As your weekend kicks in, perhaps you’ll listen to digital audio. Maybe podcasts are lined up for your listening delights.
To recommend some, let me list what’s currently on my phone and desktop aural rotation.
(I did this more than a year ago, in January 2016, and also back in 2013, so curious readers can compare how things, or at least my tastes, have changed. Some podcasts aren’t here because they stopped making new ones. Others dropped away because I lost interest.)
Organization: I’ll break these down into topical categories, like education, storytelling, current events, etc.
Podcatching technology: I mostly rely on Stitcher, which doesn’t make me too happy. It won’t let me organize podcasts by category or title. The interface has some issues, like locating playback options millimeters from phone controls. I can’t easily get new podcasts, since you have to run through the whole subscription list, manually checking each one for updates. Some programs aren’t on Stitcher. Sometimes it just chokes on a podcast, and refuses to play it. At worst it just fails to work at all. But it usually works all right, especially when I’m driving.
Otherwise, I play some Soundcloud content in my web browser, or play content right from a podcast’s web page, as well as the occasional YouTube translation.
Here we go.
- Higher Ed Social – conversations about different aspects of education.
- Leading Lines – conversations about education and innovation from Vanderbilt.
- MoonshotEdu – Bernard Bull explores possible futures for education.
- Teaching in Higher Ed – Bonni Stachowiak interviews a wide range of guests.
- TOPcast – concerns teaching online.
- Flash Forward – every two weeks they posit a possible medium-term future, then interview experts about how it could (or could not) occur.
- Seminars about Long-term Thinking – presentations to the Long Now Foundation on a variety of topics (history, science, culture) through the lens of very long-term thinking.
Politics and current events:
- Analysis – a BBC program about political issues and current events, mostly from a British perspective.
- Behind the News with Doug Henwood – host and guests discuss current events (American and international) from a left perspective.
- Common Sense with Dan Carlin – Dan Carlin‘s historically informed take on current events, which is caustic, funny, focused on civil liberties, and often unpredictable.
- On the Media – a New York City public radio show looking at journalism.
- Global Voices Podcast – offers perspectives on current events from as many countries as they can.
- PRI’s The World – a progressive take on current events.
- Slate’s Double X Podcast – an elite, East coast, urban, liberal look at women’s issues.
- ” Political Gabfest – ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” current politics.
History and culture
- Backstory with the American History Guys – a group of historians explore themes in American history.
- Crimetown – a deep dive into American crime and corruption. The first season is all about Providence.
- Criminal – each episode explores one true crime story, often with surprising narratives.
- Dan Carlin‘s HardCore History – excellent, thoughtful, detailed explorations of intense historical events, from ancient Persia to the Cold War.
- The History of English – an almost unbelievably ambitious and detailed dissection of thousands of years of linguistic history.
- In Our Time – superb, high-speed conversations about history, science, and culture. One of my favorites.
- Lore – each episode probes a theme from the spookier side of folklore, crime, and history.
- The Memory Palace – short, moving, lyrical glimpses into the past through very curious stories.
- On Being with Krista Tippett – meditations on religion, philosophy, and ethics.
- Radio Open Source – not about technology, but a wide range of current events and culture, with a strong Boston flavor.
- Reading Envy – a librarian and her friends discuss what they’ve been reading. I’ve been a guest several times, and still Jenny allows me back.
- Revolutions – excellent, accessible, rich history of revolutions in Britain, America, France, Haiti, and south America, among others.
- Rumble Strip – the best podcast about Vermont life.
- Slate Culture Gabfest –this and Slate’s politics podcast are on my hate-listen list. Very high speed, chatter-y discussion, overweeningly clever, burning with an incandescent sense of their own hipness, deeply lacking in trying to understand any other perspectives, prone to sneering. Useful for provoking thinking about current issues, and for learning about a certain perspective.
- Stuff You Missed in History Class – each episode covers a historical incident from a wide range of time, albeit with an emphasis on relatively modern and western subjects.
Technology and science
- The Contrafabulists – Audrey Watters and Ken Layne on technology history and criticism.
- Engines of our Ingenuity – short, well done monologues on technology, inventions, and people. Every single episode has a transcript and references. Did I mention they’ve done more than 3,100 shows so far?
- Radiolab – fine storytelling about unusual ideas in science.
- Reply All – stories about and around internet culture.
- TechStuff – deep dives into new and/or major technologies. .
- EconTalk – interviews with major economists conducted by a puckish, provocative MC. Every single episode has an annotated, hyperlinked transcript completed with time markers, references, and suggested readings: bravo!
- Freakonomics Radio – based on the book of the same title, an investigation into various human dynamics from a quirky economics perspective.
- Peter Day’s World of Business – energetic explorations of present-day economic life.
- Slate Money Podcast – actually really useful, both informative and engaging, with a healthy amount of self-deprecation, although I miss Cathy O’Neill. The only Slate podcast I genuinely like, on balance.
Fiction and storytelling
- Infinite Now – an inspired set of stories, each seemingly randomly connected to the others, or not.
- Radio Drama Revival – each episode looks at a new podcast story. Very useful.
- Risk! – personal stories about, well, risky stuff: sex, drugs, violence, madness, fun, and horror. It’s as if the Moth showed up at your door at 3 am, drunk, half dressed, waving a stick of dynamite, and insisting that you have to listen.
- The Story Collider – personal stories about science.
