Michele Pratusevich

mprat@alum.mit.edu

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February 9, 2020

Favorite Podcasts 2018-2019

What is now becoming an annual tradition, here is my list of favorite podcasts from 2018-2019. See my 2016-2017 post and 2017-2018 post for comparison!

I am still driving to work, but less often now, so there are not too many additions to my classics from last year.

As usual, this list is 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 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 We Crashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork - After WeWork went up in a firey ball of investor losses, Wondery made a podcast to explore exactly why. I love long-form journalism and storytelling, so this fits my style perfectly.
  • (40 minutes) serious Gangster Capitalism - An in-depth story about the college admission’s scandal from 2018 and the mastermind behind it, it is a serious story about rich families and college admissions. I personally was not satisfied with the ending, but the story was a great one to listen to.

How the world works:

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

  • (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.
  • (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!

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.

Food:

This is a new category added for 2018-2019. I’ve been getting more into cooking, food, and baking, and my podcast preferences reflect that.

  • (40 minutes) casual Savor - The two hosts love food, and talk about the history of food, where it comes from, and what is interesting about it. It combines trivia, history, and food - 3 of my favorite things. The two hosts also have a great rapport, and their banter makes things interesting!
  • (25 minutes) casual Inside Trader Joe’s - This is a branded podcast from Trader Joe’s talking about how they run their business. Good thing it’s centered around food! Trader Joe’s has a unique business model and a unique approach to food, so it combines business and food from the inside. Unlike other branded podcasts, this is NOT an advertisement for Trader Joe’s.

Enjoy! What podcasts do you like?

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