I’m a semi-obsessive podcast devotee, so figured I would suggest some great podcasts just floating around on the internet. I practiced restraint and avoided all the main NPR suspects but tried to avoid going too esoteric. So here is a mix of very different sorts of things:
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
Non-fiction – History – Avg. Length ~2 hours – Updates sporadically
Dan Carlin’s brand of history is a mix of sweeping overviews of cause and effect, detailed backstories, and lots of gory tid-bits. He covers everything from Ancient Rome to the Mongol Empire to the 1950s, and does a fantastic job of suggesting historical parallels to present day situations. The show is worth it if only for his quotations—he likes to read out sources in a dramatic and booming voice before lapsing into a more gruff analytical tone.
Non-Fiction – Politics – Avg. Length 15-20m – Updates sporadically
In Decode DC, Andrea Seabrook tries to give us the stories no one is covering—more in depth, behind-the-scenes pieces that explore the backdrop and backstory of any given headline. She helps put events and decisions into context, and avoids the distracting daily theatrical details.
Non-Fiction – Design – Avg. Length 12-24m – Updates twice monthly
99% Invisible is worth listening to for Roman Mars’s voice alone—he has a soporific but simultaneously totally captivating drawl. But it’s also one of those podcasts that leaves you with endless conversation starters—World War II ships painted in Razzle Dazzle camouflage, a Chinese walled city, or the planning behind highway stripes and signs.
The Moth Podcast
Creative Non-fiction – Storytelling – Avg. Length 15m – Updates weekly
If you’re tired of politics or history and just want to listen to a really good story, The Moth is for you. The Moth itself is live, stand-up true storytelling, and the podcast just features the very best of those stories. There’s plenty of self-deprecating humor and self-discovery carefully calibrated to keep from being too corny. But there are also stories that stand without any emotional backdrop, like Deborah Kiley’s story about getting shipwrecked and almost eaten by a shark.
Non-fiction – Wordplay – Avg. Length 24m – Updates twice a month
If you want to hear Mike Vuolo say interesting things about language and Bob Garfield offend large groups of people in short periods of time (and make very entertaining jokes), this is the podcast for you. As an added bonus, you get to listen to Mike Vuolo trying to get Bob Garfield to apologize for offending said people.
The actual linguistic side of the podcast is also really fascinating though. You’ll either find yourself thinking about verbal ticks you were never aware of, or you’ll hear some interesting theories about lexical stuff that drives you crazy.
So those are five for you! But of course, they don’t even begin to cover the wide range of podcasts out there. I didn’t even get to fiction or music podcasts, or any of the spoken word stuff around.
If you have amazing podcast recommendations that I missed, send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment. I would really love to hear from you, and to listen to what you’re listening to.