Beyond “Serial”

In 2014, when the buzz about This American Life‘s riveting podcast Serial reached a fever pitch, it felt as though you couldn’t get through the day without having a conversation about it. Since then, the heightened awareness of podcasts coupled with technology upgrades that make the listening experience friendlier have led to a wild increase in popularity. I started listening to podcasts originally because I needed something to help pass the minutes during my years of lengthy commuting. But like many, I’ve lately become so addicted that I am now compelled to listen to podcasts just about any time I have a moment to myself, driving or not. The variety and quality of recordings available have grown so much since 2014 that even if real-life murder mysteries are not your cup of tea, there is something out there for everyone. Here are a few of my favorites that never fail to entertain and inform.

How I Built This
Listeners of NPR are likely to be familiar with moderator Guy Raz, who currently also hosts The TED Radio Hour and has formerly hosted All Things Considered.  In How I Built This, Raz interviews entrepreneurs and leaders from well-known companies and initiatives (think Spanx, Airbnb, Lyft, Whole Foods Market, TOMS, Wikipedia, etc.), who tell their stories of how they achieved monumental success. Listeners learn about humble beginnings, idea conception, moments of luck, the steps taken to propel ideas forward,  integral relationships, and roadblocks. The interviews are candid, revealing, and inspiring to anyone aiming to turn their ideas into reality. Out of the long list of my favorites, I would recommend starting with the fascinating story of WeWork’s Miguel McKelvey, who was raised on a small commune and then went on to build a billion-dollar company offering luxury co-working space.

More Perfect
Another product of NPR (they do have so many wonderful programs!), the More Perfect podcast explores the connection between pivotal Supreme Court rulings and their impact on the lives of Americans today. The podcast is excellently produced and includes primary sources such as interviews and historical audio clips interwoven with reporting by journalists. The topics covered are timely, relevant and provide a framework for how our nation moves forward on some of our most controversial issues today. One of my favorites so far is an episode that aired in November 2017 called “Sex Appeal” and discussed the connection between an Oklahoma college fraternity’s desire to purchase beer and the Equal Rights Amendment, and the role that a pre-SCOTUS Ruth Bader Ginsburg brilliantly played to move the case forward.

Part-Time Genius
The hosts, Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur, are the co-founders of Mental Floss Magazine and have propelled their curiosities into a fun podcast that explores the answers to questions about life, culture, history, science, and more. A production of HowStuffWorks, each recording focuses on a single question, revealed in the title, and tries to answer it through research and interviews. Some of the most interesting episodes include “Will We Ever Live Without Sleep,” “What’s the Science of Perfect Timing,” and my personal favorite, “Is There a Rosy Future for Libraries” (yes!).

What are some of your favorite podcasts and episodes? Tweet us @PrincetonPL and let us know what you’re listening to.

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