Write Stuff – Words Aloud

If you love books, You’re probably a fan of words in almost any form?the rhythm of them, the sound of them. And you probably also delight in text being brought to life by talented readers and writers, no matter what the topic. I recently discovered (and rediscovered) a couple of podcasts that combine the best of that mix: fascinating subjects, great writing skills, and wonderful delivery. Whether you need to brush up on medieval England for an exam or you like weird science, here’s the scoop on some words aloud you won’t want to miss.

The first is The British History Podcast, by Jamie Jeffers. For students, Anglophiles, and even fans of Roman history, there’s only one thing to say: this podcast truly does bring history to life. I was lucky enough to stumble across Jamie’s site when it launched in May, and the audience for this series has grown remarkably fast. Believe me, That’s no surprise.

Jamie begins by taking listeners back to the days of giant deer, cannibals, and Celts in ?a fast paced primer that will get you ready for Caesar’s invasions.? Since Britain’s early history is closely interwoven with Rome?s, there’s no shortage of episodes about those mad, bad emperors, but the focus always remains on the Sceptred Isle.

There are plenty of podcasts about Britain, history, and Roman invasions, but the quality of this one stands out. Jamie clearly loves his chosen topic, and that comes through in the energy he brings to it. The pace is lively and the technical values are consistent, but one of the biggest selling points is his ability to combine thorough research with an engaging speaking style (and a welcome absence of those gasping inhalations that so many broadcasters are prone to).

Keeping the historical cast of governors and emperors straight can be confusing, so you may find yourself listening to some episodes a few times, but there always seems to be something new to discover the second (or even third) time around.

The second podcasting treasure isn’t new to me or to most fans of the CBC. But if you’ve ever been curious about mastodon massacres or fanged frogs, Quirks and Quarks is the place to be. Bob McDonald hosts this long-running science show that takes on all things weird and wonderful in the world of science?and turns it into fascinating listening.

Among other honours, McDonald (actually, make that Dr. McDonald) has been short-listed for the Canadian Science Writers Association Book Award, and received the 2001 Michael Smith Award for Science Promotion, from NSERC, as well as the 2002 Sandford Fleming Medal from The Royal Canadian Institute. Yet his approachable style makes this podcast anything but a dry old science lecture.

In fact, a sense of wonder pervades every episode as he asks scientists to help explain such offbeat phenomena as mummified beetles, stingless bees, and right-handed teeth. Most of the topics come from readers? questions, so you never know quite what to expect.

In some ways, these two podcasts couldn’t be less alike. The British History Podcast informs and entertains thanks to the efforts of one person, while Quirks and Quarks has a team of seasoned broadcasting professionals running the show.

But both of them also have all the right ingredients for success, so be sure to check them out. Your ears will thank you?and your grades just might, too.

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