5 must listen to podcasts

Today’s Best Podcasts

I am a podcast junkie. I love them. I have probably test-driven well over 30 podcasts over the years, keeping some and discarding the rest. This process has taught me the number one rule of listening to podcasts: never listen to a podcast unless you really want to. There are far too many podcasts and far too many episodes within each podcast to keep up with everything – such is life in the information age. The important thing is to find the topics and the people you like without becoming too narrow in your interests. They (I being “they”) say a narrow podcast listener leads to a narrow mind. This must be avoided at all costs.

Another reason why I love podcasts is that it recovers the art of documentary and the art of conversation. Unlike T.V. or even radio talk shows, podcasts provide a format for people to tell stories and exchange ideas in a focused way that protects them from becoming dominated by images or diluted by the demands and redundancies of a daily talk show. Not all podcasts offer this of course, which is why it is important to sift through the heap in order to pick out a few that are worth taking with you as you drive, workout, or clean the dishes.

This list is far from exhaustive. Consider it my current list of podcasts that I would take with me to a desert island. This list is always subject to change, which is why I heartily welcome any suggestions.

The crème de la crème.

CBC: Ideas

I cannot say enough good things about this podcast. It has many diverse formats, which include documentaries, interviews, and debates, and there are few topics that Ideas is not willing to tackle. Some of the recent topics that I have thoroughly enjoyed include The Mandela Tapes (which includes never before heard interviews with Nelson Mandela talking about his life), The End of Growth (with economist Jeff Rubin and environmentalist David Suzuki), and The Chosen (a look into how the biblical idea of being “chosen” has both positive and negative dimensions in our world today).

New Yorker: Out Loud

If you are at all a fan of writing, and particularly of magazine or culture writing (if you are reading this then you probably are), then this podcast is a must. Each episode consists of one or more New Yorker writers who discuss life and current events in light of recently published articles in the magazine. It is a fascinating look behind the scenes into how certain writers approach their work and their subjects. A few recent topics include Japan’s culture of suicide, climbing Mount Everest, and the growing politics of Silicon Valley.

ESPN: BS Report with Bill Simmons

There are few people that will give you a better pulse on the state of sports and popular culture than ESPN writer Bill Simmons. Bill is the quintessential North American sports fan and his podcast pulls in significant figures from the world of sports and culture like David Stern, Jim Nantz, Chuck Klosterman, Adam Corolla, Malcolm Gladwell, and Louis CK. It makes for entertaining listening even though Bill and his cohorts can get swept away by sports sensationalism and pop-psychology from time to time.

This American Life

A few friends long told me that I would really enjoy this podcast, but for whatever reason it took me a while to get hooked. At first I didn’t quite understand what the show was about and my first foray into the podcast was rather dry. However, once I grasped the concept of the show – which is to tell fiction and non-fiction stories about life in America (the show isn’t as “American” as it might sound) around a different themes each episode (I don’t know why this was hard for me to get) – there was no turning back. If you want to hear good stories and learn how to tell good stories, this podcast is a must.

Ravi Zacharias: Let My People Think

Ravi Zacharis is the perfect blend between rigorous intellectual, compelling communicator, and passionate follower of Jesus. His podcast is more than just Ravi though. It also includes talks and conservations with leading thinkers like John Lennox, John Polkinghorne and Os Guinness with an aim to engage critically with the ideas of culture and to encourage individuals in their faith in Jesus. To do both is very difficult, but none do it better than Ravi and his team.

Honorable Mentions

NPR: TED Radio Hour Podcast

Well produced (perhaps too well at times), informative, and sometimes more in-depth than the TED talks themselves.


This is a show where Christians and non-Christians debate on everything under the sun. The podcast can be hit and miss depending on the guests, but it’s major strength is that you get to hear the unfiltered perspectives of people on both sides of the Christian fence on interesting and relevant topics.

Stuff you should know

A worthy podcast for anyone who doesn’t know everything.

Philosophy Bites

An engaging and (usually) accessible 10-15 minute conversation with leading philosophers on everything from wine to Wittgenstein.

The Meeting House with Bruxy Cavey

The Meeting House is an Anabaptist church in Oakville, Ontario. Even if you may not agree in full with Anabaptist theology, it is worth listening to the teaching pastor Bruxy Cavey because he truly is a gifted communicator of the gospel.

Flickr photo (cc) by Lupo Lupo