Podcasts I Listen To – 2019 Edition

A list of podcasts I listen to regularly, listed by broad categories.

NOTE: This is a rewritten and expanded version of a 2017 post I wrote, updated to reflect the state of things in 2019.

A lot has changed since I last wrote up a list of podcasts I listened to. What started as a way to make chores less boring has turned into a kind of obsession. I now track between 30 to 40 podcasts and listen to them regularly. So it is a good time to update the list.

I have also made some changes to how I listen to podcasts. Because of their sheer number, I listen at 2× speed to save time. I use a combination of Pocket Casts and Podcast Addict apps on Android. Pocket Casts lacks some advanced features that are present in Podcast Addict (like being able to sort by duration), but it is good enough as a daily driver. I use it because it syncs progress to the cloud which has become more important now that I have so many podcasts. I keep longer podcasts that come out less frequently in Podcast Addict and manage them there.

Current Affairs

As a rule, I don’t subscribe to any daily news podcasts and avoid getting sucked into that cycle. I do however, have podcasts in this category that come out daily because the stories they cover are more general. I also skip many episodes from these podcasts if I feel that the stories are repetitive or uninteresting.

Economist Audio Edition (Subscribers Only)

The Economist has its limitations, but there is probably no other source of weekly news that has such wide geographical coverage. In addition to the print/digital edition, it also comes out as an audio edition, which is available as a podcast.

Even better, each episode has chapters marking the beginning of each story, which makes it easy to move around the podcast, picking and choosing stories one wants to listen to.

Screenshot of Podcast Addict app on Android showing chapters for The Economist Audio edition
Screenshot of Podcast Addict app on Android showing chapters for The Economist Audio edition
Podcast Addict app on Android showing chapters for The Economist Audio Edition

The audio edition is available only to subscribers.

Economist Radio

In addition to the audio edition, The Economist Radio provides a single feed for all the podcasts produced by The Economist – The Intelligence, Babbage, Money Talks, Editor’s Picks, and The Economist Asks.

Some of the material is a repeat of the audio edition, but there is a lot of fresh content as well. This recent interview with Margaret Atwood was interesting.

The Inquiry

Each episode covers a single issue in-depth, usually something related to current happenings. There is a curated list of The Best of The Inquiry episodes to get a feel for the show.

3 Things

There aren’t many good podcasts for India related news. The ones that do exist are of dubious quality, both in terms of production and content. I found 3 Things just about tolerable. Apart from a daily 2-minute summary (called The Catch Up) which is useful, there is a 20-minute news show that goes deep into a specific topic. I liked a recent episode about spot-fixing in cricket.

Business Daily

Business Daily is not a podcast for daily business news. Instead, every weekday it focuses on one business-related story that is relevant to the things happening around us. Recent episodes include a story about the cannabidiol craze and one about the world running out of sand.


Economics, Business and Finance

The Indicator from Planet Money

The Indicator is a short daily podcast which summarises economics news and ideas in layman’s terms. A recent interesting episode was about how China is transforming the luxury goods market.

The Journal

The Journal is the newest addition to this list. I don’t pay for a WSJ subscription so I cannot read most of their news. Instead, I try to make do with their podcasts. Recent highlights include an episode on the UAW auto workers strike and Calfornia’s take on the NCAA.

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

Episodes in this podcast are only about 9 minutes long. The backstory for the inventions is presented by Tim Harford in a very engaging manner. Some of the more unusual inventions featured in the podcast are barbed wire and seller feedback

Planet Money

Planet Money is a longer podcast in the same vein as its sister podcast, The Indicator. Recent favorites include an episode about the Marshall Plan and another one about who exactly can be categorized as The Modal American.

More or Less: Behind the Stats

More or Less investigates recent news stories for the veracity of their statistical claims by taking a closer look at the data and having experts interpret and explain it. I liked a recent episode where they took a closer look at the figures around the Amazon forest fires.

The MMT Podcast

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is an idea whose time has come. I had first encountered concepts similar to the ones espoused by MMT a long time ago when I watched Perry Mehrling’s Money and Banking Lectures. At that time I wasn’t familiar with MMT. Planet Money did a podcast on MMT, after which I did some research and discovered the MMT Podcast. I have been working through the backlog of episodes. They are long but totally worth it. After listening to several episodes, I was inspired enough to buy this recently published macroeconomics textbook that is written from an MMT lens.


Science

CrowdScience

Episodes of this podcast are driven by listener questions, and they dive quite deep into the topics they cover. I liked their recent episodes around mental health and neuroscience – about depression, extroversion and happiness and how best to motivate oneself.

Science Vs

Science Vs is an American podcast, so it differs in tone to the other podcasts in this category which are British. There is a lot of humor and punchy lines, but that does not affect the content, which is pretty solid. One of my recent favorites was an episode about the (purported) benefits of exercise.

