio experience dramatises author Katherine May’s titular book. It’s based on her 630-mile coastal walk to get away from the overstimulating nature of everyday life, only to realise that she may be autistic. The sound FX can feel OTT (loud heartbeats, the constant electric buzz of appliances) but it does plunge you right into the action. AD

There’s a podcast for that

Esther Perel, host of the much-loved Where Should We Begin?
Esther Perel, host of the much-loved Where Should We Begin? Photograph: Jean Goldsmith/The Observer

This week, Ammar Kalia chooses five of the best podcasts for better mental health, from Esther Perel’s famed couples therapy podcast to a show seeking to make sense of grief

Maintenance Phase
Wellness trends might seem like the fastest, most popular route to better mental health, but behind the buzzwords there is plenty of advice you should take with a pinch of high-quality natural salt. Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes take charge of this incisive and often sarky podcast, tackling the biggest myths in wellness, science and nutritional fads, while recommending more measured means of taking care of yourself in the process. Among the topics covered are the limitations of Matthew Walker’s bestselling book Why We Sleep, as well as the myths behind Oprah’s weight loss promotions.

Rubin Museum Mindfulness Meditation Podcast
For those who need some guidance to quieten their daily anxieties and focus on the present moment instead, there are a plethora of mindfulness podcasts waiting to help. Series like The Mindful Minute present guided meditations that range in length from five to 45 minutes, while shows such as On Being discuss the nuances of spirituality and meditative practice. New York’s Rubin Museum of Art takes a fresh and engaging tack with its mindfulness podcast, using paintings and objects from its extensive collection of Asian art as the basis of its meditation

Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel
So much of our mental health depends on the relationships we have with the people we love. While TV is increasingly giving us a window into the world of relational therapy through shows like Couples Therapy, writer and therapist Esther Perel has long had the monopoly on translating romantic resentments and betrayals into lessons we can all learn from. Her podcast Where Should We Begin? features a real therapy session with a couple each week, allowing often messy self-realisations to inform listeners’ reflections on our own lives. Although it can be heavy, listening to Perel is like witnessing an artist at work.

Code Switch
Our race, gender and sexual orientation – and how society treats us as a result of these factors – are all vital aspects of how our mental health is formulated. Audio series like Therapy for Black Girls and Bottoming tackle the effects of different perceptions with practical discussion, but NPR’s Code Switch stands out for its wider views on the ways that race impacts society and the mental health of people of colour. Each episode is hosted by a journalist recounting first-hand experiences, meaning it can veer tonally. However, it is always consistent in its honesty and learned advice. Begin with the fascinating episode on whether therapy can solve racism.

Griefcast
Actor and comic Cariad Lloyd’s podcast – in which she interviews media personalities about their experiences of bereavement – has garnered a loyal following since it began in 2017. Radical in its frankness, and willingness to probe the dark contradictions of how we react to the deaths of our loved ones, Griefcast has done more than perhaps any other mental health podcast to help make sense of the end of life. Lloyd’s own story of her father’s death from pancreatic cancer when she was 15 informs her compassionate interviewing, while Covid gives more recent episodes a wider remit, making them a salve in trying times.

Why not try …

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