Have you hopped the podcast train yet? It’s an awesome ride — quite literally, because becoming addicted to an engaging, fun, and interesting podcast is enough to seriously change your relationship with your car and earbuds.
For learning and entertainment on the go, check out these five amazing listens.
Slate Political Gabfest
Slate Political Gabfest is produced by Slate.com, the cheeky, geeky news website, along with its podcast-network partner Panoply. It’s a show about politics featuring three sassy pundits: Emily Bazelon of the New York Times, John Dickerson of CBS News, and David Plotz, former editor-in-chief of State.com and founder of Atlas Obscura.
The selling point of this podcast: it’s an easy way to keep up with the news. If you listen, I promise you’ll sound super smart. Each week, the hosts talk about current events, offering well-studied analysis that actually seems to represent the different facets of each issue. Aside from offering historical background, legal interpretation, social commentary, and elections coverage, it also manages to be lighthearted and entertaining.
Call Your Girlfriend
Alright, enough of that highbrow stuff. Call Your Girlfriend is hosted by two early-30s feminists, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, who work in tech and journalism, respectively. Each episode is a phone call between the two, who are besties, and the content ranges from DJ Khaled, racial politics, the elections, feminism, career chatter, music, pop culture, shopping, and art.
I know I said it isn’t highbrow — and it doesn’t bill itself that way — but it actually is. Even though the atmosphere is casual, these ladies are super-smart and it’s a pleasure to get to share in their intelligence for even just an hour. It’s personal, three-dimensional, comfortable, and very progressive — an inside peek at the values of America’s young intellectuals. Also, they just added a Phone a Friend bonus episode on off-weeks (the podcast is bi-monthly), which features interviews with awesome professional women. These have proven to be a must-listen.
Happier is hosted by Gretchen Rubin, a self-proclaimed “happiness expert.” Rubin has dedicated her life to studying the elements that comprise human happiness, and she’s written some hugely popular books on the topic, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal bestseller Better Than Before.
In the podcast, Rubin and her sister/co-host, Elizabeth Craft, chat about small day-to-day changes — setting an alarm for bedtime, cleaning out your closet, and knowing your personality type — that can greatly improve your happiness. I’ll be the first to admit that self-help can really be boring sometimes, but these ladies are quirky and personable. Also, the podcast has a comforting regularity and structure, with segments during each episode for “happiness gold stars,” “happiness demerits,” listener questions, and tips.
The Moth Podcast is the product of a larger national live-storytelling project — also called the Moth — that has been going on for nearly 20 years. The project is divided into StorySLAMs, or open-mic story competitions held in different cities across the US, and Mainstage events, which features five storytellers chosen by the Moth.
The podcast brings listeners stories from speakers at both events, sometimes organized thematically, and sometimes embodying a range of topics. It’s incredible the power with which these stories are able to convey an honest and varied display of humanity — they can be hilarious, heartwarming, empowering, and tear-jerking — but they are always unique.
Reply All, hosted by Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, is essentially, as its tagline claims, “a show about the Internet.” Sounds generalized — and it is — but the stories that Vogt, Goldman, and the rest of the Reply All team present are examples of excellent, in-depth reporting and real-life human eccentricity. The stories are only loosely based around the Internet, and the hosts keep it lighthearted, somehow making things like code and Twitter relatable to those a little less tech-savvy.
Reply All is actually the first podcast produced by Gimlet Media (aside from Startup, the podcast about the formation of the company — also an incredible listen). Gimlet, a new podcasting company which rode in on the boon of the podcast last year, was founded in part by Alex Blumberg of Planet Money and This American Life notoriety. Blumberg is a longtime NPR producer and a big name in the radio world, and Reply All — though not Blumberg’s radio work per se — does not disappoint.