Podcasts I listen to every week
Since a lot of people have been asking me for what my favorite podcasts are, I figured I’d just compile a list for my friends.
Quick logistics: I currently use Breaker as my main listening app. I like it because it also has recommendations from other users, so I try out podcast episodes I wouldn’t have heard on my own. I used to use Overcast, which I still like very much. Prior to that, I tried out the native iOS Podcasts app, Stitcher, etc. But for those, I felt seemed to be too buggy or clunky for my tastes.
First off, I have my own podcast with my friend Tomo Huynh, called Quantinuum Podcast. Admittedly, it’s not as high of quality, production value, or content as the ones I love to listen to, but I thought I’d plug it anyway. In Quantinuum Pod, Tomo and I try to dissect society and philosophy through the lens of science fiction, and we do that through asking each other questions.
My absolute favorite podcasts
The following is my top podcasts. These are the podcasts that I absolutely must listen to every week, otherwise, I feel like I’m not on top of my intellectual/idea game.
Conversations with Tyler: This is probably my absolute absolute favorite podcast these days. Tyler Cowen is an economist but he is also able to jump into different arenas from religion to sports. His questions are very well prepared and he does it front of a live audience, so it’s cool to hear what the audience wants to know from his guests. And his guests span cultural evolutionist to rabbis to Kareem Abdul Jabbar. This podcast digs deep. My only problem with it is that Tyler sometimes jump to the next topic too abruptly, and I think sometimes he doesn’t give the topic itself a chance to go even deeper. This might be because he is time constrained by being in front of a live audience. Nevertheless, the variety and depth of this podcast really puts it at the top for me.
James Altucher: James is probably my favorite interviewer in this set of podcasts. He’s humble, well read, inquisitive, always thinking about the audience, able to distill things to the basics, and somehow by asking very simple questions (and being great at interrupting people), he manages to get the best out of his guests, whoever they are. He’s a masterclass in interviewing people and drawing out great ideas from them. And he’s willing to stumble into that in unorthodox ideas that make the podcast surprising its own way.
You Are Not So Smart: The title already makes me love this podcast. I want to be humbled when I listen to podcasts. They dig into especially scientific topics and don’t hold back with their evidence and interviews. I think this podcast would go well with WaitButWhy and Radiolab in their style and approach, but it’s something about the host and his questions that really set them apart.
On Being: Take Conversations with Tyler and make it only philosophy (or mostly philosophy topics) and that’s what you get with On Being.
The Wisdom podcast: Take On Being and make it mostly about Buddhist topics, and that’s what you get.
Indeed, I’m too into deep interviews.
Love them lots
Here’s a set of podcasts that I love, but not enough to crave as much as I do the above.
Exponent: I’m a huge fan of the Stratechery blog by Ben Thompson. It’s the only tech blog that I read EVERYDAY, which is saying a lot since I read a lot of tech, and definitely feel like I pay too much attention to tech. Despite this, Stratechery seems to be resilient. I think Ben’s perspective are so deep and unique that I feel like if I miss his writing, than I’m missing something in tech. Unfortunately, I don’t listen to Exponent as much because Ben and James seem to talk about similar themes in every episode (or maybe I’ve listened to it so much that it becomes semi-predictable). Or maybe I’m (to use a term that Ben loves) over-indexed on tech.
The Moth: This used to be my go-to podcast. I’ve probably listened to 100 The Moth episodes. Every episode features real stories from real people around a theme. They do events in New York and throughout America, where people get on stage and tell stories to a live audience. I have cried to a lot of these episodes because they’re so touching. I’ve also laughed ten times more. They’re amazing. And they put your life in perspective.
Are of Manliness: Brett McKay, the interviewer is just amazing. And I recommend this podcast for women also, despite the title. Brett seems to be able to remain confident while humble while jumping through a myriad of topics. Highly recommended.
TED Radiohour: TED, although probably not taken seriously anymore these days (and also apparently, TED is looked down upon by academia), has managed to churn out a great podcast. It’s a bit long, one hour, as the title implies, but the production value and the narrative is very strong.
Tim Ferriss: Here’s another podcast that I have spent hours and hours sinking my teeth into. I’ve probably listened to 70% of all of Tim’s episodes. Tim has this style of interviewing that I really like, where he balances discovering what is great about his interviewees personal strategies while also sharing what he does. To be honest, I’ve shifted to preferring James Altucher’s podcast because James seems to dig a bit deeper with his guests.
Ezra Klein: I went to school with Ezra back in UC Santa Cruz, and I can still vaguely remember how inquisitive he was back then. Ezra is well read, thoughtful, and humble, a great combination for great interviewing and digging deep. I’d listen to the Ezra Klein show more if I wasn’t a bit sick of politics. But when I do have a hankering for an update on latest political and social leanings, Ezra is the dude.
FT Alphachat: I don’t read Financial Times, but I love Alphachat. The reporting is straight, to the point, and succinct. After listening, I always feel like I know another contour of the economy.
Smart Passive Income: Pat Flynn is such an energetic, humble, and passionate person, and that really comes through in his podcast. He puts his listeners first and he asks questions that really help you learn a lot from his guests. I don’t listen to him as much because I have the passive income streams that I’m satisfied with for now.
Because I love Asia
Sinica Podcast: I’m a big fan of Kaiser Kuo, having followed his career for years. Being a Vietnamese American getting to know Vietnam, I related a lot to Kaiser’s parallel world getting in touch with China via the Chinese American perspective. He’s also super smart, creative, and is able to bring unique perspectives and people onto his podcast. I also love learning about China.
Asia Society podcast: Unfortunately, this podcast doesn’t happen enough, but I definitely listen to in tandem with The Diplomat.
The Diplomat: I love how they spend every episode on a different country and geopolitical situation. It makes me crave the next episode every time.
Excellent but not absolute needs
This final list is great if the above ‘casts are out of new episodes. I don’t go to them first because maybe they’re redundant or aren’t rich in ideas enough for me. Or sometimes they’re a tedious listen.
a16z: These guys are just so rich in tech ideas, strategy, etc.
The Joe Rogan experience: I love that Joe is willing to explore his own ideas to the nth degree. But that also means the episodes are a tad long.
Freakonomics radio: Love these guys’ perspective on economics. I always end up learning a new fact.
Hidden Brain: These are sometimes a bit too bite-sized and I wish they’d dig a bit deeper into the implications of brain science. But this still manages to turn one’s perspective.
Marketplace: Excellent podcast on the market.
Quanta: This one is really too short on the episodes, but I love Quanta magazines articles so much that it deserves to be here.
Radiolab: I used to listen to Radiolab constantly. It was my number one podcast. After awhile though, I had a thirst for interviews more in the philosophy realm, so Radiolab slowly became less interesting for me. Especially since I didn’t know what to expect, which was also its strength, to be fair. Each episode is a surprise.
Recode Decode: I think Kara Swisher is by far one of the top journalists and interviewers of our time in tech. She’s no holds barred. And she’s wicked smart. And especially honest with herself and her audience.
StarTalk Radio: I’m a big fan of Neil Degrasse Tyson, but I didn’t originally get into this podcast. But recently, I’ve taken another look and I love the humor and breadth of knowledge of the podcast. Maybe it’s because it’s too lighthearted that I don’t listen more frequently.