My Top 10 Podcasts

It’s March and the makers of all my favorite podcasts are going on a campaign called #trypod. They want me to tell you about podcasts. If you know me in real life (or on Facebook), you know I will tell you…multiple times…all about my favorite podcasts. In any given conversation, I can probably weave in a podcast I heard. I’m just a gem of a friend, really.

So to do my part of #trypod, I am here to tell you, random reader, my top 10 podcast recommendations.

Freakonomics

You’ve probably heard of Freakonomics. They are a series of books written in the early 2000s about how econ is in everything. From how they uncovered cheating in Sumo wrestling to understanding the incentive schemes for kids to succeed in school, they really cover “the hidden side of everything”. A journalist and an economist delve into all kinds of topics and make them easy to understand and FASCINATING.

Episode to Try: This is Your Brain on Podcasts. Honestly trying to name my favorite was hard here. This is handsdown my favorite. I am a Stephen Dubner fangirl. I proudly sport my Freakonomics Radio mug at work daily. This episode is a little meta in how podcasts are awesome for the brain.

My Favorite Murder

I like true crime tales. I’ve mentioned this before. I didn’t really even realize it until I started listening to My Favorite Murder. They are 2 comedians/writers from LA that created a friendship (and then a podcast) about their shared fascination with crime stories. Each normal episode is about 50% babbling about whatever and 50% is them sharing 1 murder (or survival) each. There is humor and gore but through this weird mix, there is a movement to get women to learn more about mental health and safety. I have taken a self defense class because of this podcast and hope you consider it. Being aware is a mantra of the show and goes with their tag line…”Stay Sexy, Don’t Get Murdered”

Episode to Try: Murderous TENdencies – “This week’s topic is “weird murders,” featuring Who Put Bella In the Witch Elm and Richard Chase (The Vampire of Sacramento). Plus murder books and personal stories galore!” That vampire guy is INSANE. Also for more in-depth on the Witch Elm murder, you can check out a recent Unexplained episode (below).

FiveThirtyEight Politics

Tired of listening to the usual politics banter with bias? Do you like data and nerds? FiveThirtyEight is for you! You’ve probably heard of them or at least editor in chief, Nate Silver. They predict everything from elections to basketball scores. The crew has a weekly podcast to discuss ALL THE SHIT that happened the week before in this lovely administration…as data journalists. They interview rational people to explain things and look at it from a historical perspective as well. I have found it keeps me grounded when I start to lose my mind of the most recent news.

Episode to Try: Probably the latest one (they come on Monday evenings). This isn’t one to go back and start from the beginning really since politics changes by the minute. They did recently do a mini series within the weeks about how the parties are positioning now called “Party Time” that can stand along more.

This American Life

This American Life stays in the top 10 on iTunes for a reason. You may have even heard it listening to NPR on Saturdays. Based out of Chicago public radio, the stories have been ongoing for more than a decade. They are the true OGs of podcasting. This is where Serial came from and is just great journalism. The show consists of a few “acts” of stories usually around a theme. Occasionally a story will that up the whole episode. I’ve laughed to tears and poured real tears from the work done on this show. The production quality is top notch and even the music segues are genius.

Episode to Try: The Problem with All Live With Part 1 and The Problem with All Live With Part 2. I realize giving you 2 HEAVY long podcasts together is a lot but there is good reason. I listened to this early on in my podcast love affair while running. I had to stop and cry. This is a look at education in the US from different angles. Its heartbreaking and uplifting and just so fucking good. If I could honestly pick one podcast episode (ok 2) from this entire post, it would be these. Everyone should hear this. Everyone needs to know how it works. (Also shoutout to Wake County schools in episode 2)

Planet Money

Another NPR enterprise, Planet Money looks at all kinds of stuff. Don’t think it is a boring financial podcast. It looks at weird economies you didn’t know existed (did you know aquariums can’t buy fish so there is a giant trading market?). They go really hyperbolic to see what would happen if…(you let an economist design the perfect candidate). And all kinds of just really cool things.

