#TryPod: My Top 9 Podcasts Lately (And, Why I Love Them)

For someone who once said he didn’t want to “bother” listening to podcasts, I’ve started regularly listening to about 20 of them over the last year.

My original rationale was that podcasts would just add more noise into my life. As a writer and a creative, I was concerned that I might be inundated with narration and perspectives that would “disconnect” me from hearing my own voice, perspective and ideas. That’s one reason why I only subscribe to 3 or 4 blog newsletters.

Wouldn’t podcasts “clog up” more of my attention? And distract me from my own ideas?

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve come to adore podcasts.

And, while I’m still choosey about which voices and perspectives influence my attention-span, the podcasts that I’ve come to love genuinely fuel me and my creativity.

From storytelling to entertainment, education to conversation-based, creative sparks, journalistic reporting, soulful morsels, and just plain ol’ fun, these are my top podcasts lately.

If you want to try podcasts out for yourself, here’s where I’d recommend you begin…

#1 – This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio show which reaches some 4 million national listeners weekly. My sister told me she only listens to the latest episode when she’s anticipating the potential for crying — I understand her point. These journalistic stories are powerful, ranging from humorous to political to completely, utterly heart-wrenching. And? They’re worth the listen, every time.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: Educational, timely, informative, emotionally-stirring, socially and culturally resonant.
  • Great For Listening: Mellow moods; quiet weekends; to switch “mental” gears; breaking up the day.

#2 – Crimetown

As a native Rhode Islander, I was fully prepared to dislike Crimetown. When I found out that a podcast (from one of my favorite podcast producers, Gimlet Media) was making a show about the crime history of Providence, I was expecting outsider-gloating around my home state’s notorious run of corruption and organized crime. Crimetown proved me wrong.

Sure, it doesn’t paint Rhode Island in a terrific light, but the breadth, depth, and range of quality stories told in Crimetown makes it a uniquely human showcase of interesting people — some deplorable, some crooked, and others just trying to live their lives.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: It hits close to home; historical-drama; compelling narratives; expertly produced stories.
  • Great For Listening: The commute home from work; while cooking dinner; cleaning around the house.

#3 – Freakonomics Radio

Like his best-selling book, Freakonomics, co-author Stephen J. Dubner’s podcast explores “the hidden side of everything”, especially from psychological and behavioral economics points of view. If you’re curious about how human behavior influences actions, buying patterns and economics on a big or small scale, this very entertaining and accessible podcast will inform you while sparking nuggets of self-knowledge on your own behavior.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: Intellectually stimulating; educational and curiosity-sparking; friendly and lighthearted.
  • Great For Listening: Heading to work; on the way to a lunch meeting; running errands in the car; on spacious mornings.

#4 – The Football Ramble

So, I’m kind of an Anglophile. And though I never played soccer in high school or college — or, really care about soccer in the U.S. — I have had a love affair with English soccer (henceforth properly referred to as football) for years. English football has represented to me a wonderful mixing pot of fantastical athleticism with globalism and uniquely English culture and wit. The Football Ramble is an authentic show of football lovers that ushers you into the heart of the drama of football with hilarity.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: Deeper context for English soccer stories; culturally unique; fun, humorous, feel-good listening.
  • Great For Listening: Weekends around the house; taking a mental break from work; just to lighten the mood.

#5 – How I Built This

It’s *not* your typical, “listen to entrepreneurs back-pat themselves about their success” kind of stories. Host Guy Roz introduces you to high achieving entrepreneurs for candid conversations about their own experiences in life, business and beyond. I think I love this pod because the stories revolve around the humans telling them, and don’t get into cliche advice for entrepreneurs like, “How to do what I did.” It’s called “How I Built This,” after all.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: Educating and informative; creatively inspiring; takes some mystery out of big brand successes.
  • Great For Listening: To break up a work day; self-motivation; business ideas and creative brainstorming.

#6 – Missing Richard Simmons

Everyone knows the public personality Richard Simmons, but do we know the man? A few years ago, the renowned fitness instructor suddenly removed himself from the public spotlight. So one of his friends tried — and is trying — to find out what changed, or what happened. The pseudo-investigative podcast presents itself as storytelling mixed with an attempt to reach out to the inaccessible Simmons himself. My hope is that the pod helps us to think about “celebrities” and public figures as human.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: A very different kind of podcast genre; mixes nostalgia with first-hand experiences.
  • Great For Listening: Cooking dinners on weekdays; early evenings between work and home; quiet weekends.

#7 – Hidden Brain

How do our brains work, consciously and subconsciously? Host Shankar Vedantam brings in guests and tells stories around the unconscious patterns and machinations of the brain that drive human behavior. Sometimes journalistic, at other times exposé, Hidden Brain will teach you more about yourself, your psychology, and the root of how we live out our lives.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: Educational and humbling; journalistic storytelling; must-know stuff for self-awareness.
  • Great For Listening: During workdays; for a boost of motivating energy; over lunch break.

#8 – The Watch

Although my kid sister works in Hollywood, I’ve never taken much of an interest in the industry. That’s until I came across The Watch pod, which mostly revolves around discussion of television shows, but also explores movies, music, and the changing landscape of digital and new media.

I love watching a television show (like Game of Thrones) alongside the podcast as hosts Andy and Chris dissect it week to week. And yet, even if I’m not watching their show of the moment, I thoroughly love their personal perspectives on television, namely their insights on how industry, culture and money shape the changing landscapes of modern art.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: Industry influences on art, expression and new media; for creative inspiration; easy, fun listening.
  • Great For Listening: Late nights on the couch; settling in before sleep; temporary escape from heavy news headlines.

#9 – Note to Self

This is one of my newer podcasts, hosted by Manoush Zomorodi, who examines the affect of technology on everyday life. Sure, a lot of the conclusions often feel like “Technology is destroying us!” but that’s not the aim of the show, or the implication of its host. Exploring the realities of tech and media on our everyday lives, this pod challenges you to examine how we use and embrace tech — and challenges you to release yourself from what’s not necessary.

  • Subscribe to the Pod: iTunes Link (Non-Affiliate)
  • Why I Love the Pod: Cutting edge conversations and examinations on the affect of modern technology.
  • Great For Listening: While cooking dinner; early evenings on the couch; cleaning around the house.

Honorable Mentions

Here are 10 more podcasts I subscribe to — some are seasonal shows (they present new episodes, then go dark for a while), while others have simply sunk down from the “top” of my attention list, lately. It’s nothing against them. There are just a lot of amazing stories, shows and ideas to enjoy in the world of modern podcasting.

Check these out, too, and let me know your favorites!

  1. Heavyweight: A show of stories for “imagining how it could have been.”
  2. Planet Money: “The economy, explained, with stories and surprises.”
  3. Men in Blazers: “We discuss football. And wear blazers. Usually at the same time.”
  4. Revisionist History: Malcolm Gladwell goes back and reinterprets something from the past. An event. A person. An idea.
  5. Undone: Stories we thought were over, but were the beginning of something else.
  6. The Moth: “Thousands of true stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.”
  7. TED Radio Hour: “A journey through fascinating ideas” … based on talks “on the world-renowned TED stage.”
  8. Reply All: “A show about the internet. And trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more.”
  9. 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy: “Inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world we live in.”
  10. Radio Lab: “An investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea.”

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