{You Should Listen To} 5 Great Podcasts for the Continually Curious

Over the last few years, podcasts have become my favorite thing to listen to while doing pretty much everything.

Gardening? Yep.

Cleaning? Absolutely.

Dishes? Duh.

Driving? Of course.

Building a table? Sure thing.

Painting? Don’t mind if I do.

Cooking? Yes. I’ll also need wine.

It’s a great way to learn something new, laugh, or be entertained while still being able to accomplish other things. I use Stitcher to listen to podcasts, and I love it.

So without further ado, here are 5 of my favorite podcasts:

99% Invisible with Roman Mars

99% Invisible dives into the things that we don’t see in the realm of architecture and design. It looks at little known histories of logos, ballparks, cities, architecture, and much more.

One of my favorite things that they do are called Mini-Stories in which they talk about a variety of stories that didn’t warrant a full episode but are very interesting nonetheless.

Favorite Episodes:

I loved this episode, and now that I’ve found it again, I think I’ll re-listen to it. In it, Michael Bierut discusses the campaign logos of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump including their purpose, meaning, and social critique. He also talks about how the public reacts to a “rebranding” in which the logo is changed. The reactions are more intense than you may expect. After listening to this one, I’ve become mildly obsessed with logos and graphic design.

This episode recounts the history and social implications of Ponte City, a cylindrical tower with an open courtyard in the center in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the 1980s this tower acted as a refuge for interracial couples whose marriages were illegal. The episode also explores the history of this tower before it served the purpose of protecting interracial families.

Most people have heard of El Chapo. In this episode, the construction of a Mexican drug smuggling tunnel is explained. El Chapo, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, built and made use of many of these tunnels in his drug smuggling operations. The scope of these tunnels is almost unimaginable. Definitely worth a listen.

Honestly, I just picked these three because they were the first to come to mind, but you could probably listen to any of them, and they would be equally amazing.

In addition to being an amazing podcast, their website is beautifully presented-though that shouldn’t be a surprise from a podcast all about design. It includes episodes with supplemental material and articles about additional design topics, and you can listen to episodes directly from their website. There is also a search feature, and episodes are also organized by category.

The article Always Read the Plaque: Mapping over 10,000 Global Markers & Memorials is on my to-read list.

Ologies with Alie Ward

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Alie Ward explores tons of different ologies by interviewing the ologists.

Some favorites are:

  • Volcanology with Jess Phoenix: the study of volcanoes
  • Cosmology with Katie Mack: the study of the universe
  • Glycobiology with Michelle Dookwah: the study of carbohydrates
  • Personality Psychology with Dr. Simine Vazire: the study of personality
  • Etymology with Helen Zaltzman: the study of the origin of words and how they have changed over time (I’m currently listening to this one, and I love it.)
  • Ornithology with James Maley: the study of birds

***This one is a favorite because I will never forget listening to it. If you’re into it, here’s a story. ..

There I was watering my garden, listening to a podcast about the study of birds.

A little history: I’m not a huge fan of birds. They’re pretty and interesting and harbingers of spring, but they freak me out a little. Mostly because of this scene from the movie Forget Paris. I used to think of this scene when I would walk in downtown Pittsburgh and the pigeons would get caught in the streams of people, and I was always afraid that they were going to get pinched and fly up in my face trying to escape the crowded sidewalks.

I’ve also made eye contact with birds while driving as they come towards my open window. And once, I swear a seagull made eye contact and started flying right towards me. I screamed and ducked behind my boyfriend at the time (he’s now my husband, but this is one of two times I thought he might break up with me. The other one had to do with a cockroach).

As you can see, not a huge fan of birds. So anyway, there I was, watering my garden and listening to a podcast about birds when I heard an unusual screeching sound coming from the trees right next to the garden.

Weird, I thought, and kept watering. Then I saw a shadow coming over my shoulder. I ducked as a bird swooped by. A little shaken still listening to the wonders of birds, I continued watering.

Again, I saw a shadow headed right for me, and I ducked again. By then, my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking, but I moved to the other end of the garden determined to finish.

Then, I looked out into the cornfield by our house to see blue jays diving at my dog who was jumping around confused and, I’m sure, a little delighted at the attention. Ever the calm one, I started yelling at Daisy to come inside while sprinting towards the door.

Finally safe and short of breath, I realized that the baby monitor was on the picnic table in the middle of the yard. I took a deep breath and ran shrieking to the picnic table, grabbed the monitor, made sure the dog was with me, and slammed the door behind me thankful to have survived such an ordeal.

I can’t explain how anxious I get when I think a bird is coming at me. It’s super weird.

The next day, I heard a bird-the same bird?-screeching again. I finally figured out that there was a baby blue jay stuck in a 5 gallon pail by the garage. I assume that that’s why the birds were so agitated and swooping me. It doesn’t excuse their behavior.

So, if you choose to listen to this episode, please be on high alert for angry birds.

You need this podcast in your life.

Presidential with Lillian Cunningham

I was obsessed with this podcast two summers ago and listened to it while doing everything-painting, building shelves, cleaning, gardening, etc, and it was fascinating. Lillian interviews experts and biographers for each president in chronological order. Her signature question is what each president would be like if one were to go on a blind date with him, and the answers were very revealing.

She even had Bob Woodward on the Richard Nixon episode!

I think the thing I loved most about this podcast is that Lillian always chose an interesting angle from which to view each president’s time in office. In some cases, she dug into their childhoods and their influences. In other cases, she talked about their education or motivation or philosophy.

I found all of the episodes interesting and informational, so it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I distinctly remember the James Buchanan episode.

By the JFK episode, I had become infatuated with other podcasts, so I never listened to this episode or the ones after, but they are definitely on the list to go back to eventually.

Bonus: Lillian Cunningham also has a podcast called Constitutional which explores how the Constitution has created conflict and been shaped and reshaped throughout history. This is now on my to-listen list.

Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam

Hidden Brain is a podcast from NPR that explores insights to human reasoning and behavior. Shankar interviews experts in their fields and attempts to answer big questions about why we do what we do.

Favorite episodes:

As I was looking through the website locating my favorite, I made an unofficial list in my head of all the ones that I want to listen to that I haven’t yet.

It’s a long list.

I need more podcast time.

Dave Ramsey with Dave Ramsey

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one. It’s because of Dave Ramsey, his podcast, and Financial Peace University that my husband and I were able to get out of debt. As a result, my husband has been able to stay home with our kids, and we’ve been able to do things that we wouldn’t have if we were tied to payments. If you want to read a little about our financial journey, you can head to The Simple Girl’s Guide.

In this show Dave talks to callers about their own individual financial problems using his 7 Baby Steps as a guide to answering their questions.

All of the episodes are call-in format, so I don’t have a favorite. But anytime I’m in need of financial inspiration or a pick me up, I turn to Dave. There’s something about his voice that I find soothing-maybe it’s the hours upon hours upon hours I listened to him on our way to paying off our debt as a way to stay motivated and encouraged.

I highly recommend this podcast to anyone and everyone who deals with money in any capacity whatsoever. Hint: that’s everyone :).

Are there any podcasts I need to listen to???

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