about once a year i clean up my list of podcasts, deleting some that i have gotten bored of and downloading a few new ones to see if they capture my fancy.
what i look for in a podcast:
- informative without being boring
- keeping up-to-date with things happening around the world
- bonus points if episodes are under 45 minutes
my current rotation:
[in no particular order]
- the west wing weekly. my newest obsession. joshua malina and hrishikesh hirway discuss one episode of the show each week, and it is amazing. they have so many of the same thoughts i had when i watched the show last year, and they occasionally have stars from the show appear on the podcast. confession: i swooned a little when dule hill made an appearance for the third episode. and i’m not even a little ashamed.
- the sporkful. it’s a podcast about food, so what’s not to love? i heard about it right when they were beginning a series on other people’s food, which i found incredibly interesting, and i’ve been listening ever since. i particularly like that they are short while still being entertaining.
- npr politics. this is a new one to my rotation, but i have been enjoying it so far. they generally have one short episode and one longer one each week, and it’s been a great way to keep up to date with the mess that is american politics at the moment.
- the mash-up americans. another new favourite. i have been following the mash-up americans site for a while, and when i found out they had alan yang, co-creator of master of none, as a guest star, i knew it was time to become a fan of the podcast as well.
- ted talks . i am terrible at sitting and watching ted talks, but i love them something fierce, so this is my compromise. if there is a talk that is particularly interesting or that i feel has visuals i really need to see, then i will go back and watch it online, but for the most part i love being able to listen to them as i go about my day.
- npr’s fresh air. terry gross has long-form conversations with authors, celebrities, researchers, sociologists, soldiers, lawyers, and everyone in-between. i found this when scrolling for new podcasts a few months ago and have enjoyed most of them. they have 5 hour-long episodes a week, so i sometimes skip one or two if i’m falling behind.
- slate’s political gabfest. this has been a mainstay for years, and it continues to be one of my favourites. david plotz, emily bazelon, and john dickerson discuss happenings in the states and around the world and break down cases i would otherwise not understand. and another confession: i have a terrible crush on john dickerson’s voice.
- ozy presidential daily brief. the best way to catch up on the headlines in 7 minutes. i hear briefs on all the major happenings from the previous day, and then i can look up any of the topics if i want more information. it’s perfect for when i’m getting ready in the morning.
- planet money. this is one of the many that cindy got me hooked on, and it is one of my favourites. with topics ranging from what happens to your t-shirt when you donate it to goodwill to how irs forms got their names to how to set up an offshore account, planet money is informative and entertaining. i feel like i learn something with each new episode, so it’s a keeper.
- inc uncensored. another one that teaches me things i need to know. the staff at inc magazine discuss big news from the technology and startup space and explain it in terms that i can understand. i cannot stress how important that is, and they are always very entertaining.
- stuff you should know. this is one that i have had around from the time i started listening to podcasts. i wanted to listen to all of them, but there were just too many, and some weren’t as interesting as others. josh and chuck discuss everything they can think of, and while i sometimes wish the episodes were about 15 minutes shorter, this is one i’ll keep around for a while longer.
- freakonomics. this has been one of my mainstays for a while, and i enjoy most of the episodes. stephen dubner breaks down the economics behind every day things and explains them so that i can understand them. i especially loved the episodes on sleeping and promptly used it as an excuse to sleep even more than i normally do.
- 99% invisible. i first heard of roman mars when i saw his ted talk last year, and i have been listening to his podcast ever since. each episode explores the hidden design in the world around us, and each topic is fascinating. i have learned about everything from the building in la always used as police headquarters in tv shows and movies to a seemingly abandoned pay phone in the desert and the man who became obsessed with it. i highly recommend checking this one out.
- radiolab. the topics on here change for every episode, but they are always so interesting. a recent favourite was an update on a baby that was born just shy of 24 weeks old, which is when doctors say a fetus is viable and can survive on its own outside the womb. it was such an interesting listen, and it was great to hear an update on how that little girl is doing today.
- criminal. i love this podcast because it is interesting, the episodes are concise, and i usually learn about some obscure law or random case i’d never heard of before.
- this american life. you can’t listen to podcasts and not listen to this one. host ira glass has one of the greatest voices on the radio, and each week’s episode goes into some new aspect of every day life. i might skip an episode here and there, but this american life will always remain on my podcast list.
- stuff you missed in history class. the perfect podcast for history nerds everywhere. i skip episodes now and then if the topic isn’t of particular interest to me, but this will always be one of my regulars. i’ve learned about shipwrecks, codebreaking during world war ii, serial killers, haunted houses, and more.
- call your girlfriend. the podcast for long-distance besties everywhere. i love listening in on ann and aminatou’s calls, because they remind me of my amazing best friends from around the world. it’s also a good way to catch up on things that are especially impacting my generation.
- slate’s hang up and listen. this is how i get most of my sports news, especially what’s happening with the big headlines. admittedly i don’t listen to it very often when i’m in the states, but it’s great for when i’m abroad.
- wait wait … don’t tell me! the hilarious weekly news show that keeps me updated on things happening around the world and keeps me cracking up. the rotating panelists are very funny, and i like that it has a trivia show feel to it, so i can quiz myself on how much i know about what has happened in the previous week.
- i love memphis podcast. this one has been especially great for me since i’ve been so far away for memphis for the last year-and-a-half. holly whitfield, the writer behind the i love memphis blog, and local trivia master kevin cerrito get together once a month to discuss new things happening in memphis and what they have been loving recently. with how much the city has boomed in the last few years, this podcast keeps me up-to-date on restaurant openings, what’s going on with the grizzlies, changes to the memphis in may schedule, and everything else that is awesome about the bluff city.
- mortified. this one cracks me up. in each episode people read aloud from the diaries and journals they kept in middle and high school, and they are hilarious. they talk about their crushes, their families, their classmates, and everything in-between, and they laugh at themselves in the process. i used to listen to it on the way home from work and would crack up on the bus; i’m sure all of my fellow riders thought i was crazy.
- death, sex & money. host anna sale discusses the topics most people are too afraid to talk about. i first learned of death, sex & money when they did a series revisiting new orleans 10 years after katrina, and i have enjoyed most of their episodes ever since.
- the new yorker radio hour. david remnick, editor of the new yorker, hosts a weekly hour-long show about some of the top headlines around the world. there is always a special guest, and there is usually a reading of a short story, so it goes by quickly. i especially loved when julia louis-dreyfuss appeared a few weeks ago.
- the ezra klein show. this is a new one to my list, and it is certainly interesting. ezra klein, editor of vox, has long-form conversations with everyone from bill gates to cory booker to grover norquist. these tend to run long, so i often listen to them in batches over a few days, but they are always engaging and insightful.
- modern love. this is another new one, where celebrities read essays about experiences in love and romance. a few of them are kind of cheesy, but the recent one with connie britton was amazing. because, you know, she’s connie britton. i also like that there is usually a follow up with the author of the piece to know what has happened since they wrote the essay.
i know, i know, it’s far too many, but they are just so interesting. i’ll cut back once i move back to the states, but these are all keeping me great company at the moment. and in all honesty, i skip a few here and there if they don’t sound too interesting, are out-of-date, or are too long.
others that i check in on from time-to-time:
- the bowery boys: new york city history.
- alice isn’t dead.
- ask me another.
what are your favourite podcasts? which ones am i missing from my list?