When you spend the equivalent of a full work week driving, you need some entertainment in the car to keep you sane. Sure you can talk to each other. But after a few hours, you’ve pretty much said what you need to say. And listening to music only gets you so far. You need a little something to engage the intellect, something with a sense of narrative that appeals to our natural affinity for storytelling. The trick is finding something that can keep you interested without putting you to sleep. We tried the audiobook of Bel Canto, but it made us feel we had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe it was better in print.
Our savior turned out to be my backlog of This American Life podcasts, which is without a doubt the perfect thing to listen to in the car. It made us realize the difference between something that’s meant to be read and something that’s designed to be heard. Everything about the production of This American Life keeps you engaged. Not just the stories themselves, but the conversational tone, the use of music, and especially the pacing.