Give unto me your podcast recommendations

One of the things I really miss about living in the same city as my friend Allan? He’s exceptionally interested in things. All sorts of things. And he accumulates people and ideas and interests as naturally as most people breath, which means he’s often the infection vector for all sorts of interesting things. Case in point: It happened. I became a pod person.


Al put this on over the weekend and initially I was…well, ambivalent. I have flirted with podcasts in the past, but I haven’t actually listened to one regularly since I was unemployed and stuck at home 24-7 way back in 2010. People would occasionally tell me about great stuff that was out there and I’d nod, and think perhaps I should check it out, and never really get around to it.

But the weekend started with Allan pointing out all sorts of stuff he was listening too, and it all sounded great. Then he suggested an episode of the Allusionist as a starting point. It’s a podcast about language and etymology, which is kinda like catnip given my interests, and host Helen Zaltzman is phenomenally easy to listen to.

I lasted exactly one episode before I was bugging Al about how he kept track of things, then broke down and loaded a podcast app onto the tablet so I can follow this and a handful of others.

The Allusionist, though, it’s a series I’d recommend to any writer out there. I’m still working my way through the series, but it’s full of things I keep making notes about because they’re brilliant tools for creating settings or thinking about a character. Which makes a kind of sense: words are, after all, a writer’s stock in trade, and anything that lets us sit down and think through language has the potential to be incredibly beneficial.

I’d strongly recommend the Criminallustionist episode, which features a long stretch of how to spot a lie by cycling a story backwards and forwards in time in order to spot false details that serves as a masterclass for writers wondering how to make their stories feel real. Similarly, the pun episode articulates all sorts of things I’d never considered about why I dislike the pun as a form of humour, but also makes me reconsider my stance (a little).

Which brings us to the point of this post: I now have a podcast app on my phone. I have a fair idea of where they’ll fit into my schedule. Now I need to fill said app with interesting feeds, since there’s currently four podcasts on the list and I’ll burn through the back catalogue of episodes in the space of a few weeks.

So…what are you following? What do you recommend? I’m willing to give pretty much anything a go, although my preferences run towards things that are short, curated, smart, and very geeky.

  10 comments for “Give unto me your podcast recommendations

  1. 18/11/2015 at 9:35 AM

    The Fangirl Happy Hour is my favourite thing to listen to right now! Ana and Renay are smart, incisive and never ashamed to proclaim how much they love something that Collected Fan Wisdom has dismissed. If you're an old school Blake's 7 fan, I also highly recommend Down and Safe, in which Michael Thomas, Liz Myles, Scott Lynch & Amal El-Mohtar watch through the episodes in order with hilarious and definitely non work safe results. The podcast is also worth dipping into, based on the guests and topics.

  2. Charlotte Nash
    18/11/2015 at 9:44 AM

    Thanks for that recommendation. I'm a recent convert to pods as well, forced on because I couldn't read anymore due to baby. But I'm actually reading more and "researching" more through audio than I ever did before on paper. I use Podcast Addict as my manager. So, things I follow and love:

    Radiolab (I have mainlined the back catalogue – I just find it amazing)
    99% Invisible
    Note to Self
    The Message (podcast fiction about a podcast)
    Cybercrime and Business (can be a bit dry, but interesting)
    Lightspeed and Clarkesworld (but I imagine you're already on there – I actually just listened to Dying Young the other day – fabulous story!)

    • petermball
      18/11/2015 at 11:07 AM

      99% invisible has gotten some crazy love from everyone I’ve talked to so far. Listened to their opening episode on the commute into work this morning and immediately added it to the regular listening list – it ticks every single box I have on the podcast front.

  3. 18/11/2015 at 9:48 AM

    Stuff To Blow Your Mind ( – diving into different esoterica each episode, so you can pick and choose your topics. I listen to this Mondays pretty religiously.

    Rum, Rebels & Ratbags ( – seedy side of Australian history, told with a smirk.

  4. Kathleen
    18/11/2015 at 3:29 PM

    99% Invisible! So much so.
    Also: Memory Palace, Radiolab and This Week in Virology. But mostly 99% Invisible.

    And I’ve been hearing recommendations for Lore (New England ghost stories and legends)

  5. 18/11/2015 at 5:39 PM

    My tastes run toward the nerdier podcasts, though I’m also an Allusionist fan. So with that in mind, here are some of my recs:

    Anyway! Stuff you should listen to!

    Rachel and Miles Xplain the X-Men, in which the titular Rachel and Miles work their way through forty years of mutant comics and explain how it all worked and why it was frequently awesome, hilarious or problematic, often all at the same time.

    Shut Up and Sit Down, which is about board games and is very clever and funny and hosted by people who actually understand what makes games challenging and engaging.

    Journey Into Misery, where one comics fan explains character continuity and backstory to his interested but easily distracted girlfriend, and I know that sounds mansplainy but it’s actually a lot of fun and they’re both young and adorable.

    Unjustly Maligned, where writers, podcasters and other folks explain why they love particular bits of pop culture that other people do not, like Murder She Wrote, Italian cartoon theme tunes or Popeye the Movie and look I can’t agree with that last one but god bless that crazy person for his craziness.

    Song Exploder, where musicians and composers deconstruct songs and tracks they’ve worked on, giving you a glimpse of their process and craft in a podcast that’s actually too good to make silly run-on sentences about.

    House to Astonish and War Rocket Ajax, which are just straight up good comics discussion/review/interview/chat podcasts.

    (I would post direct links but I don’t know how to in these comments.)

    …also, if you ever discover a roleplaying podcast worth listening to, let me know.

    • 19/11/2015 at 8:41 AM

      Roleplaying podcasts are…problematic. I went looking. Specifically, looking for something about superhero games, but that’s too specific for the space. It’s mostly people banging on about games in various formats.

      Thing is, I’m not really sure what I’d want to RPG podcast to accomplish in terms of content. It’s very much a “know it when I see it, and this is not it,” kind of thing.

  6. 18/11/2015 at 8:58 PM

    I listed to a lot of writing podcasts and can recommend I Should Be Writing, Ditch Diggers, The Worried Writer, Tea and Jeopardy in those realms. And of course Coode St and Galactic Suburbia, but they kind of go without saying 😉

    I can also highly recommend Girl on Guy – YMMV depending on whether you like Aisha Tyler and her interviewing style, but the interviews are hands down some of the most fascinating I’ve listened to.

  7. Andrew Smith
    19/11/2015 at 10:19 PM

    I like these:
    You Are Not So Smart
    The Philosophers Zone
    Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

    Among others!

  8. 01/12/2015 at 5:06 PM

    Some more I’m into now:

    Imaginary Worlds (especially recent eps about Heroines, Politics of GoT, and Star Wars’ cultural impact)

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