Best podcasts of the week: Is a four-day week the secret to a better work-life balance?

<span>Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA</span>
Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA

Picks of the week

The Dark Is Rising
BBC Sounds, episodes daily from Monday
Award-winning actors Harriet Walter and Toby Jones star in this immersive adaptation of Susan Cooper’s 1973 fantasy novel, which is best listened to through headphones for a 3D sound experience. Perfect for a bit of escapism at Christmas, it tells the story of young Will (Noah Alexander), who one snowy December learns that he belongs to a group of time-travelling beings, the Old Ones, who are caught in a war. Hollie Richardson

Red Elvis
Widely available, episodes weekly

LA resident Ramona Reed’s father was a superstar – in cold war-era Russia. This emotional personal tale sees her investigate the death of US émigré Dean Reed, AKA “the Johnny Cash of Communism” or “Red Elvis”. From tear-soaked reminiscences of his funeral to looking back on her mum’s refusal to accept a lack of foul play, it’s an eye-opening listen. Alexi Duggins

Tokyo’s unique Harajuku district is one scene broken down in i-D’s new podcast.
Tokyo’s unique Harajuku district is one scene broken down in i-D’s new podcast. Photograph: Richard A Brooks/AFP/Getty Images

Working It
Widely available, all episodes out now

This peek into the biggest ever trial of the four-day working week visits four of the 70 institutions taking part. The Financial Times’s Emma Jacobs and Isabel Berwick focus on organisations including a games development firm, a fish-and-chip business and a telecoms company. It’s a light, enjoyable profile. AD

Before Me
Widely available, episodes weekly

Lisa Phu’s mother left Cambodia in 1980 and didn’t know where she was going or whether she would make it. When Phu had her first baby, her mum came to help and she spent those three weeks telling her daughter more about her life. Hearing about the cruelty the Khmer Rouge inflicted on her family is heartbreaking. Hannah Verdier

Widely available, episodes weekly

Style meets music in i-D’s podcast looking at countercultural scenes including hip-hop and the Tokyo district of Harajuku. First up: how jungle morphed into grime, with host Osman Ahmed talking to key players including Saul “Chase” Milton and Chantelle Fiddy who give a real insight into the atmosphere, dress code and rivalries of the movement. HV

There’s a podcast for that

This week, Ann Lee chooses five of the best podcasts to lift your spirits, from a weird news roundup to a celebration of love in all its forms

Listening to Rachel and Griffin McElroy’s weekly chat about all the things in life they find utterly delightful is, well, pretty wonderful. They bring such genuine, unbridled enthusiasm to topics such as their favourite tropical fruit and the best musical about bad boyfriends that it’s hard not to get swept up in the wave of positivity. But it’s the married couple’s adorable interaction with each other that really brings a smile to your face and some much-needed cheer into your heart.

This Is Love
Brought to you by the creators of true crime smash Criminal and hosted by Phoebe Judge, This is Love gently explores the subject of love in all its different forms. There are heartwarming stories of romance, friendship and family that show just how meaningful and profound connection can be. Each episode will reaffirm your faith in humanity. Many of them, like one about a man who befriended a magpie while imprisoned at a second world war Japanese internment camp as a child, may move you to tears.

Films to Be Buried With With Brett Goldstein
Ted Lasso star Brett Goldstein has come up with an intriguing premise: ask celebrity guests (such as Bill Hader, Barry Jenkins and Maisie Williams) how they think they’ll die and what films they would take with them to their grave. Morbid as it might sound, there’s something life-affirming about listening to people confront their mortality in such a frank and lighthearted way. Plus, it’s all very funny. Goldstein knows how to get the best out of his interviewees, gently nudging them into talking about their beliefs on whether there’s an afterlife while teasing out some fantastic stories about film fandom.

If the current state of the world is becoming too much for you, tune into Bananas which takes a much more humorous approach to the news. Comedians Scotty Landes and Kurt Braunohler – along with celebrity guests such as Charlize Theron and Phoebe Bridgers – explore quirky and outrageously bizarre stories from around the world. These include the Russian man who was “trapped” on a Chinese reality show after joining a boyband, the football player who was fired for farting too much, and the woman who let a baby bird nest in her hair.

Wolf and Owl
The format of this show is that there is no format. Rather, we get an hour of random musings, funny anecdotes and sage advice from hosts Tom Davis and Romesh Ranganathan. Essentially it’s two mates having a chat, poking fun at each other and answering emails from listeners. There’s great chemistry and real warmth between Davis and Ranganathan, who brim with positivity as they open up about anything and everything, accompanied by some liberal swearing. The comedy duo frequently struggle to contain themselves because they’re laughing too much – and once you start listening, you will too.

Why not try …

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