Podcast Picks for the New Year

Personally picked podcasts presented for your perusal!

I like to write a podcast review every few weeks. However, a lot of podcasts I listen to are either quite old with a back catalogue I can’t possibly comprehensibly review or, despite being high quality, by their nature defy a longer review.

So, presented for your approval, a selection of the podcasts I currently listen to. Consider giving one or two of them a listen, I enjoy them and hopefully so will you.

This American Life
An absolute classic. One of the longest running and most successful podcasts ever made, consistently ranked in the top 10 by popularity. This American Life is a weekly collection of true stories and original reporting, exploring everything from the nature of translation and the possibility of life after death to changing managerial standards at an innovative car factory and the saga of an abusive building manager. This American Life is at the top of the list for a reason; it is consistently well-produced to the highest standards of professionalism. The stories are always new, interesting, and deeply compelling.

Another from NPR, Radiolab is heavily inspired by This American Life, focusing on a wide variety of topics from Typhoid Mary to drone warfare. Radiolab tends to focus less on personal stories and more on stories of scientific or social interest. Updates approximately twice a month, but is well worth the slightly longer wait for new episodes.

Inspired by the book series of the same name and produced by one of its co-authors, Freakonomics explores some of the weirder phenomena of human behaviour through the lens of economics. While just the word “economics” may make it sound dull or uninteresting, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Freakonomics covers all manner of issues, varying from how to win a hotdog-eating contest to why belts are worn more often than suspenders. A great introduction to the subject, as well as a great opportunity to hear interesting stories.

Planet Money
Similar in theme to Freakonomics, Planet Money explores interesting economic stories and updates twice a week in a shorter, 15-20 minute format. Expect anything, from the history of the federal reserve to how it became illegal in many US states to braid hair without a license.

99 Percent Invisible
A weekly podcast from Roman Mars and Radiotopia on design, and the impact it has on our lives. All sorts of interesting stories, including how to make consumers feel comfortable with self driving cars, the origin of the shopping mall, and why vinyl records in the USSR were sometimes printed on the back of X-ray transparencies.

A weekly podcast written and read by Pheobe Judge, Criminal explores the lesser-heard stories behind the cases in the news. Perhaps not as varied as some of the other podcasts on this list, Criminal is still well worth a listen if you are in any way interested in true crime stories and the interesting twists behind them.


A weekly podcast from Aaron Mahnke, Lore explores myths, folk tales and stories of things that go bump in the night, and the true stories that may have inspired the myths. From the hairy origins of werewolves to the unsettling origins of elves, Lore proves every week that truth can be stranger, and sometimes more entertaining, than fiction.

Hidden Brain
Yet another NPR podcast, Hidden Brain explores the psychology behind why we do the things we do and feel the way we feel. Starting with an interesting first episode on switch tracking, Hidden Brain finds something new, practical and interesting every week. Hidden Brain isn’t just interesting on an intellectual level but also offers practical tips on how to avoid psychological traps which arise in daily life, from how to have fewer arguments, to how to better understand your relatives at Thanksgiving. Well worth a listen.

Reply All

ReplyAll_Logo_2400pxWith a new episode every week, Reply All deals with computers, the internet, and how we use them. From how online reviews can ruin a business, how to fix Yik Yak, and what exactly a regional cookie representative does, Reply All is definitely one to add to your subscriptions list.

Code Breaker
Somewhat similar to Reply All, Code Breaker explores technology and how it impacts our lives, but through a unique lens. This season, the key question is “Is It Evil?”, with a new aspect of technology being examined every week. This seemingly simplistic question proves to be a great way of examining the complexities of the technological lives we all take for granted.

What the Crime?
A new offering from Crimefeed and Investigation Discovery, What the Crime? deals with some of the more unusual aspects of crime. So far episodes have explored whether or not “Hangry” should be a legally recognised concept, why suspects keep hiding items in their vaginas, and why so many really weird crimes seem to happen specifically in Florida.

Surprisingly Awesome
Another weekly podcast from Gimlet makers of Reply All, Surprisingly Awesome deals with a new, seemingly boring topic every week and presents a series of stories in an attempt to reveal the awesome side of almost everything. If you ever needed to know a bunch of surprisingly interesting facts about concrete, mould or free-throws, this is the podcast for you.

Welcome to Night Vale
Perhaps one of the best known fiction podcasts of all time, Welcome to Night Vale is presented as a community radio programme from the small town of Night Vale, a friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful and strange lights pass overhead as we all pretend to sleep. Heavily inspired by weird fiction and the works of HP Lovecraft, Welcome to Night Vale offers a unique blend of creepiness and surreal comedy in a world where mysterious glowing clouds run the school board, where citizens are reminded to pay no attention to the hooded figures outside the dog park.

Only Human
One of the most recent additions to this list, and one I have written a full review forOnly Human presents a compelling look at disability and illness from perspectives we seldom hear. From a story about a man who chose to remain deaf rather than undergo a procedure to restore his hearing, to the question of what people do when they are diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, Only Human presents a nuanced and compelling take on important issues which are unfortunately covered far too rarely.

Snap Judgement
Another offering from NPR, presented by Glynn Washington, Snap Judgement offers a new episode every week. Similar to This American Life, Snap Judgement offers a selection of stories around a central theme. However, instead of an emphasis on factual journalism, Snap Judgement focuses on storytelling, offering musical accompaniment to a variety of stories both factual and fictional, from true stories stranger than fiction to unique spins on classic tales. Snap Judgement is a unique twist on the NPR formula, well worth a listen.

That’s all for this edition of the podcast pick; if you produce a podcast or know of one we should listen to, please send us an email at [email protected], or tweet at us @abersmArts!