Frequently in conversation I’ll start whatever I’m saying with “I heard this podcast recently about”—and then regale the listener with three-quarters-remembered details about why the Dow Jones industrial average is completely useless or how women won the right to vote because of the mother of one Congressman from Tennessee (whose political life was subsequently ruined) or how to influence behavior through “unpleasant design”. I listen to 40+ podcasts regularly, with the one that I never miss being Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! from WBEZ in Chicago (home also of another favorite, This American Life). It seems that not everyone is the podcast aficionado I am, however; a study says that only 20% of Americans listen once a month.
So some folks are trying to change all that, including NPR and a host of other fantastic podcast companies (Gimlet Media, Stuff You Should Know, Radiotopia), and as part of this effort they’re asking listeners to spread the word about their favorite podcasts (and use the hashtag #trypod). As a more or less obedient sort of person, I’m going to share a few of the ones I love, that it may be for your profit and learning.
- Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! – Yep, I’ve already mentioned this one, and longtime readers may remember my “Peter Sagal loves me OMGOMG thrillgaspsquee*dies*!!11!!!!1!!1!!!” story from 2012. I love it every bit as much now as I did then.
- Crimetown – All about mob control of Providence, RI in the 1970s and 80s, featuring interviews with a plethora of former “wiseguys”. Not for those who prefer their language sanitized.
- The Moth – Real, fascinating stories told by some of the most interesting people you can imagine.
- Stuff You Missed in History Class – I learned NOTHING about the late Victorian manure crisis in school. NOTHING. Also, did you know that Harriet Tubman was a Union spy?
- Freakonomics and Planet Money – The only reasons I know even a minuscule amount about economics and finance.
- Surprisingly Awesome – How much do you know about glue? Or mold? Or postal systems in the developing world? Not as much as this show will make you want to. (How’s that for some v. good Englishing?)
- Hidden Brain, 99% Invisible, Only Human, and Invisibilia – Why you and I (and everyone else) are so weird sometimes.
- Reply All – All you ever wanted to know about teh interwebz and the L337 people who run it.
- Selected Shorts – Some of the world’s greatest short stories, read by professional actors who make you realize that there’s more than one way to interpret literature.
- Undone – Shows how what you thought was the end of the story was really the beginning.
And that’s only a handful of the ones I listen to (while I’m running, cooking, cleaning, getting dressed, etc.). I was all caught up back in September right after I ran a half marathon, but since then I’ve fallen behind in several of them. I’ve just started training for another half, though, and am looking forward to lots more quality podcast listening!