On this week’s episode of Top Five Friday, I’m going to be talking about podcasts! There are so many amazing things to listen to these days, no matter what your interests are. Mine skew towards science and history, with a bit of pop culture thrown in here and there. I’ve been getting into more fiction podcasts since the beginning of 2018, too, so my listening world is rapidly expanding!
So without ado, here are five of my favorite podcasts in no particular order:
The British History Podcast –
Hosted by Jamie Jeffers
This is an ongoing podcast devoted to, surprise, the history of Britain. It begins in prehistoric times and will continue on until the dawn of World War II. Historical details are presented with amazing clarity and with as much accuracy as possible, given that much of Britain’s early history is shrouded in mystery. Jamie is quick to dispel myths and commonly believed inaccuracies, and included many interviews with people involved with archaeological digs going on around England. All aspects of life are covered, from the way the military was set up through the years to peasants’ diets, and none of it is boring. He doesn’t forget about a part of the human race known as women, either, and some of the most exciting episodes deal with women like Boudicca of the Iceni and Aethelflaed of Mercia.
Because he presents history the way a storyteller might, the people and events he discusses are far easier to remember. It helps that he has an excellent voice for radio. If you like history, then The British History podcast is just the thing for you.
And bonus: Because the BHP is not funded by corporate sponsors, you don’t have to sit through several minutes’ worth of ads for Blue Apron or Audible or whatever. You can buy a yearly membership which helps support the show and gives you access to forums and a member’s only podcast, where Jamie and his co-host, Zee, discuss subjects like the lives of the early Scots, the Vikings, and even talk about television shows like Vikings or The Last Kingdom.
Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich
Radiolab was the first podcast I ever listened to, and I was hooked from the first minute. I couldn’t tell you now which episode it was- perhaps the one about time or laughter or sleep. But I can listen to them over and over again and not get bored. Jad and Robert introduce their topics and then provide examples and interviews that illustrate it. I have laughed out loud and cried while listening to this show- sometimes both during the same episode. And I have learned so much and had my eyes opened to a vast array of people and ideas thanks to Radiolab.
Because Radiolab has had such a high quality from the beginning, the people who have worked there over the years know their stuff when it comes to reporting and producing stories, and many of them have branched out and begun their own podcasts over the years devoted to everything from ephermeral scientific ideas to the US Supreme Court.
Radiolab is a show from WNYC, a public radio station out of New York, and so your local NPR station might carry it. You can also listen to episodes on the website.
Hosted by Roman Mars
While 99% Invisible is, ostensibly, about design it covers so much more than that. From space age packaging to the effects that air conditioning has had on architecture around the world and on climate change, to the best and worst designs for state and city flags, Roman Mars and his team discuss it all. At times the tone is light-hearted, while other times it grows somber. After a few episodes you’ll begin to realize how profoundly design affects all of our lives, and it just might change how you shape your little corner of the world for the better.
Pop Culture Happy Hour
Nonfiction- Popular Culture
Hosted by Linda Holmes, Stephen Thomsen, Glenn Weldon, and others
Pop Culture Happy Hour is another show that I’ve been listening to for several years now. It is devoted to all things popular culture, and while I’m not always interested in the television shows or movies the hosts discuss, I can always count on them to be reasoned and thoughtful in their opinions. Because I can’t possible consume all of the stuff that’s coming out every day (nor would I want to), I feel like I can count on PCHH to guide me to things that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Case in point? The film Edge of Tomorrow, which is a Tom Cruise science fiction adventure film I would have turned away from simply because of Tom Cruise. But because the PCHH panel rated it so highly I gave it a try and really enjoyed it.
There have been a few missteps here and there, such as when a guest panelist raved about Robin LeFevers’s His Fair Assassin series. I tried the first book and thought it was terrible. But those missteps have been few in number compared to the things that I’ve loved.
The panel tries to include numerous diverse guest panelists and media, so they’re not always talking about the latest Oscar-bait biopic or yet another superhero movie. Episodes are released twice a week. The Friday show is a little longer, and includes to always entertaining ‘What’s Making Us Happy’ segment.
No Such Thing as a Fish
Hosted by James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptaszynski, and Dan Schreiber
I discovered the television gameshow QI the first time I visited the United Kingdom and was immediately hooked. I love trivia and Stephen Fry, so it was a foregone conclusion that I would love this show, too. It’s hosted by Fry and the ‘contestants’ are various British comedians and TV personalities who don’t compete for anything but subjectively awarded points. I’d be in stitches while getting ready for bed in the evening (and sometimes it would keep me up long after I’d intended to go to bed). It was also the show I watched on Netflix while sick in bed during my trip to Ireland.
When a fellow Anglophile told me about No Such Thing as a Fish and how it was hosted by the people who do research for QI, I knew I would love it. The weekly episodes are 40-45 minutes long and feature a fact from each of the four hosts. After the initial fact is presented and explained, the other hosts will discuss things that are somehow related to the initial fact. And sometimes not related. While many of these facts seem impossible there is real science or history behind them. Add to that the wonderfully dry British humor and fatalism, and you have yourself one of the funniest podcasts on the internet.
So there are five of my favorite podcasts! There are others that I enjoy, but these are the shows whose episodes I look forward to the most every week. For the most part, I just listen to nonfiction podcasts, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m finding more fiction shows I’m falling in love with, so stay tuned! One of these days I’ll have a Top Five Friday devoted to fiction podcasts!