These are the podcasts I raved about with friends, the ones that made folding laundry palatable, and the ones that put a stupid smile on my face during long subway commutes.
The Longform Podcast: Buzz Bissinger and Episode 100
Buzz Bissinger (Friday Night Lights, GQ‘s “My Gucci Addiction”) has lived more than most people, and he’s radically honest about it. Just a solid interview with a great subject.
If you haven’t listened to Longform before, their hundredth episode is a handy introduction. They transform a bunch of clips into an inspiring, fist-pumping guide to journalism.
The Flop House: God’s Not Dead and Grudge Match
Pretty much every episode of this one is a home run. The premise–three comedic writers watch a terrible movie and then talk about it–belies the trio’s alchemical ability to turn Nicolas Cage jokes into solid gold.
Planet Money: Jubliee! (?), The Buffalo Talk-Off, and The Fondue Conspiracy
Even the worst Planet Money episode is better than the best episodes of most other podcasts. The show can be a salve (tackling obscure quirks of the economy, like the secondhand sneaker market) and a salvo (looking at income inequality from new and compelling angles).
StartUp: How Listeners Become Owners
The genesis and rise of Alex Blumberg’s podcast network is being chronicled through its own first podcast, which is chock full of the missteps and mistakes that comes with hanging your own shingle. Episode 7 is particularly illuminating in its look at why the average American is prohibited in investing in startups she believes in.
State of the Arts: Thomas Kinkade’s Industry of Light
This one was a happy discovery. Two academics discuss contemporary art through an accessible lens encompassing criticism, journalism, and cultural studies. Their investigation into Thomas Kinkade looks at how he managed to install “galleries” in seemingly every suburban mall, the conservative agenda beneath his work, and his crazy personal life.
Monocle’s “The Stack”: Episode 105
Monocle’s weekly review of the print magazine industry can err on the twee side now and then, but for the most part it’s a fascinating rejoinder to the endless “print is dead” jeremiads. Episode 105 is particularly excellent, as frequent guest Ian Birch gives a holistic analysis on the trends and changes he sees coming for legacy and upstart publications.
Slate’s Audio Book Club: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book One
This one makes the list purely on the strength of listening to Parul Sehgal on Knausgaard. Can she host her own “What I Read” podcast? That would start the year right.
Slate’s Culture Gabfest: “Gild This” Edition
I still enjoy my weekly check-in with Dana Stevens, Julia Turner, and Stephen Metcalf. This episode stands out for their helpful introduction to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and their larger discussion of the book’s impact.
The Catapult: Episode 04
Rosie Schaap is great as always, but I loved Isaac Oliver’s “How to Start a Gay Fire in 30 Simple Steps.”
Oh, and I visited the Dear Book Nerd podcast in March, though I can’t bring myself to listen to it.