My podcast listening increased sharply during the pandemic, and it’s a habit I’ve kept up ever since. Depending on who you ask and how they count, there’s anything from 850,000 to 2.4 million podcasts out there, so I’m not going to claim these are the best. Instead, here are five podcasts, all new this year, that have totally enriched my life.
If Books Could Kill: Hosts Michael Hobbes and Peter Shamshiri expertly dissect airport books—those splashy tomes whose popularity is based primarily on their claim to provide simple solutions to complex problems—and among their deserving victims so far have been Freakonomics, Outliers, Bobos in Paradise, and The Game.
The Livable Low-Carbon City: Architect Michael Eliason offers insights about how we build cities, how it’s done in other countries, and what we can learn from them. Some of his topics may sound obscure, like the distinction between single-loaded and double-loaded corridors, but those are exactly the kind of choices that make a huge difference in how comfortable and climate-friendly a building can be.
Understand the Economy: Economist Tim Harford, who has been hosting the BBC podcast More or Less since 2007, takes a similarly common-sense approach to economic issues in this podcast. The subjects he covers—things like interest rates, the GDP, and inequality—are critical to understanding how the world works, and he explains them as clearly as is humanly possible.
Dead End: A New Jersey Political Murder Mystery: This WNYC podcast, hosted by Nancy Solomon, investigates the deaths of prominent Somerset County (NJ) lawyer John Sheridan and wife. I’m only second-hand New Jersey (by way of marriage) so the ways of that state often seem mysterious to me, but I understand it better after listening to this podcast. And it’s not just in NJ that apparently bizarre outcomes become explicable once you uncover the tangled and largely hidden web of money and power that went into their creation.
We Own This City: Host D. Watkins brings a unique perspective to the HBO series of the same name, as he’s both a writer on the HBO series and a former victim of one of the dirty Baltimore cops who are the subject of it. His lively interviews with the show’s cast and crew offer background on both the creative choices that went into making the show and the real-world context that inspired it. | Sarah Boslaugh