5: podcasts I listen to

I know I haven’t posted in a while and I have a backlog of things to to write about, but here’s a post for a quick win!

With my miserable commute I’ve been able to carve out time to listen to other podcasts besides This American Life. They are totally mainstream, but I thought I might as well list them because—as one podcast pointed out—listening to podcasts is an extremely solitary activity that you often never bring up to other people. You might never know how many people around you are listening to the same podcasts you are (there’s a startup idea around that, isn’t there?)

So here goes, the how & why of the podcasts I listen to.


  1. This American Life. It’s like the California roll of podcasts. It’s what eases most people in to the whole system of listening to 1) radio and inevitably, 2) podcasts. Why I love it? It’s great narrative over a wide variety of topics that I don’t get to see otherwise. It’s like national super-local news. Someone told me they used to like TAL, but that they have gotten too much into investigative reporting. And, well, people are entitled to their dumb opinions. ;) As I’ve put it, if I only had time to listen to one podcast (ex: during grad school), it would be this one.
  2. 99% invisible. I know you’ve seen me link this one before. I think this is angled as a design podcast, but it’s not design in a professional or academic way—it’s not full of jargon and pretension—it’s a podcast curious about the design all around us and how it shapes our lives. They have covered everything from community issues, to how to design to prevent people from playing on a nuclear waste dump, to how keep people from complaining about a slow elevator. Unlike This American Life, shows are only a bite sized 20 minutes, but they’re still oh-so good! I am always baffled how they were able to find out about such an obscure topics and cover them so thoroughly. Journalism, I suppose, isn’t dead, it’s just transformed into podcasts.
  3. StartUp. This is one that I’ve been listening to a lot this week. It’s pilot episode was first on TAL, but I didn’t listen to any of the other episodes until Igor recommended it recently. You should start with the first season to follow the host, Alex Bloomberg, as he attempts to build a startup with all the behind-the-scenes action that it takes. I find their story very endearing, addictive, and funny. I felt like I was getting to know a group of people and hear about as if I was one of their friends and it made me want to keep listening.
  4. InvisibiliaLoved this podcast. According to their description it “is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” Pretty fascinating stuff, right? Unfortunately there are only a couple of episodes and it’s in-between seasons right now, but excited for it to start up again.
  5. Serial. Do I listen to the most popular podcast of all time that broke all records of the audience anyone ever thought a podcast could get? Yeah. Following along on season 2 as well. But I have to say, that it’s a much different experience for me than the other ones. Part of me loves podcasts because I get to learn something new that I would never have otherwise in a really entertaining and personal way. Serial taps into the part of us who loves watching a thrilling TV series, which could be part of why so many people love it. It’s an extending real-life mystery. I want to keep listening, of course, but it occupies a very different space for me.

Honorable mentions:

  • RadioLab. Everyone loves it. Everyone, when I tell them I listen to This American Life follows up with “what about Radio Lab?” It’s good. It’s interesting. It’s fun. I learn something new. No complaints, but it has never hooked me as much as other podcasts.
  • Planet Money. My only thought was “gosh, I can’t just keep listening to awesome stories all the time, I need to like, get some news and current events in somehow.” This was my answer to that problem. Turns out it’s mostly just stories tangentially related to money (kind of). Oh well! (Please feel free to recommend one to me, current events or personal finance :) ).
  • The Moth. Recordings of people reading their personal stories to a live audience around a certain theme at events across the country (world?). What’s not to like? My mom loves them too.
  • Yo, is this racist? To be fair, I’ve only listening to a couple of episodes at Carissa’s recommendation, but I’ve liked them. Basically people call in with questions (usually from their personal life) about if a situation, comment, or person had acted racist. Andrew has a completely different tone than any of the other podcasts hosts that I listen to—non-reverential, not serious, and youthful—but I am really interested in the topic and I feel like his joking attitude about the questions and his rapport with his co-hosts is perfect for the seriousness of talking about race. It creates this space where it’s ok to talk about these things honestly.
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