Dear 100 Hour Board,
Do you have audio book or podcast recommendations? I have an audible account, but my ears need more.
If you're a West Wing fan, you should definitely check out The West Wing Weekly. Josh Malina (who played Will Bailey) is a cohost, and they regularly have other actors from the show on the podcast. Lin-Manuel Miranda was actually on an episode of the podcast recently, too, and that was really cool.
You've got a long list of podcasts to try. Let me also recommend that you listen to the audiobook Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (and then their sequels Dark Forest and Death's End). It's a beautifully written and beautifully translated series of novels that totally blew me away.
-The Man with a Mustache
I listen to a lot of podcasts, but most of them are nichey enough that I wouldn't recommend them to the general public. However, I have a few favorites that aren't represented among the fine recommendations already made here. There's The Good Life Project, which is lovely. There's By The Book, which has two women who live strictly by a self-help book for two weeks and report back (often irreverently) on their experience. There's Two Dope Queens, which is a comedy podcast and also definitely NSFW. There's Mystery Show which, while now defunct, was a magical listening experience.
And the crowning jewel of my popular-interest-but-not-that-well-known podcast collection: The Pessimists Archive. If I told you that it was about the moral panic that accompanies new technologies and social changes through history, I would be giving you an accurate yet unjustly boring-sounding description. It is a well-produced, well-researched, wildly entertaining, and wildly optimistic show. I can't tell you how many times I paused mid-listen to turn to Sauron and say, "THIS IS THE BEST PODCAST."
Waldorf (and Sauron)
I can't remember if I've repped Stuff You Should Know on the Board before, but you should totally give it a listen. It is now my go-to for when I have to spend long hours cleaning or doing some other menial task, because it is soothing, informative, and humorous all at the same time.
S-Town was a great limited series, though just as a fair warning it gets a little dark and sad.
Lastly, it's old news by this point, but I loved the two seasons of Serial that have aired and am still hoping they'll release a season 3.
- I finally got around to Judge John Hodgman, and it immediately made my regulars. He uses his fake position to solve tiny disputes with humor and relative goodwill. I just listened to the episode about the father and son who disagree on whether talking is an appropriate activity for a hike.
- Radiolab, obvs. It's got cool information and hits my sweet spot for being entertaining without being tiresomely tangential. Every year, I make my seniors listen to selections from Words, to help them understand 1984's argument that limiting language could limit thought.
- Reply All is full of internet and tech-related cool things. I love their Yes Yes No segments (explaining current complex memes), their Super Tech Support segments (where they try to solve unusual tech issues), and just all of it. Check out this one about whether or not Facebook is spying on you.
- Freakonomics deals with economics, but is rarely just about money. It's more about behavior and why people make the choices they do, and it's fun and fascinating. This episode that runs through several FAQs like how someone can do the most good with $100 and how not to get eaten by a bear might give you a quick insight into the sorts of things the podcast covers.
- Hardcore History has mammoth episodes that come out rarely, and I love it. Dan Carlin does a great job of making ancient history feel current and applicable and edge-of-your seat dramatic. It's one of the few shows I re-listen to, because there's so much to learn and it's so fascinating. Recent episode Painfotainment clocks in at a mere 4.5 hours and is still free, whereas older ones like the 5-part series on the fall of Rome cost a few bucks, but are totally worth it.
- Pop Culture Happy Hour generally runs around 30 min an episode, and features intelligent people who like each other analyzing about current pop culture (usually mostly spoiler-free) and what's making them happy lately. Here's a decent representative episode about Annihilation, which I am excited to check out.
- The Hilarious World of Depression has interviews with comedians and other well-known people in the public eye about their depression. It's kind and funny and touching and reminds me that improvement is within my reach. Might as well start at the beginning.
- The Ladies' Number One Detective Agency (and its sequels) are even more delightful when narrated by Lisette Lecat. She does the all the voices and I believe her accents are accurate, and the audiobook moves me right past the spots where I get bogged down by the gentle pace when I'm only reading with my eyes.
- I enjoy most of what Brandon Sanderson has written, though I haven't tried his YA fiction yet. I'm especially enjoying the Stormlight Archive, (though I was glad when books 2 & 3 reduced the world-building tangents a little). Michael Kramer and Kate Reading team up as readers on quite a few books that I enjoy, including Sanderson's, and they usually do a good job.
