10 Podcasts to Improve Your Life
Podcasts are enjoyable whether you listen in the car, while you work out, or right before bed. Plus, they can improve your ability to ask critical-thinking questions, see the world through various perspectives, and gain empathy for those in different circumstances. There are so many podcasts out there today that it can be overwhelming trying to determine where to start, or what to listen to next. The following list of suggested podcasts are both highly rated and recommended favorites.
We all know that it is important to be informed and knowledgable, but it can be hard to find the time (or the desire) to watch the news. Still, if you are looking to remain aware but hoping to get your information about current events from somewhere other than TV or radio, consider the following.
“Up First.” Rachel Martin, Steve Inskeep, and David Greene head this news-of-the-day podcast. This perfect way to stay informed with the headlines of any given day. Usually, about 8-12 minutes long (perfect for a short commute or over your coffee), Martin, Inskeep, and Greene hit the high notes that gives the listeners an overview of the day, without an agenda or biased.
“This American Life.” This long-running podcast (since 1995), features not only journalism but the host, Ira Glass, peppers in humanity as well. Each episode is told in acts and through this structure and its thematic nature, Glass chooses specific news headlines and brings them into a greater context. Some recent themes of 2019 include: “Navigating Difficult Terrain,” “Impulsivity,” and “Conspiracy Theories.” Glass gives an interesting voice to the stories behind the headlines.
“Revisionist History.” Malcolm Gladwell has long looked at the world in unexpected ways — his 2008 book, Outliers examines our preconceived notions that people are simply born talented. In this podcast, “Revisionist History,” Gladwell revisits past historical events and attempts to get the whole story, not just the pieces we have already been told. Gladwell’s podcast looks at everything from Wars, to generals, to the food we eat. Of note, Gladwell examines the McDonald’s fry — how it has changed and whether or not the taste is different (and arguably worse) than when the famous chain began.
“Stuff You Should Know.” Hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark sound like two of your most informed friends in this all-you-can-eat buffet of historical inquiry. This dynamic duo dares to ask the questions about history you have always wanted to know: Are sweeteners really bad for you? How did the Trail of Tears work? Were Nazis on drugs? Though there haven’t been any new episodes since 2017, this podcast still ranks in the top ten on iTunes because just like history itself, Stuff You Should Know, remains timelessly relevant.
Social and Cultural Podcasts
There are so many interesting things that are happening socially and culturally today. The nice thing about social and cultural podcasts is that they tend to bring in elements from every other type of podcast; they often include history, news, and storytelling. There is so much to dissect in American culture, but here are two favorites.
“Ologies.” Host Alie Ward knows how to ask the right questions. In this podcast, Ward engages with experts on all the varying “ologies” of the world. She sits down with linguists, therapists, and other professionals to look at such things as Sexology, Ludology (video games), Matrimonology (Marriage), and Cheloniology (sea turtles), to name a few. Ward’s podcast is a wonderful amalgam of experts giving their take on the history and cultural ramifications of whichever “ology” that is up for discussion that day. Ward also makes a point to bring in listeners’ questions. This is a great podcast for anyone looking to improve her knowledge of the world.
“Dear Sugars.” Writers, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed man the helm of this lovely podcast that goes right to the heart. This advice-style column gives listeners the opportunity to ask questions and feel heard. This podcast is especially relevant in our world today, our hosts answer questions about “ghosting,” when to intervene in a friend’s bad relationships, and sexual fluidity. This podcast speaks to anyone who cares about love and relationships (so pretty much everyone).
Crime and Justice Podcasts
These types of podcasts are some of the best to listen to when you’re driving, or when you are exercising because the content tends to be quick paced. These podcasts are the equivalent of page-turning books that might get your heart racing a little bit.
“The Dropout.” The story of Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO and Founder of the now-defunct Theranos company is put under the microscope in this 6-part podcast. Here our host, Rebecca Jarvis analyzes our strongly held American ideal: “Fake it until you make it.” This oft-cited credo in Silicon Valley has made for many, many startups, but the deceit of Theranos makes the listeners and consumers question: Where is the line between truth and lie? When does something just become fake? How willing are we to trust people with “big” ideas, especially if those people can convince those who have money and clout?
“Serial.” This podcast now has three seasons available. Host Sarah Koenig strives to explore one of the most difficult questions in our justice system: How do we really know if someone is innocent or guilty? Koenig proves just how complex our justice system really is. In the first season, Koenig explores the (potentially) wrongful conviction of Adnan Syed, who is accused of killing his girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. This is a wonderfully inquisitive podcast, but as most of the trials and appeals are still ongoing, listeners should not expect to get quickly resolved answers to the tough questions.
It is incredibly important to be able to have moments of relaxation in our lives. Television is an easy escape, but if you are looking for something that allows a little more breathing room, something that invites you into the space of your own thoughts, there are some wonderful podcasts that can help in this way.
“The Moth Radio Hour.” As humans we are drawn to collective experiences and “The Moth Radio Hour” showcases what connects all of us–our innate desire to hear what each other have been through and to learn from it. This podcast is based out of NYC, but there are several local events that stem from the same model, so if you listen to this podcast and wonder if there is any way to get involved (listening or participating) be aware that there are events that take place regularly all over the state (including in West Michigan!). For more information about current and upcoming storytelling opportunities: visit the Michigan Storytelling Website.
“Sleep with Me.” Hosted by Drew Ackerman, this podcast’s mission is to “put you to sleep.” This podcast is perfect if you struggle with anxiety or insomnia. Each episode, Ackerman tells a “boring” story, but he does so with a rhythmic melodic voice in order to help ease listeners into a gentle and unencumbered sleep. There are some especially great episodes called “Game of Drones,” where you get a recap of Game of Thrones, but one that won’t haunt you in your sleep.
No matter what your interest might be, no matter if you enjoy listening to podcasts in the car while taking a walk, or waiting in line at the DMV, there is something out there for you to connect with and considering diving into.