I love a good podcast. They are perfect for spicing up those dull activities, like cleaning or commuting, and even better for adding an extra level of awesome to fun activities like crafting. It’s the ultimate multi-tasking – have a giggle, learn some things and get stuff done all at the same time. Ace! Here are a few of my faves that I like to listen to when I’m elbow deep in a crochet project, all of which are free to download from the iTunes store.
I am currently obsessed with this podcast. Obsessed I tell you! It’s hosted by some of the QI researchers, who adorably refer to themselves as the QI Elves. Their jobs seem to be researching and verifying quirky facts all day (amazing, right?) and in each episode they bring you their four favourite facts of that week. They then discuss, riff, joke and elaborate on each fact and the results are truly wonderful. Not only are the hosts intelligent and knowledgeable, but they’re also extremely witty, and it makes for very entertaining, interesting and often somewhat strange listening (depending on the facts they’re discussing!). There are about 70 episodes to date, so it’s perfect for binge listening.
For fans of: QI (the TV show), fun facts and trivia
An oldie but a goodie, this American Life is hosted but the wonderfully nerdy Ira Glass. There’s a different theme to each episode, and several different stories on that theme are explored. Most often they’re real stories from everyday people, sometimes in the form of interviews and sometimes in a more narrative form. Occasionally there are short segments of fiction, just to mix things up. The stories can be funny, poignant, suspenseful, tragic – I’ve heard some truly mind-blowing things on This American Life! It’s a real reminder about all the wild things and people that make up the world. Beginning as a radio show in pre-podcast days, TAL has been running for 20 years, meaning there are over 500 episodes to listen to, so you’re bound to find one on a topic that interests you. You might like to start by exploring their ‘favourites’ page? The only drawback is that, being an American show, every so often there’ll be an episode that closely examines the American economy or American politics, which isn’t really my thing, but hey, with so many episodes to choose from, you can quite easily just skip to the next one 😉
For fans of: True stories about almost any topic
How To Do Everything describes itself as half advice show, half survival show, which is true, but leaves out the fact that it’s also very silly and lots of fun. In each episode, the hosts Mike and Ian answer listener questions on a huge range of topics, usually by consulting experts in the area, from scientists to celebrities (they once consulted Henry Winkler, aka the Fonze, on how to look cool while waiting for someone). The questions range from the ‘how stuff works’ types, to questions about etiquette, i.e. how to correct someone without sounding rude, to the downright silly, like how to build a really, really big lego model. The hosts riff off each other wonderfully, and each episode is only around 10 – 15 minutes long, so they’re perfect bite sized chunks of fun and facts.
For fans of: QI, No Such Thing As A Fish, fun facts and trivia
I just recently discovered this podcast and I think it’s such a wonderful idea. Hosted by ex-triple j breakfast presenter and funny comedian guy Tom Ballard, Tom puts his serious hat on as he interviews a different guest each week, talking to them about their work, what makes them tick and what drives them in life. The line up of guests is varied and ranges from musicians such as Bluejuice’s Jake Stone, to comedians such as Sara Pascoe and Arj Barker, to political activists, journalists, lawyers and writers. As well as fascinating careers, most of Tom’s guests have a particular area that they’re passionate about, whether that be something political, animal activism, the environment, etc. My favourite episode so far has been Tom’s interview with writer and self described ‘feminist killjoy to the stars’ Clementine Ford. Tom’s has a great rapport with all his guests, asking thoughtful, gently probing questions that give them plenty of space to tell their story. I thoroughly love the idea of having my own mind and thoughts expanded and challenged by listening to passionate people who take the time to think about things that I normally don’t, so if this is something you like too, give it a listen.
For fans of: This American Life, interesting people doing interesting things
5. Science Vs
This is a fairly new podcast brought out by the ABC, in which science journalist Wendy Zuckerman explores (and in some cases attempts to debunk) a different scientific concept or myth each week. Some of the episodes to date have explored science vs. the Paleo diet, the gay gene, race and happiness to name a few. Each episode is about 10 – 15 minutes long so they’re perfect little knowledge bombs!
For fans of: No Such Things As A Fish, sounding really smart when debating hot science-y topics with your friends
Invisibilia is about the invisible forces that control human behaviour – our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and ideas. Co-hosts Lulu and Alix interweave interviews, scientific research and narrative storytelling to explore some truly mind-blowing phenomena. This is the sort of podcast that will have you over-excidetly yelling at your friend over a coffee ‘Oh my god, you’ll never believe this, BUT did you know…’ For instance, one episode focused on how some blind people can essentially learn to use a form of echo-location to navigate their environment. In another, they spoke to a woman who is physically unable to feel fear. Amazing. Alas, the first season was disappointingly short, but the second season is in the works.
For fans of: having your mind blown, Science Vs
So I know Serial is old news, but if we’re talking podcasts, we can’t really leave it out, can we? A spinoff from the This America Life team, in Serial, host Sarah Koenig re-investigates the true story of a 15-year old murder case that saw high-school student Adnan Syed jailed for allegedly murdering his 16 year-old girlfriend. Koenig explores the case from every angle, talking at length to Syed (from prison, where he still remains), students who attended school with him, police officers, lawyers, anyone who might be able to shed any light. What emerges is a suspenseful, compelling narrative that spans over 12 episodes. As a listener, you feel like you’re right in it with Koenig, trying to get the bottom of this bizarre, confusing case. It’s kind of incredible, and if anyone wants to talk theories, please do in the comments (there is something seriously suss about Jay, right?)!
For fans of: True crime stories, This American Life
What are you favourite podcasts? I’m always on the look out for more, so do tell me in the comments! This is also a companion post to my Music To Make To post, so if you’re keen for some tunes, check that out too!