By Sarah Clifford
Nov. 28, 2018: This month we reached out to learn about some of our readers' favorite podcasts and put together a list of over twenty-five. While doing our research, we also got responses such as "what exactly is a podcast?" and "how do you get them?" So we thought we’d share some basics. For a little more detail, click here for a primer from Wired magazine.
What is a podcast? A podcast is an audio program that you can download onto your phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic device. Podcasts are typically in a series format. Many radio programs are available as podcasts.
Why listen to a podcast? The great thing about a podcast is that it’s audio on demand. You can listen to exactly what interests you when you want--walking the dog, driving the car, taking the train or plane, working out...whenever. In addition, many podcasts are free.
How do you listen to a podcast? Podcasts are typically downloaded onto and listened to via apps. There are a number of podcast apps with varying features, some free and some for a one-time small fee. Podcast apps are typically built into cell phones. For example, iPhones have Apple Podcasts, and Android phones have Google Podcasts in Google Play. Podcasts can also be listened to on the websites that produce or host them.
Where can you find podcasts? You can find suggestions for podcasts on podcast apps and in online lists such as ours below. Many radio shows and publications have their own podcasts. Many of the podcasts below are produced or distributed by National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Public Radio Exchange, American Public Media, or local public radio stations.
Over twenty-five podcasts were recommended to us. They are listed below in alphabetical order and the names are linked to the websites where you can find them. Next to the title is a description of the podcast from its website or the website of its host and in some cases a reader's comment.
Best of Both Worlds. "Hosts Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It and a mom of four, and Sarah Hart-Unger, a practicing physician, blogger, and mom of three, discuss work/life balance, career development, parenting, time management, productivity, and making time for fun." Reader comment: "Inspiring for professionals and moms who are managing opportunities and challenges."
Big Brains. "Some of the biggest discoveries and insights changing our world for the better have happened at the University of Chicago. Meet the pioneering thinkers behind those big ideas on Big Brains. Their stories will change how you see the world."
Bon Appétit. "Featuring interviews with chefs, writers, and, well, anyone who has something cool to say about food." Reader comment: "It’s fun, funny, and informative."
The Daily. "This is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism." Reader comment: "Deeper look at specific current events; pulls the curtain back and also draws you in emotionally; fun to listen to."
Dirty John. Dirty John is a six-part series of investigative journalism by host LA Times reporter Christopher Goffard about a true-crime story that a reader calls "truly riveting."
Freakonomics. "Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do)—from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything. Dubner speaks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and various other underachievers." Reader comment: "Based on the book by Stephen Dubner, which we liked—analyzes conventional wisdom and how it is often wrong."
Here's the Thing. "Award-winning actor Alec Baldwin gives the listener unique entrée into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers." Reader comment: "Interesting interview candidates ... like Ben and Jerry."
Hidden Brain. "Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships." Reader comment: "Interesting and relevant topics."
How I Built This. "Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built." Reader comment: "It’s inspiring to hear entrepreneurs’ stories … to see that businesses don’t get built overnight and that many people fail in different ways and capacities before they have success. I also just love knowing more about the people behind the companies that I enjoy in my everyday life. After listening to HIBT, you feel like you can do anything you put your mind to, and that’s a great feeling."
Katie Couric. "Getting to what matters. That’s what Katie Couric does best. She asks the questions you’d ask and pushes for real answers. She helps make sense of a crazy world. And now she’s bringing her thoughtful, relatable style (along with the occasional show tune) to the world of podcasting. Join Katie and her co-host Brian Goldsmith as they talk to the most fascinating people in news, politics, and pop culture. New personalities, new insights, and new episodes—every Thursday."
Masters of Scale. "Masters of Scale is an original podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and investor at Greylock. In each episode, Reid shows how companies grow from zero to a gazillion, testing his theories with legendary leaders." Reader comment: "Inspiring stories about entrepreneurs' roads to success, e.g., Danny Meyer."
Modern Love. "Modern Love: The Podcast features the popular New York Times column, with readings by notable personalities and updates from the essayists themselves. Join host Meghna Chakrabarti (WBUR) and Modern Love editor Daniel Jones (NYT)—and fall in love at first listen." The program's tagline is "true stories of love, loss and redemption."
