Walking, driving, chilling, I listen to podcasts. In situations where reading isn’t possible, listening to a podcast usually is. What I listen to changes as I learn about new ones and take breaks from old ones. Or old ones take their own breaks.
New to podcasts? Try one of these. Or start with one of the episodes I cover in my Blog, where I write about specific programs.
Creative stories about curiosity and the lines between philosophy, science and the human experience. Their shows tease at the edges of what it means to be human, pushing limits, stretching boundaries, mixing awe and science. They incorporate original music and deliver well-crafted shows that frequently turn your understanding of stuff upside-down. Hosts: Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. From: WNYC radio. Frequency: around 2-3 shows/month. Approximate Length: varies; tend to run between 25-60 minutes.
This American Life Podcast
Themed stories that shed light on everyday life and unusual lives. Each show is usually done in 3-4 “acts,” taking a theme as a foundation. It takes a fresh lens and looks at things, from the ordinary to the unexpected. They say it’s hard to describe their show; despite that, it’s broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations to about 2.2 million listeners. And their shows go back to 1995, so it’s got legs. If you’re not sure where to start, just start with the current show. Or check out their favorites list. Host: Ira Glass. From: WBEZ radio. Frequency: weekly. Approximate Length: one-hour.
Investigative journalism covering tons of interesting topics, with deep digs. According to their web site, they “combine the power and artistry of…storytelling with data-rich reporting on critically important issues. The result is stories that inform and inspire, arming…listeners with information to right injustices, hold the powerful accountable and improve lives.” If you want to have someone pull back the curtain on things you hear about but want more than a gloss-over, check them out. Host: Al Letson. From: The Center for Investigative Reporting. Frequency: around 3-5 shows/month. Approximate Length: one-hour.
According to their web site, “Criminal is a podcast about crime. Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” The New York Magazine calls Criminal “a true crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological.” It’s an inside look into the minds and experiences of people who’ve ended up entangled in a crime, whether they belonged there or not. Host: Phoebe Judge. Member: Radiotopia from PRX. Frequency: twice/month. Approximate Length: varies; tend to run between 20-35 minutes.
Fresh Air Podcast
Terry Gross interviews people with her Terry Gross style. Authors, celebrities, government folks, journalists, musicians and more, covering a huge cross-section of topics, from arts, contemporary issues, politics, science and beyond. The show has won the Peabody Award, is broadcast on more than 450 NPR stations, and is listened to each week by nearly 4.5 million people. Given how many authors she’s interviewed, she has to be the best-read person around. I don’t know how she does this 5-days a week. Host: Terry Gross. From: WHYY radio. Frequency: daily on weekdays. Approximate Length: around 50 minutes.
The 1A Podcast
The name is inspired by the First Amendment. The show explores issues such as “policy, politics, technology, and what connects us across the fissures that divide the country” It also “delves into pop culture, sports, and humor” with a goal to “act as a national mirror—taking time to help America look at itself and to ask what it wants to be.” Johnson invites a slate of different experts onto the show to gain insight and perspective from more than one angle, helping to flesh out complex issues. Host: Joshua Johnson. From: WAMU radio. Frequency: daily on weekdays. Approximate Length: around 30-45 minutes, not counting their Friday News Roundup which runs around 1 hour 20 minutes.