Some podcasts I’m listening to in January 2021

What podcasts are good to listen to?

I’ve been listening to podcasts since their first wave, after the term was coined in 2004. Now, during their second wave, this golden age of podcasts, I like to learn about interesting programs from other people.  To be fair, I also try to share my own recommendations. To that end, every year or so I try to share which podcasts I’m listening to. I haven’t done this since 2019, which means I’m overdue. (previous posts: 2019, 20182017early 2016mid-20162015, and 2013)

Some caveats: I don’t endorse the views of each of the following shows or their hosts/creators/guests. Instead, I recommend them solely to the extent that I enjoy and/or learn by listening to them.  Also, I haven’t listened to every single episode of each of these.


Even this Canadian cat is impatient with me. All right, I’m on it!

The categories below are pretty general. Some podcasts really do stretch across two or more of each.

I linked to each podcast’s web presence, rather than their presence on various platforms, because I still love the web.

I’m also excluding audiobooks.

Here we go:

Higher Education

Design Thinking 101 – my Georgetown colleague Dawan Stanford hosts discussions on the many ways design thinking can play out.

EdSurge on Air – this education reporting and analysis team also has a podcast.  They cover K-12 and post-secondary education. (my appearance)

EduFuturists – a British team looks into ed tech.  I think the emphasis is on K-12.

FutureU – interviews with people researching and/or leading changes in higher education.  Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn are genial, thoughtful, and energetic hosts.

Higher Ed Social – conversations about different aspects of education.

Teaching in Higher Ed – Bonni Stachowiak interviews a wide range of guests involved in postsecondary instruction. (my first appearance)

TOPcast – concerns teaching online.

Futures Stuff

The Disruptors – a look into visions of the future, through interviews with a wide range of people.  Matt Ward’s a fine host. (my appearance)

Flash Forward – a nice mix, with each episode focusing a particular “what if,” offering a story taking place in that world, followed by a discussion from the present.

Future of Everything – a look at emerging science and technology. From the Wall Street Journal.

Jim Rutt Show – the titular host interviews a wide range of people with thoughts pointing to possible futures.

The PortalEric Weinstein and other people bash around big ideas at top speed.

Secret History of the Future – two hosts explore interesting ideas.  From Slate/The Economist.

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.

Spark – a CBC exploration of the future.  Norah Young is a great host.

Current Events and Politics

Analysis – a BBC program about political issues and current events, mostly from a British perspective.

Arms Control Wonk –  a group of experts probe current developments and recent history.

Behind the News with Doug Henwood – host and guests discuss current events (American and international) from a left perspective.

Best of the Left – a grab bag of left/liberal/progressive political commentary.  Uneven but very useful and generous in its inclusion of other podcasts’ content.

The Daily – each episode looks into a current story, then adds a summary of leading events.  From the New York Times.

The Dig – left-wing news analysis.  Part of the Jacobin world.

The Dream – a deep dive into the grift-heavy world of multi-level marketing.  This is important stuff, alas.

Economic Update – a look into major economic issues from current affairs from a left perspective.  Richard Wolff is very engaging.

The Foreign Desk – a deep dive into a different international dynamic or crisis with each episode.  I enjoy the host’s wry sense of humor.

Intelligence Squared – discussions about current events.

Intercepted – furious discussions about current events from a left/civil liberties point of view.  Part of The Intercept media world.

Little Red Podcast – good podcast about contemporary China.

NPR News Now – a very very short (<5 minutes) headline-level sketch of news, updated every few hours.  Very handy.  National Public Radio.

On the Media – analyses of contemporary journalism and related issues, from a liberal perspective.

Popular Front – an examination of war and conflict, especially irregular struggles.

QAnon Anonymous – a very useful update on, and investigation into, the Q conspiracy movement.

Radio Open Source – not about technology, but a wide range of current events and culture, with a strong Boston-area flavor.

Useful Idiots – a contrarian and left view of current events.

The World Next Week – a thoughtful reflection on international relations from the Council for Foreign Relations, looking ahead to new developments.

podcast setup, by malias

Science and Technology

a16z – a look into emerging technology from the perspective of Silicon Valley venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz.

