Here’s a quick list of podcasts that I either listen to regularly or have listened to recently, in hopes that it will be helpful to those who are new to podcasts:
This American Life is the standard by which other podcasts are rightly judged. Ira Glass and his crew have been crafting a quality, entertaining, informative show since time out of mind and their radio show is even better as a podcast.
Criminal is great for fans of true crime, but its definition of crime is broader than most shows in that genre. Some shows, for example, are set in the distant past. It’s producers clearly value journalism over sensationalism. It has a heft that most true crime lacks.
Waking Up with Sam Harris began as a series of guided meditations to support Harris’ book on the subject, Waking Up. It has grown into one of the best interview shows out there for the fans of science and philosophy, and the intellectually curious, generally.
Ear Hustle takes you inside San Quentin State Prison for stories of prison life from those living it.
Heavyweight is a great show from TAL-contributor Jonathan Goldstein. He takes his guests (and, in few cases, himself) back to a point in life things had gone differently. Then, they generally round up some of the people in involved and hash it out. It’s a bury-the-hatchet type thing. And it’s generally equal parts hysterically witty and deeply moving.
The Memory Palace is, basically, prose poetry on historical events large and small by host Nate DiMeo. His refections on the past are often beautiful, as is his appreciation for the rhythms of language.
Philosophy Bites is philosopher Nigel Warburton and David Edmunds’ series of brief interviews with contemporary philosophers, either commenting on their own work or on that of famous philosophers. Warburton does the bulk of the interviews, and he’s quite good at his job. The shows are brief–generally 15 minutes or so. And, while some interest in and experience with philosophy is helpful, it is by no means required.
Serial has done two seasons, so far. Each explores a crime in depth. The hosts have a knack for making you go back and forth on your ideas about the guilt or innocence of their subjects.
S-Town is a brief, seven-episode examination of the life of an iconoclastic resident of an Alabama town.
99% Invisible is new to the fold and impossible to fairly characterize. At times, it’s an investigative show about some forgotten or not generally known aspect of history. At others, it reminds me a bit of This American Life.
Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast in which he overturns received notions of historical events.