The Moth Podcast. "The Moth Podcast features re-airs of all new episodes of The Moth Radio Hour, plus additional stories." "The Moth Radio Hour features true stories told live on stage without scripts, notes, props or accompaniment. Moth storytellers stand alone, under a spotlight, with only a microphone and a roomful of strangers. Each hour mixes humorous, heartbreaking, and poignant tales that captivate, surprise, and delight with their honesty, bravery, and humor."
On Being. On Being, with host Krista Tippett, is "a pursuit of the ancient and enduring human questions that gave rise to our spiritual traditions and resonate through every institution anew in this century: what does it mean to be human, how do we want to live, and who will we be to each other?" Reader comment: "Always makes me think."
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. "Awaken, discover and connect to the deeper meaning of the world around you with SuperSoul. Hear Oprah’s personal selection of her interviews with thought-leaders, best-selling authors, spiritual luminaries, as well as health and wellness experts. All designed to light you up, guide you through life’s big questions and help bring you one step closer to your best self." Reader comment: "Most recent guest was Michelle Obama on her book Becoming. Lots of inspiring guests."
The People's Pharmacy. "Everything from home remedies to the latest breakthrough drugs [is] discussed on The People's Pharmacy. Pharmacologist Joe Graedon and medical anthropologist Terry Graedon talk to leading experts to discuss issues relating to drugs, herbs, home remedies, vitamins and related health topics." Reader comment: "Health advice on everything from yoga to getting kids to eat healthy."
Planet Money. "The economy explained. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, 'Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy.' Now imagine that's actually a fun evening." Reader comment: "It talks about relevant and topical issues with wit and humor and in a way that appeals to all audiences. Makes economics easy to understand and fun."
Pop Culture Happy Hour. "Pop Culture Happy Hour is a fun and freewheeling chat about the latest movies, television, books, comics and music."
Radiolab. "Radiolab, with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, is a radio show and podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries." Reader comment: "Radiolab is science explored in a creative and informative manner with hosts who are genuinely curious about the world."
Recode Decode. "One of tech's most prominent journalists, Kara Swisher is known for her insightful reporting and straight-shooting style. Listen in as she hosts hard-hitting interviews about the week in tech with influential business leaders and outspoken personalities from media, politics and more." Reader comment: "She’s a terrific interviewer."
Stay Tuned with Preet. "Join Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney who fought corruption, financial fraud and violent crime, in a series about justice and fairness."
Studio 360. "The Peabody Award-winning show and podcast about creativity, pop culture, the arts and ideas hosted by novelist and journalist (and 'Spy' magazine co-founder) Kurt Andersen."
TED Talks Daily. "Want TED Talks on the go? Every weekday, this feed brings you our latest talks in audio format. Hear thought-provoking ideas on every subject imaginable—from artificial intelligence to zoology, and everything in between—given by the world's leading thinkers and doers." Reader comment: "Insightful, inspiring, and topics for every interest."
This American Life. "Mostly we do journalism, but an entertaining kind of journalism that's built around plot. In other words, stories! Our favorite sorts of stories have compelling people at the center of them, funny moments, big feelings, surprising plot twists, and interesting ideas. Like little movies for radio." Reader comment: "Compelling, insightful, well researched, expertly told stories that never cease to enlighten and always make me laugh out loud. Like a good book, once I start an episode, I can’t put it down. By the end, I will have run the gamut of emotions—every time."
Whistlestop. "John Dickerson of Slate’s Political Gabfest revisits a moment from the American carnival of politics. Hear about the grand speeches, emergency strategies, baby kissing, and backstabbing that make each presidential cycle so fascinating." Reader comment: "John Dickerson’s podcast about the presidency ... great podcast about presidential events I remember but didn’t really understand."
Wow in the World. "Hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz guide curious kids and their grown-ups on a journey into the wonders of the world around them. We'll go inside our brains, out into space and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology." Reader comment: "Great science podcast that my son asks for in the car."
Pictured here (rotating): Icons for Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.