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 3,200 shows so far?

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) – very useful updates on public health.  US Centers for Disease Control.

Nature Podcast – discussions on science.

Podcast-19 – a useful program about the pandemic with deep dives into data. From FiveThirtyEight.

Radiolab –  fine storytelling about unusual ideas in science.

Reply All –  looks into the digital world, pulling out cultural or whatever stories it finds interesting.  It’s energetic, friendly, and trend-focused.

Techdirt – conversations about various digital topics. This can include rich details about technologies and policy.

Climate Change

Drilled – an exploration of how the fossil fuel industry fights against climate change activism.

Matter of Degrees – a good discussion of many elements of climate change.

Economics and Business

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!

Slate Money Podcast – very useful, both informative and engaging, with a healthy amount of disagreement, although I miss Cathy O’Neill.

ThinkCast – an energetic look into emerging business ideas.  From Gartner.


Behind the Bastards – stories of terrible people, mostly mass murderers and/or grifters.  Robert Evans hosts with a mix of historical curiosity, moral passion, and a cruel sense of humor. Comedians and sometimes journalists guest.

Fall of Civilizations – looks into the collapse of societies throughout history.

Hardcore History – excellent, thoughtful, detailed explorations of intense historical events, from ancient Persia to the Cold War. Host Dan Carlin is mesmerizing in a growling, thoughtful, passionate late night radio way.

History Extra podcast – interviews with writers covering a range of historical topics with something of a British perspective.

In Our Time – superb, high-speed conversations about history, science, and culture.  One of my favorites.

The Memory Palace – short, moving, lyrical glimpses into the past through very curious stories.

Revolutions – excellent, accessible, rich history of revolutions in Britain, America, France, Haiti, and south America, among others.  Mike Duncan is very good, offering well organized and compelling presentations laced with a mordant sense of humor.  Currently he’s on the Russian Revolution and doing a fine job.

Stuff You Missed in History Class – each episode covers a historical incident from a wide range of time, with an emphasis on relatively modern and western subjects.  Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson are splendid: deeply knowledgeable, humane, funny.

Storytelling, Nonfiction

Astonishing Legends – an enormously entertaining look into paranormal, true crime, and generally weird stuff.

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.

Rumble Strip –  a podcast about Vermont life.

The Story Collider – good personal stories about science, performed Moth-style.

Genre Fiction: Science Fiction and Horror

Hypnogoria – Jim Moon reads classic horror stories and talks about the genre.

King Falls AM – two hosts of a small town’s community radio station are the protagonists. Like Welcome to Night Vale, but less lyrical, more hyper and goofy. (thanks to Ed Webb)

The Magnus Archives – excellent British horror. Each episode is a single recording from the titular archives, a first-person relation of some creepy event.  All stories knit together into larger arcs involving the archives, their hapless staff, and their own mysteries.  Excellent audio performances.

NoSleep – scary short stories, initially told as campfire tales, and now as something like anthology horror.  Excellent MC-ing.  Very funny riffs on sponsors.

Our Opinions are Correct – two science fiction authors talk about the genre.

Pseudopod – horror short stories read aloud.

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 a bunch of times.

Starship Sofa – 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.

Stellar Firma – improved science fiction about two incompetent planet designers. Hilarious and clever. Somehow from the same creative mad folks who build Magnus Archives.

Tales to Terrify – horror stories long and short, plus some commentary and bouts of ghost hunting. Also in the District of Wonders.

Starship Sofa – 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 – horror stories long and short, plus some commentary and bouts of ghost hunting. Also in the District of Wonders.

Weird Tales Radio Show – discussions about horror, fantasy, and science fiction.


Beyond the Book – a look into the book publishing industry.  It’s clearly biased in favor of strong copyright policies and practices, a bias I don’t share, but the program is also very informative.

Reading Envy – a librarian and her friends discuss what they’ve been reading.  I’ve been a guest several times (20142014 again20152016, and 2017) and still Jenny allows me back.


Conversations with Tyler – economist Tyler Cowen talks with people about anything that interests him.  Plenty of topics and bright folks.

