Believe it or not, there was a dark era in my life where not only did I not listen to podcasts (!), but I didn’t even know what they were! Thankfully, a few years ago my dad and I were listening to NPR in the car (as is our usual routine) and I exasperated that the Diane Rehm show was only on air from 9-11 in the mornings—right smack dab during school hours—thus making it unlistenable. In response, my dad looked at me like I was a gurdyroot and said “Just listen to the podcast.” And with those simple 5 words, I was introduced to the glory of podcasts.

In the shower, doing laundry, walking my dog when I’m home, data collection at work….all of these mindless tasks call for the cast of the pod. The hardest part is simply deciding on what to listen to! There are so. freaking. many. But never fear! I’ve narrowed it down to the essentials, from golden oldies to upcoming superstars.

1.                    The Diane Rehm Show—Since I already mentioned it in the introduction, I figured I should mention this one first for consistency. But also because it’s good! Rehm looks at mainly current events that are happening right now-—from politics to global affairs to even pop culture, and invites experts in those areas to discuss. Rehm is incredibly good at asking just the right questions, even causing the experts/interviewees to backtrack on their words and clarify—and she (mostly) refrains from expressing her own personal political/ideological viewpoints in order to remain non-biased as possible.

2.                    Invisibilia—This one I’ve just started listening to, and I’m hooked. Co-hosted by a trio of powerful womyn (Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel), Invisibilia’s catchhook is “the invisible forces that control human behavior—ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” So far, my favorite episode has been “The Personality Myth” which considers the question Can people really change? from one of the most ultikely perspectives: a former rapist who now is a free man, husband/father, and social worker. (Side note: I’m kind of obsessed with personality theory…blog post on this topic coming soon!)

3.                    Dear Hank & John: Aahdfksdfasdfdf, who doesn’t love the Green brothers? Seriously. Well, if you somehow haven’t tuned in yet, this podcast is simply the word delightful in a dictionary. They answer direct questions from listeners, from “How do you adjust to a new culture in a new town?” and discuss everything from the latest news on Mars to Wimbledon to Langston Hughes.

4.                    Radiolab: Alright, I feel like I should have put this one first. Where do I even start? This is a podcast unlike anything else, in all honesty. While its basis is science and questioning, its hosts (Jad Abrumrad and Robert Krulwich) guide listeners through a manner of storytelling that is unlike anything before and hard to put into words. It will make you think, wonder, awe, sometimes laugh, and feel. Just listen to “Animal Minds” (your jaw will drop when they tell the whale story) or “In the Running,” an incredible story of Diane Van Deren, an ultramarathon runner who can run for days without sleeping.

There are only four listed here, but I thought the shorter the list, the higher the likelihood that people will actually listen to one of them. Plus, each has tons of episodes! If you do give any a listen, or perhaps are already a fan, leave a comment! I’d love to geek out about them even more. Thanks for reading!