- I read a lot of moderately escapist fantasy, and especially enjoy books/series with different magic systems than wands and dragons. A Darker Shade of Magic, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Lockwood & Co, the Bartimaeus Trilogy, most stuff by Shannon Hale (again, I haven't gotten to the younger fiction), and the Lunar Chronicles all fall into this genre, and if you like that stuff, go for it.
- Norse Mythology, read by author Neil Gaiman was surprisingly good; some authors don't make good readers, but he does. It's less surprising when authors who were actors first read their own, but that doesn't mean I enjoy Bossypants or Yes Please any less.
- I just read (listened to, but we're in agreement that it counts as reading, right?) Moby Dick for the first time, and was impressed by William Hootkins' delivery. If you're okay with long digressions of amazingly flawed scientific information about whales and so on, I recommend it.
- When I'm forced to choose a favorite author, I usually go with P.G. Wodehouse, but the reader makes a world of a difference. I know they're dramatizations, not unabridged books, but the BBC Radio Jeeves & Wooster adaptations with Michael Hordern and Richard Briers are fantastic. Audible has a few, but not the complete collection.
My favorite new-ish podcast is The Omnibus.
I highly recommend Gulliver's Travels read by David Hyde Pierce and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court read by Nick Offerman.
P.S. Please give The Protagonist Podcast a listen.
Check out QUEERY with Cameron Esposito.
The official description of it says, "Sit in on an hour-long conversation between host and standup comic, Cameron Esposito, and some of the brightest luminaries in the LGBTQ+ family. QUEERY explores individual stories of identity, personality and the shifting cultural matrix around gender, sexuality and civil rights."
Cameron is an incredible standup comedian who just has a nice chat with a different non-cis and/or non-straight person every week. It's hilarious, touching, and super necessary, in my opinion. When we live in such a bubble as Provo, I think actively seeking out stories of people who are different than us should be required. It's not trying to promote any agenda; it's just two people sitting together and telling their stories. And the guests themselves are fascinating people who've done cool stuff. You can't go wrong.
Every episode is great in its own way, but if you want to start out with guests you may recognize, here are some options:
- Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
- Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist, so many other great books I can't list them all)
- Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld, True Blood, Little Secrets)
- Tegan Quin & Sara Quin (Tegan & Sara)
- Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi)
- Clea DuVall (Veep, But I'm A Cheerleader, Heroes, American Horror Story)
And absolutely listen to the pilot episode, which was with her wife, Rhea Butcher.
Science, music and baseball. Sorry. These are very tailored to my interests.
- The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick.
- Three Men in a Boat which you can get free on Spotify, narrated by Hugh Laurie. Hilarious if you like very dry very English humor.
- Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman
- The Hostess by Isaac Asimov. There's a radio dramatization on Spotify. It's about an hour and insanely good. Great twist, very trippy, cool ideas.
- The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, sometimes just Dr. Faustus. Also free on spotify. Probably abridged but appropriately so. That was a cool listen.
- The Little Prince. I know everyone has read this, but this home recorded reading is outright beautiful. She delivers it poetically and her voice makes me happy.
- Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast is actually very emotive even if you're not interested in baseball. The stories are jusy very human and well presented. It didn't run long but the few episodes they have are great.
- NPR's All Song's Considered has changed my life a number of times but you have to be into music for music's sake. Not just listenability.
- Hardcore History (I'll second Uffish Thought)
- Behind the Bastards just got started. They're doing a segment on Bill Cosby that has been fascinating.
My guilty pleasures/time-waster podcasts are
- The Unexplained
- The Infinite Monkey Cage
- Stuff You Should Know
Dear First Time Long Time,
I gotchu boo!! I listen to many, many podcasts. It is one of my favorite things to do. Several of the regulars in my rotation have already been mentioned in the responses above and below my answer here, so good on y'all for spreading the word about Judge John Hodgman, Hilarious World of Depression, The West Wing Weekly, Pop Culture Happy Hour, 99% Percent Invisible, Reply All, and Code Switch.