Reply All – stories about and around internet culture.


….and over to you.  Are you listening to these, or any others?

(podcasting photos by Cogdog and Gideon)

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13 Responses to Some podcasts I’m listening to in January 2021

  1. Roger Schonfeld says:

    An addition I can suggest on contemporary geopolitics, told from a global perspective and coming from Australia, is The Red Line.

  2. Joe Murphy says:

    I always appreciate it when you share these. It makes me feel better about the backlog in my own podcatcher. (I get warning messages scolding me that tracking thousands of episodes from 78 podcasts is going to slow down the database… but given how many old episodes there are, I really don’t care how long it takes to get the new ones.)

    I should just write my own post, but I’ll leave a couple pointers here. 25 Years of Ed Tech is important both to our field and as a formal exploration of the audiobook and podcast. 2 episodes a week – one a reading of a chapter from Martin Weller’s book, and one “Between the Chapters” interview show.

    Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series has been good for thinking about digital misinformation issues. Unfortunately it’s not broken out into its own podcast, so you have to scan their other episodes to catch this subset.

    Personally, I’ve been taking a lot of solace in Poetry Unbound… a single poem per episode, read aloud, discussed, and then read again. (Which apparently is a recognizable pedagogy in poetry circles, but not one I’d sussed out in my education.) And I’m catching up on Welcome to Night Vale, which manages to be appropriate to the times without going too on the nose.

  3. Alan Levine says:

    Maggie the cat approves of these podcats 😉 As do I, as my list can stand a refresh.

    One I definitely keep in the catcher is 99% Invisible Roman Mars never fails to find an interesting angle into unexpected objects

    I liked the format of giving creative writing tasks, though only heard a few episodes of Start With This from the Night Vale folks

    I never tire of The Truth, some of the best audio narrative out there I was hooked from the first Moon Graffiti episode.

    Also worthy is Dallas Taylor’ Twenty Thousand Hertz for its perspective of the role sound plays in our lives

    Podcast ain’t just for cool cats!

  4. Rick Crain says:

    I’m surprised you don’t have Desert Oracle on your list. It might be well described with the same words you used for Astonishing Legends, which I have not tried but will, and it is also so much more.

  5. IMHO, the most active and interesting higher ed podcast right now is Ed Up Experience. I think you’d really like them, and if you listen to them a bit and would like to be a guest I’d be happy to introduce you to them by email:

    Others in higher education or ed tech that you didn’t mention that I also like include:

    Josie and the Podcast

    The EdTech Startup Show

    The Cult of Pedagogy

    Leaders & Legends of Online Learning

    The eLearning Podcast

    • Glen McGhee says:

      Hey, Steve.
      Do you know of any pod-casts that are biased against the sector post-Covid? That project negative transformation or collapse? All these seem biased in the opposite direction. Thanks!

  6. As far as current events, I’m a little hesitant even to go there, because I’m not in lockstep with most educators. However, if you’d be interested in getting the occasional non-leftist perspective, Cato Daily is pretty short and has a better signal-to-noise ratio than most current events programming:

    To be honest, I’ve fallen away from listening to very much current events. I just didn’t see how spending a lot of time on it was helping me reach my goals. But when I do, even though I’m a free market guy I do occasionally listen to media that is fiscally to the left of me, sometimes quite far. (I can’t abide social conservatism, though, so I don’t listen to that at all.)

  7. Glen McGhee says:

    These podcasts — if I can generalize — remind me of health officials worried about a pandemic, pre-Covid. Yeah, there were a few, I guess — including astrologers that were biting their nails since the 1993-4 Pluto-Saturn dust up, leading up to the conjunction in Capricorn in 2020.

  8. Vanessa Vaile says:

    Your list has handful of ones I follow. Lately I’ve taken listening to podcasts more often bookmarking them in a podcast folder on my laptop as I come across them, usually by way of listening to interviews. Sometimes I search ” + podcast” to find podcasts I hope exist or know but don’t have a name for.

    That’s how I came accross OwlTail,, podcast aggregator and search app by podcast or person.

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