my surprisingly un-fishy podcast recommendations

I have been asked a few times about what podcasts I would recommend, and yet on the spur of the moment I rarely recall more than 3 or 4 of my favorites. Seems like putting them in one place is not a bad idea.

Of course, treat this is a moment-in-time sort of list. New podcasts are released all of the time; my taste in podcasts changes with time; and some beloved podcasts end their run ("Hypercritical" comes to mind). And there are some GREAT ones that will not get mention here (e.g., RadioLab, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Invisibilia - if you arent listening to those you should be). I am assuming most people who listen to podcasts have heard of these large-scale, NPR backed ones.

Rather than try and create a taxonomy of podcasts, I will just break these into "tech" and "non-tech". When possible, I will also add a recommended "starter" episode, so you dont happen on an unrepresentative one.



Sawbones. One of my favorites - a physician and her husband take an often hilarious and always interesting trip through medical history. What is trepanation? How did we learn how Yellow Fever is transmitted? Not sure? Try listening to the Self-Surgery episode and see if you like it


Gastropod. Fascinating mix of food and science. Learn about the history and science of vinegar; why consumers once had to dye margarine black - a really great podcast, and one of the ones where I wish they would publish more often! For starters, try the one on tea:


The Beef and Dairy Network. This is the equivalent of a mockumentary, with short episodes where the conceit is how seriously the people are taking their meat and dairy related topics. Not to everyone's taste, I am sure, but if you want to give one a try, I would recommend Episode 20, The Lamb Investigation Special.


Judge John Hodgman. You need this podcast. Hodgman and his "bailiff", Jesse Thorn, are funny, smart, and (I don't say this lightly) wise. People bring their disputes to his fake court of internet justice, and he hears both sides (usually something inherently minor, like arguing over whether the soap dispenser in the kitchen sink should be filled with dish soap or hand soap), and then they somehow provide thoughtful insight on broader issues. The best episodes are when Jesse Thorn is the bailiff (he is rarely replaced by guest bailiffs, who are also great, but not AS great), and episodes where they "clear the docket" (going through numerous cases in short order) are also great. If you are on twitter, both of them are good follows (@hodgman & @JesseThorn). Try episode 313, "The Sisterhood of the Gaveling Pants"

Also, consider checking out Hodgman's book, Vacationland, which is funny, poignant, and just beautiful.


Bullseye. Also on the Maximum Fun Network (I am sensing a trend). Here Jesse Thorn interviews...well, just about everyone. I Don't listen to them all, but I DO listen when it is, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jack Black, Fred Willard, The Pointer get the picture! Jesse Thorn is a thoughtful and talented interviewer. Pick someone you like, and listen to that episode.


Pod Save America. Based on the number of their T-shirts I am seeing these days, they have quite a following. Another one that I don't put on my "can't miss" list, but very very good. As they put it "This is a political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane, hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor".


Hello Internet. Another in a long line of podcasts by two white dudes who talk about stuff, that is where the similarities to usual podcasts ends. One former journalist turned You-Tuber (who does math and science videos), and one former teacher turned You-Tuber discuss anything and everything, from Brexit to fear of heights. I am not doing it justice, but try it. You'll thank me.


No Such Thing as a Fish. Toss a bunch of science geeks into a room, give them each the opportunity to talk about one weird/amusing/interesting story in science from the week, and this is what you get. Funny, educational, and should be on your list.


Roderick on the Line

I confess I didnt really know a lot of the music by John Roderick and The Long Winters until recently (although what I knew I did like). It turns out that he is also thoughtful, funny, candid, and astute, and together with one of my all-time podcast favorites, Merlin Mann, they create varied, funny, sometimes poignant podcasts that tend to take a long, entertaining path around their various topics. 


My Brother My Brother and Me

OK, they mean it when they say "not for kids" (although I would be lying if I pretended my daughter has never heard any of them - what can I say, she loves Justin McElroy!). It can be a bit uneven (I suspect even the hosts would admit that), but I have laughed aloud many a time in the gym or car listening to them. Good stuff. Episode 351, "Omnidirectional Scampi Blast" is not a bad place to start.


Yes, I am a geek, and while I tend to gravitate towards Apple gear, I also like Windows and unix stuff, as well as Kindles and Synology and just plain old tech. That said, there are really only four tech podcasts I regularly check in on...


The Talk Show

This was a wonderful show when John Gruber did it with Dan Benjamin on the 5x5 Network, and it is just as good now as an independent. Gruber is an Apple fan without the "fanboy" traits, and really sets the bar as someone who can objectively  and deeply analyze the tech industry, regularly providing really insightful commentary on everyone from Samsung to Uber to Amazon. Great guests as well as high production values make this a go-to for me.


Mac Power Users

David Sparks and Katie Floyd (mac geeks and attorneys) do a weekly podcast focused on Apple hardware and software. They keep things informative, fresh, and engaging, at least in part due to the chemistry between the hosts. This is a tech podcast that is accessible to non-geeks, but also great for those of us who are pretty deep in the weeds with tech. I look forward to every episode.


Mac Geek Gab

I have been listening to these two guys talk about mac-related tech (and other stuff) for years now, and I never tire of it. It has a lot in common with Mac Power Users, but these two are slightly more focused on helping people solve their tech problems. Again, I would not miss it, and have learned how to solve a ton of issues with iPhones/Macs by hearing other people's problems. 


ATP (Accidental Tech Podcast).

One of my all-time favorite podcasts was Hypercritical, with John Siracusa. He is passionate, smart, opinionated, and engaged in social issues (well worth following if you are on Twitter - @siracusa). He, programmer Marco Arment (@marcoarment, creator of the best podcast client "Overcast"), and Casey Liss had a podcast about cars (Neutral) that I tried really hard to like, but just didnt have enough interest in the topic to stay engaged. It turns out, though, that they often strayed back into tech topics, which led to the creation of "ATP". These often run long (sometimes topping 2 hours), but if, like me, you find you love listening, that seems like a feature not a bug. 

Some others I listen to but that are not, like these, on my must-listen list include:

Science Vs.
The Critical Path
Reconcilable Differences
Road Work
Under the Radar
Happy Hour
Your Inner Child Is An Idiot

Am I missing some I should be listening to? Let me know in the comments!