Four Excellent Podcasts

I’m dedicating a post to my favorite podcasts, which make it possible for me to clean my house and wash dishes each night after my baby is in bed. (Wait, you say it is possible to do household chores without listening to podcasts? That humans have been doing it for generations? Nonsense!) If you have a favorite podcast (or anything else you love listening to), please share it in a comment.


History of English  My brilliant brother Logan introduced me to this podcast (and podcast-listening in general). Each hour-long episode is a lesson in linguistics, history, anthropology, and literature all at once. (Oh, and it’s completely ad-free!) Attorney and English language scholar Kevin Stroud reveals mind-boggling etymologies, takes you back to the herds and movements of the Proto Indo-Europeans, examines the contributions of Greek and Roman to English, illuminates Beowulf, and introduces you to the earliest bards and Catholic kings of the British Isles.

There are 81 episodes and counting (I’m currently on episode 49). Some good ones to try: Who Were the Indo-Europeans?Sounds Like Old English, and Not Lost in Translation. But to really enjoy this podcast you should start at the beginning and listen to it all the way through.

My whole family has gotten geeked out on History of English; with each week’s new episode we hash out the historical tidbits and new etymologies we’ve learned. Prepare to have your mind blown.


Revisionist History  To quote a fan on Twitter, “If you’re not listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s, podcast, Revisionist History, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.”

Revisionist History is everything you love about Gladwell’s books–fascinating behavioral economics, social science turned on its head–in podcast form. Gladwell’s voice virtually sings with energy and passion as he examines historical events through a new lens and tackles compelling and controversial contemporary issues. (His podcast is having a moment as he takes on the problem of educational inequity in America.)

Great episodes to try: Saigon, 1965, examining cultural bias in the Vietnam war and in current conflicts with groups like ISIS, and My Little Hundred Million, in which he audits the moral bankruptcy of billionaire elite universities. The only downside I can see to Revisionist History is that, for the present time, it’s slated for only ten episodes. Malcolm Gladwell is brilliant; to say that America has an intellectual crush on this skinny Canadian would be an understatement.


The Art of Manliness  If you’re a reader of The Art of Manliness, you know that husband and wife team Brett and Kate McKay cover every topic imaginable: not just on recovering the lost art of manliness, but on how to be a good human on planet earth. In an internet world filled with lame clickbait and SEO-laden recycled content, Art of Manliness stands apart as an encyclopedia of impeccably-researched articles on everything you could ever want to know.

The podcast is as good as the blog, mainly because of Brett’s professional interviewing style and the wide array of authors and social scientists featured. Two episodes to try are Love Factually with Dr. Duana Welch for a fun and fascinating look at the science of dating and relationships, and C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings Mastermind Group on the literary club and men’s group called the Inklings and the influence they had on The Lord of the Rings, and western literature and society. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this one, but I love how Art of Manliness podcast comes out biweekly so you don’t have to wait a full week to be enlightened by the guru of manliness.


Happier  I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Rubin‘s work since I first read The Happiness Project on my honeymoon three years ago. Since that time she’s released another book and launched a wildly successful podcast with her sister, TV writer and producer Elizabeth Craft.

Gretchen and Elizabeth compare life in New York City and Los Angeles and discuss habit formation, family, healthy living, and happiness research. I wish this podcast had fewer ad breaks, and sometimes the issues addressed are, irrefutably, “first-world problems”; yet I like the overall message of choosing to act intentionally in creating a happy life. And when you’re loading the dishwasher at 10 pm and want to listen to something fun and light, Happier is just the thing. Episodes to try: Holiday Episode: Cornucopia of Try-this-at-Homes from Listeners, and Thoughts on Decorations and Enjoy Your Home’s Special Features, Arianna Huffington Talks About Sleep, and the Pleasure of Children’s Literature .

99piUpdate, January 2017: Since posting this, I’ve unsubscribed to Happier but I’ve found a new favorite podcast: 99 Percent Invisible, in which the witty and original Roman Mars scours the world for fascinating stories about the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. The episodes are pithy and compelling and will make you see the world around you in an entirely new way.