Cartoon of me on an international flight slower becoming disheveled

Podcasts I listen to (or generally recommend)

My friend asked me for podcast recommendations and I sent over a whole Google doc of recommendations. I went through, updated it with some some harsh realities (do I really listen to this anymore?). I’ve organized them into 7 categories: Favorites, Stories, Psychology, News-ish, Fun facts, Series, and Comedy. I figure you might not like everything.

(Are people still listening to podcasts without a commute?)

Favorites

Mood: Always

This American Life 

Mainstream story podcast that dips into different stories across America, both big and small. Recently they’ve been doing more investigative stories, which some folks don’t like. Honestly, like I feel like there’s some hating on this podcast just because it’s been around so long, but they’re still so good! (image by Wren McDonald)

Reply All 

Fun podcast that investigates the internet. Even if you’re not into tech, I think you’ll find this podcast interesting (and if you think you’re too involved in tech, this isn’t really techy). The hosts are funny and they do different segments that keep it interesting

99% Invisible

The calming voice of Roman Mars tells you about the neat things designed in the world around us that most of us wouldn’t notice. This is a great short podcast that I would recommend for someone who just wants to stop and smell the roses.

  • ~20 minutes
  • Episode to start with:

Heavyweight

I love this podcast. The narrator is my humor to a T. From The Atlantic: “Each episode finds the host Jonathan Goldstein moderating a fraught moment intensified by years of distance: a time when someone broke a promise, or another person’s heart.”—but also the host is very awkward and self-deprecating.

Hidden Brain

“Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships” — I liked psychology, ok? This is another really great podcast and I find myself wanting talk about it afterwards. I have a friend who also listens to this and we basically update our Good Reads profiles similarly whenever we finish and episode. This is basically a favorite.

Freakonomics Radio

Behavioral economics podcast with a fun host covering a wide range of topics that affect us…or are just interesting. This is also a pretty mainstream one, but I do find myself always catching up on these

Stories

Mood: The world is neat

  • The Anthropocene Reviewed
    • ~20 minutes
    • John Green reviews facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. This is a delightful podcast that is humorous but read in all seriousness. Typically he pairs two unrelated things to review
    • Episode to start with: Canada Geese and Diet Dr Pepper (I couldn’t really pick so I just started with the first one)
  • Revisionist History
    • ~40 minutes
    • Podcast from Malcolm Gladwell covering things “forgotten and misunderstood” from the past. Everything is really fascinating, but errs more on the serious side. I liked the first season a lot but he kind of promos a other podcasts a lot in the second season.
    • Episode to start with: Puzzle Rush. Gladwell tries standardize testing, something American’s love but he, as a Canadian, is not so familiar with. It was hard for me to choose one because I thought they were interesting in different ways, but I thought this one was more approachable because it was a little more lighthearted.
  • RadioLab
    • ~30 minutes
    • This one has been around for a long time, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard it or tried to listen to it yet. It’s a pretty produced science radio show.
    • Episode to start with: Translation — this one came out recently and I really loved it, it’s about what it means to translate something. Do you want the literal meaning or the feeling it evoke?
  • This American Life 

Psychology 

Mood: People are fascinating

  • Invisibilia 
    • ~1hr
    • Explores the invisible forces that shape our lives. The first season of this was SO GOOD, it was definitely my favorite podcast at the time. The recent seasons have been more hit or miss, but still interesting.
  • Note to Self
    • ~20-30 minutes
    • I’ve fallen off of this podcast, but this one explores how you grapple with technology in a modern world, the first season was the most interesting to me.
    • Episode to start with: The Case for Boredom
  • The Science of Happiness
    • This podcast talks about research-backed ways to increase your happiness. I starts with an interview with someone who’s tried a happiness intervention, and then they explain the science behind it. I wish I listened to this more regularly, but it slips from the rotation sometimes.
    • ~25 minutes
    • Episode to start with: 10: Is There Someone You Need to Thank?although re-looking at the list, find something that interests you too!

News(-ish)

Mood: Resist!

Note: I have taken a break from news podcasts because I am overwhelmed everyday.

  • Pod Save America
    • ~1 hr
    • Former Obama staffers talk about what’s happening in the news and they are pretty funny while doing it. Honestly I have stopped listening for a long time because every moment of life is unbearable, but if I did, I would listen to this.
    • If you like this, Pod Save the People is less politician focus and more people-community focused.
  • What Trump can teach us about Con Law
    • ~15-20 minutes
    • Roman Mars from 99% Invisible and a Constitutional Law professor talk about about the legal, constitutional implications of things that the president does or tweets. They’re typically quite short, but it depends on what happened. Super easy to understand and follow as well.
    • Episode to start with: Defamation
  • Rough Translation
    • “How are the things we’re talking about being talked about somewhere else in the world? Gregory Warner tells stories that follow familiar conversations into unfamiliar territory.” Ok, honestly I liked it when I heard it or when someone shares and episode but I have’t kept up.
  • Yo, is this racist?
    • ~40 minutes
    • People call in with their questions about if something is or isn’t racist, hosted by two comedians and a guest comedian(s). I listen infrequently, but I have enjoyed it when I have listened. They “recently” re-did the format and added a co-host. 

