Just This

Listen to This: Podcasts

Before writing this post, I had to do a search of my own site to make sure I’ve never written about this subject before. How have I had this blog for three years (!) and never dedicated a few hundred words to my love of podcasts?

I’ve written about specific shows (here and here), but apparently I’ve never given the medium as a whole the comprehensive admiration (in the form of a blog post) that it deserves. Let’s right that wrong here today.

Curiously, I started podcasting long before I started actually listening to podcasts (this is probably one of the many reasons why I am not a famous podcaster today). At one of my first jobs, podcasting was new and all the rage, so once a month I wrote up a rundown of films and events pertinent to the organization, and recorded it at the studios of one of our sponsors, an audio production house.

Over the next several years, I’d listen to an episode every now and then…but it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I fell head first into the world of podcasts, growing my list of subscriptions as fast as I could discover them. Today, I have so many series that download automatically to my phone I can’t even list them all here (but I’ll try!).

Podcasts are perfect for me. They tend to be just the right length for a commute to work or the walk to the store. Stack a few of them together and you’ve got after work or weekend errands covered. Save your favorites for chores around the house, the audio-only format ideal for keeping you company while you dust and tidy up.

Having tried many podcasts for an episode or two, I’ve found I prefer shows and series that are conversational in tone. I tried a Game of Thrones recap podcast, but the host said “like” too many times for my…liking…so I scrapped that one. And the podcasts produced in the vein of old radio serials just don’t seem to pass muster for me. That takes a lot of good producing to do well. So I’ve generally landed on weekly or daily series about politics and news, movies and history, and some general entertainment for good measure.

The shows referenced above – You Must Remember This and OnBeing – remain favorites. But oh, are there more…

I am not a fan of every NPR podcast (and they have a LOT), but there are so many I do enjoy that I’m grouping them all here to save space. You’ll find Fresh Air, NPR Politics, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Invisibilia and Planet Money all on my list. I also get a few shows delivered as podcasts in case I’m not by a radio when they air live, namely Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me, This American Life (which, I know, isn’t an NPR production. Moving on…) and Ask Me Another.

A surprising amount of original programming that’s known nationally comes out of WNYC, and a handful of their shows are among my favorites, including RadioLab and Freakonomics. In looking at that link, I’m also going to give More Perfect a try – I’ll let you know if it lands in rotation!

Two of my favorite politics podcasts are FiveThirtyEight: Elections and Left, Right & Center. The former is from Nate Silver and his team – he’s the guy who essentially perfectly predicted the outcome of the 2012 election state by state; the latter is a round-table style chat show from KCRW with a host and a guest on the left and the right. These two (and the other politics-centric shows on my list) tend to discuss a lot of the same topics (as can be expected) but I love hearing the different perspectives and input of each.

I recently discovered that a lot of my favorite talking-heads television shows offer audio-only podcasts, so now I get episodes of Washington Week and Meet the Press delivered on demand. And when I’m itching for a lesson in something, Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class are just the ticket.

The rest of what I subscribe to is a hodge-podge of interesting content (at least, I think so) from all kinds of sources. There’s my new morning routine of On This Day – a quick blip of a show with fun and interesting bits of history. There’s Modern Love that finds various celebs reading essays from the titular New York Times column (and revisits the writers for an update, too). The Memory Palace is so ephemeral and eloquent, it’s like the gossamer-winged butterfly of the podcast world – turn it up too loud and you might scare it away. I have never laughed so hard during a podcast as I did during the Jake Gyllenhaal episode of The Mystery Show. When she was promoting her newest book, I was glued to every episode of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons. And because I’m a human who listens to podcasts, of course I subscribe to Serial.

Believe it or not, there are even more than that. But that’s enough for now…what podcasts do you listen to (or which ones will you start)?