Like basically everyone else in my Facebook feed, I got hooked on Serial last fall, and that
addiction series opened up to me the wide and wonderful world of podcasting. Since Sarah Koenig stepped away from the case of Hae and Adnan, I went searching for new things to listen to on my commute. I've historically listened to music, but realized that podcasts are a great change of pace AND I actually learn stuff sometimes!
My dad's a big audiobook listener, and he has recommended many of them to me. I've never been able to listen to them, though… I just have trouble tracking the story and the characters when I'm only listening. I find that listening to podcasts has helped me develop that skill (Is it a skill?) and I have gone from 10 minute anecdote-based shows to longer ones. I'm anxiously awaiting the next series of Serial, but until then, here's what I'm listening to. (All of the show names are linked to the iTunes listing for the show; sorry Android people)
Criminal: I randomly came across this true crime podcast a few weeks ago, and quickly ran through all of the available episodes. They basically cover all sorts of crime stories; from a 9 year old who was convicted of murder back in the 1800s, to a woman who works as a volunteer “exit guide” for people who have terminal illnesses and choose to end their lives. There's the Oakland man who put a Buddha on the median in front of his house in an effort to stop people from dumping trash there, and has now seen an 80% reduction in crime in his neighborhood. Just all sorts of interesting stories with the common thread of crime.
StartUp: I started listening to StartUp because, as a tech startup employee myself, these things are interesting to me. Alex Blumberg, a former NPR producer, has struck out on his own to start his own podcasting company, and he takes you along on the ride of building a startup from the ground up. From terrible first pitch meetings, to launching their first show other than their own, it's really interesting to hear a founder's perspective on the whole process. I am looking forward to season 2, which is tagging along with a different startup… Alex is a white dude with lots of connections from his previous work; he funded WAY fast compared to the real world, so it will be interesting to see how next season's company works out.
Reply All: Speaking of StartUp, this was their first show to air. And it's fabulous. It's kind of a pop culture slash history lesson, but focused on the internet. Where it's been, where it's going. From JenniCam livestreaming her dorm room in the 90s, to weird and random apps (ever wanted a stranger to deliver a message, in person, to a friend or loved one?), to confronting online trolls and SWATTING and doxxing. I've really enjoyed listening, and I highly recommend it if you are proud of your geek streak and can re-enact the sounds of a modem connecting at 24.4
Upvoted: This is basically the Reddit podcast. They pull stories from the archives, or more recent than that, and share more about it, or the backstory to the users involved. There are amazing stories of Redditors who joined before going to prison, and now work for the company. The Reddit Secret Santa, and Reddit's Redditgifts.com site that now runs that and other themed gift exchanges, and what happens when a Redditor announces to a bodybuilding forum (r/swoleacceptance) that he is transgender and will be transitioning to female. (Spoiler alert: Happy ending in progress) I don't think you *have to* be a Redditor to enjoy these human interest stories, but it probably helps.
Savage Lovecast: The “Savage Love” advice column was one of my favorite parts of reading SF Weekly when I was college. Free paper, broke college student, I devoured that stuff. Dan Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” movement, doles out relationship and life advice that you may or may not want to hear. Some of his opinions may be unpopular, but he also backs them up with really logical reasons. I find it really interesting to hear from such a huge variety of people, because I think that any time I can hear from people who have a different perspetive or experience than me, it will only help me learn.
Nerdette: Their tagline is “Because we're all a little nerdy about something” Hosted by two women, Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda, they describe it as “a safe space for nerding out about all the things you're watching, reading, listening to and encountering IRL.” Sometimes it's guests or authors, and I really love is their Unsung Women of Science series, as well as the weekly call-in “Nerd Confessions” They assign weekly homework, which will only make you a better person and nerd, and assignments and other info can be found on their website.
And now we get to the NPR portion of our programming… I don't/didn't set out to download All The NPR Podcasts, it just happened that way. I actually had been listening to even more than these, but I found myself letting them slip by without listening, but these ones are my can't miss.
This American Life: Basically the 500 lb gorilla of NPR, right? Ira Glass and his stories. If you've never listened to This American Life, stop what you're doing RIGHT NOW and download. Every single one is fabulous. Stories about everything, with short collections tied together by a general theme. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll press pause while you're listening on the train because people are looking at you and your reactions.
Invisibilia: This was the first show I picked up post-Serial. I think they advertised on Serial a lot? Anyway, it's a look at the invisible forces that impact our lives. People who lack the ability to have fear, and how fear impacts our lives in both good and bad ways, how we categorize and sort things we encounter, and how those things affect every aspect of our minds, or entanglement, which is a crazy theory about people interacting at a molecular level. Good stuff here.
Ask Me Another: TRIVIA! I don't know that I'll ever actually make it on Jeopardy, so I might realign my sights to get on Ask Me Another instead. Silly games, with song parodies or word play, and prizes like having a celebrity record your voicemail message, or awesome Ask Me Another t-shirts, it's not a high stakes game, but it's definitely a lot of fun.
Pop Culture Happy Hour: And last but not least, it's Pop Culture Happy Hour, which is basically a talk show with a variety of subjects… around the release of Selma, for example, they discussed the use of artistic license in historical films. There was an interesting discussion recently about the importance of anniversaries in pop culture, about how celebrating the anniversaries of album and film releases may or may not lessen the importance of milestones. Some compelling talk around what could be a pretty foofoo subject.
RadioLab!!! It is actually the podcast that introduced Invisibilia, and it’s another NPR production. It’s my favorite! There are a TON of episodes and they cover all kinds of things. I loved Patient Zero, Apocalyptic, Blood, and Colors. Loops was super fun, too.
I will have to check some of these others out. Podcasts are making my commute actually bearable.
Another one to check out is Mark Maron’s WTF show. I find him a little grating, but there are still some very good episodes (he ‘interviews’ comedians – I use interview loosely) – the one with Louis CK is good and I enjoyed the Dax Shepard one, as well.
I love the NPR podcasts, too. Have you tried How to Do Everything? That one is short and a lot of fun. I also really like Good Job, Brain, which is a foursome of pub trivia nerds who are a blast.
Heather Solos says
I love This Week in Google, even though Gina Trapani is rarely on these days. Stuff You Should Know is one another of my favorites. Grammar Girl and Missed in History are a couple more of my go-tos for plane rides.
Mithra Ballesteros says
Thank you for a great list! I keep a running note on my phone of new podcasts. Podcasts are the saving grace for bloggers and others who work online and consequentially might crave a human voice in an otherwise silent day. I love Grace Bonney’s podcast called After the Jump. She is no longer recording new episodes but there are loads of old ones worth listening to. And my kids love listening to old reruns of Car Talk.