Startalk- Like the rest of the universe, I've become a Neil Degrasse Tyson fan. His podcast (which is now also a TV show for you more visual learners) covers all kinds of science and how it interacts and influences pop culture and politics. You may spend one show learning about horologists (people who study the keeping of time), and another discussing Star Trek's legacy. It is a weird format for a show that takes some getting used to. Here's how it works: Tyson pre-records and interview with a famous person (Bill Clinton, and George Takai have both been on) and then he discusses clips of it with two "co-hosts" usually another scientist and a comedian. Truthfully, the co-hosts change all the time, so they too are essentially guests, but it is as fun and irreverent as it is a learning experience. Plus, Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) comes on for rant segments that are charming.
Stuff Mom Never Told You- This podcast from Stuff.com, is a series focusing on gender roles and talking about "notable" women from the past. And, okay, my mom was actually very deliberate about introducing notable women to us, and discussing gender roles and topics with both us and with our girl scout troop (You can't see it, but I am totally holding up the hand sign. Hello fellow Girl Scout Alumna!). But that's why I like it. She taught me its important to think about and have conversations about gender roles, which the hosts do in a very easy, approachable manner. Some show's topics are fluffier than others, but when they do it well, they really do it well.
You Must Remember This In case the title didn't tip you off, this podcast explores the history of the films, stars, and studios of Hollywood's Golden Age. Since I love the behind-the-scenes stories almost as much as the stories on the silver screen, this one felt addicting just after reading the concept behind the podcast. In reality, my feelings for the podcast are somewhat torn. It is created all by one person, yet is incredibly professional, being impeccably written, well researched and professionally edited. The only downside is that the narrator/author of the podcast seems to take herself a touch too seriously, which results in over-pronunciation and outbursts of cynicism. Still, if you are into Classic Hollywood at all, you will, like me, find yourself unable to stop listening.
Radio Lab Self-described as a "patchwork of people, sounds, stories, society and experiences," Radio Lab always presents a new and different topic each episode. Past episodes have covered everything from Orson Welles' most famous radio production to "Nazi Summer Camps." These shows are expertly done, blending interesting sound along with the compelling stories. As the name indicates, Radio Lab is a radio show that then turns its episodes into podcasts.
Love + Radio- I first came across this podcast/radio show when Radio Lab shared a story produced by the people from Love+ Radio called "The Living Room," in which a woman told the real life story of watching her neighbors through their living room window, including, ultimately, one of the neighbor's deaths. Shockingly intimate and engrossing, this story was so well produced, that I was anxious to find out more of what Love + Radio had to offer. They share stories on a wide range of topics with subtly and emotion, and surprising twists of fate. My recommendations for the first two episodes to try from them? "The Living Room," as previously mentioned, and "Greetings from Coney Island."