A Listener's Guide to Podcasts

Jul 24, 2014

Julia Pistell, co-host of 'Literary Disco'.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

If you're interested in podcasts, but aren't sure what to listen to, have no fear. We're here to help.  

On a recent episode of WNPR's Where We Live, John Dankosky spoke with Julia Pistell, Sam Greenspan, Mike Pesca, and Hrishikesh Hirway about the podcasts they host and produce. During the program, both the guests and our listeners shared several podcasts that have intrigued and inspired them. Here, we've compiled a list of these podcasts, and provided a few links to help you get a taste of what each is about:

Music to your book-loving ears, Literary Disco hosts Julia, Tod, and Rider read and talk about books. Episodes frequently include guest authors and feature listener-involved games to keep things spicy. 

The Gist is a daily podcast from Slate hosted by Mike Pesca by a very small team of hard workers. It features two segments: news and art. "I think the most interesting things in life are the things that aren't going to appeal to most people," Pesca said.

What better way to find out how a song was made than to get to its roots? On Song Exploder, musicians take apart a song and share the story of how it was created. "I take a song and get the stems -- the individual layers that went into a recording," said host and producer Hrishikesh Hirway. "I break it apart with the musician, and talk to them about each piece individually, these sort of discrete blocks of the song that normally, you never get to hear."

A show about design and architecture, 99% Invisible is about the "invisible activity that shapes our world." Producer Sam Greenspan said that the show started as a mere four-and-a-half-minute segment on San Francisco's KLW Morning Edition, and has since evolved into a 15 to 30 minute show. He hopes to create "driveway moments" in which the listeners become so engulfed in the show's content, that they lose track of time sitting in their car.

Riverdale Podcast is about Archie Comics, set in the town where the characters live. Or should we say lived? As Pesca said, this podcast "won't leave you behind" as it perpetually discusses "the latest developments in the Archie Comics, all the time." 

Welcome to Night Vale provides bimonthly updates on the fictional town of Night Vale, including “local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.” Pistell said it's very popular with a teen audience, with very long-form storytelling.

Benjamen Walker's Theory Of Everything "connects the dots" of everything. To learn more, we suppose you'll just have to listen.

Strangers is a podcast about both ourselves and the people we have met, including emotional heartbreak and acts of generosity. It's emotional, and introspective. 

The Truth features funny, fictional stories, which makes the name of the podcast itself a good joke. The stories last anywhere from ten to 20 minutes, and take listeners to unexpected places.

With themes ranging from guns to online dating, Love + Radio creates shows mixing fact and fiction. The stories and interviews all relate to the show's central theme.

How Stuff Works intrigues the curious minds of both the youth and adults. Each episode explores the science behind every day things that we encounter on a daily basis. 

Featured on The Nerdist, The Indoor Kids intersects video games and daily life. It is hosted by married couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.

Pete Holmes, host of You Made It Weird.
Credit theNerdPatrol / Creative Commons

On You Made It Weird, comedian and host Pete Holmes gets other comedians, actors and musicians alike to share their secret weirdness.

Star Wars Minute takes a minute from a Star Wars film, dissects it for about 15 seconds, and keeps you coming back for more. That's pretty much all you need to know. 

The Flop House tears apart terribly-made movies and makes fun of it all. "It's fun when you haven't seen the movie," said Pesca, "but when you have and it really annoys you, and then The Flop House does a take on it, it's brilliant. Sometimes I almost want to see terrible movies if I know The Flop House has done a take on it."

How Did This Get Made? is a comedic, bi-weekly podcast criticizing terribly made movies. Each show features a new guest. "I have actually gone and watched the movies afterwards, because it’s so funny," said Pistell. 

Anna Sale, host and managing editor of 'Death, Sex & Money'.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Death, Sex & Money is hosted and edited by Anna Sale, a veteran reporter and someone very near and dear to the WNPR crew. It hits on all the topics people care about most.

One word: trivia! Memory Palace features monthly, history-themed trivia.  

Need to settle a pressing dinnertime debate? Judge John Hodgman provides commentary on those around-the-table, family arguments that we're all too familiar with. 

Bullseye Jesse Thorn features interviews with arts and culture personalities. Past guests include Dolly Parton, Ira Glass, and Jeff Bridges.

Whether it's books, history, comedy, or music that tickles your fancy, there's a podcast out there for you. Start with one of the addicting podcasts linked above and get lost in the amazing world of podcasts. We're hooked. We hope you will be, too.