I listen to podcasts all the time. I listen to them whenever I’m commuting, whether by train, plane, automobile, 0r even when I’m walking around the city. It’s almost always the last thing I do before I go to sleep (Ira Glass is my insomnia cure…it’s like he’s reading me a bedtime story). Some are simply entertaining, while others are very informative — many are both. Needless to say, I subscribe to a lot of podcasts, so I can [almost] always listen to something new. Do you listen to podcasts? If you want some podcast recommendations, these are my favorite podcasts you should be listening to:
Revisionist History – A podcast from Malcolm Gladwell that has already completely won me over in its first season. Revisionist History is an intellectual, analytical exploration of subjects that might have been misunderstood. The three part series on education is particularly eye-opening. In short, put this on your list. I can’t wait for season two.
Lore – Lore is a podcast about true life scary stories, by supernatural thriller author Aaron Mahnke. Each episode features a story from “the darker side of history,” exploring the origins of folklore, twisted historical figures, and the depths of our fears and superstitions. You won’t lose sleep at night — they’re not terrifying, so don’t let that deter you — but you’ll find yourself coming back for more tales around the campfire. Or in my case, my portable Bose stereo. Oh, and they’re apparently making this into a tv show!
Embedded – Embedded is an NPR podcast reported from the inside (hence, the name), with in-depth exploration of varying subjects: Doctors Without Borders, prescription opioid addicts, feuding biker gangs, and more. Listen and you will learn.
This American Life – True story: I’ve listened to almost every single episode of This American Life since 1995, where their archive begins. It’s still my favorite, and Ira Glass is in my top 10 people I’d love to meet and/or invite to a dinner party. There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme, which are separated into different acts. Explore the full archives for some great gems — I especially love any episode with David Sedaris. If you’re a blogger, writer, or have any internet presence, you might particularly enjoy “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS.” Another favorite: “Same Bed, Different Dreams.” Just listen to all of them.
Science Vs – Science Vs takes on current fads and opinions with one weapon: science. Oh, and wit. Host Wendy Zukerman is quite charming! This season explores attachment parenting, gun control, fracking, and organic food.
Strangers – Strangers was started by Lea Thau (previously of The Moth), and features stories that will give you “an empathy shot in your arm.” The stories are intimate and very personal, about love, heartache, kindness, and personal connections, often relating back to Lea’s own life, as well. It feels like having a late-night conversation with a close friend.
Criminal – Criminal is a podcast by Phoebe Judge (how fitting!) about “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” Some are more light-hearted and silly (like the one about the guy who loves to flip the bird, just because), and some are darker and more complex. And some are downright crazy, like the one about a dedicated stalker from the Harry Potter fan site. Listen to that one…it’s insane.
Reply All – Reply All is a witty show about the internet, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, except it’s not really about the internet in a tech forum kind of way — it’s much more fun than that. Each show is dynamic, fun, and short enough to keep your attention.
Invisibilia – Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” Though each episode is about an hour long, they seem to fly by, which makes them great for a long car or train ride.
Mystery Show – A podcast where Starlee Kine solves silly mysteries like Jake Gyllenhaal’s height, where Britney Spears got an obscure book, or the origin of a very particular belt buckle. There’s only one season, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they eventually come back. Starlee was always one of my favorite contributors on This American Life, but she really shines on her own. Plus, I’ve always wanted to be a private investigator, and I appreciate her commitment to solving the unknown.
Planet Money – The economy, explained, only made much more interesting and not at all pretentious. Their archive is deep, so you’ll have lots to choose from.
Modern Love – Modern Love features the popular New York Times column, with readings by notable personalities and actors, followed by updates from the essayists themselves.
Radiolab – Radiolab is a show about curiosity…which basically means it features a lot of interesting subjects. It’s wonderfully executed, with a distinctive audio style — they’ve had years to perfect their production. Episode I’m obsessed with? An exploration of the K-Pop machine.
More Perfect – Radiolab’s spin-off series, More Perfect, dives into the past and present world of the Supreme Court, from specific cases to the evolution of their power. It’s way more interesting than it sounds on paper — I promise!
Serial – Serial is different from most podcasts, in that each episode is centered around one case for the whole season. If you haven’t listened to season one, featuring Adnan Syed’s case, that’s probably where you should start your podcast exploration. It really is just as gripping as everyone says, and you’ll find yourself listening to them back to back (lucky you, not having to wait). Season 2 goes in a different direction, telling all sides of the story from a prisoner of war. Though it was admittedly not as much of a nail-biter as season one, it’s still worth a listen. P.S. It’s a spinoff of This American Life, by Sarah Koenig (who is also invited to my imaginary dinner party).
NPR Politics – A podcast where NPR’s political reporters talk to you like they talk to each other. Much like Planet Money makes economics more interesting / less intimidating, NPR Politics feels lighter, more communicative and less scripted than the news, without being satirical. It makes politics fun, but is still very informative.
What are your favorite podcasts? Let me know, below!