Podcasts You Can Sound Smart Talking About In Front Of Your Coworkers
Gone are the days when podcasts acted as hidden little gems for the particularly tech savvy crowd. Now they provide a seemingly endless source of information, opinion, and entertainment. But which ones are actually worth a listen? Here’s a roundup of the podcasts that will elevate your water cooler talk when you’re in the mood to push beyond the latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Who doesn’t love Neil deGrasse Tyson? His down-to-Earth charisma and contagious enthusiasm for all things planetary move beyond his famous “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” series. Here he hosts guests from all walks of fame (comedians, actors, etc.) and somehow manages to mix science with pop culture in a way that’s downright addicting.
It’s always useful to discover a bit more about our own minds, and NPR’s “Hidden Brain” makes it seem less like psychology class and more like an exciting discovery. Host Shankar Vedantam uses real-world events to frame his interviews with leading scientists in the fields of cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and more to provide listeners an in depth look at ourselves.
While it’s not necessarily a good idea to get into a political discussion at work, unless you happen to work for a politician—and sometimes not even then—this Washington Post podcast is a fantastic primer for all things presidents. Each installment of its forty-four-episode run tackles a different president of the United States, and features heavy hitters like David McCullough and Bob Woodward.
The camaraderie between the hosts is key to this podcast. Ben Thompson is the founder of the tech blog “Stratechery,” and he discusses a new topic from that blog with cohost James Allworth, a coauthor of the best-selling business book, "How Will You Measure Your Life?" Together, these two examine the latest tech industry goings-on from a business analyst point of view—which makes it a must-listen for those from a wide variety of industries.
Another NPR winner, this is hands down the most popular business podcast out there. It’s for good reason, though—namely, due to their ability to present financial and economic stories in ways that are engaging to both people with and without the relevant knowledge backgrounds. As someone who is not particularly interested or well-versed in money matters, I’ve found this podcast vital to keeping me in the loop.
This one is both a great workplace discussion-starter and an endless source of random trivia—which we all know comes in handy when we least expect it. Adam McCay and Adam Davidson (who also has a hand in NPR’s “Planet Money”) join forces to take one seemingly bland topic, such as adhesives (seriously), and dedicate one whole episode to explaining—through technology, science, whatever—why it’s “surprisingly awesome.” This one is fun…and true to its name.
“The Tech Guy”
Leo Laporte is “the tech guy” and he has the background to prove it. He’s a tech journalist and entrepreneur who has won an Emmy for his work and also happens to be a natural storyteller. This is the guy to listen to if you not only want to stay up to date on the latest tech news, but also want to know how in the world all that technology is relevant to your life.
Art and Culture
Inspired by The Washington Post’s coverage of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, this fascinating podcast examines the objects that make up a “people’s museum.” Volunteers submitted dozens of objects that represented their own experiences of black history, and the stories behind these items are vividly brought to life through hosts that include Roxane Gay, Issa Rae, and Keegan-Michael Key.
“The Secret History of Art”
Hosted by best-selling author and art history professor Noah Charney, this series is wonderful at giving you a rundown of some of the world’s most popular artwork in just the span of a few minutes per piece. From a piece’s historical significance to its symbolism to its place in the larger art world and beyond, you’ll learn all you need to know to talk intelligently about some of the most revered masterpieces.
“Trey’s Variety Hour”
If traditional art isn’t your thing, Trey Ratcliff from StuckinCustoms.com (a popular travel photography blog) talks all things photography with various guest bloggers, artists, and even tech gurus. From analyzing the pros and cons of the latest cameras to how technology has changed the art of photography as a whole, this is an art podcast for those with more technical minds.
“Stuff You Should Know”
A light and fun—yet surprisingly content-heavy—podcast, “Stuff You Should Know” is exactly that. Hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark talk about all the random facts and knowledge that may not prove overly useful on a day-to-day basis but is interesting to learn all the same. From explaining why we itch to discussing everything there is to know about the sun, you’ll walk away from this one feeling that much smarter than everyone around you.
And there you have it. While too much chatter can interfere with productivity, all extracurricular conversations are not created equal. So try upgrading your next office chatfest to topics outside business as usual—you might just learn a thing or two!