My Favourite Podcasts

April 26, 2019

 

I love podcasts. I listen to them a lot now, particularly on commutes. It helps that this seems to be the Golden Age of Podcasts. The quality and range of shows has improved dramatically in the past 3 years (the Serial effect, perhaps). Anyway, it seems like at least once a month, someone asks me, "So, what podcasts do you like?" I'm creating this list as a handy reference for anyone I've ever had that conversation with, and will continue to update it periodically. 

 

I've separated the podcasts by genre, but the ones in bold are particular favourites. I certainly don't listen to every episode of every podcast. As always, I'm guided by things that look interesting, with some deliberate diversity to explore new fields. I also have a whole B-list of podcasts that I check in on occasionally, but have excluded from this list if I haven't listened to it in the last 6 months.

 

Economics, Finance & Business

 

EconTalk: The granddaddy of economics podcasts, as far as I'm concerned. Host Russ Roberts interviews lots of great guests, sometimes about economics, but these days increasingly about a vast array of topics like technology and culture. 

 

Invest Like the Best: Patrick O'Shaughnessy is an investment manager, blogger and now podcast host who also puts out a terrific reading list. The show always impresses with its guests, wide range of topics and Patrick's hosting ability. 

 

London School of Economics: Public Lectures: This has got to be the best series of public lectures I know of. Absolutely super range of speakers in economics, politics, social sciences and many other fields.

 

The Meb Faber Show: Like O'Shaughnessy, Faber is a prolific blogger and writer who also manages various quant funds. I often feel I'm getting a graduate-level education in investing, and insight into how sophisticated quants think.

 

Macro Musings: David Beckworth originally came to my attention for his macro blogging exploits. He now has a podcast, and always has excellent guests. Beckworth knows a lot about his field, particularly monetary history and policy, so is a great host. 

 

Masters of Scale: Reid Hoffman, of PayPal and LinkedIn fame, hosts this relatively new show, which offers some terrific insights on entrepreneurship and innovation. 

 

How I Built This: This is a hugely entertaining series that interviews founders of lots of great businesses. Short, informative and always worth the time.

 

Capital Allocators: Host Ted Seides interviews a range of guests who manage large assets pools such as endowments and pension funds.

 

The Knowledge Project: Shane Parrish runs Farnam Street, an outstanding blog about decision-making. Parrish is probably a better blogger than show host, but I'm always eager to see who he has on the podcast. 

 

Pacific Exchanges: A podcast from the San Francisco Fed. Came to my attention during its excellent mini-series on the Asian Financial Crisis, and continues to focus on developments in Asia. 

 

Odd Lots: Bloomberg show on quirky corners of the economic and financial markets.

 

Goldman Sachs: Interviews a range of experts from within the bank.

 

Brookings Events: Undoubtedly one of the most prolific think tanks out there. They host events on politics, economics, social policy and science, generally with a left-of-centre leaning. 

 

Freakonomics: Another long-running show that does a terrific job of putting an unusual and entertaining spin on economic life. 

 

a16z: Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz does a great job making this podcast a high quality, entertaining romp through the worlds of tech, innovation and entrepreneurship. And I'm not even much of a techie.

 

CGD Podcast: Nice little series by the Center for Global Development, highlighting important trends in international development. Great for keeping a finger on the pulse of the development world.

 

Peterson Institute Events: DC think tank with a focus on economics.

 

Cato Event Podcast: Cato is a free market-oriented/libertarian think tank. I always find their events a good foil to what I'm hearing at places like Brookings (or for that matter, the New York Times).

 

Masters in Business: Barry Ritholz isn't my favourite host, but he usually has a stellar list of guests on finance and business.

 

Grant's Current  Yield: Jim Grant's Interest Rate Observer has been a wonderful publication for many years. I often disagree with Jim on monetary policy but his humour and eloquence are a marvel.

 

Returns on Investment: Podcast with a focus on impact investing.

 

Energy, Food & the Environment

 

Political Climate: Podcast on political forces shaping the climate debate, particularly in the US. 

 

Costing the Earth: Excellent BBC series on a slew of issues around sustainability. As with all the BBC shows on this list, it's short, sharp and informative. 

 

The Energy Gang:  A good way to keep up with what's going in renewable energy.

 

The Interchange: Sharp, funny show on energy. 

 

Columbia Energy Exchange: Excellent survey of the energy landscape.

 

Experts Only: Renewable energy policy and investing developments.

 

Energy Policy Now: Podcast by the Penn Kleinman Center on various energy policy issues.

 

Drilled: One-season show on what the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change and the lengths to which it went to mask that information. 

 

Climate One at The Commonwealth Club: Panel discussions on various climate change issues.

 

The Sustainability Agenda: Enjoyable series covering the intersection of sustainability, business and investing. 

 

The Food Chain: Great show on little-known aspects of the food industry.

 

Food Programme: Another well-crafted BBC show on the world of food.

 

Gastrotropod: Unusual aspects of the past, present and future of food.

