Podcasts are one of my favourite media. There's something very special about having a story read to you.
Mat and I often listen to a podcast during our lunch break. I don't listen at work because it's too distracting, or while I'm walking Stanley because I like to notice the outside world, but it's the perfect accompaniment to housework or, even better, a jigsaw or crossword.
My collection is quite eclectic but they do fall into a few general categories. Many have been recommended by friends, or sometimes I come across them through trails or features on podcasts I already listen to.
If you've got any suggestions I'm all ears.
Serial: Season One
This is the podcast that started it all off for me. It's about a murder in 1999 for which Adnan Syed has been imprisoned to this day. I was late to the bandwagon but the hype is deserved. Even if you're not into murder or real-life crime, the host Sarah Koenig is superb and her storytelling is compelling. Highly recommended.
Two podcasts from The Australian where the tenacity and compassion of the reporters really stand out:
The Teachers Pet
Hedley Thomas investigates the disappearance of a Sydney woman who vanished from a seemingly perfect life in 1982.
Who the Hell is Hamish?
Greg Bearup on the trail of a con artist who inveigled his way into people's lives then swindled them out of millions of dollars and evaded authorities for decades.
The Missing Cryptoqueen
Jamie Bartlett on the trail of Dr Ruja Ignatova who persuaded millions to join her financial revolution then vanished. The sums of money involved are jaw-dropping but what's entertaining is the polite and apologetic way that Jamie gets tangled up in the murky world of organised crime and MLM schemes.
Wind of Change
Patrick Radden Keefe on a wild goose chase involving the CIA and rock band The Scorpions. Whatever the truth of that particular rumour, the accounts of music producer Doc McGhee, drug smuggling and a Moscow concert are stranger than any fiction.
DeepMind: the podcast
An 8 part series hosted by Hannah Fry about Artificial Intelligence: what it is, how it's used and whether it's safe. A good companion to her book about algorithms Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine.
This is one of my favourites: "A podcast about the internet that is actually about modern life and how to survive it". It took me a little while to get accustomed to the style because a large portion revolves around the characters and relationship of the two presenters, Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, but once you get that it's very enjoyable.
Note to Self
Manoush Zomorodi hasn't released any new episodes for a while but if you've never listened before, there's plenty to catch up on in this guide to an accelerating world. Manoush is very honest in her investigations and reflections about how to be human in a digital world.
Science and history
This is a Mat & Kat favourite! Husband and wife team Greg and Sharon Ross describe forgotten stories from the pages of history then test each other with lateral thinking puzzles. I recommend starting from the beginning because otherwise you'll come across updates and spoilers about previous episodes.
A scientific dive into the facts behind fads, claims and popular trending ideas. The style can be a bit silly (there are some awful puns) but the subjects are well researched.
The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry
This is a Radio 4 show but the podcast version features extra material. Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry apply scientific investigation to listeners' everyday mysteries, enhanced by the good-natured banter of the presenters and an ongoing theme of maths and physics vs biology.
The Secret History of the Future
The Economist’s Tom Standage and Slate’s Seth Stevenson examine historical precedents for present-day situations involving modern technology, a bit like Radio 4's The Long View.
Tim Harford, from the Radion 4 show/podcast More or Less, introduces stories of human errors, heists and fiascos that can teach us important lessons. It's fascinating for the psychological elements of the stories.
Roman Mars introduces short (around 10-minute) pieces about unnoticed aspects of architecture and design.
Malcolm Gladwell talking about things overlooked and misunderstood. He can come across as a bit too self-assured but it's hard not to like his irreverence.
Interviews with the world's most innovative thinkers trying to solve big problems. If you're feeling overwhelmed and pessimistic about the state of the world, this is a good antidote.
A podcast about the unseeable forces that control human behaviour. The stories weave scientific studies with philosophical questions to view the world from a different angle.
Against the rules
Michael Lewis is the author behind Moneyball, The Blind Side and The Big Short which were all turned into films. His style is marked by a wry sense of humour and sharp insight. The subject of this podcast is fairness in areas ranging from finance to sports and college admissions.
Terry Gross has been broadcasting Fresh Air, now a podcast, since 1975. Her interviews with musicians, writers, artists and actors are empathic and intelligent.
No such thing as a fish
Researchers from the TV show QI share and discuss their four favourite fun facts that they've uncovered during the week.
The premise is that presenter Jonathan Goldstein helps people reconnect, revisit or rediscover things buried in their past. In reality, it's a vehicle for his comically awkward musings.
My dad wrote a porno
Jamie Morton reads the erotic novel book written by his father. The book is appallingly written and the commentary from his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine is hilarious. It made me cry with laughter in parts but it's distinctly not family-friendly.
Something completely different
Over the Road
An 8 part series about the trials and tribulations, characters and culture of US long haul truckers.
The eye-opening daily realities of life in the Californian prison of San Quentin. These nuanced stories about people inside and post-incarceration are surprisingly affecting.
The Secret Life of Prisons
An extremely well-presented look at the UK prison system through interviews, personal accounts, writing and poetry.
Have you heard George's podcast?
George the Poet's fresh take on inner-city UK life through a mixture of storytelling, music and fiction.
Where should we begin? with Esther Perel
Couples share their relationship problems with therapist Esther Perel. I don't know why but I find this compelling. Esther is an amazing therapist and it's striking how different people's relationships can be but how often the same themes emerge.
Alone: a love story
A memoir written and read by Michelle Parise about her marriage, divorce and trying to build a new life. It's painfully honest and beautifully written.