When I was growing up, my dad was a big fan of using the radio in the car. He wasn’t so much of a fan of taking requests, though. This meant that we either listened to oldies–particularly the Beach Boys or Motown–or tap radio. It was better than it sounds.
Anyway, I’m now in my early thirties and have effectively become my father, loving the music of my youth and the talk radio of my present. Of course, my present is the twenty-first century, and talk radio, though it still exists in the traditional format, has evolved into a new species of pokémon: podcasts.
Podcast have been a huge part of my life for years. Some have come and gone, but the genre remains. In fact, I often fast from podcasts because I get so wrapped up in them. They are that good!
And yet, amazingly, nearly eighty percent of Americans don’t listen to podcasts. (Sorry, rest of the world. I don’t have stats for you, but I do have some podcasts for you!) That’s why a number of podcast producers have teamed up this month to promote #trypod, which challenges their listeners to encourage their friends to try podcasts for the first time or, for the experienced listener, try new podcasts.
So, in the spirit of #trypod, I’m going to give you my top ten podcasts.
But first! Just to make sure that there’s no bias, I’m going to disclose my two podcasts up-front: the ChurchMag Podcast, which is a ton of fun, incredible, and one that you’re probably familiar with, and The Ignorance of Church and State, a politics podcast that my friend Kevon and I do, though we’ve been on hiatus since the election…for obvious reasons. We hope to be back soon, so there’s that!
And now, my top ten podcasts for you to try!
9. & 10. Let My People Think / Just Thinking: I grouped these together because they’re both by Ravi Zacharias, and they sometimes repeat the same material. However, their formats are different, with LMP releasing on Saturdays with a twenty-minute episode, usually half of a forty-minute talk that will be completed over two weeks, and JT releasing a thirteen-minute episode each weekday. These small episodes are nice little tastes of apologetics, and they are usually four-pieces of one long talk, with the fifth being part of a Q/A session. Either way, it’s all good material.
8. The Phil Vischer Podcast: I’m new to this podcast, and I go through phases with it. Sometimes, I find it hilarious and insightful, and sometimes, it can be a bit frustrating, especially when I don’t agree with the hosts. Then again, that’s partly why I listen: to learn. And I have learned a great deal from it. Check out this episode in particular.
7. The NPR Politics Podcast: Politics are very depressing at the moment–hence the hiatus of my politics podcast–but this one is upbeat and humorous. Despite its US-centric focus, I’ve heard at least one recommendation from a European podcaster, so that means something!
6. Serial: I’ll say this right now: I liked season two. Season one was a great “whodunit” mystery. Season two was a great “why did he do it” psychological exploration. I found the both interesting, but for clearly different reasons. Anyway, if you like the True Crime genre, you’ll quickly see why this podcast redefined and reinvigorated it.
5. The RELEVANT Podcast: This podcast and I go way back. I listen to this podcast for the entertainment value, as these are very funny people. However, to be honest, I used to rate it more highly, but over the past few years, they’ve started getting into political and theological discussions that border on the infuriating. And I’m not talking about the interviews. Those are mostly fine, though they toss softball questions are people on the fringe of orthodoxy. No, what bothers me is when the hosts discuss serious topics amongst themselves with a clear lack of information on the topic. As someone who is constantly trying to stay informed, it is grating to hear people who may be intelligent but topically ignorant try to make pronouncements on serious issues. Still, I enjoy more often than not, and it’s easily one of the funniest podcasts out there.
4. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: When I went back to college to get my Master’s degree in history, I realized that I hadn’t read a history book since I left college five years earlier. Desperate to re-immerse myself in my discipline, I turned to HH. I’d been listening to to Dan Carlin’s other podcast for years, so this was natural place to start. I’m glad I did! This podcast is amazing, and I’ve even used clips to help teach my students. My favorite series was “Death Throes of the Republic,” a six-part tour of the decline and fall of the Roman Republic, which you can now buy in iTunes. (It’s hours of content!) Another great series that you can still get for free in the podcast feed is Blueprint for Armageddon, which is about WWI and only twenty-four hours long. Also, you download the entire feed! It’s all so good.
3. Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie: I’ve been listening to Ken since his NPR days, and I have to say that even when I disagree with him, I like him. He’s civil and well-informed. Plus, he’s very funny/punny. On top of that, he has a deep appreciation for the people in politics, and that’s someone we could all do with: a reminder that behind every policy lies a person.
2. Slate’s The Gist: This podcast is nice because every episode is about something different: politics, culture, silly news stories, a new book, pseudo-science, etc. The host, Mike Pesca, is pretty eclectic in his inters test. He’s also incredibly liberal and often goes “blue,” but I still find his perspective to be unique and informative. Beyond that, he is a wordsmith of the highest calibre, and in that, he is constantly challenging me to communicate in a better, more evolved manner.
1. Common Sense with Dan Carlin: Dan Carlin has offered me more opportunities to think about how and why our government functions or fails to function that any other source. It is incredible how his mind works. What’s more, he’s generally fair to all sides in his commentary, regularly stating that he angers all sides equally. That said, he’s a very unique thinker, and his ideas don’t always fall into what most people would consider normal. Of course, most people just vote for one party no matter what, so they aren’t the kind of people whose opinions I’m interested in.
Those are my podcasts suggestions for you to try–what have you got for me!
[Image via NPR]