Nerdette show


Summary: Nerdette is a safe space for nerding out about all the things you're watching, reading, and encountering IRL. Interviews with your favorite (or soon-to-be favorite) authors, artists, astronauts, and more.

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  • Artist: Greta Johnsen
  • Copyright: Copyright 2015 Chicago Public Media


 2021 Is A Mess. Here's How To Stay Positive | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:28:39

The first week of 2021 was rough. But, as advice columnists Daniel Lavery and Heather Havrilesky tell us, there's still room for optimism. Then we talk to Dr. Y. Joel Wong, a professor at Indiana University, about the very real science behind positive thinking (Yep, a number of studies show that people who keep gratitude journals are mentally and physically healthier than those who do not.) And finally, poet Ross Gay tells us about The Book of Delights, his collection of "essayettes." Turns out, the more you look for delight, the more it shows up for you. Which seems like a pretty delightful thing to bring into the new year. And speaking of things to bring into the new year, we'd love to know: What are your resolutions for 2021? What's your stance on resolutions in general? Record yourself on your phone, and send the audio file to, and you may hear yourself in next week’s episode.

 This Year Gave Us Some Good Stuff, Too | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:17:42

The year is almost over, which means top 10 lists are rolling in. But what’s it like to pick favorites in such an emotionally intense year? Greta talks with podcast expert Nick Quah, TV critic Margaret Lyons and Vocalo host Jill Hopkins about the best stuff this year. 

 Book Club: Tana French’s ‘The Searcher’ | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:36:56

Author Sarah Vowell and comedian Maeve Higgins visit the Nerdette Book Club for a spoiler-filled analysis of Tana French's plodding murder mystery, 'The Searcher.' Plus, we hear from you!

 This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain This Weekend Eating The Year's Best Holiday Cookie. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:30:22

You’ve made it through another week in the year 2020. Congratulations! Join Nerdette for a look back at the week in vaccines, virtual holiday parties and Greta’s new favorite ridiculous TV show, The Wilds, alongside TIME Magazine’s Eliana Dockterman and NPR’s Barrie Hardymon. Then we have an amazing conversation about your brain — yes, yours — and how tired it gets when you make it lug your body around all day. Lisa Feldman Barrett is the neuroscientist responsible for Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, a lovely book of brain essays. She gives us one and a half lessons for free. And finally, what’s the best holiday cookie of 2020? Bon Appetit senior staff writer Alex Beggs tells us — OK fine, it’s this one — but she also gives us plenty of warnings (i.e. level of difficulty = 11). Join us!

 The Gift Of Dessa | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:24:44

Dessa is a rapper, a singer, an author, a poet, and a whiskey co-creator, among other things. She even participated in an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”-type procedure in an attempt to remove memories from a painful relationship. Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen talks to her about all of that, including her memoir, My Own Devices. We also listen to some of the amazing tracks on “Chime.”  This episode originally aired in 2019.

 Book Club: Tana French Talks About Her New Mystery Novel, ‘The Searcher’ | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:23:29

Our December Book Club pick is our first murder mystery! It's Tana French’s latest book, The Searcher. In it, a retired Chicago police officer moves to a small town in Western Ireland for a bit of peace and quiet, only to get drawn back into his old ways when a local boy asks for help solving the mystery of his brother’s disappearance. Today's episode is a spoiler-free conversation with Tana French. Check it out, check out The Searcher, then come back in two weeks for a panel discussion that breaks it all down. We want to hear from you too! Record your take on The Searcher and email the audio file to by Thursday, Dec. 17.

 Saved By The Bell, Seasonal Songs And Sprinkles | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:32:09

Happy weekend! Now let Nerdette podcast get you ready for it. First we break down the week in disappearing monoliths, TV reboots and Spotify playlists with WBEZ’s Meha Ahmad and Mariah Woelfel. Then we talk with musician Andrew Bird about his new Christmas album. And finally, we take a walk through confectionary history with reporter Ashlie Stevens, who knows a few things about sprinkles. Join us!

 Happy Zoomsgiving From Nerdette To You | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:15:00

And from you to Nerdette! Despite [insert disaster of your choice], we’re still thankful for a lot of things in 2020. Like baked goods and game shows and the people we can still visit over the internet. We asked you to tell us about the stuff you’re grateful for right now and, obviously, you did not disappoint. Press play to listen. Us? We’re thankful for you. So hang in there, stay safe and have a happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Nerdette.

 Book Club: ‘The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue’ | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:46

Welcome to the Nerdette Book Club! Each month, we read a book and chat about it with a rotating group of panelists. This month’s pick is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. It’s about a girl from the 1700s whose curiosities and ambitions are bigger than the small town she lives in. When she finds a way to break free from the expectation to marry and settle down, she takes it without thinking twice. But what she thinks is an amazing chance to live unhindered is actually a deal with the devil, and a centuries-long curse. Listen along as Nerdette host Greta Johnsen discusses the book with cultural critic and nonfiction writer Eva Recinos and All The Books! podcast host Liberty Hardy. We also hear from many of you, who (with a few minor quibbles) all seemed to love this spellbinding story.

 Tweets, Sweets ... And A Convo About Animal Penises | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:24:36

Say what now?  We made it to another weekend! Now let us get you ready for it. First, we talk about the “news” of the week with Hari Kondabolu and W. Kamau Bell, comedians and hosts of the Politically Re-Active podcast.  Then we have a conversation you’ve all been waiting for: Emily Willingham tells us about her new book titled Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis. It’s wild! And last but not least, Yossy Arefi introduces us to the countertop staple we didn’t know we needed so badly: Snacking Cakes. Join us!

 Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy On Curiosity, Creativity and Crosswords | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:21:01

Wilco singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy has been busy. He has a new solo album out called Love is the King. And his new book How to Write One Song has a lot of advice for aspiring songwriters. But it’s also about a lot more than that. Nerdette host Greta Johnsen spoke with Tweedy from his recording studio in Chicago. What’s your definition of a song? Jeff Tweedy: I think of a song as a moment that you can recreate, and that you can intentionally set out to share with someone. It doesn’t have to be musical. I think a lot of the ways we treat our friends is a type of song. Just the notion that you know how to make your mom laugh is a bit of a song. I think we can start with the idea of a song as being anything you want it to be, honestly, and move out from there towards whatever your musical ability allows. You say that you weren’t trying to write a self-help book. But so much of it is about how to give yourself permission to try something new and how to finally scratch that creative itch. It is a self-help book after all? Tweedy: Self-help is such an oxymoronic thing. If you can help yourself, you don’t need a book! But I think the book was a way for me to share a lifestyle that I think is beneficial to me. I don’t think the book succeeds quite as well as a direct practical guide to writing a song, even though there is some of that. I think it’s more successful as a kind nudge toward something that makes living worthwhile. You use the phrase “inviting inspiration” a lot, which counters the argument that making stuff is about sitting around waiting for divine inspiration to hit. Tweedy: Yeah. I think there is a gestation period for a lot of inspiration. And to me, opening yourself up to doing the work on a daily process allows that gestation to have a foothold in your consciousness. I don’t think a bolt of inspiration is going to have much of a place to land in your psyche if you aren’t actively seeking, on a daily basis, something that surprises you or excites you. I look at it more like you’re putting yourself in the path of inspiration consciously. I just believe that’s how it happens much more than somebody, for example, not having any intention of writing a song at all, and getting struck by a bolt of lightning, and then they have an amazing song that comes out of them. That doesn’t happen. What happens is, people who really like the idea of writing a song try it a lot, and then someday they’re walking along, and something clicks. And it’s because they did all that other work You’ve talked about, in terms of being creative, that the stakes are super low. What do you mean by that? Tweedy: I mean that you aren’t going to hurt anybody with a bad song. I don’t see a lot of downside. The only real downside there can be is to your ego, and I think it’s good for your ego to be bruised and challenged. I think your ego works for you in a lot of really healthy ways. It helps preserve your esteem and your sense of self. But it also can really inhibit you from growing and learning more about yourself. And to challenge that protective nature of your ego, I think, is really helpful for people. So the worst-case scenario is, you figure out you’re not really good at something, and nobody gets hurt. It’s just not brain surgery, And at the same time, the irony of it is, songs can mean everything! They can have such exalted places in our hearts and our spirit. They have such enormous ability to heal and retrieve lost emotions, and to pull us into some more communal space of believing in the world. I can’t think of anything more beautiful in the world than a song that means a lot to somebody. This conversation was lightly edited for clarity and brevity. Press the ‘play’ button to hear the full episode.

 Book Club: V.E. Schwab On ‘The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue’ | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:20:56

Would you take a deal with the devil? In The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, a new novel from renowned fantasy author V.E. Schwab, a young woman bargains with her soul to live forever. The catch? She’s cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. The novel is Nerdette’s November book club pick. Today, we host a spoiler-free chat with the author about the book, the many years it took her to write it and what comes next. Later this month, we’ll break it down with our group of panelists … and you! Send us a voice memo with your thoughts on the book. Just record yourself on your phone and send the audio file to

 Don't Distress, De-Stress | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:30:30

Let Nerdette podcast get you ready for the weekend with a quick gut check after a long election week. Plus an interview with a great author and a new strategy for organizing your thoughts. First, we talk election distractions with Negin Farsad, comedian and host of the Fake The Nation podcast, and Clay Masters, lead political reporter for Iowa Public Radio. Then we talk with author Nick Hornby, author of many wonderful books like High Fidelity, About A Boy, and his newest novel, Just Like You. And finally, we talk with freelance reporter Sophie Hardach about the psychological benefits of reading out loud. Join us!

 Book Club: ‘Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation’ | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:50:20

Welcome to the Nerdette Book Club! Each month, we read a book and chat about it with a rotating group of panelists. This month’s pick is Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation from author Anne Helen Petersen. In Can’t Even, Petersen argues that societal conditions and poor timing primed the millennial generation for burnout. Petersen points to the 2008 recession, the rise of the contract worker, the prevalence of cell phones and astronomical student loan debt as a few contributing factors. Listen along as Nerdette host Greta Johnsen discusses the book with Avery Trufelman, host of The Cut podcast, and Indira Allegra, a sculptor and performance artist. We also hear from many of you who called in with your feelings about burnout. Press play above to hear the conversation.

 Thank You For Voting | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:18:27

Election Day is nearly upon us. And instead of cold-calling you and everyone you know, we’d rather invite you to consider a few important (and non-partisan!) election-related questions. Like how did we get such a strange voting system? Why do more than 40% of eligible voters stay home? And why should we care? For some answers we turned to Erin Geiger Smith, author of the new book Thank You For Voting: The Maddening, Enlightening, Inspiring Truth about Voting in America.


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