While I'm working, I try to avoid multitasking, because a decade of research has shown that human brains suck at it.
But during relatively large swaths of my days, I end up doing non-work, low-brain-intensity tasks: I spend cumulative hours walking my dogs, riding the subway, shopping for groceries, cooking dinner. And through all of that, I usually listen to audio from my iPhone.
For the first half of the day, it's audiobooks. I tend to read non-fiction with my eyeballs, and listen to fiction with my ears; between the two, I can easily cruise through a book or more each week.
But from lunch on, I primarily listen to podcasts. Alongside a couple of news-aggregating daily emails, and an occasional jaunt through Twitter, it’s how I get nearly all of my world news and analysis. And it’s my primary channel for finding interesting new people, ideas, books, films, and more.
A number of friends and family members have mentioned that they, too, want to take up more podcast listening; but with literally hundreds of thousands of podcasts on iTunes, it’s often hard to know where to start.
To that end, here’s what I listen to regularly. My own interests vary pretty widely, so your mileage may vary. It’s also worth noting that the current list veers more heavily towards politics and policy than it did a year ago, now that we live in the land of Trump. But, regardless of your interests, I think these are all at least worth a single episode test-listen; in my experience, after just a couple of minutes, you’ll be able to decide whether each warrants further listening/subscribing or not.
I’m a big fan of the Overcast app, which I find far easier to wrangle than iOS’s built-in Podcasts app. So, rather than link the below Podcasts to their iTunes pages, I’d suggest you download Overcast, and just enter the below names into its search engine (the plus sign at the top right of the app) to find them instead.
I listen to pretty much every episode of these shows:
- The Art of Charm
- The Ezra Klein Show
- FiveThirtyEight Politics
- Fresh Air
- Pod Save America
- Slate’s Political Gabfest
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- Vox’s The Weeds
These are more hit-or-miss for me, though I listen to a good number of their episodes:
- 99% Invisible
- Barbell Shrugged
- Brute Strength Podcast
- Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
- Freakonomics Radio
- Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
- The Joe Rogan Experience
- On the Media
- Planet Money
- Savage Lovecast
- Slate’s Culture Gabfest
- TED Radio Hour
- This American Life
- Waking Up with Sam Harris
And, finally, here are some newly-discovered shows that I think are likely to be good, but I can’t yet really vouch for:
- Conversations with Tyler
- Pod Save the World
It’s pretty extraordinary that all of this content is available free online in today’s world. Take advantage of that, and give these shows a listen yourself.