Science Weekly

This is a science podcast by The Guardian, which occasionally has interesting episodes. A recent episode was about the psychology of climate change denial.

Discovery

This is another science podcast from the BBC. A recent favorite episode was a fresh take on whether violence is inherent to human nature.


Sociology and Anthropology

I listen to sociology and anthro podcasts, in the hope that it will make up for a lack of exposure to the social sciences and humanities during university. Podcasts are more engaging than reading a heavy academic tome on a topic. Often, I find it easier to pick up a dry academic textbook after I have been exposed to the key ideas in a more accessible manner.

Thinking Allowed

This podcast is hosted by Laurie Taylor, who interviews his guests and occasionally provides his own humorous insights. One of my favorite episodes from the show is about the sociology of inter-city commuter rail networks. Another recent episode that I liked was a profile on Michel Foucault.

Social Science Bites

Some of my favorites from this series include an interview with Jonathan Haidt about his book The Righteous Mind, and Robin Dunbar on the eponymous Dunbar Number. More recently, there was an awesome episode on rituals.

SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human

The Sapiens is a relatively new podcast that came out of the Sapiens magazine. It is currently in season 2. The latest season has episodes with themes ranging from eating insects to theories about dreams.


Food

The Food Chain

One of the best podcasts I have listened to was produced by The Food Chain. It was a two-part series (Part 1, Part 2) featuring the food habits of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania, who subsist on hunting and gathering to this day.

The Food Programme

I like the Food Chain better, but this has some good episodes occasionally.


Tech

WSJ Tech News Briefing

This podcast breaks my rule about not subscribing to daily news. I made an exception because this one is quite short (esp when I listen to it at 2x speed).

The Secret History of the Future

I like how the stories compare a phenomenon in the past (like 19th-century telegraph romances) to a more recent phenomena (online dating), and you slowly realize how in some ways, a modern innovation may not be as revolutionary as it appears.

Digital Planet

This podcast is a weekly roundup of technology news from around the world, along with a focus on a specific topic every week. I like the global coverage of the podcast in contrast to some other podcasts which solely focus on technology in the west. Recent episodes include coverage of India’s moon mission and real-time monitoring of the Amazon rainforest fires.

WSJ’s The Future of Everything

This podcast focuses specifically on futuristic tech which is not commonplace yet. A recent interesting episode was about gene-edited food.

Chips with everything — The Guardian

This is a technology podcast focused on internet and digital culture. Unlike Digital Planet, it has stories from US and Britain only which can be a bit limiting. The latest podcast at the time of writing was about the effects of identity politics on online dating.

Tech Tent

This is yet another technology podcast by the BBC. There is nothing particularly interesting about this one, and often stories in the episodes will have an overlap with the other podcasts in this category. I tend to skip most episodes and selectively listen to episodes that have content that I am interested in.


Other Interesting Stuff

The Compass

The Compass podcast features a series of episodes in succession focusing on a single theme, before moving on to the next topic. This allows for an in-depth exploration of a specific topic. The very first episode I listened to was the inaugural episode in a series covering the regions around the Black Sea. More recently, they covered the state of the news media in places across the world such as India, Ukraine, and the USA.

Throughline

This podcast features deep dives every week into a specific aspect of US history. The most recent episode covers the early history of Puerto Rico (which is virtually a US colony, a fact many don’t know).

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Pop Culture Happy Hour features good coverage of US-based TV shows and movies. I rely on it for recommendations for stuff to watch.

LSE Public Lectures

This is a feed of all recorded events at LSE. It is a mixed bag, but sometimes you stumble upon good stuff. Highlights include a talk about doing ethnography among call center workers and another about the implications of big data in our lives by Cathy O’Neil.

The Story of the Sikhs

In the first season of The Story of the Sikhs, Sarbpreet Singh narrates stories from the lives and times of the first five Sikh Gurus. This is accompanied by evocative poetry – including English translations (written by Singh himself) of passages from Sikh texts such as the Guru Granth Sahib and the Janamsakhis, and soulful renderings of traditional Sikh music known as Gurbani. Prose, poetry, and music thus come together to create a rich and nuanced narrative of the history, culture and philosophy of the revolutionary and far-reaching tradition of Sikhism.

The Knowledge Project

I came across the podcast when I started reading the Farnam Street blog, which is broadly focused on leadership, psychology and decision-making. It features interviews with people working in varied disciplines. Interviews can be long and rambly, but there are some interesting ones – like this one with Jason Zweig about elevating your financial IQ.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

I follow this podcast, but I end up reading the original article instead because it is a lot faster than listening. A recent article that showed up was titled Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman.

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