If your friends are suddenly saying things like, “There have been studies done about that,” or they are tossing around names like Angela Duckworth, Al Roth, and Floyd B. McKissick, or they’re using words and phrases like, “the sharing economy,” or “grit” or “middle America,” then they are leading double lives right before your eyes. That’s right, your friends are into Podcasts. And not just any podcasts, but the snooty, brainy ones that make it look like they got a bachelor’s degree in economics, psychology, and Middle East history all at once.
Here’s the good news, though. If you’ve been feeling left out, there’s an easy way to remedy that. Look no further than our podcast starter kit.
First thing you’re going to need to listen to podcasts is a podcast app. If you’ve got an android operating system, go now and download podcast addict. It’s got a lot of useful customizable options, a simple interface, and a nice playlist feature that lets you cue up episodes by downloading them, but then deletes them from your phone once you’ve listened to them. Very efficient.
If you’re fancy with your iOS, I can’t say I have much experience, but according to The Verge, you should look into Overcast Radio’s app, creatively titled “Overcast.” It seems to cater to a crowd a little more serious about their podcasts than the ones downloading podcast addict: you can really streamline your episodes by eliminating empty silences and even speeding up episodes without having to listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks. These features look…interesting, but I can’t promise I won’t judge you for using them.
Next you’re going to need to subscribe to some podcasts. Don’t bite off more than you can chew: you’ll want to vary episode length, because there’s few things worse than listening to two hour-long episodes in a row when you’ve only got about half-hour windows of listening time. And you’ll want to mix up the content a bit, too. You don’t want to kill your soul by listening to too much social science research in a row, but you also don’t want to feel like a goon, stringing comedy podcast after comedy podcast.
So, in short, subscribe to these five podcasts and download these specific episodes, in this order.
- Freakonomics Radio by WNYC Studios — “Make me a Match” from June, 2015. I’m not saying this episode is the best, but it’s a good primer to how Freakonomics Radio works, using economics to break down social systems. Sounds dull, but believe me, you’ll wow your friends with your increased knowledge. These episodes are generally on the longer side, upwards of 45 minutes.
- Thrilling Adventure Hour by Acker & Blacker — “Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars: Inside Out in Outer Space,” #2 from 2011. TAH can be hit or miss depending on your personal style, but it’s a nice short and light podcast and you really can’t lose with Sparks Nevada. Aubrey Plaza is in this episode, and I’ve always secretly wanted to be her, so it’s a good one to start with.
- This American Life by WBEZ — “Superpowers,” episode 178, from 2001. This episode is a classic, and really needs no introduction, but let’s just say that TAL mixes the heavy and the fluffy together pretty well, so you don’t even realize that you’ve listened to a 50+-minute-long episode.
- Hidden Brain by NPR — “Loss and Renewal,” episode 15 from December, 2015. Hidden brain is a little like Freakonomics in the way in approaches humanity scientifically, but it’s a lot shorter. Need I say more?
- My Brother, My Brother, and Me by MaximumFun.org — “The Legend of Cracker Barrel,” #234 from January, 2015. MBMBaM (pronounced Ma-Bim-Bam) is a delightful romp for over an hour. The Legend of Cracker Barrel is, shall we say, legendary. It’s a great way to finish off this Podcast starter kit.
Of course, there are hundreds of other great podcasts out there, but these five episodes will convince you to go look for them.
Finally, you’ll have to decide when and where to listen to your podcasts. I don’t know your life, so I can’t make these decisions for you, but I can give you some general pointers.
Do: listen to your podcasts on the train/bus/car on the way to work, especially if your commute is 30+ minutes.
Don’t: listen to your podcasts in the car with other people unless you completely trust that their tastes are similar to yours.
Do: listen to your podcasts while cooking dinner or doing the dishes.
Don’t: use headphones close to a hot stove or a sink.
Do: talk about podcasts with your friends so that you can get good recommendations
Don’t: download more than three episodes of a new podcast at a time, just in case.