My top 36 podcasts – and why you should listen to them

I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Like, a lot.

I can’t get enough of them, and I’m surprised more people aren’t addicted. Podcasts are the on-demand video of the audio world – thousands of hours of entertainment and teaching at your fingertips. For free. 

Sure, some podcasts are simply a bunch of people getting together and talking about a specific industry – those are fun. But if you really want to get the most out of them, podcasts are a teaching tool. They’re a resource. If you’re not reading books then podcasts can be a useful substitute. They teach and inform, rather than just entertain.

They are one of the core resources I have at my disposal. I consider it free education – they are that important to my mental stimulation.

I listen to more than 40 podcasts, all ranging from pure entertainment to those more serious informative topics. A lot of people ask me, when they hear this, how I have so much time to listen to them. Answer I don’t and I do at the same time. A few of my guidelines for listening to podcasts:

1.     I multitask. While cleaning the house, I listen to podcasts. I listen when I’m doing the dishes, sweeping, dusting, etc. I listen to them on the train in and out of work. I listen to them in the car on a drive. I listen to them even before bed sometimes. At any opportunity, I’m listening to a podcast and feeding my mind with more information.

2.     I don’t feel an obligation to listen to every single episode. A lot of podcast listeners get obsessed with trying to listen to every one. I don’t have the luxury of time so I pick and choose. If an episode comes on my feed through Instacast that I don’t find particularly interesting, or I know the interviewee is someone I don’t really want to hear from, I slide it to mark as “played” which deletes it from my list. Simple.

3.     I’m ruthless about deleting podcasts which I don’t enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, get rid of it. Don’t be a martyr and wait for it to get good.

This is a mammoth effort, but I thought I’d list out every podcast I listen to with the hope of giving someone else inspiration. Again, I cannot emphasise enough how important these are to my week. I learn history, business skills, professional development, technical knowledge and am simply entertained through these – if you give them a try there’s a wealth of information you can pick up.

(NOTE: I have a few more podcasts I listen to that I’m currently trying out – these aren’t included here. These are ones I would endorse listening to).

Here we go:

This American Life

 If you’re reading this post then you’ve probably heard of this one. Great journalism, great storytelling. The episode explaining the global financial crisis is still one of the best resources on the subject I’ve ever seen or heared.

Stuff You Should Know 

The amount of things I’ve learned from this podcast is unbelievable. The hosts delve into random topics with so much detail you’ll basically be able to have a decent conversation with someone about that topic in the future. Every episode is usually pretty good, but one of my favourite recent instalments is on the NSA.

The Nerdist

A lot of people get turned off by Chris Hardwick’s happy go lucky personality but I don’t mind it. His skills as an interviewer are pretty good, too, which makes The Nerdist a great listen – thought it depends on the guest. If it’s someone I don’t know I tend to skip over them. But if there’s a good guest on from the entertainment business there are always great stories and anecdotes – and some good lessons too.

WTF with Marc Maron

The king of podcast interviewers. No description necessary. Recent episode with Anna Kendrick was great – and Elizabeth Banks was a good listen too.

The Tim Ferriss Show

You might know Tim’s name from his book, The Four Hour Workweek. His podcast interviews CEOs, leaders, etc on business skills, etc. Don’t always listen to every episode but a good guest results in a lot of good lessons.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Sometimes the tone of this podcast can reach into condescending, but only slightly. NPR writers talk about the week in pop culture with surprisingly deep analysis, giving movies, music and everything else the respect they deserve. The great thing is, they never belittle something for being what it is  comic book, movie or otherwise. Like having four friends in my house every week.

The Indoor Kids

Great podcast run by comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his ex-therapist now writer and producer wife Emily Gordon. Funny and entertaining discussions on video game trends and themes. Episodes with Tim Bissell are good listens.

Beyond the To Do list 

Productivity podcasts tend to be pretty crappy but this one has a good hook through interviews – each week focuses on a different guest who has their own approach to productivity. Recent episode with Michael Hyatt is a good listen.

NPR: Bullseye with Jesse Thorne

I don’t listen to this every week, only when there’s a good guest. But Jesse is a remarkably relaxed interviewer and so when there’s someone on in whom you’re interested this is a great way to get at least some tidbits of knowledge and perhaps even some life lessons as well.

The Cracked Podcast

I have a love-hate relationship with this podcast as the tone of the main host is fairly snarky, but the information contained herein is so great that it’s really difficult to pass it up. The recent episode on statistics is really eye opening.

You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes 

Again, the entertainment factor of this podcast depends on the guest – three hours with someone you don’t like is too much. But if Pete manages to have someone on with whom you’re interested or want to learn from, the stories and lessons that come out of the resulting discussion are a great listen. Always something to apply to your own life.

Nerdist Writers Panel

I’m obsessed with quality television so having interviews with writers is a great way to understand how they work. If you’re not into it, then this one isn’t for you, but if you like TV this is one you should definitely try listening to.

