Michele Pratusevich

mprat@alum.mit.edu

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August 17, 2018

Favorite Podcasts 2017-2018

As I move from a driving commute to a biking commute, I anticipate my podcast consumption to decrease over the coming years. As a followup to my previous post of podcasts I listen to from 2016-2017, here is the 2017-2018 list, 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:

This is by far my favorite kind of podcast format, tried and true. I devour this stuff, adding a few new podcasts in the regular mix from last year.

  • (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 Covert - Stories of the most dangerous military operations of all time from various different governments. The episodes often come in two parts and will keep you on your toes the entire time!
  • (40 minutes) serious Ear Hustle - This is the most unique podcast I’ve definitely heard. It is produced by an inmate in San Quentin prison in CA (together with Radiotopia) all about live in prison. Most of the episodes are serious, but they are absolutely riveting.
  • (40 minutes) serious Mafia - These are long-form stories about historical mafia figures from American history, their stories, and how they got caught.

How the world works:

Who doesn’t love analysis of social behavior? This list is nearly identical to last year’s - these podcasts are timeless.

  • (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.
  • (40 minutes) serious 99% Invisible - Roman Mars takes on the underlying design and architecture of our world. The descriptions are detailed and very interesting!
  • (30 minutes) serious Code Switch - Gene and Shereen from NPR take on race in America. They discuss various topics related to race, always respectfully, and always from the heart.
  • (30 minutes) serious Rough Translation - The host talks about foreign stories, told in the context of different cultures. You don’t hear these kinds of stories in American news!
  • (20 minutes) casual Why We Eat What We Eat - Short anecdotes about food and eating habits. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like they are producing any new episodes.

Trivia:

Unfortunately in this category, I have not found any good podcasts! My perennial favorite, Good Job Brain!, has stopped producing new episodes, and it turns out that No Such Thing As A Fish perfectly puts me to sleep!

If you have good trivia podcast recommendations, please send them my way.

Science and technology:

The only big change from last year was that the Talking Machines podcast got boring, so I stopped listening!

  • (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.

Entrepreneurship:

In a change from last year, I have given up listening to this category of podcast. I decided I don’t want to buy into the internet marketing / click-bait world, and am content working in startups (where I get enough entrepreneurship).

Gardening and Homesteading:

This is a new category added for 2017-2018. As I’ve gotten more interested in growing my own food / local agriculture, I’ve been listening to more and more of these kinds of podcasts!

  • (40 minutes) casual Living Homegrown with Theresa Loe - Theresa Loe talks about canning, gardening, organic vegetables, etc. in an easy-to-approach away. She often does interviews with experts, who are equally approachable and explain things easily.
  • (40 minutes) casual The Modern Homesteading Podcast - The podcast host talks about homesteading essentials, and always brings in personal anecdotes from his own homestead. Because they are personal stories, the lessons learned are real, solid advice.

Enjoy! What podcasts do you like?

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2018 August 17 -- Favorite Podcasts 2017-2018

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2017 February 15 -- Favorite Podcasts 2016-2017

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