Here is a rundown of some of my other favorite podcasts:
Blank Check with Griffin and David
This is a movie podcast from a film critic (The Atlantic's David Sims) and a professional actor/comedian (Griffin Newman of Amazon's The Tick). The idea of this show is they focus on a director's filmography one movie per episode and trace a director's career through the highs and lows and what happens when they get blank checks to make their passion projects. They've covered directors like M. Night Shyamalan, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher Nolan, Cameron Crowe, and James Cameron. This is a pretty loose show that is full of tangents and bits, but these two are passionate and crazy knowledgeable about film and its fun to just hear them talk. This is currently my very favorite podcast. And yes, they have done a one-off episode about the 1994 Disney movie Blank Check.
Fighting in the War Room
Four different film critics (Katey Rich, David Ehrlich, Matt Patches, and Da7e Gonzales) do a weekly round table about the latest in film, but also touch on TV and pop culture at large pretty often. This pod showcases a wide variety of personal tastes and preferences from the hosts resulting in real disagreements and heated discussion that is so much fun to hear. This show is probably your best place to hear about indie films though they cover every blockbuster too. Most of the hosts attend and report back on film festivals, premieres, and smaller movies they get to see early. Don't let the low production values of the audio turn you off this one—it's a labor of love from these very informed and lovely people.
You Must Remember This
The logline for this show is "the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood's first century." It is the most research-heavy movie podcast I've ever come across and is a bit like sitting in on a film history seminar. The show (hosted and basically entirely prepared by author Karina Longworth) has done seasons focused around topics like the Manson murders, Universal monster movies, the Hollywood Blacklist, WW2, and the MGM Studios heydays. The first 20 episodes are all one-offs about specific classic Hollywood people like Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, or Marlon Brando.
The Next Picture Show
This show, hosted by a handful of Chicago-based film critics who previously worked on the remarkable and sadly now-defunct website TheDissolve.com, is a "movie of the week" discussion podcast that pairs a new release with a thematically-related classic or older film. Some of the recent pairings they've done recently are X2 and Avengers: Infinity War, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and La La Land, It and Stand By Me, Ready Player One and Tron, Contact and Arrival, and so on and so forth. This show is all about placing new films (and the latest film-related stories) in historical and cultural context. Its an ongoing conversation about the way films rely on/build on cultural and artistic memory.
Little Gold Men
This is Vanity Fair's movie awards season podcast. Four writers and critics from Vanity Fair (Katey Rich, Richard Lawson, Joanna Robinson, and Mike Hogan) get together weekly to talk about the latest in film and entertainment news, and the conversation always comes back to the Oscars. The show puts out new episodes year-round and the Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony Awards focus is mostly just a framing device to talk about pop culture, excluding the months leading up to the Oscars when it really does become an awards season podcast. If you want to learn about all the shenanigans that go into Oscar voting and campaigns this show is your ticket. I've won every Oscar pool I've participated in since 2015 thanks to a media diet that includes Little Gold Men.
This show is hosted by TV writers Jessica Gao and Dan Harmon (Community and Rick and Morty). Gao is a Chinese/American woman who has worked for Harmon writing on Rick and Morty. This show is an ongoing discussion about race, writing, and the entertainment industry. The podcast originated in conversations between Gao and Harmon in the wake of Susan Sarandon being cast to voice a Rick and Morty therapist character Gao had named "Dr. Wong" in the script she wrote for the Pickle Rick episode in a small gesture to create more opportunities for Asian actors. It is an honest, shaggy, and sprawling show that isn't looking for easy answers to race issues. I could go on about the meta-narratives that make this pod so engaging for me, but I'll spare y'all of that. But if you listen to this one start from the beginning.
This is a New York Times culture show hosted by writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris. (For my money Wesley Morris is the best film critic currently working.) Think of it like Code Switch but almost entirely focused on pop culture; most episodes tend to focus on the intersectionality of media in regards to race, gender, sexuality, or something else.
