I love listening to podcasts, and especially now, during shelter-in-place and physical distancing (I prefer that term to “social distancing”), podcasts may be a great way to pass the time, learn something, or if you are having trouble going to sleep or are filled with difficult emotions, for relaxation.
What is a Podcast?
If you don’t know, a podcast is kind of like an internet radio show. You can listen to these audio shows whenever you want. You can pause and restart at any time. There are tons of podcasts on every topic you can think of, and you can subscribe to the ones you like.
They are organized by topic, free (some offer additional and/or ad-free content if you are willing to pay a little bit), and vary from shows from one individual talking about whatever they like to those from large companies and broadcasters (NPR, ESPN, etc.). Anyone can host their own podcast, and it takes very little gear and money to do so.
Here’s a good description: What is a podcast and how do they work?
How to find and listen to a podcast?
Most people listen to them on their smartphones. What you need is an app that lets you listen to and subscribe to podcasts. iPhone folks might use Apple Podcasts, Overcast, ListenApp, or many others. Android users might use Google Podcasts, Podkicker, etc. There are many cross-platform apps including Spotify, Pocket Casts (which I use), TuneIn Radio, and more. Here’s a list of apps.
Once you have an app installed, you can search for a particular podcast, or by a topic, listen and subscribe if you wish. Your phone can download shows automatically for you to listen on your own, in the car, whenever, even if you happen to be out of cell phone and WiFi range.
Don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to be bothered with yet another app? Most podcasts have websites you can visit and listen to shows. You give up the ease of subscribing to and auto downloading shows that you can take with you, though.
Toby’s favorite podcasts
What podcasts do I recommend? As I said, I listen to a lot of podcasts, and my mood changes from week to week and month to month. Here are some of my current favorites:
Well-Known and Popular Podcasts – these might be good for first-timer podcast listeners to check out:
This American Life – one of the most popular podcasts out there.
The Moth Podcast – live storytelling. Funny, fascinating, heartbreaking, never dull.
RadioLab – a great podcast, a bit in the vein of This American Life, but more science/history; truly fascinating and entertaining
Heavyweight – going back to a moment of regret; highly rated. I am warm/cold on it as I find the host both funny and grating at times
Science and Technology
The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week – three hosts share three separate really weird stories, then vote on the weirdest; fun and interesting
Choiceology with Katy Milkman – Wharton prof Milkman explores stories of irrational decision-making and the science behind it
Reply All – podcast about the internet. Wouldn’t seem interesting, but it is very!
Crime and Justice
Criminal – fascinating podcast about crime, detection, and justice
More Perfect – amazing podcast about the supreme court. Sounds boring, but it is fascinating!
Sold In America – fascinating, heart-breaking 8-episode series about sexual slavery in America, and the unintended consequences of laws intended to protect victims
Caught – Lives of juvenile justice – stories about kids getting into trouble and mass incarceration (pre-southern border wall family separation, etc.)
The Clearing – April Balascio’s emotional journey from reporting her father and investigating allegations that he was a mass murderer
Serial – seasons 1 and 3 (skip 2). Season 1 gripped a lot of the podcast nation with its long form story about a teen convicted of murdering his girlfriend.
Ear Hustle – podcast made and recorded within San Quinten Prison about life in jail
History and Social Commentary
Death, Sex, and Money – fascinating podcast about those three topics we are told we should “never discuss”
You’re Wrong About – reviewing stories you thought you knew; kind of like “Adam Ruins Everything”
Rumble with Michael Moore – Moore talks about current events and interviews interesting people
UnErased – fascinating, heart-breaking series about the “pray the gay away” movement
Uncivil – history podcast about the Civil War and how those stories connect to issues of race today. Way more interesting than it sounds. I especially cannot recommend more highly the last two episodes, “The Ring” and “The Fugitive”
Remade in America – hosted by Bassem Youssef, aka Egypt’s “Jon Stewart.” Interesting, entertaining, and thoughtful discussion on race, identity, and being an outsider
Rough Translation – how are stories, news, etc. discussed elsewhere in the world?
Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel – listen to actual therapy sessions hosted by couples therapist and author of “Mating in Captivity” Esther Perel
Revisioninst History with Malcolmn Gladwell – long, fascinating journey through overlooked and misunderstood historical events/people
Song Exploder – musicians break down how they were inspired and created a song
99% Invisible – honestly, I often listen to this to go to sleep since the host, Roman Mars has such a gentle, soothing voice.
Slow Radio – probably not good for cooking or running, but for slowing down. 5-20 minute episodes that are gentle, relaxing recordings of nature, and gentle stories. I like it just before going to bed.