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Sick of the songs of summer? Try a podcast playlist

Deseret News podcast producer Adrienne St. Clair shares her favorite podcast episodes. Adobe Stock

SALT LAKE CITY — Floating down a river. Tanning on the beach. Walking the dog. Road tripping to national parks. Laying in front of the air conditioner. These are some of my favorite summer activities, but what I really love about them is that they're also podcast prime time.

Podcasts changed my life. I know that sounds dramatic. For someone prone to hyperbole, I've learned I have to be careful with throwing out grand statements. But I say that with deepest sincerity, even reverence.

A few years ago, I discovered the radio show-turned-podcast "This American Life," thanks to a recommendation from a friend. I was hooked. I'd listen to episode after episode at work, hiding the tears that streamed down my cheeks during a particularly powerful story.

My love for "This American Life" led me to eventually quit my job, move back in with my parents and apply to journalism school. I've since become a journalist and started making audio stories of my own. I'm currently working on a narrative podcast here at the Deseret News.

As I've been working on this new show, I've been enjoying summertime and listening to lots of podcasts for inspiration. I've also been revisiting some of my all-time favorite episodes of some of my favorite shows. And I've compiled a list.

Whether you're already an avid listener or a podcast newbie, here are some of the episodes that have entertained, enlightened and inspired me over the years.

"This American Life" — Episode 218: "Act V"

I love so many episodes of "TAL," but this one is definitely near the top of my list. I cry every time I hear it. The entire episode follows reporter Jack Hitt as he spends time with a group of men in a high-security prison who prepare to perform the fifth act of "Hamlet." Many of us have seen or read "Hamlet" at least once, and I'm usually like, it's OK? But here's what Ira Glass says makes this production different:

"The main conflict of the play is a guy debating, in long, complicated monologues, whether or not he should kill somebody. What is there in that for most of us to relate to?

"Unless, of course, we happen to be murderers. And what would the play be like if it were actually performed by murderers and other violent criminals? What would they see that the rest of us do not?"

That's exactly what I love about this episode. The surprises, the characters, the humanity. This episode has everything that makes "TAL" the gold standard of audio storytelling.

Content advisory: This episode takes place in prison and discusses Shakespeare's "Hamlet," so it may not be suitable for all listeners. There is the mention of criminal acts, violence and sexuality.

Another enjoyable segment of "TAL" for Utah listeners: "610: Grand Gesture Act 1" — Ira Glass joins kids in Payson as they ask out dates for prom.

"Criminal" — Episode 1: "Animal Instincts"

In every episode of "Criminal," host Phoebe Judge tells the story of a crime, but this show uses a broader definition of crime than the usual true crime show. It often dives into the history of a crime or provides new understanding of a well-known case, perspective or technique.

This episode is both a truly crazy story and a good example of how we never know what really happened.

Also, if you've seen Netflix's "The Staircase," this is the same case with completely different take. If you've seen and listened to both, I'm dying to know: What do you think really happened?

Content advisory: This episode discusses the aftermath of a murder. It may not be suitable for all listeners.

"Everything Is Alive" — Episode 2: "Maeve, Lamppost"

This is the only interview-style podcast on this list. Every episode is a conversation between host Ian Chillag and … inanimate objects. According to the show's website, the interviews are unscripted.

This podcast sounded weird when I first heard about it, and honestly, it is weird. But that's what I love about it. It's a show I can't wait to hear as soon as the next episode drops. This second episode makes me laugh out loud, but it also leaves me feeling a little emotional. Somehow Maeve the lamppost taps into some of my own insecurities. Even though the interviewees are inanimate objects, there's always a humanity to them and an insightful commentary on life.

Also, I love the segment on what happened to the stolen lamppost from the movie "Singin' in the Rain."

In the end you may wonder, what if everything really is alive?

"Slow Burn" — Season 2

This Slate podcast all about presidential impeachments is too good, especially if you're a history or politics junkie. There have been two seasons so far, the first about Richard Nixon and the second about Bill Clinton. I recommend listening to the full season because each episode is just a part of the whole. Both seasons are great, but after listening to the second season, I learned I knew next to nothing about what happened with Clinton.

Show host Leon Neyfakh interviews contemporary politicians and reporters and includes old footage to take listeners back to that tumultuous time in the '90s. Not only that, but the writing is strong, the facts are well reported and the story feels eerily familiar.

Regardless of your politics, you just might feel smarter about the present while you binge-listen to stories from the past.

Content advisory: This podcast discusses the events surrounding the Clinton impeachment, which include discussions of sexual acts and other criminal behavior. It may not be suitable for young listeners.

"Crazy/Genius" — Season 3, Episode 2: "What is Pornography Doing to Our Sex Lives?"

This podcast from The Atlantic is all about exploring tough questions, and its third season is asking some of the most complex of all — all about the biggest issues with the internet. This episode provides a nuanced insight into what I thought was a one-sided conversation. And it was refreshing learning something new about an issue I thought I knew almost everything about.

Content advisory: This episode talks about pornography and sex. It may not be suitable for young listeners.

"Revisionist History" — Season 1, Episode 3: "The Big Man Can't Shoot"

In his soft, creamy voice, host Malcolm Gladwell says that every week on his podcast "we reexamine something from the past that's been forgotten or misunderstood."

This episode talks about the great ideas that never stick. Gladwell uses the example of former NBA star Rick Barry, who proved that underhanded free throws can be a game changer. But Gladwell explains that inexplicably, almost zero basketball players since then have incorporated Barry's technique into their own game, despite how successful Barry was.

I've thought about this episode multiple times since I first heard it, checking the motives behind my own habits and decisions. Maybe you'll find yourself rethinking some of your own.

Content advisory: This episode acknowledges sex.

"Reply All" — Episode 41: "What It Looks Like"

I don't love every episode of this Gimlet Media podcast about the internet, but this episode stands out as one of the best shows I've ever heard. It's heavy — all about depression and suicide — so be prepared. These topics aren't discussed enough, so I was happy to see an episode about them. But the episode is even better because host PJ Vogt and guest, author Jamie Keiles, talk so openly and honestly.

Content advisory: This episode discusses suicide and depression.