My favourite podcasts

30 Nov

I walk to work everyday, about 40 minutes each way, which is why I have become an avid fan of podcasts. I have learnt a lot from these ones – learnt, laughed and cried (honestly). So here’s my shortlist of long-term favourites, along with a few highlighted careers-related episodes.

Planet Money – NPR

What caused the recession? What happened to the people who caused the recession? What is a toxic asset? Why do people buy gold? What drives the rising cost of healthcare?

Each of the podcasts tells a story. They take economics down to the level of the individual, interviewing the average person – a retiree defaulting on a mortgage, a mortgage lender who thought home prices would just keep rising, a banker who lost millions/billions on mortgage bonds. The human touch brings the stories to life, making the economics easy to understand, and bringing a new perspective on the news.

And of course I must not forget the presenters, who always bring a positive, inquisitive and open approach to even the least promising topics.


This American Life – Chicago Public Media

A perennial favourite, this is the podcast that makes me cry. Not every time – the stories aren’t always sad, but they are very real and told with a perfect touch. They are all well-researched, on diverse topics… Hard to explain the greatness though. It is a bit like Home Truths I think, but then again, not quite.

There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe. (From their About page)

Apparently it is America’s most popular podcast if that helps encourage you to try it (and I must insist you do). And again, the presenters are ever engaging and uplifting – just what you need on the commute.

I’m not recommending any particular older episodes here because it costs to download from the archive, just subscribe to the new ones – they’re free 🙂

Radiolab – WNYC

Radiolab is fairly science-y, but only softly. It mixes up theory, experiment, ideas, questions and art to explore questions of life and living. One of the most intriguing features of this podcast is the use of sound-art – I loved the episode on time with a piece where you can hear a baby growing into a teenager within a matter of minutes – powerful stuff.

Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

For me there are only a couple of minor irritations, first the usual science documentary tendency to describe everything as amazing, second there are times when the presenters too obviously act naive to introduce a more basic explanation of a topic, but I am nit-picking.

Not sure I remember any directly careers-related podcasts, but this one on Choice might interest Careers Advisers.

Does anyone have any favourites they’d recommend?


6 Responses to “My favourite podcasts”

  1. Elizabeth (Careers Service) December 1, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    I download the Friday Night Comedy podcast from Radio 4 and save it so I can laugh (literally) in the face of Arriva Trains Wales if they only send 2 carriages on a Monday morning and I have to stand.

    Not sure if a bunch of (normally) blokes talking about music is of any interest but I also listen avidly to the Word Magazine podcast and relive the days when David Hepworth and Mark Ellen were on the OGWT.

    • helencurry December 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestions Elizabeth, I’m subscribing to both of them now.

      The trains are terrible aren’t they, especially with the snow. I realised that I got back 1.5 hours late on Sunday evening, and was actually pleased with that service – must be some kind of Stockholm syndrome.

  2. David Winter December 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    I completely agree with This American Life and RadioLab. I’d not heard about Planet Money, must investigate.

    One of my favourites is More or Less (BBC Radio 4 – It’s a programme about statistics in the news. That doesn’t sound particularly engaging but it’s a really interesting programme and it makes you question the so-called facts that are trotted out by public figures.

    • helencurry December 2, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

      Oh yes, I forgot More or Less, I think I lost track of it when I changed ipods. I have started using my ipod nano instead of my grown-up ipod, and it is limited in space. For some reason whenever space gets tight, itunes by default proposes wiping off all the podcasts and filling it up with its own selection of music, sigh. But the nano allows me to track my daily steps on Nike+ so I am using it more and more, trying to beat last weeks score…

  3. helencurry December 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    And one more I’d like to add, now I’m on a roll (and well away from trying to hook this onto careers) – The Infinite Monkey Cage. It’s a new science-y discussion/comedy show with Brian Cox from Wonders of the Solar System.

  4. Robin Stacpoole March 3, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    This is … annoying. I’m looking for IQ type podcasts and you have already got most of the ones that I am interested in. My current list is as follows:

    “More or less” BBC – the use and miss use of stats in business and the media today

    “The infinite monkey cage” BBC – a humours approach to sharing and understanding science

    “Planet Money” NPR – A surprisingly internional focus on finance with a really good coverage of the drivers behind the Euro crisis

    “RaidoLab” WNYC – a thoughtful look at an eclitic range of subjects. Occasionally suffers from lack of brevity, but usually worth the time it takes to listen. Usually.

    “This American Life” NPR – can’t describe it really, you need to listen to understand. A bit more emotional I suppose. But if you enjoy Radio Labs and Planet Money you will like TAL. The Planet Money guys do lengthy specials on TAL sometimes.

    “Wait wait, don’t tell me” NPR – A funny quiz show on current political topics.

    “Car talk with Click and Clack” NPR – Supposed to be a show about car repairs where folks can dial in and get their questions answered. It soon dissolves into a lot of laughter.

    But … the question is what can we do to improve this list, as this isn’t good enough,

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