(Update: Added EconTalk because it’s amazing)
If you’ve ever taken public transportation in East Africa, you know it can be… slow. Laborious. Interminable.
I took a lot of it while I was there – like, over a month’s worth of waking hours a lot, often alone. Bumping along the streets, staring out the window, trying to sleep or stay awake or just not be noticed. Headphones glued to my ears.
So I spent quality time with podcasts. I listened to all of the current episodes of my favorites, and all of the Radiolab episodes at least once. And I basically exhausted my supply.
Fortunately, I recently came across Julia Furlan’s excellent list of recommended podcasts, and found some really, really fantastic storytellers to listen to while on the subway or walking through Central Park. Check them out:
- The Memory Palace – historical ephemera made eternal. Short, humanist, emotional, sometimes funny. My favorites so far: a slave chooses freedom over the reason he wanted to be free; the guy whom everyone thought ate the Donner Party; the birth of the telegraph, from the death of a wife; a genius stumbles under the weight the world puts on him; considering the lobster; on the birth of the elevator brake. (That’s about half of the episodes I’ve listened to so far, and I couldn’t narrow it down any farther than that. It’s really, really good)
- 99% Invisible – a radio show about design. My favorite so far: a personal friendship turns into a rivalry that scrapes the sky
- The Moth – stories told by storytellers. Less consistent than the other two, but often quite moving
- EconTalk – Julia didn’t have this one on her list, but she should have. It’s fantastic. Russ Roberts, a former econ professor at George Mason and now working at the Hoover Institution, is a whip-smart classic liberal/libertarian who hosts this weekly, one-hour podcast. He’s refreshingly honest about his biases (constantly prefacing his statements with “This might just be my bias, but….” – which, let’s be honest, how often do you hear?!) and brings incredibly intelligent people on to have incredibly intelligent conversations with. Just go to the site and download a talk at random