Podcasts! (Or, It’s Not Too Late to Like Them Before They’re Cool)


I don’t know how it is in your cozy little corner of the world, but in my corner of southeast Texas, when I mention that I listen to podcasts, I always have to stop and explain what it is.

“It’s radio, basically. Internet talk radio. You download episodes on your phone and you can listen to them whenever. It’s great.”

At this point, the listener’s eyes will begin to glaze.

“You have an iPhone, right? There’s a podcast app, it’s purple and says ‘Podcasts’. Just press it and there you go.”

Now the listener is nodding and regretting his/her decision to feign interest.

“There are lots of different topics. I like Stuff You Should Know, it’s educational, but fun educational. I learned about survival cannibalism, for example. Oh! And they did a live show, the two hosts, I mean, at Houston last week. The topic was secret until they started talking. It was D.B. Cooper!”

That’s usually as far as I get (well, the live show bit is something I added for this post, because I did attend the Stuff You Should Know Live: Spring Has Sprung Tour this past Saturday in Houston, and it is definitely something I will work into my podcast spiel for the next few months) before the subject is changed.

And it’s a shame, because as great as SYSK is, there are lots of others out there covering various topics, and I know that, if I can just get a bit further in my conversation, I can mention something that will maybe pique their interest.

Something like, say, one of the twenty podcasts I have on my phone right now, carefully alphabetized so I don’t have to hunt when I’m in the mood for true crime or an odd bit of history. Something like:

  1. All Things Awful with Adam & Alex – This is an amateur true crime podcast hosted by a couple based near Dallas, Texas. Unlike the other shows on this list, they have no sponsors and are doing this in their free time because they want to, and that’s groovy.
  2. Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People – Hosted by comedian Chris Gethard, the premise is this: someone calls him, and for an hour, they talk about whatever. Gethard can’t hang up, but the other person can, whenever they want.
  3. The Black Tapes – A serialized, fictional account of a reporter and her adventures in the land of the paranormal.
  4. Criminal – From the description: “Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, and/or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” One episode was about a guy and his mission to give the finger to every cop he saw.
  5. Death, Sex & Money – This one covers those 3 topics from intereviews with celebrities and regular people.
  6. Embedded – Investigative journalism; a recent episode went deeper inside the biker shootout in Waco, Texas.
  7. Freakonomics Radio –  Economic theory, with a twist. The books are good, too.
  8. Lore – Oh wow, this one is awesome! It’s supposed to be made into a TV show soon, so binge-listen now.
  9. the memory palace – Another great one, this one highlights the forgotten parts of history, like that time the MGM lion crashlanded in the Arizona desert.
  10. Mystery Show – How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal? Why does that car have a license plate that reads, “I LUV 911”? The amateur sleuth-hostess will find out for you.
  11. Note to Self – Tech stuff, like what happens to those YouTube videos no one watches? (They’re out there, and there’s a reason they didn’t go viral.)
  12. On the Media – Current events.
  13. Planet Money – Finances, but more fun than it sounds.
  14. Reply All – Similar to Note to Self, but barely.
  15. Reveal – Another investigative podcast, this one had an excellent story about the Flint water crisis.
  16. Serial – “One story, told week by week.” Amazing. Last year’s was about a murder in the 1990s. This year, they covered Bowe Bergdahl.
  17. StartUp Podcast – What does it take to get a podcast company going? How do you get backers? Why does everyone think your company name is stupid?
  18. Stuff You Should Know – Just listen to it.
  19. Sword and Scale – True crime!
  20. This American Life – The NPR granddaddy of them all. Stories about regular American folks.

Look, they’re free. Try ’em out. Get with it before they really catch on so you can say you were into podcasts before they were cool, like I plan to.



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