The 4th of July officially kicks off road trip season. It’s a chance to get out and see America’s wonders, and what better way to break up the blacktop tedium than with some of the podcasts we’re into this summer? (Unless, of course, you’re listening to our Spotify Channel.)
Brilliant and breathtaking, this is NPR’s most popular podcast for a reason. Invisibilia delves into the invisible forces that guide and shape the world we live in. The 3rd season just started, but check out their back catalog on the secret lives of clothes, how to become Batman, or taking inspiration from your future self.
What does it take to fake your death? What’s it like inside Texas State University’s body farm? What are the origins of the “Milk Carton Kids” campaign? True to its name, Criminal is a podcast about crime. “Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”
Guests like Bjork, Damon Albarn and Solange break down the inspiration, creative process, and musical structure behind a single in a 15-30 minute monologue. The monologue is accompanied by snippets of the track as the guest goes over them. At the end of each episode the song is played in its entirety. Great editing and really intimate.
The Dirtbag Diaries
There’s a wonderfully large number of outdoor-themed podcasts out there, and Dirtbag Diaries is the granddaddy of them all. It seamlessly mixes adventure with politics, stereotypes, idealism versus realism, ambition, and other things you find in the wild.
Bonus Outdoor Listening
There are so many nature and outdoor podcasts, here are a few more to sample. The Sharp End is nuts, taking stories from Accidents in North American Climbing, the annual publication of the American Alpine Club (AAC). Wintry Mix takes on the quirkier aspects of the winter sports economy. Also, check out Terri Gross’ great interview with conservation photographer Paul Nicklen, longtime documentarian of Earth’s most inhospitable places.
Season 2 just started and Season 1 was stellar. Influential thinker and author Malcolm Gladwell challenges the accepted wisdom on a variety of subjects, encouraging a second look at systems and ideas we take for granted. One of his favorite targets is higher education, using indicators like private school cafeteria food to shed light on a much larger problem.
A fun and wide-ranging food podcast, and how can you go wrong with episode titles like “Is Cereal a Soup?” and “Why Bartenders Can’t Be Boyfriends” and “What if Willy Wonka Was Your Dad?” The Wonka episode also features a specialist who attempts to create real-life versions of famous fictional meals.
Every Little Thing
A brand new show from Gimlet Media about “finding the extraordinary in the ordinary” and hosted by science journalist Flora Lichtman. The truths unearthed are fantastic; flamingos are hard-core animals, the government stashes all kinds of weird things, and there’s a secret underworld of houseplant dealers.
Death, Sex & Money
Illuminating and honest, Anna Sale’s show gets straight into “big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.” Highlights include a multi-part series on New Orleans, the patients who rely on Planned Parenthood, and the story of a San Quentin prison guard in transition.
It’s the one everybody’s been talking about this year, and for good reason. This is a rich story, full of twists big and small, with mazes, murders, hidden treasure, the nature of clocks, family ties, and lots of tattoos. At the heart of S-Town’s labyrinth is a beautiful, painful essay on identity, place, and friendship.
Slot machine hackers, exporting the magic of an Irish pub, the origins of the spreadsheet, offensive trademarks…Planet Money keeps stories about finance (both macro and micro) short, sweet, and very engaging.