 

Philosophy, Psychology & Self-Improvement

 

On Being with Krista Tippett: This is a wide-ranging interview show that's often tinged with spirituality, poetry and music. 

 

The Tim Ferriss Show: Ferriss is a fascinating guy, who like James Altucher (see below), is a serial experimenter. The podcasts contain a lot of interesting material, but are just too long for me. My attention span is usually no more than 1.5 hours for a podcast, and many of these clock in at well over 2 hours. 

 

Heart Wisdom with Jack Kornfield: Kornfield is a well-known Buddhist teacher, and his speeches are filled with wisdom and humour.

 

The Secular Buddhist: Buddhism is something I've tried to learn a bit about over the past 8 years, and host Ted Meissner comes from the "secular Buddhist" school that approaches it as philosophy rather than religion.

 

Invisibilia: Psychology buffs will enjoy this podcast, which focuses on "the invisible forces that control human behavior - ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions."

 

Hidden Brain: A popular podcast with similar themes to Invisibilia.

 

You Are Not So Smart: Another excellent psychology podcast. 

 

Brain Science with Ginger Campbell: Many of these episodes are too technical and dry for my liking, but occasionally you get some lively guests in what is certainly a fascinating field.

 

Bruce Lee Podcast: When philosophy writer Maria Popova described Bruce Lee as "one of the most underappreciated philosophers of the twentieth century," my interest was piqued. The podcast, hosted by Bruce Lee's daughter, introduced me to his eclectic thinking on life, martial arts, Zen, Taoism and many other things. 

 

Good Life Project: An occasional dose of interesting people sharing life and self-help advice. God knows I need all the help I can get. 

 

The Unmistakeable Creative: This show fits well in my genre of "interesting people interviewing interesting people."

 

In Our Time: Delves into important aspects of philosophy in short segments, with a panel of guests.

 

Cities & Design

 

The Bowery Boys: New York City History: A super show on New York history ranging from its founding to the modern day. It really made me appreciate the city much more when I lived there.

 

Londonist Out Loud: N. Quentin Woolf is easily one of the best show hosts out there. Always funny and personable, and does a great job of engaging his guests instead of making the show about himself. The guests always help highlight some unusual part of London past or present. Sadly, the show has ended but it had a wonderful run, and the archive is absolutely worthwhile.

 

99% Invisible: While Invisibilia focuses on the hidden side of our inner lives, 99% Invisible highlights unnoticed parts of our external world, like architecture and design. The short episodes are always packed with surprising information.

 

Skylines: UK-focused show on issues facing cities.

 

GovLove: Podcast on issues facing local governments in the US (an important topic that garners far less attention than national politics)

 

Monocle 24: The Urbanist: Excellent show that covers cities around the world. 

 

Robert Elms: Elms does a great talk show focused mainly on all things London. I don't listen to this as much as I used to but it's always entertaining.

 

Current Events

 

The Ezra Klein Show: Klein is a blogger, columnist and editor-in-chief at Vox. One of those rare podcasts that is both substantive and entertaining. I'm not always interested in some of the political topics, but Klein always has fascinating guests and engages them skillfully.

 

UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China: Terrific series on Chinese economics and politics.

 

Sinica: Another excellent show on China.

 

China Econtalk: Chinese tech, business and economics.

 

Political Agenda (New Naratif): Show focused on Singapore politics and history; much needed alternative voice to government media sources.

 

Little Red Podcast: Great show on Chinese politics and culture.

 

The Inquiry: Super BBC series that tackles important topics of the day in a short, informative fashion.

 

Conversations with Tyler: Tyler Cowen is an economist, blogger and general polymath. He gets some terrific guests on here, but isn't the most natural host.

 

Caliphate: One-time New York Times show on the growth of ISIS.

 

Global Dispatches: Foreign affairs podcast focusing on niches that are often new to me.

 

Thinking Allowed: BBC podcast on elements of sociology.

 

History 

 

Slow Burn: Terrific history podcast focusing on presidential scandals in its first two seasons (first Watergate and then the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal). Thought-provoking and does a great job of showing how events unfolded in real time, and how unpredictable the sequence was.

 

American History Tellers: Each season takes a particular era in US history and tells its stories in rich detail from multiple perspectives. Highly recommended.

 

Presidential: Really terrific series from the Washington Post looking at the life of each US President in an entertaining fashion.

 

The Assassination: Gripping one-time show on the death of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

 

Human Interest Stories

 

This American Life: The stories on this show are terrific. It's surprising to me that I don't listen to this more frequently, but I never regret having spent the hour (other than being embarrassed about laughing out loud on public transportation, or trying to pretend that I'm not a little bit choked up).

 

Serial/S-Town: This show's stunning success helped usher in the Golden Age of Podcasts. Season 1 is so good that I listened to it again recently, and found it just as riveting. I never finished Season 2, but Season 3 was excellent, as was the spin-off, S-Town.

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