my favorite podcasts

I'm pretty sure I'm behind the times when it comes to basically...everything.  Technology, music, fashion, you name it; I'm not in the know, guaranteed.  Case in point: I figured I was only about five years late to the podcast game, but a quick Google search revealed that podcasting actually has roots dating back to the 1980s...and then really caught on in late 2004 thanks to the iPod and such devices.  Okay, so I'm the last to join in on the fun, whatever, I'm here to stay now!  

Danny started listening to a history podcast at his last job and then listened to it with an English student sometime during our first year in Spain, and during our French road trip he suggested it as a way to pass the time in the car.  I was resistant, as the podcast he wanted to listen to came in six four-hour chunks and was on the topic of World War I.  Now, I like history, don't get me wrong, but World War I hasn't ever been one of my very favorite topics to learn about.  We listened to a good bit of the first episode of this particular podcast as we drove through one of the gorges, but it was tricky for me to follow along as we'd pause it every time we stopped for a view or to take a picture or for a meal - four hours is a loooong podcast in my opinion.  

D - The podcast being referenced here is a series called "Blueprint to Armageddon," from Dan Carlin's Hardcore History.  Yes, it is incredibly long, and I was skeptical at first too, but I highly recommend the series.  Carlin's voice is interesting and engaging and he really brings World War I to life, so that even if you're a person who doesn't think you'd be interested in the topic, you end up craving more and more.  Needless to say, if Dan Carlin was my history teacher in college I wouldn't have drooled so much on my desk.

So at one of our Airbnbs we downloaded a few podcasts that I thought I might find a little more appealing, and sure enough, they're some of my favorites to this day (as though I'm not writing this only three months later...).  Since then, we've been on two more road trips and we've listened to podcasts during both of them, and this summer I've started listening to podcasts while working out (it's not necessarily the podcast-listening that's new, it's the working out that's new, don't be fooled), while doing tasks on the computer, or even just while walking around campus.  I've listened to just a few episodes from some podcasts, and others I subscribe to (i.e. I automatically get new episodes whenever they come out) and listen to almost every day.  

So - here they are - my favorites and why, what they're about, as well as about how long they usually run, because that's important to me...you won't find any four hour shows on this list ;)

