For Alison and Peter: My Favorite Podcasts

When I moved to the United States for college, I was completely enamored with the iTunes store because it wasn’t something that was available to me in Singapore. And I wanted to do as much cool stuff I could with my brand new iPod – and that meant downloading some free podcasts from the store.

Back then, didn’t know where start (I had never heard of NPR), but ranked #1 on the iTunes podcasts list was something named This American Life. I had no idea what it was, but I figured since I had just moved to America, this was probably a good, informational podcast for me to listen to.

Now, almost 8 years later, I still download This American Life. Podcasts are now one of my favorite ways to unwind. In fact, I use it to multi-task — I listen to incredible narratives while getting mundane chores like folding laundry out of the way. Recently, I was at dinner with co-workers when we started talking about podcasts that have changed our lives. We agreed to share a list, so here they are, in the order that I listen to them:

photo-11. WNYC’s Radiolab
I recently started listening to this show and I wondered why it took me so long. It features incredible storytelling in inventive ways – and it’s all about the quirky scientific, philosophical elements of life.

A good place to start: Their episode this year on Colors completely blew me away.

2. This American Life
The best journalism and radio essays out there, period. I love it so much that as part of the 30-Day Creativity Project, my friend Zach and I even attempted a copycat episode.

Good places to start: Switched at Birth, an incredible story about two baby girls who swapped families on accident. Or, at the suggestion of a 14-year-old listener, they do an entire episode on Middle School.

3. Planet Money
I feel like I know the gang at Planet Money. Adam Davidson, David Kestenbaum, Zoe Chace, Jacob Goldstein and Caitlin Kenney — they’re my buds. Listening to Planet Money is like hanging out with a group of really smart friends who casually tell you all about the stuff that makes the world go ’round: money.
A good place to start: Why the Price of Coke Didn’t Change for 70 Years.

4. Freakonomics
Pair a terrific narrative reporter with a economics professor who really doesn’t care what other people think, and you’ll have the ridiculously fun ride that is Freakonomics.

A good place to start: Misadventures in Baby-Making is the kind of brain-twisting, aha-moment inducing episode that I love.

5. Slate Political Gabfest
This podcast is like getting coffee with three journalists as they dissect this week’s political news. Even better, John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon and David Plotz frequently disagree, which makes it all the more fun.

A good place to start: This week’s episode. Anything older will be out of date.