Fun Facts

Mood: Something Short

  • 99% Invisible (described above)
  • Every Little Thing
    • ~15 minutes
    • Short & sweet podcast about the things you might have been curious about. They take your random questions (perhaps ones you thought of while drunk) and investigate it. Topics have included “How old is Winnie the Pooh?”, “Are pirate peg leg’s really a thing?”, and “Do dogs have belly buttons?” — along with random cool facts.
    • Episode to start with: TSA Treasure Chest : What Happens To Your Confiscated Stuff? (more typical)
    • Alternative: Don’t Underestimate the Flamingo (for animal facts!)
  • Science Vs
    • ~40 minutes
    • Each episode looks at “fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between.” Topics have been things like fad diets, GMOs, and vaccines, gun control and nuclear power. I like the premise of the show but I think the host is peppier than my normal mood. They’ve been doing a lot of covid topics recently.
    • Episode to start with: I would look at the episode listfor a topic you’re interested in, but if you insist one of the less giant topics: Vaping: What the Hell is Going On?!
  • Lingthusiasm
    • ~30 minutes
    • Podcast about different parts of linguistics. I’m biased because I like linguistics, but I think the topics and hosts are entertaining. They had pretty bad audio quality for the early episodes though.
    • Episode to start with: 23: When Nothing Means Something (I reference this all the time!)
  • Undone
    • ~30 minutes
    • “A show about how big stories we thought were over were actually the beginning of something else.” I loved this podcast but it got cancelled after the first season. 
    • Episode to start with: Disco Demolition Night
  • Strong Songs
    • ~1hr
    • This podcast dissects and explains music in a really approachable and kind way. Hot take: song exploder is for hipster music and this podcast talks through popular music. The host is the kindest guy in the world and sounds like he’s smiling the whole time.
    • Episode to start with: “Satisfied” from Hamilton (Updated!)
  • Mystery Show
    • ~45 minutes
    • Starlee Kine solves mysterious that no one else well. There was only ever one season of this podcast (and honestly, it ended on bad terms where Gimlet doesn’t look like such a nice company), but it was really great. Starlee is an amazing at getting people to talk.
    • Episode to start with: Britney (yes, as in Britney Spears)

Series

Mood: Serial podcasts with an ending

  • Dolly Parton’s America
    • ~1hr
    • 9-part series about Dolly Parton by one of the hosts of Radio Lab. I knew nothing about Dolly Parton and was totally hooked! I definitely recommend it.
  • S-Town
    • ~1hr
    • This is a story of an eccentric genius in a small town. It starts with him writing to the host about a murder, but he ends up befriending the host and having great stories of his own to tell. I found this more fascinating than Serial because of the dynamic character. I think about what his life could have been like if he had been able to change.
  • More Perfect
    • ~20-60 minutes
    • “More Perfect, connects you to the decisions made inside the court’s hallowed halls, and explains what those rulings mean for “we the people” who exist far from the bench.” — this is an awesome podcast and would be even if the world was not a garbage fire. It takes a look at the history behind the decisions that affect our lives today. How many of us actually think about the Supreme Court or know the details about some prominent rulings?
    • Start with season one!
  • Serial
    • ~1hr
    • You all already know what this is about. The most popular podcast of all time, etc etc.

Comedy

Mood: I can’t listen to news anymore because it’s so depressing and/or I’m multitasking

  • My Brother My Brother and Me
    • ~1hr
    • Three dorky brother give provide bad advice to bad Yahoo! Answers questions or problems people call in about. I honestly listen to this one pretty often as some thing I don’t have to pay too much attention to but is enjoyable.
  • Wonderful!
    • ~1hr
    • A husband and wife talk about things they find wonderful. This is one of the brother’s from My Brother My Brother and Me. Scott likes to listen to this as a calmer humorous podcast.
  • Off Book: The Improvised Musical
    • ~1hr
    • Episode to start with: They archive previous episodes behind a paywall for subscribers :/ Their christmas flamingo episode was great though.
  • Judge John Hodgman
    • ~1hr
    • People call in with their disputes and Judge John Hodgman makes a ruling on who the winner is in podcast court. Usually one case per episode. My brother recommended this to me.
  • Yo, is this racist?
    • (above)

I have more! But I’ll start here. If you send me a recommendation, it has to be your favorite episode of that podcast.

Cover image: cartoon of me on an international flight becoming more disheveled over time.

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