I have found that New Year’s Resolutions come in several types:
- Practical (save money to do something, get a better job, etc).
- Aspirational (run a marathon, eat “clean” whatever that means, go somewhere exotic, be “present” and eat more kale).
- Educational (learn more, read 100 books in a year, write more).
- Negative (a resolution against resolutions).
I tend toward all four types. I’m one of those people who always says I won’t make a Resolution. Then, by the end of January first, mysteriously I have decided to run a marathon, read 100 books in a year and write a novel. Obviously, these things don’t happen.
But for those who DO want to learn more, and make it easy and fun, may I recommend podcasts? I have been listening to fun and educational podcasts for years now. They are free. I always learn something new. And they are great for the car, my commute on public transit, working out and cooking. When I run out (but I don’t generally ever run out), I also listen to audiobooks. So far, “A Tale of Two Cities” is really good.
So here are a few podcasts I especially recommend:
Science for the People: This long running podcast tackles the latest issues in science and society. They are always interesting, never get lost in jargon and are unafraid to take on difficult topics with humor, thoroughness and compassion. (COI: I’ve been on the podcast a bunch. It’s awesome).
Gastropod: Do you love science? And food? How about the science of food?! Gastropod is a fabulous look at the history and science of food. It’s delicious and nutritious. Do not listen while hungry. But definitely listen.
Health News Watchdog: This is a new podcast from Health News Reviews, a watchdog site that keeps an eye out for hype and over diagnosis. And BOY do I learn things listening to it. Fantastic resource.
Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine: If you like medicine in all it’s hilarious history, you will love this. Very casual tone, and the information is not in depth. But you will learn something new every time. And above all, you will learn why you should not drill a hole in your head.
I’m a huge history fan. Here are my three favorites.
Revolutions: This by the same guy who did the famous History of Rome. He’s thorough, interesting, and dryly funny (listen and you will find out why you need a “Gentleman Johnny’s Party Train” t shirt as much as I do). I was thrilled he decided to do Revolutions, covering big revolutions throughout history. I always learn loads and I can’t wait til he gets to Russia.
The British History Podcast: Do you love the Tudors? Who doesn’t love those crazy kids? But you’ll love British history more when you listen to this podcast. Jamie is a true history nerd. More than 200 episodes in, and we’re still in the Viking age. Incredibly thorough and really interesting, and balances nicely the Greate Men of Historie with the role of culture and recent archeological findings.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Fantastically interesting and widely ranging. Dan is so thorough that at times it’s almost painful. His work combines the known history with personal accounts. I highly, highly recommend his series on the Eastern Front of World War II.
Meanwhile in the Future: It’s not running right now, but the back episodes are well worth it! Listen as Rose Eveleth takes current ideas to their crazy-logical conclusions. Some things turn out not so different. Others?
In our Time: This is a radio program out of BBC Radio 4 that explores “Great ideas.” This can mean ideas like relativity, but it can also mean people and their great ideas, important world events and their impact, and more. Each week, Melvyn Bragg assembles three experts to nerd out about a subject. The results are wonderful and often hilarious. I especially love that they take care to always, always have at least one highly qualified female voice on each program, especially for subjects such as particle physics, math and other topics where most people may have never heard a woman holding forth with great expertise. It’s inspiring.
I also listen to Serial, but I’m sure you’ve all heard of THAT. 🙂