  • NPR News Now - this podcast offers the latest news in five minutes, and comes out with new episodes multiple times a day, sometimes up to seven within a 24 hour period.  I'll listen to these while I'm brushing my teeth, walking to the cafeteria, folding laundry, really any little task does the trick here.  They're typically focused on US news, but definitely include important world news as well - I've heard a thing or two from Turkey make it on episodes this summer, which generally isn't a good sign, but I'm glad to get updates for sure.  
  • NPR's Up First - while also put out by NPR, this podcast is quite different (in fact, I didn't realize both were done by NPR until I was putting this together).  It's produced once a day, every morning around 5:30am Eastern Time, and it features the biggest stories and ideas, everything you need to know to start your day from politics to pop culture (I took that straight from them - I didn't come up with all that - someone clearly got paid to sound that good).  I like this one because the episodes aren't too long, usually 12 - 13 minutes, but they're long enough to get into topics and to focus in-depth on one particular topic for the majority of the time, give a bit of time to one or two more topics, and then breeze through a couple of others.  
  • The Daily - this might be my current favorite podcast.  It's done by the New York Times and hosted by a guy named Michael Barbaro, produced every weekday by 6am and generally around 20 minutes long.  On it, the host typically takes one particular news topic and really covers it, usually with an interview or two.  The one I listened to on Friday covered opposition research (brought on by Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with the Russian lawyer in the summer of 2016 that has recently been revealed) and how other politicians have used it throughout the years.  Interesting examples included John Edwards' $400 haircuts and Mitt Romney's car elevator, both stories which had been brought up in recent campaigns (that I had obviously missed).  Last week I also learned more about Mosul and the history behind the city from a reporter who has been living there and covering the situation there for a while and the Farc and a new peace agreement in Colombia, among other things.
  • The Simple Show: in Love with Books, Home & Travel - one of the two that Danny and I started listening to while driving around southern France, I've been a fan of Tsh Oxenreider (the host of this podcast) for a while now.  I read one of her books a few years ago, followed her family as they traveled the world for a school year, and now feel like I'm actually her friend since I've listened to many of her podcasts.  She talks within three general categories, as implied by the title: books, life at home, and travel.  I've only been interested in the life at home and travel episodes, so that's all we've listened to so far, but overall they're enjoyable and I like her co-hosts for those episodes.  Sometimes she has guests on as well, so I usually pick and choose based on guests that I'm already familiar with or ones that sound particularly interesting to me and download the ones that pique my interest the most.  Her podcasts are usually 35-45 minutes long.
  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin - I read Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, a few years ago, and Danny followed within the past year.  We're both a fan of her work and practical ideas on trying to make everyday life a little bit happier.  This podcast follows a specific format, which I like, and think it helps the show move along quickly (the episodes are typically 35-45 minutes long).  Gretchen hosts the podcast with her sister (who has recently begun her own podcast!) and occasionally they also have guests on for interviews, but usually it's just the two of them.  This was the other one of the two that Danny and I started listening to while driving in France, and because we both enjoy it, just like with The Simple Show, I won't listen to it on my own - I wait till we're both available to listen together.
  • This Week I Learned - this podcast is produced by The Week magazine and during the 10-12 minute show, the host presents the most fascinating and fun revelations, reports, and studies on the internet.  It's pretty short and to the point but also entertaining - recent episodes discuss how your sense of smell affects how body deals with calories, that Betty Crocker doesn't actually exist, and how blinking is like a itty bitty nap for your brain, among many other things.  The host promises to make learning fun again, and they're great because they're educational, but about things that mostly don't really matter. 
  • Seven-Minute Explainers - another podcast by The Week, this one is a bit more serious in nature, but usually no less interesting.  In each episode, writers, editors, and thinkers for The Week take on a different topic and spend seven minutes, well, explaining it, in a concise and entertaining way.  The most recent one that I downloaded was titled "China's plan to run the world" and covered the trillions of dollars that China is investing in railways, ports, and telecommunications - in other countries.  
  • Seven-Minute Opinions - the final podcast I listen to from The Week magazine and one of my favorites.  The titles of these are pretty self-explanatory - it's seven minutes long, and it offers arguments and perspectives from the left, the right, and the center.  Topics are varied - very varied - and I pick and choose the ones that interest me.  Sometimes I agree with the speakers and sometimes I don't, but it gets me thinking and when Danny and I listen together, it gets us talking, whether it's about baseball or Kellyanne Conway or healthcare...and it's good.
  • Stuff You Should Know - this podcast is from the well-known site HowStuffWorks.com and Danny and I have listened to a few interesting episodes from the hosts, Josh and Chuck, so far.  I especially liked the one on the Beagle Brigade, the dogs who sniff out agricultural products at international airports.  At 50+ minutes, we needed a lengthy bus ride to get through just one, but it was worth it.

So these are definitely my most listened to podcasts.  We've listened to one episode from TED Radio Hour, and I have a few more downloaded that I'd like to listen to in the future, but they're 50ish minutes, a bit longer than my usual.  Yesterday I tried out one from #GoodMuslimBadMuslim and really liked it, and so today I listened to the second one in the gym.  Living in a Muslim country for the first time, even though it's only been three weeks so far, has been, at the same time, very similar and very different to what I'm used to.  I appreciate the perspective of the two women (both Muslim, both Americans) who host this comical podcast.

D - I haven't listened to too many podcasts without Shannon but I have downloaded a few sports ones that I'm itching to listen to.  My favorite NFL show Good Morning Football just started podcasting recently so I'm excited about that.  Also, ESPN's 30 for 30 just started a podcast in June which is sure to be exceptionally interesting as well!  I have a few podcasts where people are interviewing Tony Horton which are all very similar but I still love listening to them.  What can I say...I love that guy!

I've also listened to an episode and a half of the (fairly) new Shauna Niequist Podcast.  I was intrigued because I've read a few of her books and have heard her featured on The Simple Show before.  I've liked what I've heard so far, but again, LONG - it would take me more than one workout to get through an episode.  Speaking of Shauna Niequist...Jen Hatmaker just started a podcast last week and Shauna was her first guest.  I like both of them, and liked them together on Jen's first episode, so I'll keep an eye on what Jen is up to with her new show.  I like podcasts like Tsh's, Shauna's and Jen's...but they do start to feel a little similar to me.  They sometimes interview the same people (ahem...each other, among others), and it just feels kind of girly and same ol', same ol' after awhile.  So, I think it's good to mix it up with some news and a few other things.  I'm always looking for new ideas and have some shows I'm wanting to try out when I have a longer period of time like a car trip or somewhere I have to wait around but don't have a book with me.  So, until I have many more audio discoveries to share, happy listening! :)