My Favorite Podcasts

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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April 25, 2018

I listen to a lot of podcasts but mainly when I’m driving, traveling, or walking–I can’t listen to them while I’m working (either at work or while writing at home), so I’m perpetually behind since I have a strong preference for longer podcasts and my commute’s only about 30 minutes each way at most.

My podcast listening app of choice is Overcast; its killer feature, imo, is the ability to not just create playlists but to create playlists where you can rearrange the episodes. The last app I was using had a playlist feature but it would order everything by date or by podcast, no option for a custom order. And since I’m perpetually behind and since my mood is highly variable when I’m listening, I like to be able to rearrange episodes based on my mood so I can just start the app in my car and then not have to mess with it because I don’t wish to become one of those dumbasses who dies due to fucking around with their phone while driving. Anyhow. Overcast. I like it. You might, too.

  • Hurry Slowly (hosted by Jocelyn K. Glei)
    I’ve really been enjoying Hurry Slowly since it launched last October; it’s one of the few podcasts that I’m fully caught up on. Glei asks a lot of really great questions of her guests about how they get work done, how they spend their attention, and other aspects of productivity. The production values are fantastic and it’s obvious that Glei puts the show together with a lot of care. She also has a really great newsletter that comes out every week–I almost always learn something from it (and the podcast!).
  • Heaven’s Gate (hosted by Glynn Washington)
    This one will break your heart. It’s about the Heaven’s Gate cult and I learned so much from it. Heaven’s Gate seems to be one of the few cults where the members weren’t abused and exploited for the benefit of the leaders and right to the end, they are a family. Washington is the perfect reporter for this subject, as he grew up in a cult, and the series is full of interviews with surviving family members and former members. It’s full of compassion for not only the families and former members, but for everyone in the cult, too.
  • Ologies (hosted by Alie Ward)
    Alie Ward has long, fascinating conversations with people whose jobs end in -ology. Mostly science types. This is definitely geared to the interested layperson (as that’s what Ward is) and Ward inserts conversational asides to expand upon different points. This one tends to run long, so it’s good for long car drives or walks (it’s often my companion during my lunchtime walk at work).
  • Productivity Alchemy (hosted by Keven Sonney)
    This one’s a lot of fun, if you’re a nerd about productivity tools and planners. Keven Sonney and Ursula Vernon try out different planners and ways of managing their time, talk about how their weeks went, and Ursula usually yells about something. The second half of the show is interviews with various people, mostly people from the SFF field and how they stay organized and productive.
  • Storytelling with Data (hosted by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic)
    I also find this one to be a lot of fun but mainly because one of my happy places at work is making data visualizations. Nussbaumer Knaflic has a long-running blog and a book of the same title, and if you’re interested in learning about best practices in dataviz, this is a good place to start. I’ve seen the graphs and charts that I put together at work as storytelling for a long time, so it was really validating to see it codified–and I learned a lot about new ways to simplify and improve my graphs and charts.
  • What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law (hosted by Roman Mars)
    This is the only political podcast I listen to and it’s not one I listen to regularly (I’m quite a ways behind). I’ve learned a lot about constitutional law and the various limits on the powers of the different branches of government and it’s helped me to contextualize our national shitshow. Also, Roman Mars has the most soothing voice which is basically what you want when listening to this subject.
  • Disgraceland (hosted by Jake Brennan)
    I just started listening to this podcast about musicians who commit crimes and, in some cases, get away with them. It’s a new podcast and as I’m only a couple episodes in, I’m not sure I’m going to keep listening to it, but I want to give it a chance to gain its footing.
  • Ask a Manager (hosted by Alison Green)
    I’m kind of addicted to Green’s blog, Ask a Manager, because I am so here for workplace drama and really sensible answers. I’ve actually learned a lot from Green’s answers to some truly bizarre questions, and I was excited to learn that she was launching a podcast in the lead up to the release of her first book (which I’ve totally pre-ordered). The podcast features a listener question and then some dialogue with Green about the situation and compassionate, well-thought through advice for the situation. Green also provides transcripts.
  • Design Matters with Debbie Millman
    This is a really long running podcast–well over a decade–and much like Hurry Slowly, it’s an interview show with a single person each episode. Millman also asks really great questions of her guests and while the general topic is creativity and design, the conversations go all over the place. This is another one that runs long and is great for long car rides.
  • Dexter Guff is Smarter Than You (And You Can Be Too)
    And finally, the lone comedy podcast in my subscription list. As I think most people know, I have a weird obsession with internet marketing and how people set themselves up as “thought leaders” when they’re really looking to sell their audience stuff–well, this podcast is making fun of that in a ridiculously over the top way and I can only listen in small doses because, honestly, it’s too real. Also, I have to be in just the right mood to listen to funny.

I’m always looking for new podcasts to listen to–what are some of your favorites?

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  1. Joris M

    Some of the podcasts I really enjoy are.
    The History of English, which is slowly going through history exploring how English developed. Using historical events and developments to show how those influenced (what we know of) vocabulary.

    Gastropod, which discusses a wide range of food-related topics.

    No Such Thing as a Fish, is my main comedy podcast. An exploration of strange facts in the news, by some of the people responsible for the research behind the BBC programme QI.

    And as a smaller and quite new one (only 3 episodes in). Celtic Myths and Legends Podcast.

    And in the genre of “People discussing a TV show I haven’t actually watched properly”, which I am fond of as well I do like Little Grey Cells, which is going through the Poirot episodes starring David Suchet.

  2. Jonah Sutton-Morse

    Interesting! Grabbed a couple for Overcast!

    I am loving Still Processing & It’s Been A Minute, still enjoy Flash Forward & PCHH and like BBCs In Our Time a lot. (Why yes, I did grow up on NPR 🙂

    Also Reveal, Citations Needed, and Code Switch, but those tend to the political, so I’m not sure how much you’d enjoy them.

    My SFF favorites are Fangirl Happy Hour & Storyological

  3. Oana

    I love the real stories on The Moth.
    I also really love the hosts of The Guilty Feminist.
    My Canadian guilty pleasure, a mix of law & politics, is The Docket. Last year they did a fantastic 10-episode series on the Making A Murderer documentary, including interviews with defense counsel for Avery.
    For road trips, I like TED Radio Hour.

  4. joopdeloop

    Ear Hustle! Made by a Bay Area artist and San Quentin inmates, it’s “the stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it.” (I’ve had the pleasure of guest teaching several times now to a group of inmates at San Quentin, and I have to say they are one of my favorite audiences- great questions, very attentive, and genuinely appreciative for information.) But even if you don’t have a prior soft spot for these guys, these episodes can be funny, insightful, engaging and honest… I haven’t actually listened to them all yet but I was blown away by Episode 8 and another ep – I can’t remember which but they are talking about what they’d most like to do when they get out and one guy says something like, “To fall in love” and then he clarifies its not the sex he’s talking about, just being able to find someone and hold them. Oh, and get a dog. (Right? I made my 12 yo listen and we both teared up at that one) These podcasts are pretty amazing.


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