Top 5: Podcasts for beginners

As a student with an over four-hour drive to college, I’ve had to get creative with what I listen to during the car rides. There is only so long you can perform a one-woman concert — and trust me, I’ve pushed the limits. After my vocal cords are all done for the day, I find myself turning to podcasts. Not only are podcasts great for the road, they are also great to listen to while getting ready in the morning or walking to class. Here are some podcasts I would recommend for beginners and the best episodes to start with. 

5. “The Daily

The first podcast I would recommend is “The Daily.” Presented by “The New York Times,” the daily is exactly what it sounds like: a daily news update. With run times of about 30 minutes, each episode of “The Daily” focuses on a recent news topic with an explanation that is in-depth enough to inform those without much knowledge of current events but succinct enough to maintain interest. Not every episode will be interesting to every listener, but I’ve found it to be a great way to stay informed. 

Episode to start with: March 24th’s episode, “Joe Biden’s 30-Year Quest for Gun Control.” While any episode would be a great place to start, I found this one to be particularly interesting. 

4. “This American Life

Another great podcast is “This American Life.” The first podcast I listened to regularly, “This American Life” presents a wide variety of fun stories and serious journalism. I look forward to hearing Ira Glass’s familiar voice every Sunday when new episodes are released. “This American Life,” a public radio program, won the first Pulitzer Prize to be awarded to a radio show or podcast. Having been on air since 1995, there is an extensive catalog of shows to go back and listen to. For example, there was a show where every story was pitched by a reporter’s parents and a show where the content was taped for 24 hours in an all-night restaurant. If the sheer volume of past episodes is overwhelming, don’t worry. There is a category under “Recommended” on their website that lists the best episodes for those who are new to “This American Life”.  

Episode to start with: “Fiasco.” I first listened to this episode while mowing the lawn one day and thought it was so funny I started laughing out loud in my backyard. 

3. “99% Invisible

A calming podcast great for the sleepy listener, “99% Invisible” is a show about the design aspects of our world we often forget about. The soothing voice of host Roman Mars guides the listener through topics of the world often overlooked, such as the architecture of bunkers, the design of the safety cards on airplanes or the way emails sent by Enron’s employees were used as research. While episodes sometimes get weighed down by the details, they generally provide interesting insight. 

Episode to start with: “Fraktur.” This episode gives the listener an explanation of the dark and strange history of the font we associate today with Nazi Germany.  

2. “Revisionist History” 

Another podcast that examines topics often forgotten is “Revisionist History.” In this podcast by Malcom Gladwell, author of five New York Times bestselling books, Gladwell does what he does best by presenting and connecting the “overlooked and misunderstood.” While it’s easy for the winners to set the narrative, Gladwell reexamines and connects all sorts of ideas and events, typically developing a grander theme throughout each season. While Gladwell has been criticized for overgeneralizing and developing theories that lack a scientific basis, his storytelling ability and the number of connections he can make between research and historical events make for an undeniably enjoyable, interesting and educational podcast. 

Episodes to start with: “Big Man Can’t Shoot” or “Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis.” Both episodes demonstrate the best of the podcast and are interesting every time I listen to them. 

1. “You’re Wrong About” 

Lastly, “You’re Wrong About” is a fun and educational podcast that reexamines misunderstood events or topics from the last few decades of American history. The two hosts, Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes, provide entertaining and humorous commentary while diving deeper into the research behind the way popular events were misconstrued. If you are looking for objective commentary, this podcast is not for you, as Marshall and Hobbes are not afraid to state their opinions and filter past events or ideas through a modern lens. This podcast, especially the book club, OJ Simpson, or Princess Diana episodes, is great for binge-listening. 

Episode to start with: “The Exploding Ford Pinto.” This humorous episode was full of unexpected twists and turns.

Honorable Mentions: 

It was challenging to narrow down all the great podcasts I’ve listened to. Here are the honorable mentions that didn’t quite make it on the list: “Rabbit Hole,” an examination of the internet and the way it affects our lives; “Serial,” a deep dive into one story per season that won the first Peabody awarded to a podcast; “Dr. Death,” the story of a doctor who was not what he appeared to be; “Dolly Parton’s America,” a fun and surprisingly deep examination into the effect Dolly Parton has had on America; “We Didn’t Start the Podcast,” a binge-worthy series for fans of Billy Joel and “The Dropout,” another binge-worthy podcast that tells the story of the now fallen-from-grace Elizabeth Holmes.