On the Media
This is a weekly news podcast that takes an entirely different approach to news; instead of covering the news, On the Media covers the coverage of the news. The show is all about investigating the ethics, context, and nitty gritty of journalism. Often the show will backtrack on the week's biggest stories and point out where the news media (on all sides of the political spectrum) made mistakes, missed the bigger story, or failed to provide the full context. The show and its hosts are outspokenly liberal, but that doesn't mean that they care any less about the mistakes made by left-leaning journalists or institutions. I adore this show and honestly think it is Important and Good.
Other greats: Night Call (three of my favorite interneters Emily Yoshida, Molly Lambert, and Tess Lynch chat about whatever is on their mind that week), Uncivil (a show about the historical and cultural legacy of the Civil War), The Allusionist (an etymology podcast!), Twenty Thousand Hertz ("the stories behind the world's most recognizable sounds"), and Ear Hustle (a show about what life in prison is really like made by actual prisoners).
Comedy podcasts are harder to recommend to strangers because specific humor wavelength is so important to match with the kind of comedy one enjoys. Your mileage may vary, my two favs are Mike and Tom Eat Snacks (probably my favorite podcast ever) and Hollywood Handbook.
I prefer podcasts over audio books, but in the last year I have listened to and thoroughly enjoyed TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick The Greatest American Shows of All Time by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon (of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour), and Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood by Mark Harris.
Oh yes! Podcasts are a source of sanity for me when doing long freelancing hours. It's a semi-educational hobby. Depending on what you like, I have a few for you. Writing a description for each one might take a while so I've organized them by genre so you can decide what you're in the mood for and see if you like any in that category.
- The Moth
- Modern Love
- Snap Judgment
- The Heart
- The Bright Sessions
- Deadly Manners
- The Thrilling Adventure Hour
- Welcome to Night Vale
- The Adventure Zone
- And That's Why We Drink
- Blurry Photos
- On Being
- History Extra
- Philosophize This
- Science VS
- Making Gay History
- In Our Time
- Stuff You Missed in History Class
- Harry Potter and the Sacred Text
Hopefully you like at least one of those! Also, if any readers have podcast recommendations, you're always welcome to send them my way.
I used to listen to podcasts in the plural; then I discovered EconTalk, which has a 600+ episode backlog of interviews with authors, thinkers, businessmen, and the odd Nobel Prize-winning economist on economics, public policy, etc. At an hour an episode, that's going to keep me going for a good while longer. The host Russ Roberts is a classical liberal to libertarian economics professor, and I feel like I've learned a ton from him. I've recently started Conversations with Tyler, which is in a somewhat similar vein (economist interviews interesting folks) and has been great so far.
This is such a relevant question for me! Lately, I have been all about the podcast game. I typically listen to NPR news and political podcasts (Up First, NPR Politics, Embedded, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me (OBVIOUSLY)) in the morning while I'm commuting to work, and then other types of podcasts when I commute home in the evening. My favorite podcast of all time, and the only one to which I've ever donated actual money, is 99% Invisible. I enjoy pretty much all of the Radiotopia family, but 99PI will always have my heart. Roman Mars has such a soothing voice. Recently through 99PI I discovered The Stoop, which describes itself as "stories from across the black diaspora." It's beautiful and eye-opening and I always feel a little bit like I'm intruding on a sacred space when I listen. Similarly, I really love NPR's Code Switch, a podcast by journalists of color about the themes of race, identity, and culture.
Others I love include Christopher Kimball's Milk Street, the Smithsonian's Sidedoor, and the NPR's Hidden Brain and Invisibilia. I used to be a big Radiolab and Radiolab's More Perfect fan but then I got frustrated with how long it takes for new episodes to be released, so my love for them has cooled a bit. I also used to listen to The Moth quite a bit, but it's been a while. I should pick that back up again. I used to love Stuff Mom Never Told You back in the day, and I just discovered that the hosts of that podcast have a new podcast, Unladylike, which I've also been meaning to check out.
My favorite podcast that no one has mentioned so far is Song Exploder, which is a really cool podcast where musicians take apart their songs and explain why and how they did everything they did. It's a really fascinating podcast, especially if you like music. Everyone likes music, so you will like it.
Keep it real,
The only podcast that I've been loving lately that I haven't already pitched here is Wonderful by Rachel and Griffin McElroy. They literally spend each episode talking about things that they find wonderful and that's it. It's fluffy and kind and you need it in your life.