A smooth jazzy intro, a necessary sponsor ad and then the crisp, smart, comforting voices of your favorite podcast hosts as they launch into a 30 to 60 minute chat about a totally engrossing topic, and suddenly you’ve forgotten that this is your third hour spent organizing files for zero money at your summer internship. The mind-numbing repetitiveness of both typical internship work and the shuffle function on our outdated playlists have left many of us to turn to podcasts. The world of podcasts is a thriving, busy, exciting one, full of momentum and massive talent, which can make discovering your new favorite challenging. Here are just a few suggestions:
But before I dive in … listen to Serial.
Unless you were studying abroad in a cave or challenging yourself to a technology-free year, you probably spent a good part of 2014 obsessed with the story of Adnan Syed and the murder of Hae-Min Lee. But if for some reason you missed it, listen to it because it’s culturally relevant and it’s seriously that good, and also because host Sarah Koenig will be here at Cal Performances next March. Anyway …
If you did listen to and currently miss Serial, Criminal might be just the thing to fill the true-crime-radio hole in your heart. It features “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” It’s the perfect way to get your well-curated and excellently narrated dose of deception, murder and mystery.
Jeff O’Neal hosts this podcast about “interesting people who love books.” The writer guests are largely small names, but they are always as interesting as he promises, and the intimate chats about the given writer’s third-grade reading award or what the writer’s father liked to read, as well as what these smart cool people are reading right now, are always a treat.
99% Invisible explores the world of design, a surprisingly nebulous and flexible subject, which allows host Roman Mars to explore everything from the local Winchester Mystery House (very fun) to the color of money, Freud’s couch and inflatable men.
You know the evil king gossip, obscure moon hoaxes and in-depth histories of sea-monkeys and narcolepsy that your survey course doesn’t have time for and that your GSI insists is less important than the grand themes of history? Stuff You Missed in History Class makes time for them, and you’ll be really happy that they do.
This KCRW podcast takes a cue from the super famous and completely wonderful This American Life (check it out if you haven’t!), and there’s nothing wrong with that. Host Bob Carlson explores true documentary stories tied to a particular theme. Topics range from the broad (family, lies, love) to the incredibly specific (the ghost of actor Montgomery Clift).
Much like the book you read for AP Economics or for your own enjoyment, if that’s your thing, the Freakonomics podcast makes the often abstract and difficult world of economics incredibly accessible. Hosted by co-author and journalist Stephen Dubner with co-author and economist Steven Levitt as a frequent guest, the podcast draws attention with grabby topics such as “What Do Medieval Nuns and Bo Jackson Have in Common?” or “Is College Really Worth it?” (We sincerely hope it is.)
It’s a fairly uncontroversial stance to assert that everything NPR does is awesome. Listen to all of it! But Pop Culture Happy Hour is particularly fun. Pop culture editor Linda Holmes and three other NPR contributors — who are sharp, smart and experienced but also entirely unpretentious and also really good friends with each other — spend an hour every Friday chatting and making each other laugh and making you feel like you’re one of their friends, even though you’re a total stranger being forced to enter information into a database for no pay. They talk about everything from Mad Men to Avengers to The Bachelorette, finishing up each episode with “what’s making them happy this week.” Always a nice way to start the weekend.
Image source: francois schnell