Yesterday, I wrote about the rise of the podcast (it’s actually more like a resurrection – but semantics), and I said that I would prepare a new and/or updated list of podcasts that are worth your time. The original list can be found here.
So I’m going to split this list into the following categories:
- The Will-Not-Miss-An-Episode-For-Money List – being those podcasts whose new episodes rise to the top of the listening queue as soon as they drop (and on release days, I’ll constantly refresh until they become available).
- The I-Just-Want-More-Seasons-Already-Dammit List – being those podcasts who were there for a season, and then ended, and now I’m forced to listen to spin-offs in an effort to replace them.
- The Binge-Listening List – being those podcasts whose back-catalogues I have trawled and trawled to the point where I’ve almost run out of back-catalogue.
- The Binge-Listened-To-Exhaustion List – being those podcasts with such large back-catalogues that I eventually lost my will to listen, and now they stare at me accusingly at the bottom of my subscription pile.
- The Backburner List – being those podcasts that I want to hear more of, but they keep getting pushed down the list due to lack of time.
- And because I can: The Newcomers-That-Might List – being those podcasts that I’ve recently discovered, that might just be awesome, but it’s still a bit soon to tell.
Also, a disclaimer: there are many great podcasts out there (or so I’m told) that revolve around sports/comedy/gadgetry/personal-finance/self-help/parenting. I listen to very few of those. Some, like the comedy podcasts, I’ve tried but never liked. Others, like parenting podcasts, I avoid owing to the general cooing and cloying, and the “I never thought it would be this hard and yet be so worth it” truisms. Also, I’m not a parent, so I guess that doesn’t help.
Let me get started (in today’s post, you get the first two lists):
The Will-Not-Miss-An-Episode-For-Money List
Every Saturday, I wake up, roll over to grab my phone, and download the weekly episode of this podcast (it drops on a Saturday). I then go to boot camp. And once I’m back home and in the kitchen making coffee/breakfast/etc, Slate Money plays in the background, giving me “the finance news of the week”.
Felix Salmon is the main host, along with regulars Cathy O’Neill (a flagrant 99 percenter, Occupy Wall Street organiser and “data scientist”) and Jordan Weissmann (the millenial voice). Felix takes whatever side of the fence everyone else isn’t on – and I do love a contrarian.
In each episode, there are usually three main stories; and then they’ll have a numbers round, where each person brings a figure/statistic that they found interesting that week.
The numbers round may sound boring. But an example: on this Saturday past, Felix brought “$1.8 million” to the table, which was the cost to rent a luxury house in the Hamptons for the summer. At which point, Cathy got crude. And stayed crude for some time.
Pop Culture Happy Hour
PCHH comes out on a Friday – and one of my favourite parts of 2015 is that they’ve recently started scheduling the podcast to come out at midnight American time – as opposed to “sometime in the morning in the US on a Friday”. Which means I get to download it before I even leave for work (as opposed to around lunchtime off the 3G).
The four regulars on this show get together on a Monday/Tuesday evening at the NPR studios in Washington to talk about everything entertaining – entertainingly.
You know how you sometimes find those smart cool friends who are just a delight to spend time with because when plied with wine, they have these conversations with each other that are always hilarious and so elegantly-phrased, with wit and vocabulary and yet entirely-not-pretentious? And you’re just happy to sit there and listen?
That is what PCHH is like.
And when Glen Weldon goes off on a prepared diatribe, I have to stop the car. Because laughing.
New York Times Book Review
There are so many books to read and so little time in which to read them. And apart from not having enough time to read, it’s a problem to choose the books that won’t waste the time that one doesn’t have a lot of.
I’ve tried a number of book review podcasts – and most of them are kind of pointless if you haven’t read the book already; because either the conversation is too detailed, or they give away the story.
But somehow, the NYT Book Review manages to get it right.
Although that shouldn’t be such a surprise. I mean – it’s the New York Times Book Review.
Common Sense with Dan Carlin
The Common Sense episodes come out once a month or so. And in them, Dan Carlin takes the recent major political events (and/or court cases and/or company press releases), and ties them together into this historical narrative.
Firstly, it’s quite awesome to see his mind at work.
But also, you find yourself starting to see the political undercurrents beneath the media froth.
Which isn’t to say that it’s accurate, exactly. There is a clear American bias (which Dan admits to) – but that doesn’t stop my excitement for car trips in traffic when there’s a new Common Sense episode.
The I-Just-Want-More-Seasons-Already-Dammit List
Invisibilia was the podcast that everyone was waiting for at the start of the year. It shot straight to the top of the Podcast charts, and then stayed there – despite the fact that they only delivered a measly six full-length episodes.
But those six episodes were excellent.
According to the show website: “Invisibilia explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”
That might sound a bit loose and New Age – but they did it with science. So, for example, the “Entanglement” episode was about the impact that we have on each other’s lives – but it included quantum mechanics and the seeming impossibility of science proving the existence of two atoms that are the exact same atom, 88 miles apart.
Or like in “How To Become Batman“, where they investigate how your preconception can define your reality – including the neuroscience of how the brains of the blind can learn to see as clearly those with functioning eyesight, just without the differentiation of colour.
Six episodes of mind-blowing, life-changing, excellence.
If you haven’t heard about Serial, then I’m almost jealous that you’re going to get to discover it for the first time.
Sarah Koenig of “This American Life” went off on her own to investigate an old court case from Baltimore, in which 17 year old Adnan Syed was accused and convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
Yes, it gets a lot of hype. But there’s good reason for it – it’s a completely fresh way of experiencing crime drama. It’s a polished and carefully-constructed series of interviews with key witnesses, friends, family, officers and Adnan himself.
Perhaps it sounds like it should be boring – except I spent days in my office, pretending to work, just listening to episode after episode until the series ended.
BBC Pop Up Ideas with Tim Harford
The concept of Pop-Up Ideas is still a bit weird for me: Tim Harford, popping up in public spaces in London, giving impromptu lectures of bits of economic theory.
I was never quite sure why he needed to “pop up” in places, specifically.
Nonetheless, I like anything where Tim Harford is lecturing. He’s most famous for being an author (perhaps most famous for writing “The Undercover Economist”), but I’m not a big fan of his books. Frankly, I think he’s at his best when he’s speaking in public, and especially when he’s giving a speech about the book that he just published. Mainly because it never feels like he had to condense the book into a speech – rather, it tends to feel like he took his speech, and then padded it out into a 150 page book.
And this podcast series was like getting a whole library of Tim Harford books in their best format.
Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and the corporate life in general. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha.