The best podcasts you should listen to this week

Sara Blakely, inventor of Spanx

By Jaclyn Schiff and Simon Owens

Do you love listening to podcasts but are overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices out there? Have you subscribed to way more podcasts than you could ever listen to and don’t want to miss the best episodes? AudioTeller is a weekly newsletter that tells you the can’t-miss episodes you absolutely need to download. To have this newsletter delivered to your inbox, sign up here.

Let’s jump right into this week’s podcast recommendations:

From Jaclyn Schiff, AudioTeller co-editor:

The story behind the invention of Spanx [link]

The debut episode of NPR’s new How I Built This podcast features Sara Blakely discussing the fascinating history of how she came up with the idea for Spanx and then built the popular undergarment for women. Guy Raz hosts the show and gently guides Blakley to reveal her story. If you like the story-behind-the-story accounts, this episode — and probably this show in general — will greatly appeal to you. But don’t expect an in-depth deconstruction of the twists and turns in making Spanx into a recognized brand.

From Renan Borelli, director of audience growth and engagement at MTV News:

A media reporter interviews a media reporter about the media [link]

Peter Kafka, Senior Editor at Recode, is one of the news industry’s best media reporters. The Recode Media With Peter Kafka podcast is one of a select few shows about the media that asks tough questions of their guests (another being the Digiday Podcast with Brian Morrissey), and Kafka is a really knowledgeable interviewer who pulls no punches. Last week, he interviewed the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter, himself a top media reporter formerly of the New York Times and They discuss much of CNN’s controversial coverage of the 2016 election, with an emphasis on how the network covers Donald Trump and the hiring of Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Kafka asks the questions you’d die to ask someone at CNN, and to his credit, Stelter handles them with aplomb. Let’s hope Kafka gets CNN chief Jeff Zucker on the podcast sometime soon.

From Michele Cox, neuroscience PhD student at Vanderbilt University

A tale of two Sonias [link]

While the host of Death, Sex & Money in on maternity leave, guests are hosting the show. The team asked past interviewees to interview someone they’ve always wanted to talk to. In this episode, Sonia Manzano, a.k.a. Maria from Sesame Street, interviews Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Both Sonias grew up in the Bronx and apparently hated their first names. It’s a joy listening to the two women connect over their shared experiences, laugh about life, and really get into the hard stuff — losing family members to drugs and alcohol, feeling insecure in the face of success.

Bonus: While I was working on this week’s recommendation, “David from the IRS” called to inform me that the “IRS has issued a warrant for my arrest.” I might have freaked out were it not for a Planet Money podcast I had heard back in May.

Would you use time travel to solve and prevent crime? [link]

In partnership with Note to Self, Radio Lab investigates a remarkable new technology that gives crime-fighters virtual control of space and time, allowing police to solve and prevent some of the most intractable crimes. However, are the potential benefits worth the sacrifice in privacy and civil rights? In typical Radio Lab style, the team jumps right into this moral question, and you can hear how each contributor wavers as we learn more and more about this technology. Personally, I found the actually technology as fascinating as the moral implication.

The main part of this episode aired last year, and this release includes an update about how this technology is being used in Baltimore at this very moment. To listen to the update only, start at 27:50.

From Sriram Gopal, music writer for DCist:

Socially conscious hip-hop in activism [link]

I saw the comedian Hari Kondabolu perform last week, and as a result I discovered Politically Re-Active, a podcast he co-hosts with fellow comic, W. Kamau Bell. The podcast mirrors each of their sensibilities, combining a biting sense of humor with the social justice issues of the day. All of the episodes are entertaining and informative, but for anyone new to the podcast, check out the recent episode, Jasiri X: Hip Hop and the Movement, which explores the role of socially conscious hip-hop in activism. Jasiri X is a Pittsburgh-based rapper who is affiliated with Black Lives Matter. The episode also provides the listener a brief history of conscious hip hop music.

From Simon Owens, AudioTeller co-editor:

Is the media grading Trump on a curve? [link]

Earlier this year I made a choice to swap out Slate’s Political Gabfest as my go-to politics podcast for FiveThirtyEight’s Election Podcast. The former had too much of the milquetoast, conventional wisdom punditry that plagues Beltway media (it was obvious that John Dickerson, now anointed as host of CBS’s Face the Nation, was too afraid to ever express an actual honest-to-god opinion) and the latter actively disdains the view-from-nowhere bullshittery that results in political reporting making you want to gouge your eyes out. Recently, the podcast took up a topic I’ve seen ricocheting around Politics Twitter: Is the media grading Donald Trump on a curve? Why are minor “gaffes” from Clinton being placed on equal measure against a guy who literally wants to ban entire ethnicities from entering the U.S.?

Malcolm Gladwell is angry [link]

Last year, famed author Malcolm Gladwell made headlines when he launched a series of angry tweets about the news of a billionaire donating $400 million to Harvard’s endowment. In this episode of his Revisionist History podcast, he digs in further, directly confronting the president of Stanford about rich people’s propensity for donating to Ivy League schools that don’t need the money. Using a soccer analogy, he explains this kind of philanthropy isn’t actually philanthropy and why those billionaires should be donating to mid-tier schools instead.

Thanks for reading (and hopefully listening to our recommendations). Think we missed a great episode? Email us at Want to have this list delivered to your inbox every week? Go here.

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