Episode to Try: Dear Economist, I Need a Date. This was a look at a guy that wrote an advice column in the Financial Times. The questions and answers are very analytical and interesting. It made me look at time management more than anything and how much time is worth to you.

Unexplained

Remember “Unsolved Mysteries”? Did you love the intrigue? Do you also enjoy a crisp British accent? Unexplained is for you. It’s all about Unexplained tales of disappearances, ghosts, and more. “A show that explores the space between what we think of as real and what is not.  Where the unknown and paranormal meets the most radical ideas in science today…” Richard MacLean Smith has such a wonderful voice coupled with spooky dead air and creepy music to go along with it. The production is just awesome. He did a live show once and he even did all that live. It was wonderful.

Episode to Try: When the Light Fades -Featuring the mysterious disapperance of the Eilean Mòr Lighthouse Keepers

Note to Self

“Your weekly reminder to question everything.” Is your phone watching you? Can gaming make you smarter? Manoush Zomarodi hosts this short podcast she claims “the tech show about being human”. How is technology affecting us all. She talks to a lot of people in tech but also brings a devils advocate approach to life in tech with it all. She is a mom and is open to explain her weaknesses to find a solution. I find her very relatable even if we don’t always agree.

Episode to Try: The Four Tendencies: How to Feed Good Habits This one is based on a book “The Happiness Project” and how there are 4 basic personalities when it comes to forming good habits and sticking with them. It’s a great reflective episode to make you look and see how your brain processes incentive and goal setting.

Criminal

MORE TRUE CRIME 🙂 Criminal is based out of Durham, NC and looks to tell stories around all parts of the criminal justice system. Some times is great murder tales from 100s of years ago. Some times it is a story about the K9 department in the Hillsborough police department. Or the sketch artist in the John Wayne Gacey trial. They are usually shorter than a lot of podcasts and just tell fascinating stories. Also Phoebe’s voice is so soothing.

Episode to Try: Brownie Lady “Shortly after Meridy Volz moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco, she received a phone call from a friend asking her to take over a small bakery business.  Meridy agreed to run the bakery, but she only wanted to sell one thing: pot brownies.” The tale of this old lady in CA making pot brownies for DECADES.

Head, Heart & Hustle

“Anyone with a side hustle or creative outlet can feel isolated from friends, family, and others around them who just don’t get their passion. That’s why Head, Heart and Hustle exists – to help you feel motivated, learn, and get a pick-me-up of creative energy from other people like you. Every episode we interview a creative individual who doesn’t just pretend to be creative. They’ve rolled up their sleeves and are producing great things because they need to. They know that being creative is part of who they are.” I met the creator of this podcast last year at a conference. It’s a great look at how creativity can be found everywhere. These are great interviews about just that.

Episode to Try: Brandy Mann. A little biased here. Allen came to talk with me last year for this podcast. I talk about creativity in writing, teaching, STEM and everything in between.

What’s The Point?

Data nerd alert. I work for an analytics company so I graivatate towards cool ways data is being used. This podcast comes again from FiveThirtyEight mentioned above. They look at numbers and how they tell a story. The topics range wildly but Jody’s curiosity makes for an excellent listen.

Episode to Try: The Guy Who Predicts Whether A Movie Will Bomb, Months Before It’s Made  Host Jody Avirgan teams up with Grantland’s Andy Greenwald to talk about how the Piedmont Media Research in Hollywood is using data to forecast movies…even before they reach full concept and beyond. Josh Lynn has come up with an algorithm to help film executives figure out how well a movie will do based on some key factors on paper.

So what are you podcast favorites? Are you just starting? Scared to start? I am here to help!

One Comment

  1. “Sword & Scale” is a big one for me, although the more recent episodes have been just “meh.” When I discovered it last year, I binged on my commute when the kids weren’t with me, and while some episodes are just too much to take due to their content, there were a lot of really, really good episodes. Definitely recommend if you want more true crime in your life.

    “S-Town” was just released (from the producers of This American Life and Serial), and it was good. Not what I expected, but still good. And “Missing Richard Simmons” was also ridiculously fascinating.

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