- Archive 81 – an eerie story about mysterious audio tapes, and the compulsion to listen to them. I don’t want to ruin the weirdness by saying more, except the show does great things with audio.
- The Black Tapes – a mockumentary about supernatural horror, with loving homages to the X-Files and This American Life. Charming, creepy, funny, and complex. A very exciting first season and well developed second. More thoughts here and here.
- Campfire Radio Theater – various spooky tales.
- Clarkesworld Magazine podcasts – beautifully read fantasy and science fiction short stories, with many women writers represented.
- The Drabblecast – like it says on the box, “Strange Stories, By Strange Authors, for Strange Listeners”. Always has each story’s full text, too.
- Escape Pod – science fiction short stories read out loud.
- NoSleep – scary short stories, initially told as campfire tales, and now as something like anthology horror. Excellent MC-ing. Very funny riffs on sponsors.
- Pseudopod – horror short stories read aloud.
- RABBITS– a mystery starting with alternate reality games, then proceeding from there. Made by some of the same creators behind TANIS and The Black Tapes.
- SFF Audio – the indefatigable Jesse Willis hosts readings of and discussions about classic and little-known science fiction and fantasy stories. I’ve been a guest several times now.
- Starship Sofa (District of Wonders) – science fiction stories short and long, plus poetry, science, discussion, and the awesome MC-ing of Tony C. Smith. The first science fiction podcast to win a Hugo award, and the first denizen of the District of Wonders.
- Tales to Terrify (District of Wonders) – horror stories long and short, plus some commentary and bouts of ghost hunting.
- TANIS – hard to classify this, beyond the header “very addictive”. Tanis is about a reporter’s quest for the truth behind a(n urban) legend, which leads him to the occult, new and media, secret societies, pulp fiction, hacking, fantasy… Listen, and you might want to be a runner. More thoughts here.
- Wolf 359 – a science fiction comedy about a team stranded on a space station.
Are you listening to any of these? Any podcasts you’d recommend?
I’m grateful for the Overcast podcast client, which is nearly perfect for me, but iOS only I’m afraid. I need to look over your list more carefully and maybe update my own similar post. Also: it was fun to see Alan’s picture of my friend and former colleague Chris M. in the little media room at our old offices here in Fairbanks!
I spit out my coffee in surprise when I realized I was looking at myself. There was an embarrassing lag, too. “Do I know that guy?” Forgot Alan had taken it.
Delighted to give you a shock, Chris M.
Chris L, your followup post on this is mind-blowing.
Since you have a few storytelling ones, you might like Snap Judgment (another by WNYC). http://snapjudgment.org/
What do you like about it, Carlie?
Big fan of 99% Invisible, a terrific podcast on all things design by Roman Mars. For politics, I’ve tried several out, and the NPR Political Podcast reigns supreme. They may not always succeed, but they’re at least trying to be balanced, unlike others I’ve listened to.
correction: “NPR Politics” podcast
Somehow I’d lost track of 99%. Thank you, Eric.
I’m not as big a fan of NPR’s news coverage. I’ll check out their political podcast, though.
Suggested feature for these posts: list the podcasts you’ve stopped listening to since your last update and why…
That’s a dark assignment.
It’ll also take some digging, as there isn’t an easy trace of what I used to subscribe to.
Thanks for sharing your current podcast diet, Bryan.
Missing Richard Simmons is a podcast not to be missed.
Alexis Madrigal’s eight part documentary, presented as podcast, is a good and informative listen. Madrigal uses the history of shipping containers to provide a compelling take on globalization.
RSS Radio is my preferred pod-catching client.
Seconding Containers. The Vietnam connection fascinates me.
What do you like about the Richard Simmons one?
Thank you for the title and second, Paul.
I learned about Missing Richard Simmons as a plug on the New Yorker podcast and decided to check it out. I was skeptical at first – thinking it might be some publicity ploy.
But Bryan, in my opinion, the host presents a compelling story that when told in serialized form can drag a listener in.
According to the most recent episode, the upcoming sixth installment will be the final episode.
I think there a lot worse ways a person could spend the half-dozen hours it takes to listen to the series and get a new insight into the sociological phenomenon that was/is Richard Simmons.
Oh, and speaking of essential podcasts – did anybody mention Project Moonbase?
Great list here Bryan, I’m going to review your list to update mine. I created a similar post on request from a colleague this past October: https://blog.kenbauer.me/2016/10/18/my-audio-feed/
Awesome post, Ken. Adding some of your Canadian sounds now.
Check out Rushkoff’s Team Human.http://teamhuman.fm/ A bit to the left but enlightening.
I’ll give it a listen. Thank you.
Thank you, Bryan — and those replying — with your recommendations. These look great but it will take me a season to get to them all, so I’ve bookmarked the page. As for me, when I get the chance to listen to a podcast, it is usually during exercise, so I enjoy “The Tim Ferriss Show” who is always looking to uncover excellence in all of its forms, “Backstory” for interesting history, and “The Bugle” (John Oliver is a contributor) for a good time.
Thank you, Seth. I’m not a Ferriss fan, but will definitely check out The Bugle.
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Month late, but feel compelled to add to the list:
Vergecast – deep geekdom tech news
Inquiring Minds – Cognitive Science/society
Common Sense (Dan Carlin)
Think Again – Big Think video dissection
Waking Up (Sam Harris)
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