Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Top Ten Podcasts You Should Be Downloading

Written by J.P. Ortman
Active Image
The Moth: In an era when reality TV is anything but, it is uniquely refreshing to hear true stories performed live in front of an audience. From A-listers to your little sister, everyone’s got a story to tell. 
1. The Moth: In an era when reality TV is anything but, it is uniquely refreshing to hear true stories performed live in front of an audience. From A-listers to your little sister, everyone’s got a story to tell. 

2. Alan Watts: Credited as the foremost interpreter of Eastern philosophies to the West, Watts brings a playful spirit to his lectures and tackles life’s big questions. This man is my hippie guru even if his professorial tone elicits images of a man sporting a smoking jacket and pipe.

3. Fresh Air with Terry Gross: This show is like eavesdropping on a therapy session with the most renowned artists and leaders of the moment. But don’t be fooled. Terry’s sensitivity doesn’t keep her from calling out politicians on their hypocrisy or entertainers on their frivolity. This host does her homework and asks probing questions without flinching.

4. PRI: Selected Shorts: There is a comforting nostalgia to having a story read to you. In this podcast, actors from stage, screen, and television bring classic and new short fiction to life as they read before a live audience. And who wouldn’t want the likes of Alec Baldwin, Anjelica Huston, and Sigourney Weaver to read them a bedtime story?

5. Best of Current TV: Let’s face it. Local TV news is a practice in hysterics, and network news is for the shuffleboard set (aka old people, no offense). Enter Current TV, a DIY style news network produced and programmed in collaboration with its audience. Finally, a cable news network you can count on.

6. This American Life: Offbeat audio essays and reported pieces centering on a weekly theme. Listening to  segments that are at once touching, funny, and surprising, you may get strange looks on the subway as you giggle one minute and weep the next. But you’ll be so caught up in these “little movies for [the] radio” that you won’t care who’s looking.

7. Slate's Culture and Political Gabfests: Constantly surrounded by breaking news— like our financial markets are in freefall and the marriage of SJP and Matthew Broderick—it’s hard to know where we stand on the issues. Fortunately the gabfests provide thoughtful analyses and irreverent debates on the week’s cultural and political events—from highbrow to pop. Pass off their well-reasoned arguments as your own, and you will sound sharp the next time you want to impress somebody!

8. The Sound of Young America: Billing himself as “America's Radio Sweetheart," host Jesse Thorn evokes the informal edge of a college radio show but spars like a pro with arts and cultural personalities your parents never heard of but you can’t get enough of.

9. Meditation Oasis: No-nonsense guided meditation to get you out of that funk and into a place that is centered, calm, and nonreactive. Listening to Mary Maddux’s soothing and reassuring speaking voice is the perfect way to start or end your day in peace.

10. iTunes U: This is sort of cheating because it’s not officially a podcast, but iTunes has an entire section devoted to recorded lectures from universities around the globe. Ever regret sleeping through those core courses you’ll be paying off ’til you’re forty? Make up for it with free downloads of college lectures on iTunes University. You can even sneak outside of your major.

Share this post