7 Best Podcasts of November 2017: The Knowledge Edition

Previous Best of Lists:

How does one go about defining the “best” podcasts for a particular month? Perhaps you cross reference the newest podcasts to hit the airwaves and then cross that with some nugget of wow that seemed to stick with you a few days later?

For us, it really comes down to the intangibles. Things like capturing our imagination, not being able to turn it off, and much like a great book that you have to stop reading because the work week or class just started, we can’t wait to get back to it. Entertainment value, sure, but more than that, we can take something away from it. Some knowledge nugget that we find ourselves repeating to friends in conversation.

Or said more simply, it’s sticky.

It sticks in our brains, sticks in our lives, and sticks with our framily (that’s friends + family for those of you playing along at home).

Without further ado, I’ll be your MC tonight. And to amp this up a bit, let’s see if we can stick to the Spotify app with our links so we don’t have you going all over the internet and you can easily click that Follow button.

1. Philosophize This

Truly one of the most interesting podcast concepts we’ve yet to come across. Sure, they’ve been around for four years with over 100 episodes, but they push you start from the very beginning where they break down Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle from an everyday life basis. Like comparing scrambled eggs from Gordon Ramsey or YouTube videos (Episode 5, Aristotle Part 1). It works through Buddha, the Hellenistic Age, Descartes, Leibniz. They’re names we haven’t heard since our undergraduate Philosophy course. With the hindsight of life experience and our own decades of writing, this stuff really starts to hit home. “The unexamined life is not worth living”, and “Why is there something and not nothing?” Philosophy, folks.

2. Civics 101

A relatively recent addition to the podcast family, this little gem started at the beginning of 2017. There’s been so much political turmoil in the world since the election last fall, that sometimes you might be scratching your head wondering what makes all this stuff tick. How are cities and nation states governed? What is the Electoral College and how did it come to be? What is a Political Action Committee (PAC) and how does the Federal Reserve work? Over the course of nearly 70 episodes, you’ll get a crash course in government, politics, intelligence agencies, elected official’s roles in the government, lobbies, budgeting, speechwriting, and a host of other topics. Buckle up, it’s gonna be quite the intellectual ride.

3. Stuff You Should Know

An absolutely massive podcast that goes back nearly ten years (before podcasts were even a thing!), this show has a new episode every few days on how a variety of things work. After all, it’s content created by the How Stuff Works team, so you kinda know what you’re getting into. Some of their more recent episodes, if you’re the kind of person who likes to work backwards in time, include truth serum, how giraffes work (seriously), police body cameras, nude beaches, crayons, frogs, psychopaths, hip hop, shrunken heads and satanism. I mean, with this much eclecticism (can we just agree this is a word?) at work, if you can’t find something that sticks in your noggin’, then somethin’s up doc.

4. Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History

If you’re a reader of The Mission, it’s likely you know Malcolm Gladwell and his various books meant to reshape the way you think about our world. From quick decisions in Blink to the impact of Outliers to his most famous, The Tipping Point, he rarely leaves an audience unsatisfied. So it was with great expectations that we came to his podcast. There are only about 20-ish episodes going back two seasons to the middle of 2016. The theme is topics that are overlooked or misunderstood. Give McDonald’s Broke My Heart a listen. It’s a crusade against saturated fat, the root cause of high cholesterol and when a gentleman in the midwest had a heart attack in his early 40s, he decided to pay for tens of thousands of people to get cholesterol tests. He buys ad space in major newspaper and even a $2.5 million ad in the superbowl. Like whaaat? Take a listen to how it ends.

5. BBC Radio’s In Our Time

We can’t say enough good things about the BBC. This particular podcast is also about as long-running as they come, going all the way back to mid-2010. Only it’s not recent news related as you would expect from this bellwether behemoth, but rather discussing the self-proclaimed “history of ideas”. Recently, episodes have included Purgatory (is it something of our own making?), Plato’s Republic (noticing a trend this month?), Emily Dickinson and Louis Pasteur, and one of my personal favorites from the spring of this year, the Egyptian Book of the Dead. We’re not talking about the version The Mummy with Brendan Frasier. No, we’re talking about the real deal here folks. If you’re looking to learn during your morning commute or a rainy Sunday afternoon, tune in and let go.

6. Waking Up With Sam Harris

A neuroscientist and a philosopher walk into a bar. He says “Ow”. But while the neuroscientist tells you the synaptic pathways that lit up when it happened, the philosopher asks if it even happened in the first place or whether it was part of some futuristic simulation. Of course, in Sam Harris’s case, he represents both sides of that mentality. With an undergraduate degree in philosophy, a doctorate in neuroscience, and a corpus of work that has appeared in nearly every major news publication as well as scientific journals and, of course, on the digital pages of Amazon Kindle, he’s a chap worth listening to. Over the last four years, his podcast has steadily introduced listeners to topics like a nuclear North Korea, the future of intelligence (holla!), and the moral complexity of genetics (CRISPR, anyone?). To say you’ll learn something is a bit of an understatement.

7. The Happiness Podcast

What’s knowledge without a little fun for dessert. Life isn’t all hard work and struggle. Dr. Robert Puff has penned 13 books, hosted a TV program, and yes, got his PhD in happiness (ok, we made up that last part). It’s a few year-old podcast that you’ll probably get the gist of after a few episodes because they’re all about, you guessed it, happiness. But it’s important to find balance in obtaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake and delving deeper into replacing anger and sadness with happiness. Therapy doesn’t have to mean going to see someone in person. It’s really about understanding your own mind, and what drives your actions and decision-making, all in service of you living a better, happier life. This is a great first step to taking the ultimate adventure into your innerverse.


We hope you love these podcasts as much as we do! Let us know your thoughts in the comments. If you enjoyed this article, please clap it up and share so that others can find it!

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