Podcasts: a few personal favourites
If you’re reading this, it’s either because we’ve exchanged some words about podcasts and I said I would send you a list, or just like me, from time to time, you find yourself strolling around the internet in search for podcasts to listen to, always in the hope of finding something new and good. If that’s your case, I hope you feel it was worthy in the end.
So here’s a (potentially growing) list of a few of my personal favourite podcast shows and episodes. Many of them were also recommended by others. So, if you want to contribute to this chain of influence, just drop me a line or add a comment below.
The show responsible for this addiction, was Startup. If you want to give it a try, you should definitely start from the beginning, because it is basically Alex Blumberg’s journey of starting a podcast startup. Yep, totally meta. But this approach makes it feel very honest and real. (Spoiler alert) Eventually, this journey led him to co-found Gimlet media, which was just recently acquired by Spotify. Today, Gimlet holds several podcasts, from which there’s a few that I’m always looking forward to listening to, namely:
Reply all — Let’s just say that they are great at discovering and chasing stories. Try Long Distance, part I and II, The Founder and Zardulu.
Without fail — “Candid conversations with people who have done hard things: what worked, what didn’t and why. Hosted by Alex Blumberg.” The first two episodes, The rise and The fall, with Grupon’s founder Andrew Mason were enough to know I would keep an eye on this show as well.
The habitat — Interesting but with some episodes going too much into a reality-show-nosy direction. But well, I guess that’s in the human nature of having 6 volunteers spending one full-year living “secluded in an imitation Mars habitat”. An initiative to help NASA understand what may life be like once we do reach that planet.
Ear Hustle — Outside Gimlet Media, but still on seclusion: “Ear Hustle brings you stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living in it”. Forget Orange is the new Black and Prison Break. These are real stories from real people.
And if you’re keen to real stories told by those who lived them, you shouldn’t leave The Moth out. More than a podcast, it’s a movement.
99% invisible — through the distinguished voice of Roman Mars, this show is “about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about.” A few episodes I recall:
Inflatable-men — the surprising origin of the wacky inflatable tube men usually seen on street corners, gas stations and shopping malls.
There is a light that never goes out — around a light bulb that’s been on for over 100 years. So if you’re in any way interested in planned obsolescence, I wouldn’t skip this one.
Octothorpe — about the origin of #.
Sound of sports — on the influence Hollywood had in the sound of real sports. Sonic hyperreality, let’s say.
More recently, built on sand — everything is finite, even sand.
And universal page — “Traditionally, books are visual objects”. This episode is around non-visual writing, reading and storytelling. From braille to audiobooks it is an immersive experience to have this subject addressed in a podcast format.
This American life is also a great show to follow, a classic. It’s also where Alex Blumberg is coming from. Try the episode wait — do you have the map?
As for Codebreaker — I would recommend its first season, created around the simple question — Is it evil? — applied to email, going viral, internet porn and the dark web, to mention a few.
You should also check RadioLab, a titan amongst podcasts. A show about curiosity, or as they say “Investigating a strange world”. Usually through a very creative approach to research. They have so many good episodes that it’s unfair to mention only a few, but here goes anyway: The trust engineers, Bit flip and More or less human.
And does Freakonomics Radio ring a bell? It is a reference on behavioral economics. Being it in the shape of the book with the same name or as a podcast, they seem to always look for answers to some of the most difficult-and-mundane questions. Take Here’s why all your projects are always late as an example. And if like me, you enjoyed the book back in 2011, you should listen to Abortion and Crime, Revisited, the authors’ (Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt) original research, being addressed in 2019.
Stephen Dubner, is also a host on Tell me something I don’t know, a knowledge and curiosity driven “new kind of game show” where some very interesting guests share surprising bits of knowledge.
NPR media group’s portfolio of podcasts is also super interesting, including TED Radio hour, Planet money and How I built this, or just randomly, the episode High five revisited from its Neighbors show, where two friends walk over a mile once a week just to give each other a high five, without having to necessarily exchange a word.
And that, seems to be a great way to wrap up this listing. At least for now.
Hope you enjoy it!
Comments and tips are very welcome.
Update – a growing list:
99% – criminal – He’s still neutral.
Radiolab — Man Against Horse.
Reply All – The case of the missing hit , the founder.