By Will Caraccio
As the modern media culture shifts rapidly toward high-stimulation mediums to attract the short-attention spans of today’s viewers, podcasts have become a welcome escape from the dizzying speed of social media and the world in general. However, with hundreds of podcasts to choose from, covering a broad range of topics and genres, picking a podcast to listen to can often become a daunting task. That’s why I’m here to give you a hand—enjoy my ranking for the top 5 podcasts currently available on Spotify, Audible, or wherever else you get your podcasts.
Hosted by Jad Abumrad, a recipient of the McArthur genius grant for his work on the show, Radiolab promises to engage, enthrall, and mystify listeners with every episode. While starting off as a podcast for science, philosophy, and ethics, Radiolab has grown to encompass everything in between, utilizing creative editing, ingenious sound mixing, and captivating journalism to curate an unforgettable experience. Despite often describing difficult or abstract concepts, Radiolab employs a unique method of storytelling that allows the listener to visualize the words being spoken, turning concept into excited understanding. Radiolab is undoubtedly my #1 pick.
- Short Wave
In my opinion, Short Wave is one of the best science-based podcasts out there. Emphasizing clarity and brevity, host Maddie Sofia conducts weekly episodes focusing in on specific scientific topics. Interviewing experts in the fields she discusses and integrating engaging and creative methods to explain complex phenomena, Sofia accomplishes a difficult task: she makes specialized science exciting, interesting, and fun. What’s more, Short Wave episodes are only 10 minutes long! For those on the go, looking for a fast paced, informative podcast experience, Short Wave is for you.
- Revisionist History
Oftentimes, one must look back at the past to interpret the present, to predict the future. Revisionist History, with the brilliant host Malcom Gladwell, author of best-sellers like Outliers and David and Goliath, does just that. Integrating history, politics, and critical thinking into one glorious auditory experience, Revisionist History reframes often overlooked or misunderstood events, providing a captivated audience with a new lens with which to perceive the past and the present. I have not listened to a single segment of this podcast without saying to myself, “Huh, I never thought about it that way.” Gladwell’s weekly reinterpretation of history easily takes the #3 spot.
- Freakonomics Radio
The Freakonomics podcast, hosted by economist Stephen Dubner, delves into the “psychology of money” and the importance of economics in the most unexpected areas. A follow-up to Dubner’s best-selling book Freakonomics, this podcast describes economics in a way that is profoundly interesting (this is a difficult feat). Integrating real world examples to discuss the prevalence of economics in our daily lives–such as the economics of sleep or the home court advantage phenomenon in sports—Freakonimics will “tell you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do).
- Behind the Bastards
While most podcasts delve into the world of science, politics, or storytelling, Behind the Bastards occupies a very specific niche with its weekly episodes: the psychology of the world’s most notorious villains. Diving into the past of the worst humans in history, Behind the Bastards not only provides a fascinating recount of important, often overlooked, world events, but also delivers an eye-opening glimpse into how history’s most evil figures came to be.