The Dave Ramsey Show

He puts a lot of people off, and a lot of the time he’s a complete jerk, but if you want to learn how to budget and manage your personal finances, then this is a good podcast. Maybe avoid if you can’t stand the religious angle, (which admittedly isn’t that strong a lot of the time).

Idle Thumbs 

A lot of video game podcasts tend to descend into in-jokes a lot of the time, and Idle Thumbs is no exception to this, but once the discussion gets going it’s exceptional, and so that makes it worth a listen for me.

The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith 

Jeff interviews film writers about their screenplay and their writing habits. The Oscar panel every year is a must-listen. I particularly remember an episode with Jason Segel about The Muppets also being really good.

The Art of Manliness

 Great podcast that focuses on how to be a man, which isn’t code for any sort of gender roles crap. It’s practical stuff: how to look good, how to manage your finances, how to be proficient in your career, etc. Essentially it’s a crash course in adulthood.

Ask Pastor John

If you’re not religious, pass over this. John Piper answers questions in bite sized format about theology. I tend to disagree with him a bit, but I respect his intelligence and it’s always good to listen to people with whom you disagree in order to better understand their point of view.

Making it with Riki Lindhome

Riki is one half of the Garfunkel and Oats comedy duo, and sadly this podcast seems to have been put on hiatus, but the backlog is worth a listen. She interviews actors, some who have “made it” and others on their way, about breaking into show business. The advice here extends across all industries, though, even into non-creative fields.

Criminal

A great NPR podcast that highlights a weird or unusual crime or case every month. Some of them are tragic but the art of storytelling is well executed here.

The Village Church

I consider Matt Chandler to be one of the most thought-provoking and compassionate pastors in the New Calvinist movement, and his sermons every week are always filled with (sometimes controversial) exegesis. He’s only one of a few speakers I’ve ever seen who haven’t had to use notes. Again, if you’re not religious, pass over this.

Stuff You Missed In History Class

From the How Stuff Works group as well, this is bite-sized history. Some are interesting, some aren’t, so pick and choose. I always find something to listen to at least once a month.

Grantland Pop Culture

I like this podcast because it has revolving guests a lot of the time, which brings variety. Again, serious discussion of pop culture including television, film and everything else. Good podcasts take their subject matter seriously and don’t talk down to it, so this is a good place to be affirmed for that. Recent interview with Max Greenfield (Schmidt on New Girl) was really good.

The Experience Points podcast 

Thoughtful “but not humourless” discussion on video games. Not much to be said here – each podcast is worth listening to if the topic is something you’re into.

Planet Money 

Good economic journalism is either too dry or long. Planet Money combines intelligent reporting with entertaining storytelling. Good interviews too. Worth a subscription if you’re into economics and money news.

Good Game 

The best videogame show on television, anywhere in the world in my opinion.

Christ and Pop Culture

Again, this is not one for the non-religious, but CAPC are a great website with a great team, and this podcast provides thoughtful analysis of pop culture from a Christian perspective. Which isn’t code for trashing everything, either. This is serious, thoughtful discussion.

Shut Up and Sit Down

Do you like board games? Then you’ll like this podcast, which reviews and discusses various tabletop and board games. Sometimes the episodes run long and the hosts delve into tangents, but overall, a good resource for news on new games you might want to try.

GameChurch

Associated with CAPC, GameChurch interviews devs and personalities in the games industry about their spiritual beliefs. I was a guest last month, and all of the others are well worth listening to as well. Thought provoking.

The Suze Orman Show

The anti-Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman is kinder, but no less fierce. Good reminder for staying on track with your finances.

Firewall and Iceberg

I love television, and Alan Sepinwall is probably the best TV critic on the web. (Besides Todd from Vox). This podcast with Dan Feinberg delves into television in a serious way, focusing on various episodes each podcast. I’ll put it simply: if you’re a fan of television, you need to listen to this podcast.

Accidental Tech

I’ve just started listening to this so I can’t provide extensive feedback, but it seems like good – if a little long- discussion about technology trends.

Terminal7 

This is a narrow one – a podcast dedicated to the Netrunner card game. If you don’t play it, don’t worry about it.

Tone Control 

Steve Gaynor of The Fullbright Company interviews game developers. Great discussion, but seems to have gone on hiatus for a while. The existing episodes are well worth listening to.

HBR IdeaCast

Bite-sized discussion of trends in business and leadership. If you want to keep on top of emerging trends in tech, business, etc, then this is wroth listening to.

This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt

The best podcast on leadership, personal development and productivity, full stop. 

Freakonomics Radio 

Similar to This American Life, Freakonomics is all about investigating “the hidden side of everything”. Good stories to help you think. Recent episode on “Outsiders by Design”, featuring a story about the British geologist who basically had his ground-breaking ideas stolen by a geological society, is one of the most fascinating things I’ve heard in months.

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