Michele Pratusevich

mprat@alum.mit.edu

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February 15, 2017

Favorite Podcasts 2016-2017

I have a 45-minute commute to work (each way) every day, so I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts. Here is a roundup of my favorite podcasts from 2016-2017, organized by category and annotated with average podcast length and a “seriousness scale.”

I have listened to many podcasts and have wasted a few hours listening to some pretty bad ones. Here are some of my favorites - I hope you find something you’re looking for!

Stories / long form journalism:

  • (40 minutes) serious Radiolab - When you think of long-from journalism and storytelling in audio form you think of Radiolab. In a single episode you will experience all emotions from rock bottom to giddy top, all through a single theme or story the hosts tell in a jam-packed 40 minutes. Not for the faint of heart - the topics they cover are often serious and will make you think.
  • (40 minutes) serious Death, Sex, & Money - From WNYC studios, the host picks a topic in the realm of human existence (which can be summarized by either death, sex, or money), and though a series of short stories strung together to form a longer story, dives deep into the personal nitty-gritty. Once in a while an episode is light-hearted, but often it is a serious discussion of all sorts of issues related to the human experience.
  • (40 minutes) serious Serial Season Two - The entire podcast season is devoted to telling a single story. In Season 2 the hosts talk about the story of Bowe Berghdal, a US Army private who was captured in Afghanistan and held by the Taliban for 5 years before his release. Needless to say, this series is very serious. (They also have a Season 1, but I don’t like listening to murder mysteries).

How the world works:

  • (30 minutes) silly DTR - Tinder and Gimlet Creative come together to give you 40 minutes of pure hilarity through stories and case studies of people in the online dating world. The topics mostly cover how dating has changed in the face of technology.
  • (40 minutes) casual Freakonomics - From the authors of the popular book Freakonomics, they dive into why certain trends exist in the world from the perspective of economics. Very accessible to any audience, and I always come away learning something.
  • (20 minutes) casual Planet Money - Another NPR podcast talks about stories related to the economy, spending, or money, but tells it in an easy way that is engaging to listen to.
  • (40 minutes) serious More Perfect - The creators of Radiolab decided to make a serious podcast that dove into the legal cases that form the precedents for how the US Supreme Court and justice system work. As of this writing there is only one season, but each episode dives into a story about a seminal but little-know Supreme Court justice or court case from American history.

Trivia:

  • (40 minutes) silly Good Job Brain! - A weekly (less recently, since they’ve been writing a book that is also awesome) quiz show / trivia podcast hosted by 4 tech workers from SF. Each episode is themed around a topic, and there is usually a joke about poop somewhere. Very funny!
  • (40 minutes) silly No Such Thing As A Fish - A (nearly) weekly British podcast centered around hilarious news stories of the week, filled with quips and laughs.
  • (40 minutes) silly Tell Me Something I Don’t Know - A live show hosted in New York City, where famous people and “regular audience members” compete for having the most interesting fact. Hosted by Steven Dubner, one of the hosts / authors of Freakonomics.

Science and technology:

  • (20 minutes) casual Hidden Brain - An NPR podcast that talks about a human behavior phenomenon and attempts to explain it from the perspective of sociology, psychology, or neuroscience. The episodes are told in story format, and you come away thinking about how the episode might apply to your own life.
  • (40 minutes) serious Reply All - This podcast claims to be about the internet. Really, it’s about interesting stories that are facilitated by the internet, discussing weird technological glitches, crowdsourcing miracles, memes, and much much more. The hosts are very entertaining, but I give this a serious rating because the topics discussed are often deep.
  • (40 minutes) serious Talking Machines - One of the few podcasts out there discussing machine learning, it is hosted by Ryan Adams, a professor at Harvard. In each episode he discusses a topic from machine learning, and has a guest speaker with him to debate and discuss. If you don’t know anything about machine learning, this one is going to be pretty boring.

Entrepreneurship:

  • (15 minutes) casual The Distance - A quick short podcast where each episode highlights a small family business that has been around for a long time (usually over 20 years or multiple generations). The host tells the story of the business, including interviewing the owners, giving background on the business, and highlighting successes / failures.
  • (40 minutes) _casual The Financial Independence Podcast - The Mad Fientist hosts a personal finance blogger as a guest to the podcast to talk about their story in personal finance or reaching financial independence. These guys are not professionals, so it is just a conversation between two average people about their financial plans and goals. I can understand if this is not your cup of tea ;)
  • (40 minutes) serious The Side Hustle Show - Hosted by Nick, a dynamic and bouncy host who has worked on side hustles for years, The Side Hustle Show features a successful entrepreneur in each episode who has a unique story. The conversation involves discussing how others can learn from other people who have been successful in building a business.

Enjoy! What podcasts do you like?

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